By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The United States has a unique Electoral College through which the winner of the presidential election is chosen.
The Electoral College is more of a process rather than an institution or place and is focused on obtaining the majority of the 536 electors distributed around the 50 states and the District of Columbia. To emerge as president, the winner has to get 270 Electoral College vote which is half of the Electoral College plus one (269+1).
The number of Electoral College votes a state has is equivalent to its representation in Congress with the exception being the capital city, Washington D.C. which has no official representative in the Senate or House of Representatives. Washington D.C. however, for the purpose of the election has three Electoral College votes.
California with 55 votes has the highest number of Electoral College votes followed by Texas with 38 and New York and Florida with 29 votes apiece.
The smallest states such as Vermont, North Dakota have 3 Electoral College votes.
The presidential candidate who wins the majority of votes wins all Electoral College votes in all but two states, the exceptions being Nebraska and Maine where the votes are spread according to how the votes were won in the congressional districts.
By early tomorrow morning the winner of the election would have been determined. However, the electors from the states would have to meet later in December to formally pledge their votes to the candidates who won in their states.
This pledge is collated by the different states and sent to Congress, (their National Assembly) which meets on the first Tuesday of January to collate and ratify the president.
Congress meets in a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives with the President of the Senate presiding.
This process has been embarrassing for some given the fact that the Vice-President of the country is normally the President of the Senate.
Mr. Albert Gore as Vice-President and presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in 2000 had the unusual indignity to collate the result and pronounce his rival, Mr. George W. Bush as president. Mr. Dan Quayle as vice-president in 1992 and vice-presidential candidate to George Bush also had the unusual role of pronouncing his rivals, Bill Clinton and Albert Gore as winners of the election, a similar role that had been played by Walter Mondale, vice-president to Jimmy Carter in 1980.
George Bush Snr, however, as vice-president in 1988 pronounced himself president in the election in which he succeeded Ronald Reagan under whom he served as two-term vice-president.
The battleground states
Many states have over a period be known to consistently vote either Republican or Democratic, a development that has restricted the outcome to recent presidential elections to what are known as the swing states.
California, New York and mostly states in the West and Eastern coasts have almost consistently voted Democrat while many states in between, usually referred to as Middle America have consistently voted Republ-ican. Though the two major candidates, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are registered in New York, the state is irrespective of that leaning towards Clinton, the Democratic candidate.
However, in an unusual development, a number of states that had in the past leaned towards the Democratic Party, have been brought into play as a result of the Trump phenomenon. The most outstanding of the former Democrat-leaning states that have come into play in the present election cycle are Michigan and Pennsylvania.
In the last 24 hours, the two campaigns have especially focused on the battleground states mainly Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Clinton who had solid leads running into double digits in Pennsylvania, Michigan is now fighting to stave off a late momentum for Trump in the former safe two Democratic States that have now come into play.
To win the election, Trump has to win most of these swing states. He is not helped by the fact that the Republican establishment in some of the states are not enthusiastic towards him.
Popular Ohio governor, John Kasich was as at press time yet to endorse Trump after the bad blood that ensued between the two men during the primary contest. Trump according to most polls was maintaining a marginal 2 point lead over Clinton in the must-win state which every Republican in recent history has won on the way to the White House.
It was not surprising yesterday that the two candidates were crisscrossing through the swing states.
Trump was as at press time yesterday scheduled to visit at least five states including Florida, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.
Clinton was also scheduled to campaign at least through six states.
The other contests
Though the presidential contest has engaged the interest of many Nigerians, the majority of United States citizens are also fully interested in the local elections.
Other elections holding today include the contest for one-third of the Senate, that is 34 seats in the Senate are up for election. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are also up for election while governorship contests will be held in 12 states and also in the U.S. territories of Samoa and Puerto Rico.
The Republicans presently control the two chambers of Congress with the party holding 54 of the 100 Senate seats. That majority is now threatened given that the majority of the seats being contested today are in Republican hands.
Every two years, Americans go to the polls to elect their federal legislators.
One-third of the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are normally up for election every two years. It is quite easy to understand for the House of Representatives, however, in the Senate where the tenure of office is six years, two-thirds of the seats are changed every two years. This year, the Senate seats last contested in 2010 are being contested.
Thousands of contests are also to be held for mayoral, councils and other elective positions today in city offices among others.
The battleground states