US Elections – How do they work?


>>Narrator: The US Congress and Presidential
elections. Voting – the people’s chance to decide who they want
to run their country and represent their interests. But how does it work in the United States
of America? Across the pond voting is quite different. Like the UK Parliament, the United States Congress
has two houses; the House of Representatives and the Senate. Unlike the UK there are public
elections to both houses and a third separate election is held to
choose a President. In the US the President is both the head
of State and the head of Government. In the UK these roles are carried out separately
by the Monarch and the Prime Minister. The House of Representatives in the US Congress
is designed to give a voice to the people of every local voting region in America.
Members of the House of Representatives stand for re-election every two years.
Each state is split into Districts and each District votes for one representative.
The number of Districts depends on the population of each State, for example California,
the most populous State, is split into 53 Districts so has
53 Representatives, but Alaska, which is huge but has a
really small population, only has one District and therefore only one Representative in the House. Like the UK House of Commons the
election system is first-past-the-post so the candidate with the most votes in
each District wins a seat in the House of Representatives. The party that wins a majority of seats in
the House takes control. The ideal situation for a
President is that the House is controlled by their
own party. However with elections held every two years, there’s
always a midterm election in the middle of the President’s time in office. If the public
thinks the President is not doing a great job, they can vote in more members
of the opposition party making it more difficult
for the President to pass laws. The Senate in the US Congress, like the House
of Lords in the UK Parliament, is sometimes called the Upper House. George Washington
described the Senate as the saucer that cools the coffee, meaning that it’s their job to
scrutinize and question all proposals made by both the House of
Representatives and the President before voting to decide whether they
should proceed as law. Senators like members of the House of Representatives
are also elected to their seats by the public. Senators serve six year terms and
elections are staggered so every two years a third of the
Senators run for re-election. Each State is represented by two
Senators, regardless of its population and again the first-past-the-post voting
system is used so the candidate with the most votes wins. So how do Americans choose their leader? Well
Presidential elections take place every four years. The two main parties –
the Democrats and the Republicans – host big get togethers where they choose
their Presidential candidates, the person they think will be the best
leader for the nation. The winning candidate then chooses their Vice
Presidential candidate also known as their Running Mate to help
support the campaign. Presidential candidates usually choose
someone with different areas of skill or knowledge so they present voters with the
best package. Together they’re known as a ticket. Presidential
candidates from both parties then start out on massive election
campaigns to gain as much voter support as possible. They travel across the country and hold
great big campaign rallies where they set out the policies and
their ideas for the whole country. These campaigns cost money, lots of it, so
both candidates have large campaign teams who helped raise the tens of millions
of dollars needed to keep them afloat. When it comes to
election day the public go to the polls to vote for one Presidential ticket. So far so easy, however the public don’t
vote directly for their choice for President, instead a system called the Electoral
College is used. Each State is allocated a number of
Electors that will make the final choice. A State has the same number
of Electors as it does Senators and Representatives. In
most States all the Electors will voters for the Presidential ticket which received
the most support and public vote. Finally, the Presidential ticket with the most
Electoral College votes becomes President and Vice President of
the United States of America. So that’s how things work in the US, a
democracy like the UK but on a much larger scale.

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