The Calm Before the Storm (And What You Need to Know)

By Mikayla Billin

Every four years the most powerful nation in the world elects a new leader.  Tonight the United States will take part in arguably the most controversial election in history, and before polls close and results start flying in, here is a rundown of everything you need to know.
Who Can Be the 45th President of the United States?

Technically, the requirements are fairly straightforward and simple.  A candidate must be a ‘natural born’ United States citizen of at least 35 years old, and have had been a resident for 14 years [1].  However, many informal requirements remain in place, including experience and wealth.  Nearly all of the past presidential candidates have held government positions such as governor, senator or military general.  Eligible candidates are further eliminated as they fail to gain the public’s attention through national media coverage and party recognition.  Those who fail to make national news are often candidates with insufficient revenue to fund their campaign.

How Did Clinton and Trump Come Out on Top?

America is home to a staggering 320 million people, yet the two people with a chance of winning are highly disliked.  According to a October 2016 Real Clear Politics poll, Donald Trump has a 60% unfavorability rating, with Hillary Clinton not far behind with 53% [1].

To make a long story short, Clinton and Trump weren’t always unpopular.  Clinton was once a well-liked Secretary of State, and Trump a successful business man with a popular US adaption of The Apprentice.  However, it is no secret that after being introduced to the 2016 campaign, both candidates sparked controversy with FBI investigations, racial slurs and disloyal comments.  

America is increasingly divided politically, with current issues such as abortion, gun rights and foreign policy causing great conflict between the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats.  Candidates are not chosen by the entire population, but instead in primaries, by the two parties.  The primaries consist of only the most politically active 18% of the population.  Out of that 18%, only half voted for either Clinton or Trump, which explains why majority of Americans feel unrepresented by the two nominees.

How Does a Candidate Win Office?

On Tuesday November 8th at 6:00pm ET voting polls will begin to close, and results will be released state by state.  Here we introduce the infamously misunderstood electoral college.  Each of the 50 states is given a number of electors, relative to the population of the state.  There exists 538 electors nationwide; California has the most (55), while Wyoming and Washington DC only have 3.  When voters flock the polls, while on the ballot they are selecting a presidential candidate, in reality they are choosing electors, or party representatives [2].  Whichever party wins the most votes will receive all of the state’s electoral college votes, meaning if majority of California vote Democrat, Hillary Clinton will receive all 55 electoral college votes.  Once a candidate collects 270 electors, they will immediately win the presidential election.

States to Watch

Most states are relatively predictable, voting loyally for the same party each election.  For example, California and Washington are highly Democratic, whereas Texas and Alabama traditionally Republican.  However, each election there are some states that are identified as battleground or swing states, because the result is unclear.  The eleven swing states for the 2016 race to the white house are the following: Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin [2].

Final Thoughts

So, as we reach the final hours before everyone turns their attention to the campaign, what can you expect?

Hillary is most likely to secure votes from women and non-white citizens, with Royal Holloway International Relations lecturer Will Jones noting that if only women voted, Clinton would win with 458 electoral votes to 80, whereas if only white males voted, roles would flip and Trump would win with 350.  Trump will be looking for the White Evangelical vote, and although unlikely, if they betray him it will dramatically change the election.

The 2016 election will be won in the battleground states, meaning that once results from those states have been released, the election should be more or less over.

Finally, Despite the media making out the election as a real nail biter, it probably isn’t.  Clinton is expected to win, with current poles estimating she secures 206 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 164 [3].  For those of you on the edge of your seats wondering if you should prepare for World War Three, sit back and enjoy a historical election, and make sure to continue checking the blog as we will be giving state-by-state results throughout the night!





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