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Understanding the US Presidential Election 

“Pax Americana” is a term political science professor Michael Beckley used to describe the current era in his book Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower. While it is unclear if the world’s only superpower, the United States (US), will be able to maintain this status, the US is currently, without a doubt, the most powerful country in the world. Accordingly, nearly every news outlet in the world will cover the US presidential election that will be held on the 3rd of November later this year. Thus, this article will be providing some background information about the election that Kingos may want to know about before watching the US presidential election in their homes.

In the US, citizens of the US do not directly affect the outcome of the election, but rather, the votes from a group of people called the United States Electoral College are the ones that determine the next president. This body of people gathered solely for the presidential election and is composed of 538 people. Every one of these electors represents a certain state of the US – for instance, 55 people represent the state of California, 38 represent the state of Texas, etc. Although these people are given the responsibility to vote for a certain candidate, they do not vote according to their own will. They pledge to vote for whichever candidate a majority of people from their state has chosen, and this is where the citizens’ votes are taken into consideration. If a certain candidate has received the majority of votes from a state, all electors representing this state will be required to cast a vote for the winning candidate. This complicated system is referred to as the winner-takes-all system, because whichever candidate earns the majority of votes from a certain state takes all the electoral votes for that state.

In theory, a candidate that earned more votes from citizens can end up losing the election because they earned fewer electoral votes, and this exact situation took place in the US presidential election of 2000. Al Gore, who had won 500,000 more votes than his opposing candidate George W. Bush, received only 266 electoral votes. On the other hand, despite earning less votes from the total population, George W. Bush won 271 electoral votes, which led him to becoming the 43rd president of the US.

Why, despite this unfairness, is this type of electoral system still in place in the US? Before the American Civil War, while the population of the Southern States was far larger than the population of the Northern States, most of the population in the South were slaves who had no voting rights. Thus, the US came up with the current system, in order for slave owners to have a bigger influence when electing the next president. Now, the system is conceived in such a way as to ensure the sovereignty of each state, as well as making a national recount of votes unnecessary even in the case of an election being compromised.

Similar to the atmosphere in Korea, some states traditionally prefer a certain party. States without a particular preference are called swing states, and since earning extra electoral votes from a single state is quite substantial in the presidential elections of the US, votes from swing states will probably be the key to determining the winner of the 2020 US presidential election. Who will win the votes of the Electoral College and become the 46th president of the US? Kingos will have to wait and see.

최기환  john.com138@gmail.com

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