Presidential and General Elections in the United States

On Tuesday, November 3 2020, US voters head to poll stations across the country to submit their decisions on their President, Vice-President and a range of candidates and issues. On this page, we provide information to help readers understand the process.

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Elections Explained

Every four years, in early November, most of the United States participates in as well as holds presidential general elections. The President and Vice-President are up for election (or re-election), and so these general elections tend to be dominated by the “presidential election season,” though other offices are also being voted on.

Note that, every two years, when the President is not up for election (or re-election), US voters are asked to focus on other offices up for a vote. Because those non-presidential election seasons fall in the midway point of a President’s four-year term, they are often called “midterm elections.”

As an American voter, depending on where you reside, you are often called upon to focus on five kinds of positions up for a vote during the Presidential election season:

  1. a President and Vice-President of the United States;
  2. a Senate position in the US Congress at the federal level;
  3. a House of Representatives position in the US Congress at the federal level;
  4. any number and range of elected positions at the State or Territory, County and City level; and
  5. any number and range of policy or legislative issues (sometimes called “propositions” or “referendums”) at the State or Territory, County and City level.
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Voter Education

Five levels of offices and issues for American voters

Explained here are five key levels of offices and issues that all eligible voters should pay attention to as they prepare and inform themselves for election day.

Federal | President and Vice President

The Executive branch at the federal level is headed by the US President and Vice President. Both have terms of four (4) years with a limit of two (2) terms.

Typically, presidential and vice-presidential candidates are running mates, of the same party, and US voters are asked to decide on the presidential candidate with the vice-presidential running mate in mind.

If you’d like to know further details about the US Presidency and Vice Presidency, their official government site has more information here →.

Federal | US Senate

The US Senate at the federal level makes up the “upper chamber” of the US Congress. There are typically one hundred (100) elected senators in office at any given time, two from each of the fifty (50) official states.

Each senator typically serves a term of six (6) years before the next re-election. Senators typically have no term limits.

If you’d like to know further details about the US Senate, their official government site has more information here →.

Federal | US House of Representatives

The US House of Representatives at the federal level makes up the “lower chamber” of the US Congress. There are well over four hundred elected representatives at any given time (currently 435 with full voting rights), with the number of representatives per state being proportionate to population.

Each representative typically serves a term of two (2) years. Representatives typically have no term limits.

If you’d like to know further details about the US House of Representatives, their official government site has more information here →.

State or Territory, County and City Offices

Throughout the United States and its territories, each state or territory, county, district, city and town has developed elected governing bodies that are often similar, though not identical, to the two-chambered US Congress at the federal level.

Thus as an American voter, you will often be asked to evaluate a candidate for your state or territory’s legislative body, which frequently entails a Senate and a House of Representatives or House of Delegates. You will also be called upon to vote for council persons as well as mayors, elected judges, attorneys general, district attorneys and, of course, governors and their deputies, etc.

If you’d like to know further details about the State Legislatures, this government site has more information here →.

State or Territory, County and City Issues

And here at this level the full (some say “remarkable”) diversity of voting environments in the US becomes apparent. Different states, territories and districts, even cities and towns, put different policy and legislative issues to a general vote.

So during elections in November, you can have one voter deciding on issues of limited effect, while a voter in a neighboring state decides on a statewide law to go into effect in a year (soon!), or on a proposed tax resource allocation with massive effects on the state budget. Both on the same day.

Because of this variety, it is important not to focus only on the federal and state office candidates. If you’ve recently moved from one place to another, please promptly get informed about the significance of your attendance at that voting booth come election day. If you’d like to know further details about the policy and legislative issues you can vote on in your area, start with your state site for voter information.

Advice & Learning

Pre-Election Matters

— While many likely voters are also described as decided, Publiks recommends all to reacquaint themselves with the policy positions and records of the candidates, starting with the campaign sites of US President Donald J Trump (view here) and former US Vice President Joseph R Biden (view here).

— COVID pandemic concerns have placed emphasis on voting day precautions and — at times more contentiously — forms and mechanisms of absentee and mail-in voting. Publiks recommends you check in with your local Elections and Voter Information Center.

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Voter Information

Five things American voters can do for their communities

Find Your Center

We provide via the link below a listing of state government centers where you may find your election information well beforehand, leading up to, and on the day of elections.

And further below are four other key steps all eligible voters should take on time in order to make their fullest contribution to their communities.

Register Early & Correctly

Whether or not you’ve moved recently, make sure that your state’s election office has your current address and registration status. If you’ve just become eligible to vote, do register via any of several means available to you. Read more at your voter information center.

Get Informed

With prompt registration and the right address you should get a substantive, thick mailing booklet, with a full listing of the positions on the ballot come November. If that has not arrived by mid-October, do promptly go to your state’s information site for online and downloadable copies.

Discuss with Others

There are few better ways to learn (and become more motivated as well as informed) than in conversation with a range of fellow potential voters. Ideally, you’ll want to speak with those you agree with, those you disagree with (best behavior, everyone), and those you may persuade or become persuaded by.

