Sunday 18 February 2018

Ten things you need to know 24 hours before the US presidential election

US voters will make their choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on Tuesday Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar/Carlos Barria/Files
US voters will make their choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on Tuesday Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar/Carlos Barria/Files
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

In April 2015, Hillary Clinton announced via a YouTube video that she would be contesting the next US presidential election. Two months later, Donald Trump followed suit.

Much has happened in the race to be Barrack Obama’s successor, with some people dubbing the campaign a “fiasco”.

Controversies and blooper videos aside, here are ten important things you need to know about the actual election on Tuesday:

1.  What are the main differences between the Republican and Democrat parties?

Republicans are perceived to be conservative on social issues. While they oppose the right to have an abortion, they promote the right to own a gun.

Democrats, on the other hand, are more open in their views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. They also believe strict gun laws should be implemented.

Republicans also tend to believe in harsher penalties when it comes to crimes, while Democrats would be opposed to capital punishment.


2.  What are the “swing states” everyone keeps talking about?

Certain states are guaranteed to either vote Democrat or Republican during an election.

However, there are in and around 11 swing states which could vote either way.

Some include Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. 

These states see the vast majority of campaigning and money, whereas states that are notably blue or red see very little campaigning or advertising as they are considered a “sure bet”.

They have been key in deciding elections in the past and their vote is often considered the most instrumental.


3.  When will all the votes be in?

The results that come through on the TV network news throughout the night are compiled jointly by the networks.

The first states on the East Coast polling will close at about 12:30am Irish time on Wednesday morning. If it as tight as expected, the final and decisive results will be in at about 04.00am.


4.  If Hillary Clinton gets elected, history will be made for two reasons – what are they?

First of all, she will be the first ever female US president.

Secondly, Hillary and Bill Clinton would be the first spouses to both serve as president.

Bill Clinton served as president from 1993 until 2001.


5.  When will the new president get to work?

Despite the election taking place on Tuesday, the new president will not take office until their inauguration on January 20 2017. They will be referred to as President Elect and the Sitting President. Who remains as president is often referred to as a lame duck because their successor is known and despite having all the same powers, their position is now viewed as diminished


6.  What is the Electoral College?

Each state has a certain number of representatives that vote on behalf of the people.

Both candidates designate certain individuals who will serve as his or her electors if that candidate wins the popular vote in that state.

When that happens, the winner sends all the electors to the state’s capital to record their votes for that candidate.

The number of representatives each state has is proportionate to the population but it doesn’t mean that whoever wins the popular vote will win the presidency, as happened in 2000 with George Bush.


7.  Why are endorsements so important?

Endorsements may be more important this year than ever before.

Candidates generally can expect the endorsement from their party’s hierarchy once confirmed as candidate.

However, this year’s divisive election has been the exception; leading figures in the Republican Party have refused to endorse Donald Trump due to his behaviour and rhetoric.

These include former Republican candidates John McCain, Mitt Romney and Presidents George Bush Junior & Senior.


8.  Why may the “peaceful transition of power” be affected this year?

The US has a history of ‘peaceful transition of power,’ meaning that the President or party hand over power to another in a peaceful manner. The first transition occurred in 1801 when John Adams handed over power to Thomas Jefferson.

There have been worries that Donald Trump might upset this tradition and that he would refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the US election result.


9.  Who pays for all their campaigning?

It’s almost impossible to imagine running for office without funding. To date, Hillary Clinton has raised almost $700m and Donald Trump just $250m. These are raised through a mixture of super PACs and individual donations.

A super PAC is a political committee that solicits and spends unlimited sums of money. They cannot contribute directly to a politician or party, but can spend money on campaigning for them.


10.  How long can someone be president for?

The 22nd Amendment limits a president’s number of terms to two, which is eight years.

In some cases, if a vice president takes over for a president with less than two years of his term remaining, that vice president will then end up serving ten years as president.

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