This year, it’s once again time for the US to elect its next president. Just like every four years, the question arises again whether a Democrat or Republican will be moving into the White House. But how exactly does the election work in the US? To explain this, it’s not enough to simply look at a single election day. It’s the entire election year that’s important. At the beginning of an election year, the primaries take place. In these elections, the Democrats and Republicans first select a presidential candidate from within their parties. During the ensuing election campaign, the Democratic and Republican candidates then face off against each other. The way in which the primaries are run and who is eligible to vote vary by state. The fundamental difference is that in some states every citizen and in others only registered voters of the respective party are entitled to vote for who should be the presidential candidate. The day on which the primaries take place is also individually determined in each state. One particular day is “Super Tuesday”, when a large number of states vote for their respective candidates. These contenders who aim to represent the electorate if they receive the presidential nomination, however, are not directly elected by it. Americans simply elect delegates, who in turn support a particular candidate. The candidate who ultimately receives more than half of all the delegate votes wins the primaries. After every state has elected its delegates, it’s usually already clear who will be the presidential candidate. Officially, however, the elected delegates only vote for their candidate at the national party convention. If none of the candidates receive more than half of all the delegate votes, negotiations are held within the party to select the candidate. This may lead to candidates withdrawing and re-votes having to be held among the delegates. In the case of such a re-vote, delegates are no longer pledged to a particular candidate and are able to switch their allegiance to another candidate until there is a clear majority. It’s therefore possible for supposed “outsiders” to re-enter the race. After all this, it’s officially clear which presidential candidates will face off against each other. The election campaign can begin! The winner of this campaign is decided by the electorate on election day, which is November 8th, 2016. On this day, all eligible voters who are over 18 may vote for their president. Just as in the primaries, however, here too the presidential candidates are not directly elected. Americans elect so-called electors, who in turn support one of the candidates. Each state has a different number of electors, depending on how many people live there. So at the end of election day, there are a certain number of electors in each state who support a Democratic president and a certain number who support a Republican president. But these cannot simply be assigned to the presidential candidates, because almost all states apply the principle: “The Winner takes it all”. Let’s assume that a state has 10 electors. 6 of these support a Democrat and 4 support a Republican. In this case, the Democratic candidate has won the election in this state and takes all 10 electors, leaving the Republicans empty-handed. The winner of a state really does take it all! This is why some states experience more intense election campaigning than others. Because whilst Texas, for example, almost always has a Republican majority and California almost always elects Democrats, there are other states where the outcome is less certain. These are the so-called “swing states”. Florida is an example of one such swing state, where prior to every election it’s unclear which candidate will win. There are a total of 538 electors. The candidate that has more than half of all electors on their side has won the election. The 29 electors from Florida can therefore be pivotal! Once the electors have been elected, it’s already clear who the president will be. However, the president won’t be officially elected until the Electoral College December 18th, 2016, when all the electors cast their votes in their state. In keeping with tradition, however, these votes won’t be counted until later, namely at the beginning of January 2017 by the US Congress, which will then officially announce who will reside in the White House for the next 4 years. As is the custom, the investiture of the president, also known as the “inauguration”, will then take place January 20th, 2017.