Peer education is the goal here, and an essential part of what it means to form, be and take care of a civic community. Do see if your state elections office has a schedule of meetings or town halls.

Vote on Time

And the most crucial part of all this is the slot of time you find to make sure you vote. Plan at least one month in advance if you cannot physically be in your voting station that day, and so need to vote by absentee ballot. Find out how at your state information site.

For those going on voting day but especially short on time (job, family, prior commitments) do check in the days prior for the correct address of your voting station, and note that arriving at certain moments of that day often makes for a surprisingly short line and wait for your time in the booth.

Verify your registration and voting station address at your state information center.

Exit Polls & Final Counts (Federal)

Post-Elections Results

 US President Donald J Trump secures renomination as Republican Party candidate for President, along with his Vice President and running mate, Mike Pence. He wins all but one (1) of the of the delegates to be awarded, for a total of 2,550 delegates.

— Former Vice President Joseph R Biden secures nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for President. He wins 68% of the delegates awarded, for a total of 2,716 delegates. During the Democratic National Convention he chooses former primary race rival, California US Senator Kamala Harris, as his running mate for Vice President.

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The Information Centers

Election information centers as grouped in four regions (time zones) in the United States

Find Your Voter Information →

Provided via the link and below is a listing of state government centers where you may find your election information well beforehand, leading up to, and on the day of elections.

Pacific/Western

Alaska
Alaska Division of Elections
Website

American Samoa
American Samoa Election Office
Website

California
California Secretary of State
Website

Guam
Guam Election Commission
Website

Hawaii
Hawaii Office of Elections
Website

Nevada
Nevada Secretary of State
Website

Northern Mariana Islands
Commonwealth Election Commission
Website

Oregon
Oregon Secretary of State
Website

Wake Island
Board of Elections
Website

Washington
Washington Secretary of State
Website

Mountain

Arizona
Arizona Secretary of State
Website

Colorado
Colorado Secretary of State
Website

Idaho
Idaho Secretary of State
Website

Montana
Montana Secretary of State
Website

New Mexico
New Mexico Secretary of State
Website

Utah
Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office
Website

Wyoming
Wyoming Secretary of State
Website

Central

Alabama
Alabama Secretary of State
Website

Arkansas
Arkansas Secretary of State
Website

Illinois
Illinois Board of Elections
Website

Iowa
Iowa Secretary of State
Website

Kansas
Kansas Secretary of State
Website

Kentucky
Kentucky Board of Elections
Website

Louisiana
Louisiana Secretary of State
Website

Minnesota
Minnesota Secretary of State
Website

Mississippi
Mississippi Secretary of State
Website

Missouri
Missouri Secretary of State
Website

Nebraska
Nebraska Secretary of State
Website

North Dakota
North Dakota Secretary of State
Website

Oklahoma
Oklahoma Election Board
Website

South Dakota
South Dakota Secretary of State
Website

Tennessee
Tennessee Secretary of State
Website

Texas
Texas Secretary of State
Website

Wisconsin
Wisconscin Elections Commission
Website

Atlantic/Eastern

Connecticut
Connecticut Secretary of State
Website

Delaware
Delaware Department of Elections
Website

Florida
Florida Division of Elections
Website

Georgia
Georgia Secretary of State
Website

Indiana
Indiana Secretary of State
Website

Maine
Maine Bureau of Elections
Website

Maryland
Maryland State Board of Elections
Website

Massachusetts
Massachusetts Elections Division
Website

Michigan
Michigan Secretary of State
Website

New Hampshire
New Hampshire Secretary of State
Website

New Jersey
New Jeresey Division of Elections
Website

New York
New York State Board of Elections
Website

North Carolina
North Carolina State Board of Elections
Website

Ohio
Ohio Secretary of State
Website

Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Department of State
Website

Puerto Rico
Comisión Estatal de Elecciones de Puerto Rico
Website

Rhode Island
Rhode Island Board of Elections
Website

South Carolina
South Carolina Election Commission
Website

US Virgin Islands
Virgin Islands Election System
Website

Vermont
Vermont Secretary of State
Website

Virginia
Virginia Department of State
Website

Washington DC
District of Columbia Board of Elections
Website

West Virginia
West Virginia Secretary of State
Website

Exit Polls & Final Counts (State/Local)

Post-Elections Results

 US President Donald J Trump secures renomination as Republican Party candidate for President, along with his Vice President and running mate, Mike Pence. He wins all but one (1) of the of the delegates to be awarded, for a total of 2,550 delegates.

— Former Vice President Joseph R Biden secures nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for President. He wins 68% of the delegates awarded, for a total of 2,716 delegates. During the Democratic National Convention he chooses former primary race rival, California US Senator Kamala Harris, as his running mate for Vice President.

Read more

Global Concerns

— Oct 2: Le Monde contributor expresses caution as well as measured concern in assessing the impact of the presidential election on the economic market, focusing less on the voting outcome between Priesdent Trump and Vice President Biden than on any prolonged delay in ascertaining the result (Lire en Français).

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