The presidential race is not the only one on Election Day ballots across the United States.
In addition to voting for their new president, Americans will also choose candidates in various federal, state and local elections.
Among the federal races are elections for the US House of Representatives and Senate, the two houses that make up the federal legislature known as the US Congress.
The US House of Representatives
Voters across 50 states will be electing legislators for the House of Representatives. There are 435 seats in total and each seat is up for election every two years.
This year’s legislative elections are even more important than usual because they are the last before a new round of redistricting based on the results of the 2020 Census. Each state’s allocated number of House members is determined by its population, so if a state loses or gains residents in the new Census, they stand to lose or gain seats in the House.
The US Senate
There also 35 Senate seats up for grabs this year, roughly one-third of the 100-seat body. Around a dozen of those 35 are competitive seats and each is extremely important as Republican control of the chamber is at stake. Currently, the Republicans have a 53-47 advantage. If the Democrats can gain four seats, they will guarantee a takeover of the Senate majority.
The most important non-federal elections this year will choose governors who run the executive branches of each individual state government.
Voters in 11 states and two territories, Puerto Rico and American Samoa, will elect governors this Election Day.
What is the Electoral College?
In the US, the president and vice president are not directly elected by voters, as laid out in the US Constitution. When voters make their presidential choice on their ballot, they are really voting for a slate of “electors”, who, after the votes are counted and certified, are pledged to vote for a presidential and vice-presidential candidate.
These electors actually cast the deciding votes for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates during a meeting of the Electoral College.
In 48 states, these electors “pledge” to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates that receive the most votes in their respective state.
Two states – Maine and Nebraska – have slightly different systems: Two electors “pledge” to vote for the candidate that wins the state’s overall popular vote, while the remaining electors are allocated to the winner in each congressional district.
While the presidential election is on November 3, the Electoral College will vote on December 14.The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of its House representatives plus two, the number of US Senators in each state. There are a total of 538 electors: 535 from the 50 states and three from the District of Columbia, which is the federal capital and not a state, per the constitution.
Prior to 1961, when a constitutional amendment allotted Washington, DC, three electoral votes, residents of the district did not have a say in presidential elections.