With the U.S. presidential election rapidly approaching at a time of extraordinary political and social disruption, the possibility of an unclear or contested result is coming under scrutiny.
Unlike many other countries, where the president or prime minister is chosen by direct popular vote, in the U.S., a candidate may win the popular vote and still not be elected to the nation’s highest office. The U.S. also differs from most other democracies in that it has no independent electoral commission to certify the final vote count.
So who actually confirms the winner?
Step #1: Before Election Day
American democracy has many elected officials – state, local and national – and many processes for getting into office.
I have been working on election campaigns since I was eight years old, when my dad ran for school board and I went door to door asking people to vote for him. I’ve also worked on local, congressional, senate and presidential races and now direct an academic research center on politics.
What’s striking is that every race is different, from deadlines and filing process to certification. Here, I’ll focus here on the presidential race.
The unusual and complicated presidential election certification process in the U.S. entwines all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Senate, House of Representatives, the National Archives and the Office of the Federal Register. It also involves the Electoral College – a uniquely American institution that convenes in 51 separate locations once every four years to pick the president.