Since the beginning of 2016, the Presidential Elections in the United States remain a hot topic of discussion. For those who simply cannot wait for the dialogue to come to an end, your wish will come true with the general elections this November 8th. But in reality, the deciding vote for the presidency will occur in December with the Electoral College, since the United States is not a direct democracy.

So then, how does an individual voter impact the nomination of the President?

How to Elect the President of the United States through an Indirect Election

The United States is a two-party system with three branches compiled of the executive, judicial and legislative that is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Every four years the process for electing the next president begins, with an active President potentially campaigning for his or her second and final term.

The 2016 Presidential Elections are between Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and the real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Below you can find a section that compares briefly the two candidates.

The procedure to elect one of these candidates as President begins with the primaries and caucuses, followed by the National Conventions, the general elections, and finally the Electoral College.

Primaries and Caucuses

The state primaries and caucuses decide a political party’s candidate for the presidential nomination. An individual’s vote for a party candidate elects the municipality’s delegates to represent said candidate, either proportionally or through winner-takes-all delegate count according to state-specific law.

For the Democratic Party nomination, a candidate must win 2,383 out of 4,765 pledged delegates. For a Republican nomination, the candidate must win 1,237 out of 2,472 delegates (USA Gov, 2016).


Nomination Conventions

Each political party holds its own National Convention, even the third parties, to nominate the official presidential nominee. This past year the National Conventions for the Democratic and Republican Parties occurred in July resulting with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and business-tycoon Donald Trump as the respective candidates.

Before the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton won the required amount of pledged delegates to be the “presumptive nominee”. However, unlike the in the Republican Party, superdelegates also vote for the nominee in the Democratic Party. Superdelegates are the unpledged delegates that make up of party leaders and elected officials.

The existence of superdelegates is a controversial topic as to whether or not the concept is democratic. Since the superdelegates voted unofficially before the primaries, many of the polls took into account the unpledged superdelegate count in the polls between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. This could askew voter opinion since the superdelegates do not officially vote for a candidate until the National Convention.

The existence of superdelegates was questioned specifically in this previous primary season since Bernie Sanders was a fringe candidate, otherwise denoted someone “just on the sidelines” of the race. What the world came to see was that Sanders’ “fringe” campaign grew to be a strong competitor for nomination. Yet, the polls continued to show the outdated superdelegate vote taken months prior and could have distorted the actual political mood towards each candidate.


General Elections

Next month on Tuesday November 8th the general public will vote for their choice of President and Vice President of the United States through the presidential electors.


Electoral College

The results of the popular vote will choose the presidential candidate’s electors in that state, who will then vote in the Electoral College. The number of electors per state equals its proportional number of House Representatives and Senators. In total there are 538 electors from the 435 Representatives, 100 Senators and 3 electors from the District of Columbia (National Archives and Records Administration, 2016).

The electors meet in December to cast the ballot for President and Vice President.  Later in January, the House of Representatives and the Senate meet to tally the electoral votes; the active Vice President then announces the official winner. To win the electoral vote, a candidate must achieve the majority of 270 electors (USA Gov, 2016).


Is it possible to win the popular vote and then lose the electoral?

Yes, this happened in 2000 with George Bush losing the popular vote to Al Gore, winning the electoral vote with a 271 to 266 majority (USA Gov, 2016).

Imagine that there are three states, State A, B and C, each with 100 voters who will vote between Candidate 1 and Candidate 2. Three electors represent the three states, proportionally from two house representatives and one senator.

During the elections in State A, Candidate 1 wins the popular vote with 51 votes against the 49 votes for Candidate 2. This means Candidate 1 wins all three electoral votes.

State B has the same results with Candidate 1 winning 51 and Candidate 2 with 49, which determines again three electoral votes for Candidate 1.

However in State C, Candidate 1 loses the popular vote with 1 to 99 votes for Candidate 2. Thus, the three electoral votes go to Candidate 2.

Candidate 2 wins the popular vote with (49 + 49 + 99) = 197 votes against Candidate 1 with (51 + 51 + 1) = 103 votes.

