US Election 2020: When is it, what time do polls open, and how does voting work?
US election and can Trump postpone it? The election will be held on Tuesday, November 3
Will Donald Trump defeat Joe Biden to win a second term in the White House? Everything we know about the 2020 presidential election so far
The 2020 US election is less than one week away, and we are into the final days of campaigning.
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But the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many aspects of the race into uncertainty.
The virus has already dramatically affected the running of the election, including the chaos caused by Donald Trump being diagnosed with Covid-19.
It is also unclear what election day itself will look like, given the risk of catching the virus by voting in person.
A record number of people have already cast their ballots by post. Election experts suggest this could mean the result may not be declared on election night, but may take several days – or even weeks – to emerge.
With the coronavirus pandemic expected to impact public life well into next year, the 2020 election is likely to go down in history as one of the most unconventional US presidential races ever held.
Despite the uncertainty, there are some aspects of the election process that are enshrined in the US constitution.
Here is everything we know about how the race will play out.
Who can become president?
The President of the United States can be a man or a woman of any race or any religion, but they must:
- be at least 35 years old
- have been born in the US
- have lived in the US for at least 14 years
The rules also state that one person can be in the job for a maximum of two terms. (The only exception to this was Franklin D Roosevelt, who was elected for a special third term at the height of World War Two.)
How does US election voting work?
The presidential election vote is a simple choice between candidates from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Occasionally a third party candidate will enter the race, like Kanye West this year, but it is quite rare for them to gain traction or make a significant impact.
The two main political parties hold primaries and caucuses across the country during an election year to select who they want to represent them on the ballot. Read more about that process here.
The Democratic and Republican candidates are then formally selected and announced during their parties’ summer conventions.
The US election system itself is far from straightforward. That is because when America’s founding fathers created the system in 1787, there was no way a presidential candidate could mount a national campaign – and there was little in the way of national identity.
The founding fathers chose not to elect US presidents by direct popular vote over fears that larger and more populous states could have an outsized role in deciding the winner.
The system of electors, based loosely on the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals selecting the Pope, was chosen with the theory that the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each state would select a president on merit, disregarding state loyalties.
So when Americans cast their vote on November 3, they technically vote for “electors”, not the candidates themselves. The electors are state officials or senior party figures, but they are not usually named on the ballot.
Each elector casts one vote following the general election for one of the two candidates. The newly elected president and vice-president will then be inaugurated on January 20, 2021.