Election 2016: Super Tuesday & a Few More FAQs

This is the second post in a two-part series:  ELECTION 2016: What the Heck is a Contested Convention?

Why do U.S. presidential elections take so long?

Each state chooses it’s Democratic and Republican candidate nominees beginning in February. This can last up to five months. Iowa and New Hampshire traditionally kick off the process and the other states follow. This is why you see such a flurry of candidate events so early in these two states. Before that, candidates will typically spend a year laying the groundwork for their campaigns. Once each party has chosen a candidate, they spend the rest of the summer and autumn campaigning until the general election on November 8.

What is Super Tuesday?

It’s when more states vote and more delegates are at stake than on any other day in the presidential primary election campaign.

During the primary election campaigning, this refers to a Tuesday (this year it was March 1) when the largest number of states hold their nominating contests, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia held contests for both parties., Alaska held a Republican caucus, and Democrats held a caucus in Colorado. There are a lot of delegates at stake on Super Tuesday–661 Republican and 865 for Democrats.

Sometimes Super Tuesday is referred to as the SEC Primary, a reference to the collegiate athletic conference, the Southeastern Conference, known for powerhouse football teams. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee play in the SEC, but many other states do not. The concept of Super Tuesday is nearly 30 years old and was formed as an attempt by a consortium of Southern States to elect a moderate. The idea backfired, and ironically, the moderate, Southern, white Democrats who created this plan are now rare in the modern Democratic Party.

Why do candidate races cost so much money?

One reason they cost so much is because they last so long. Unlike some other countries, there are no rules on how early a candidate can start campaigning. Also unlike some other countries, there is no limit on how much money can be spent. A presidential campaign can cost up to $1 billion–and that’s not even counting money spent by outside groups. It’s not cheap to travel across the country for two years or more, buy advertisements on television, and pay a small army of campaign workers.

What is the difference between a caucus and a primary?

States have two ways of collecting their party members’ votes when choosing a presidential candidate. Through a primary or a caucus. A primary is what most people think of when they imagine voting–people show up at a neighborhood polling place to vote for their candidate by ballot. A caucus is very different. It’s a neighborhood event that requires several hours of active communal participation and debate, and takes place in the evening in a home or public space, depending on the size of the caucus

When will we finally know who the nominees will be?

We usually know who the party nominees will be by late spring, but they are not officially chosen until the national party convention in the summer.

Women won the right to vote in 1920, African Americans won the right to vote in 1870, later increasing inclusion by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What is the role of the Electoral College?
The president does not win by a simple majority vote, they must win by a majority of votes in the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a process, not a place. Originally, it was created by our founding fathers in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the president by a vote in Congress or by a vote of qualified citizens. It has been ratified several times.

Each state gets the same number of electors as it has Congressmen and Senators. The bigger the state, the more electors it has in the Electoral College. In all but two states (Maine and Nebraska), it’s a winner-take-all system. So if you win 60% of the vote in California, you get all of that state’s electors. For example, in 2012 Obama got 51% of the nationwide votes, which translated into 61% of the Electoral College votes.

In the end, whoever receives 270 Electoral College votes or more wins.

Sources: CNN, National Public Radio

Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller via Compfight cc

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