After over a year of campaigning, the United States presidential election is finally here! As I’ve mentioned before all national (and most regional) elections in the United States are held on the first Tuesday in November, which is today. So, today people around the United States will be going to their polling places to cast their ballots. Just talking about voting brings up a lot of unique vocabulary so let’s go over some of this before I tell you a little more about how voting in the Unite States takes place.
ballot – sheet of paper on which a person either writes in or selects from a group of candidates to vote for a particular political office
ballot box – a secure box in which a person puts his/her vote
candidates – the individuals who are running for election; the people you can vote for
to cast a ballot – to complete the process of voting
polling place or polling station – the place where a person goes to vote
poll-watcher – a person who volunteers to watch the election at a polling station to make sure the voting is fair
poll-worker – a person who works at a polling station on the day of an election
voting booth – a small area surrounded by curtains or thin walls where a person can stand to vote in privacy
voting machine – an electronic machine on which a person makes their voting selections (machines are used instead of ballots at some voting stations)
voting precinct – the area in which a person lives (like a neighborhood) that determines who the person can vote for in local elections and what voting station a person is assigned to vote at
So, where do people in the United States go to vote? Polling stations in America are often found in community buildings like schools, churches, indoor sports arenas, local government offices, and sometimes even in private homes (this usually only happens in small towns). Individuals must go to the polling station in their precinct that they are assigned to in order to vote (a person cannot vote just anywhere). Individuals either cast their votes on a voting machine or by completing a ballot and placing it in a ballot box. Voting is of course private and anonymous. Before voting one must check in with a poll-worker to make sure she/he is at the correct polling station and to have their name marked off the polling station list to insure the person only votes once. Poll-workers are common citizens who are recruited and paid to work in polling stations on Election Day. When a person has completed their ballot they are often given a sticker that says ‘I voted.’ As soon as the last voter has voted at a polling station (most voting stations close by 9pm), the person in charge of the polling station opens the ballot box and manually counts the number of ballots cast and also confirms the total votes cast on voting machines. Then we all wait, often watching the TV news, to hear the totals from each precinct and state in order to find out who won the election.
Additionally, many Americans also vote by mail or vote early (at certain polling stations that are open early) so they don’t have to go to the polling station on Election Day and wait in line. Some estimate as many as 15% of Americans now vote early or by mail. These votes are counted along with all those votes cast on Election Day.
Do you have any predictions of who will win the American presidential election? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. We often know who has won the presidential election by midnight on Election Day in the United States.