Political Education - The US Electoral System

In Germany, the question is often asked how it can be possible to actually become the US President, the man with the reputation of being the most powerful man in the world, even though one cannot have the majority of the votes cast by the population.

The election system of the USA

This fact may be difficult for people with our European view of democracy to understand, but it has been proven again in 2016 at the latest that this can even be very clearly a reality in the USA. But what exactly is behind it, how did the US election system come about and how does it work in general?

United States electoral system
US electoral system - Image by janeb13 from Pixabay

Pre-election and electoral men - how is an election to the US President?

There is a long and complicated road ahead before a new president can move into the White House. Because as a layperson or non-American, you mostly have difficulties with the A clear view of the electoral system in the United States, it’s logical to keep all steps in mind:

Criteria for presidential candidates

In order to initiate the process towards election, the candidates have to be determined, between whom you can choose later. But how are the candidates selected? In order to be nominated as a candidate, you have to meet the three criteria for entering the US election: The candidates must be native Americans, have at least reached the age of 35 when they started the election, and have been consistent for at least 14 years before the election have lived in the United States. Once enough candidates have been found who meet these requirements, the specific, most suitable candidates must be filtered out of them.


This happens through the prefix: Here the possible candidates of the different parties (traditionally the Democrats and the Republicans) are nominated. The primaries take place in the first half of the election year, during which period delegates from the respective parties are elected for each state, who in turn determine the final presidential candidate for their party by majority vote.

Super Tuesday

Some of the primaries are certain to be the "Super Tuesday" A term - this usually takes place around March of the pre-election period. Most primaries are held on this day, which means that more delegate votes are collected than on any other pre-election day. Most of the time, the candidate who stands out the most on Super Tuesday is the one who is really sent out as a candidate for the party in question.

The first step towards the real one presidential election is that the people of the electorate are in one Sign Up have to be registered in order to be able to cast their vote at all when the election is due. However, this does not explain it correctly: The right to vote in the United States varies from state to state not uniform regulated. In some states, votes must be cast by postal vote, in others there is the aforementioned register. However, if a citizen has forgotten to be entered in time, he can still cast his vote. It is only after the election that it is clear whether this is then considered valid. The whole thing is a bit opaque, but this is the electoral process from the point of view of the citizens.

The actual presidential election

The next step is the actual, actual presidential election. For a European, voting behavior is actually completed on the same evening after casting the vote and counting. In the United States, however, the president is not directly elected by the people, but is named indirectly by the electoral committee or electoral college Electoral College. electors of the Electoral College finally elect the new president. This takes place in a secret ballot, 41 days after the official election date. Every U.S. state has one different number of electorswho can cast their vote regardless of the will of the population. This number varies according to the population density of the respective state: The large and populous California has 55 electors, the influential New York 29 and the smaller states Wyoming or South Dakota only 3.

The stages of the US election - when is the new US president stuck?

In short: The end result and thus the new US president is certain as soon as one of the two candidates Majority of at least 270 electoral votes gets. The Electoral College results from the vote of the US citizens and consists of a total of 538 state electors. The secret ballot of the electors will be counted by the Congress at the beginning of January. The result is valid as soon as one of the candidates has achieved an absolute majority (the votes of the electors, not the votes of the people or the citizens). This counting of the electoral votes is the binding result.


When the President of the United States of America is determined, the preparation for swearing-in initiated. At the swearing-in, i.e. the inauguration, the president is elected in the capitol of the capital Washington DC oath of office filed and also solemnly delivered the speech to take office. The following wording is sworn in this oath: "I, (name of the new president), solemnly swear that I will faithfully perform the office of President of the United States and will do my best to protect, protect, and defend the United States Constitution." Following this vow on the Constitution, the President delivers a speech in which he usually reiterates his goals and motivation for the concerns of the people. Then a parade takes place and a solemn ceremony commemorates the new president.

Historical Details - Why is the US Election as It Is?

In the United States, some presidential election principles and approaches are based on historical events and commitments. So the constitution is the most serious and important building block for all representative decisions. The on September 17th 1787 the constitution entered into force and has since established the basic order for politics and law. The articles of the constitution thus describe all relevant facts about the state organs legislative, judicial and just Exekutive, The President is the executive body, which is described in detail in Article 2 of the constitution. The prerequisites for candidacy for the presidency of the United States, the term of four years, the two-tier electoral system, including the regulations governing the electoral process of the states - all of these orders have already been regulated in the constitution. Since 1845, elections have always been held on Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and since 1951 the 22nd amendment to the constitution has made it possible to be re-elected.


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