On Tuesday, 3 November 2020, Americans will be casting their ballots in an ardently contested race for the White House between the incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
However, unlike South Africa’s popular vote system – where the actual number of votes cast determines the victor – America’s president is elected by a body of officials, simply referred to as the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors which are unevenly spread out across all states and District of Columbia. Each elector represents one vote.
This means Americans do not directly vote for a president, but essentially for an elector who would then vote on their behalf, in their respective state.
Fundamentally, the number of electoral votes allocated to a certain state would depend on its size. A classic example is California, which has the most electoral votes of any state at 55 and a population of 40 million, while Wyoming has only three votes and approximately 560 000 residents.
Criticism of Electoral College
A candidate needs at least 270 electoral votes to be elected president. On a preliminary basis, the outcome of an election can be determined by weighing the sure states, these are states which traditionally vote for a specific party. For example, the state of New York has long been a democratic state whereas Texas is republican – these are referred to as blue and red states respectively.
US political pundits have however argued that the electoral college system is flawed, questioning its true democratic value and fairness.
Despite Hillary Clinton garnering close to three million more votes that Trump in 2016, she lost the electoral college to the New York businessman-turned politician.
The key to claiming victory in the US election has always been simple – winning the swing states. These are the states were votes could go either way, democrat or republican.
For the 2020 election, these are considered swing states both Biden and Trump need to win over: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Both Biden and Trump have been crisscrossing the US, on the campaign with America just days before d-days.
The candidates have been clashed over a number of key issues including COVID-19, healthcare and the economy.
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