US Election and Voting Rules

It started out with me and my mom watching this year’s United States presidential election results. I had never monitored an election before, and I needed a lot of help to understand what was going on. So, my mother had to explain.

Then she suggested that I should write an article on how the election works. So here goes.

Rules to vote

To vote in the US presidential election first, one must have US citizenship and second, one must be 18 or over.

How to vote

The day which the election is held is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The election is held every 4 years.

There are 3 different ways to vote in the election.

  • The first way is in-person voting. In this case, one goes to the polling booth and casts their ballot by putting a mark next to the candidate they want. At some polling stations this is done on a touch screen, but in most it is done with a paper and pen.
  • The next way one can cast ballots is through mail. One has one envelope in which they write their name, address etc. Then they insert a second envelope which has the ballot inside it.
  • The last way is for one to apply for an absentee ballot online, after giving a reason for doing so.
Ballots and polling centres

Vote counting

There are different ways to count the different types of ballots. The in person ballots are scanned and recorded after everyone has voted and left. The process starts when you leave. One’s ballot is scanned and stored on a memory card by a machine.

The memory card is then sent to the people counting the votes. They add your vote to the appropriate candidate.

For mailed ballots the counting process is different. One person scans the information in the first envelope of all the ballots, a second scans the ballots in the second envelope, and finally a third person records the votes for the secret ballot system to work.

When one fills an absentee ballot online one’s vote is directly sent to the counting offices. Here too, first a person records the voter’s information and then someone else records the vote.

Electoral Votes

Whichever candidate gets more votes in a particular state, also gets all the electoral votes of that particular state, except for in Maine and Nebraska, where the electoral votes are split just as they are won. Higher the population of the state, higher the number of electoral votes. Electoral votes rather than popular votes decide the winner. There are total 538 electoral votes in the US presidential election. Whichever candidate gets 270 or more electoral votes, wins the election.

Contingent Election

If there a tie between two or more candidates, there is a contingent election. Then the congressmen from the house elect the winner from the tied candidates.


But sometimes when one of the candidates wins by a very small margin there is a recount. That means that they count the votes again to make sure that they counted the votes correctly the first time. There are 2 ways to do the recounts.

The first one is called machine counting. In machine counting, machines are used to count votes that were casted on the election day. There are three types of machines used to count the votes. Details can be found here.

The second way to recount is called manual counting. In manual counting, people count the votes. In manual counting, verification papers for each vote are required.

Term Limits

A person can stay president for a limited amount of time. This is called a term limit. A term ends after 4 years and then presidential elections are conducted. A person can serve as president for at most two terms.

One thought on “US Election and Voting Rules

  1. Hey Kinu,
    Did you know that if your mom had delayed her move from New Mexico to Mumbai by six months you would have been able to vote in the 2032 presidential elections, perhaps for Kamala Harris?
    Anu Mausi

    Liked by 1 person

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