How does voting work in America?

So on the news they were saying one place (iowa) has already voted for the next president or something like that? So Americans don't all vote on the same day or what? How do the presidential elections work?


Most Helpful Guy

  • Before the general election, there's a pre-election where people can decide who should run for the two parties, the democrats and the republicans.
    During the primaries, every state in the US votes for one candidate of the democrats and for one candidate of the republicans. During the democratic and republican convention in July, each party decides which of their candidates should run as a presidential candidate. Usually - though not necessarily - the candidate who has achieved the most votes during the primaries will be elected presidential candidate by his/her party. For example if Donald Trump wins the most votes during the primaries, he will run as the republican presidential candidate and if Bernie Sanders wins the most votes (more than Hillary and O'Malley) he will become the democratic presidential candidate. After July, the real thing will start where the two presidential candidates compete against each other.
    During the primaries, there are two different methods to vote. The primary and the caucus. In a primary, voters can cast a ballot for a whole day. It works pretty much like any other political voting process. In a caucus - which is the method used in Iowa - voters of each party meet in places such as townhalls, churches, high school gyms etc. Before they start to vote, they have discussions and sometimes speeches held by the different candidates or by representatives of the candidates. After that, everyone can vote. Now, for the voting process itself, there are different systems again. The republicans tend to prefer voting secretly. This means that after the discussions and speeches, they write the name of the candidate they want on a piece of paper and throw it into a ballot (nobody knows who you voted for). The democrats prefer open voting. Here, the organizers write big signs with the names of the different candidates and hang up the signs in different corners of the room. As a voter, you then have to get up and walk to the sign of the person you want to vote for. In the end, all the groups are counted and the supporters in the different churches, town halls and high school gyms all across Iowa are added together.
    Finally, there is also the difference between open and closed primaries and caucuses. In open primaries or caucuses, anyone can vote. So even if you are a democrat, you can go to a republican meeting and vote for a republican candidate. In closed primaries and caucuses, only registered party members can vote for a candidate of a

    • particular party. In Iowa, the caucus is closed. This means that only registered democrats (members of the democratic party) can vote for Hillary, Sanders or O'Malley and only registered republicans (members of the republican party) can vote for Trump, Cruz etc..
      Iowa is actually not very important for the different candidates because it is a very small, rural and sparsely populated state. The reason Iowa is still important is because it's the very first state in the US where a primary/caucus is held. So depending who wins in Iowa, this two people might also be preferred in other states and they tend to get more news coverage. For example Bernie Sanders has gotten way less news coverage than Hillary Clinton until now but if he wins over Hillary in Iowa, the mainstream media will start to talk more about him (and that's important for any candidate).

      The whole system sounds pretty complicated and confusing but once you get your head around it, it's actually quite simple.

    • Thank you so much for such a thorough answer :)

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