How the US Government and the Election Process works

Nov 16, 2016:  The result of the US Presidential Election on Nov 8, 2016, sent chill throughout the globe after Donald Trump —representing Conservative White Christians and campaigning on ‘Hate’— emerged as the new President-Elect.

This article provides some basic nuanced information on how the American Government and the Election process works to make sense of the Nov 8 election outcome.

The Election Process

On Nov 8, the American voters were out to elect a President, one third of Senate, members of House of Representatives, Judges of the lower courts, members of Board of Education, as well as local county officials. At stake was the Presidency, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the most important of all – the Supreme Court.


Click for Source & Larger version of map

The United States Government

There are three branches of American government — Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The founding fathers of the United States saw the three branches as ‘checks and balances’ to prevent any one of them with too much power. The Presidency is the Executive branch; Congress —that includes the Senate and House of Representatives— is the Legislative branch; and the Court system lead by the Supreme Court is the Judiciary branch.

The Presidency (Executive Branch)

The United States government runs on a Presidential System. The President is elected for four years and for the maximum of two terms—eight years maximum as per 22nd Amendment ratified in 1951. The outgoing US President, Barack Obama, was elected for four years, and won re-election for another four. He has been in office for a maximum of eight years and could not contest in this election.

The President of the United States is also the Commander-in-Chief of all the Armed Forces making him the person with access to the codes of the most devastating stockpile of nuclear arsenal enough to destroy the entire planet Earth.

  • Branch: Executive
  • Term: 4 years
  • Election: Every 4-years
  • Term Limit: 2
  • Location: White House, Washington DC
  • Other (relevant) Roles: Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Power to Veto a Bill (Congress can override the Presidential Veto if the bill had support of 2/3 House + 2/3 Senate)

Popular Votes vs Electoral College – Below map by (CNN) showing Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton won the ‘Popular Votes’ (one vote per US citizen) obtaining 47.9% as compared to the 47.2% total votes for the Republican Party candidate Donald Trump. However, the Presidency is decided on who wins at least 270 ‘Electoral College’ votes and below map shows that Donald Trump secured at least 270 to win the presidency.

According to the USA.GOV website:

It is possible to win the Electoral College, but lose the popular vote. That means that a candidate can win a combination of states and reach the 270 electors mark without winning the majority of votes across the country. This has happened five times in American elections, most recently in 2016.


The House of Representatives (Legislative branch aka Congress)
The purpose of the House of Representatives is making new laws in accordance with the constitution of the United States. Its members, therefore, are referred to as ‘Law Makers’. The number of the House of Representative in a given State is dependent on the population of the State. So, for example, California as one of the biggest States in the US has more House members than, say, State of Vermont.

The members of the House of Representatives is elected for a period of two years with no term limits. This means they are up for re-election every two years. The framers of the US Constitution put the short election period to ensure that the House Member constantly interact with his or her constituents. 

The total number of the House members are fixed 435 according to law. However, the census taken every 10 years determines whether any State lose or gain a House seat. For example, If 10,000 residents of Texas moved to California, then the former will lose one House seat, while the latter will gain one – the total of 435 remains same. 

  • Number of seats: Fixed 435 Seats (according to Law) representing 50 States, proportional representation of population size in a given State according to Census every 10 years
    • Census > Redistricting > Increase or decrease in House seat. See also ‘Gerrymandering’
  • Branch: Legislative
  • Term: 2 years
  • Election: Every 2-years (during even year)
  • Term Limit: None
  • Location: US Capitol or Capitol Hill, Washington DC

2016 Election Results of House of Representatives (CNN) – The Republican Party controlled the House of Representatives going into Nov 8, 2016, elections. The result shows that they maintained the control by 238 seats to 193 seats of the Democratic Party.



The Senate (Legislative branch aka Congress)
The Senate is the upper chamber and meant to focus on the broader issues of a State and hence a Senator is elected for six years, with no term limits. In contrast to the House of Representatives, each State can only have two elected Senators with a total of 100 Senators representing the 50 States in the United States. The Senate Election is staggered so that during each election (every two years for House of Representative or four year during Presidential Election), one third (1/3) of the Senate is up for re-election. This way, the other two third (2/3) is focused on keeping the government working.

  • Number of seats: 100 Seats (2 Senator x 50 States)
  • Branch: Legislative
  • Term: 6 years
  • Election: Every 2-years 1/3 of Senate is up for re-election
  • Term Limit: None
  • Location: US Capitol or Capitol Hill, Washington DC

2016 Election Results showing Republican Party’s control of Senate by 51 seats to Democratic Party’s 48 seats (CNN). On Nov 8, 2016, one third of the Senate was up for re-election. Most polls projected that Democratic Party will win control of the Senate by winning the majority of the 1/3 Senate seats but Republican party maintained its control.



The Supreme Court (Judiciary Branch)
The Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President after approved by the Congress. They are appointed for life – replacement usually occur only if one of them dies or retires. The Supreme Court Judges are THE most important body to the people of the United States. For example, a justice appointed by Donald Trump who is currently 50 years old can remain on Supreme Court for another 40 to 50 years. The control of the Supreme Court was THE most important issue to the Conservative Christians represented by Trump’s Republican Party.

  • Supreme Court – currently comprised of nine members
    • US President nominates Supreme Court justice according to the Article II of the US Constitution. Upon Senate Confirmation, the judge is appointed to the Supreme Court.
  • Other Courts

How the three branches of US Government interact with each other?
Both House and Senate can propose a bill to address an issue, which then goes to Senate and House Committees. After modifications, the bill goes to the full House or Senate for consideration. After both chambers passes its version of the bill, it often goes to a ‘conference committee’ comprised of members from both chambers. The final version of the bill goes back to both chambers for final approval. Once approved, it goes to the president who can sign it into law or veto the bill and send it back to Congress for amendment.

The Supreme Court is the highest body in the Judiciary Branch. Its purpose is to interpret new laws and ensure they are according to the Constitution of the United States. There are currently nine justices on the Supreme Court, and one of them is designated as the ‘Chief Justice.’ When the President signs the proposal into Law, the Supreme Court can ‘strike down’ the new law if it wasn’t in accordance with the Constitution.

Note: The new President will make the most important nomination for the vacant Supreme Court seat following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb 13, 2016. We will cover this and other important factors in our analysis of the Nov 8 election.

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Relevant: Why Hazara Americans Should Not Vote for Hillary or Trump in US Election 

The Hazara American Community contributed to this article.

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