So you want to follow the election, huh? Want to make an educated decision when you cast your vote for the next president of the United States? Of course you do! After all, you only get this chance once every four years.
But let’s be real — all that political jargon, mudslinging and keeping up with the debates is boring, not to mention hard to sift through, right? Wrong! Before you know it, you’ll know how to follow the election, but first you’ve got to know how it works.
For starters, let’s review how the nomination process works. First, candidates begin campaigning long before the actual election process starts, establishing their platforms, creating television ads and otherwise getting their names out in the open. Then, in January of election year, the primaries and caucuses start.
Now, the difference between a primary and a caucus is good to know. In a primary, ballots are private, whereas in a caucus people gather together locally and openly decide which candidate to nominate. Make sense so far? Good. Moving on.
So, the first six months of an election year is the time when the candidates will travel from state to state and campaign for the votes of the people. Throughout their time there, candidates will hold rallies and participate in debates to help citizens know where they stand on the issues. When it’s time for that state to vote, the candidate with the most votes takes the state. Simple enough?
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. You see, depending on its population size, each state is assigned a certain number of Republican and Democratic representatives, called delegates. In July, once all the states have voted, the delegates from every state get together at what’s called the national party convention. There the delegates will cast their votes and the final presidential candidate from each party is determined (though it’s usually clear by the end of the primaries who the candidate will be).
For example, Utah has 34 Democratic delegates and 40 Republican delegates. The Republican who wins Utah will earn the votes of all 40 delegates in the national Republican Party convention.
The Democrats, however, do things a little differently. Rather than using a “winner takes all” method, they divvy out delegates proportionally depending on the number of votes each candidate gets. Lucky for you though, this year you’ll only have to worry about the Republican nomination. (Since President Barack Obama is running for re-election, he’s already considered the Democratic nominee.)
That’s all there is to it, folks! Now you’re ready to learn how to actually follow the election so you can make an informed decision.
As many of you probably already know from hearing names thrown around in the news, the Republican candidates currently are Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas; former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The easiest way to keep up on each of their platforms will be to review their websites (Google search works well to find each of them) and watch the debates. (I know, I know, but you’re going to have to make some sacrifices to educate yourself!)
To review polls of how each candidate is doing in each state (or in the election as a whole) try RealClearPolitics.com, click “Polls” on the top of the page and then “Latest Polls.” You’ll be able to specify which state’s polls you want to view on the left sidebar. They also have a calendar listing when the debates, primaries and caucuses will be. You can find it by clicking “Election 2012” on the home page and then “Election Calendar.”
You can also try google.com/elections. There you can review the issues, keep up on the candidates and find news articles and videos. This is a great and easy way to keep up on everything that’s going on in the election.
There you have it! You’re officially an expert on following the election!
Now, go forth and vote!