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In this edition of Watson’s Monthly, I am going to give you a very quick and rough guide of how the US presidential election process works because it has always appeared to me to be over-complicated and very boring 😁


Trump is now hoping to get re-elected for a second term in the White House and the wheels have started to turn in the mind-numbingly boring “race” for the presidency. In order to help you navigate the inevitable newsflow that will be characterised by stellar levels of tediousness over the next few months, I thought I’d give you a rough guide as to how someone gets to be president of the United States. The two main political parties are the Republicans and the Democrats. Donald Trump is a Republican.


Stage 1: Primaries and caucuses

Primaries and caucuses take place between February and June (that’s why I’m writing this as it’s all just started)

Caucuses: Party members discuss and vote for who they think will be the best party candidate at specific locations at specific times

Primaries: Party members (and others – see below) vote in a state election for the candidate they want to represent them in the general election via a ballot (where they can turn up when they want, cast their vote and leave)

Differences between a caucus and a primary: Caucuses are small local party meetings or gatherings and only registered party members vote. Primaries are the official method of choosing nominees for the presidential elections whereby registered voters and permanent residents of the state cast their votes in addition to party members. Also, voting methods at a caucus are more informal (a show of hands) whereas voting in a primary is more like a proper election (secret ballot).

Other confusing facts: states can choose whether to hold primaries or caucuses but most states hold primaries. The ones that use the caucus system are Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa. “Super Tuesday”, which will be on March 3rd this year, is when 16 states have primaries or caucuses. Once this is out of the way, it’ll be much easier to see who the Democrat candidate might be.

Stage 2: National conventions and general election:

The Democrat and Republican parties have a national convention to choose their presidential nominee. This nominee then announces their choice for vice president. The presidential candidates then travel throughout the country to drum up voter support. The Democrat nominee will be announced at their convention between 13th and 16th July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Republican candidate, almost certainly Donald Trump, will be announced at the party’s convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, between 24th and 27th August.

On election day, they are actually voting for the electors who are members of an electoral college.

Stage 3: Electoral College

Each state gets a number of designated electors based on the number of representatives it has in Congress and each elector has one vote following the general election. There are 538 electoral votes in total and the candidate who gets over 270 wins. The president-elect and vice president-elect take the oath and are then inaugurated in January 2020.


Given how complicated the stages are, it’s no wonder that candidates have to use huge amounts of resources to get to the White House (or get to be runner-up). It’ll be interesting to see whether anyone manages to stand in Trump’s way of another four years. Who’d have thought we would be considering a second term back when he came into office??