Nevertheless, the electoral vote is what matters for a representative democracy, meaning that Candidate 1 becomes the president with six electoral votes in comparison to Candidate 2 with three electoral votes.


Who exactly are the electors?

The Electoral College members cannot be a part of the Senate or the House of Representatives, nor can the member be a rebel or enemy to the United States. The electors are chosen by the political parties and generally are party officials or individuals with a personal or political connection to a candidate (National Archives and Records Administration, 2016).

The electors are not required to vote for their party’s candidate. However, most electors pledge their vote the political party affiliation and laws. In the history of the United States, 99% of the electors vote according to the political party (National Archives and Records Administration, 2016).

In the extreme case where no one wins the electoral majority, then the House of Representatives choose the President from the top three candidates and the Senate choose the Vice President.

With the winner elected, the next President is inaugurated January 20th.


Direct vs. Representative Democracy

Coming from a direct democracy, the US election procedure can appear daunting to understand. Even the French system allows for direct democracy when choosing the President, while enjoying a representative government in other parts of legislative government.

Switzerland is the utopic example of a direct democracy. There are four popular voting periods throughout the year for different referendums and initiatives. This vastly differs from the United States with the representative democracy, otherwise known an indirect election. In the US, voting occurs once every four years for elected officials.

However, the four-year term for the elected officials in a representative democracy allows time for the politicians to put into place new laws or create government services that change the state of affairs. With new referendums continually entering the political agenda in a direct democracy, policies may change and depend more on a swaying popular mood.

On one hand a direct democracy benefits from more straightforward political process allowing for the population to vote on current movements. While on the other, the slower political process in a representative government permits thorough debate and analysis, which avoids impulsive proposals that benefit the short-term policies but could hurt the long-term.

For example the Swiss immigration referendum against the Free Movement of People in February 2014 could be an example of the difficulties with direct democracy. Some argue that the smaller voter-turnout swayed the vote in a direction that was not the true majority opinion.

The low voter turnout could greatly harm a direct democracy with the passing of certain initiatives whereas the control lays in the grasps of the elected officials in a representative democracy.

Another negative view for representative democracies could relate to how politicians in the United States are continually confronted by lobbyists of different businesses, unions or organizations. The positions of interest groups may skew necessary policies and laws from getting passed from the buy-out of politicians. For example the National Rifle Association (NRA) continually blocks the process of stricter gun control laws on assault weapons.

Elected officials should follow their educated opinions instead of the crowd sentiments to decide between the right and wrong. Representative democracies allow for politicians to represent minority groups instead of the majority, which is why the United States supports indirect elections as a fundamental part of the political system.


2016 Presidential Candidates

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump

Republican Nominee
Year of birth 1946
Queens, New York

Professional Experience
Billionaire Real Estate Tycoon
Reality Television Personality

University of Pennsylvania
Bachelor in Economics

Vice President Running Mate
Governor Mike Pence

The Issues:

Build a wall from Mexico
End birthright citizenship

Get rid of Obamacare

Tax Policies
Lower corporate tax to 15%;
Costs $9.5 trillion in taxes

Position on Gun Rights
Supports 2nd Amendment;
Opposes gun-control laws

Position with Syria and Daesh
Cut its main funding through oil;
Against US troops on ground

Position on Global Warming
Concept was created by the Chinese

Hillary Rhodam Clinton

Democrat Nominee
Year of birth 1947
Chicago, Illinois

Profession Experience
Secretary of State, Senator of New York, First Lady of the United States, First Lady of Arkansas, and Practicing Lawyer

Yale Law School
Wellesey College
Bachelor in Political Science

Vice President Running Mate
Senator Tim Kaine

The Issues:

Support DREAM Act and path to
legalization for illegal residents

Expand Obamacare

Tax Policies
Increase taxes on high-income earners;
Earns $200-$500 million

Position on Gun Rights
Supports stricter ban on assault weapons;
Gun safety education

Position with Syria and Daesh
Establish no-fly zone; train Syrian rebels;
Against US troops on ground

Position on Global Warming
Reduce carbon emission; regulate fracking

Olivia Meiners


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