US presidential elections 2016: Here is what you need to know about poll process

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The battle to elect the next president of the United States got underway in which Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are seen as front-runners.

After months of campaigning during which Donald Trump and other political outsiders have ripped up the script, voters in this midwestern state filed into church basements, school gymnasiums and libraries to have their say in the caucuses.

US presidential poll explained

US citizens do not directly participate in electing the president or the vice president. They vote for to elect designated intermediaries called "electors, who on behalf of citizens vote for particular presidential and vice presidential candidates.

The election process traditionally starts from Iowa and New Hampshire early in the year.

[Cruz beats Trump in Iowa; Clinton, Sanders both claim victory]

Here are important facts you need to know about the confusing US presidential poll process

  • President and Vice President are elected for a period of 4 years in US.
  • Only a native-born citizens of the US and who have completed be at least 35 years of age can contest for the post of president.
  • A candidate cannot be elected to serve as President for third term.
  • The presidential election is conducted every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
  • The presidential election happens in November, but the new president assumes office on January 20 of the following year.
  • Two main political parties Democratic and Republican choose their respective candidates for the presidential election through party-sponsored contests in each of the states and US territories.
  • Once the candidates are chosen for the election they campaign until the general election on November 8.
  • There is no restriction on how early a candidate can start his/her campaign for the presidential poll. 
  • There is no bar on how much money a candidate can spend on the election campaign. The cost can reach up to $1 billion.
  • Primaries and caucuses are the two ways for states to choose their presidential candidates.
  • Caucuses are a series of local meetings of registered party members in which they show their support for candidates with an open show of hands. Every state has different rules and methods for caucus. It even vary year-by-year.
  • The Primary is held like a general election when voters use ballots to vote for one of those running for the president.
  • Iowa, which uses a caucus system, and New Hampshire, which holds a primary, are the first two states to vote.
  • The first Tuesday of March is known as "Super Tuesday" when 13 states and territories hold caucuses or primaries. The results announced on the same day.
  • A major national gathering which is known as convention is organised in July where a group of people (delegates) from each state represent the particular state in the convention.
  • At the convention, the delegates cast their votes for the candidate who secured the most vote in that state in the caucus or primary election
  • Three televised presidential debates take place in the last six weeks before final votes cast.
  • The final step is taken by the Electoral College which consists of 538 electors who cast votes to decide the President and Vice-President of the United States.
  • The candidate who receives a majority of electoral votes (270) wins the Presidency.
  • The number 538 is the sum of the nation's 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and 3 electors given to the District of Columbia.
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