This is Part 2 of the three part series, “The Road to Voting.” Read Part 1 here.
The very first thing I did four months ago, after becoming a citizen (besides be a big ball of joy and emotion), was register to vote.
I remember sitting in an Olive Garden in November 2008 with my freshman-year roommate watching Barack Obama get elected as the first black president of the U.S. Not only was it exciting that Obama was the first black president, but it was also exciting that my graduating class was able to vote in the election that caused such a monumental decision. Except I didn’t get to vote; I wasn’t a citizen at the time.
I remember being so upset I couldn’t vote in 2008 while the rest of my classmates were able to. I remember feeling so helpless and upset that I wasn’t able to vote in such a big election. I remember some of my classmates didn’t vote because they didn’t care or didn’t want to, which was frustrating. They had a right that millions of people in America didn’t, who wanted that right. I remember begging and pleading some of my friends to please vote because I couldn’t. They needed to take advantage of a right they had. One of the most exciting parts about turning 18 is the ability to vote. It is a right U.S. citizens are born with and don’t have to work for, when others have to work hard for it.
Eight years later, now that I can finally vote, the fun part begins. I thought voting meant that sometime in November or whenever my first ballot arrives, I check a little box picking the next president. Technically, I can do that. Technically, that’s all anyone needs to know. But, as this is my first time voting, I knew there was more to it. I’ve heard words being flung around like caucus, primary, delegates, super delegates and electoral college. If I am going to be completely honest here, I barely had an idea of what a caucus and primary were when I registered to vote.
I figured I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what those words meant, or how the whole process works so I’m going to try and break it down as best as I can, from the research I have done.
First of all, the whole voting process starts with primaries and caucuses. The more caucuses a candidate wins, the more delegates they get. In primaries, a candidate must win a certain percent of votes. Whichever candidate wins more delegates, super delegates and votes will be on the ballot in November.
In November everyone votes for one person, after which the Electoral College determines who has received more votes. Then, whomever gets the most Electoral College votes wins the election.
In the nominating contests, it all depends from state to state and how they want to run things.
In a primary, you do get a ballot where you check a little box, send it in and on your way you go.
In a caucus, you go to a designated spot where you are registered to vote. Once there, you gather in groups depending on who you’re voting for. There is also an undecided group where people from other groups can try and persuade them to vote for who they’re voting for. Once everyone has made a choice and joined a group, every person that’s voting for a candidate gets counted. The candidate that has the most people in the group, wins that caucus.
While many people think their one vote won’t matter, it will, especially in a caucus. A candidate can win a caucus by a single vote. Not thousands or even hundreds, but one. As I stated before, the more caucuses a candidate wins the better chance they have of getting on the November ballot.
After all the caucuses and primaries are counted, delegates to the national convention are selected at the state and congressional district conventions. This year, a Democratic candidate must secure at least 2,382 out of 4,763 delegates to become the party’s nominee. Meanwhile, a Republican candidate must secure at least 1,237 out of 2,472 delegates to win the party’s nomination.
Delegates have to vote for the candidate that wins the most caucuses but the super delegates do not. Though not used on the Republican side, super delegates are Democratic party members and elected officials who have the power to choose whomever they believe will be best suited for president, even if the general public does not think so. Super delegates make up a percentage of total delegates that vote. On the Democratic side, 15 percent are super delegates.
Republicans use a different process, giving three state-level party officials a choice not dependent on the voters. This year, that accounts for about 7 percent of delegates on the Republican side.
Once each party has chosen a candidate to be on the November ballot, the voting process that everyone knows takes place in November. The process is basically a giant caucus and primary rolled into one. While nobody gets counted in a room like in a caucus, the votes are sent in like in a primary.
The Electoral College then meets in January and casts their votes. Every state gets a number of electors based on their congressional delegation. In Washington, we get 12, and they are required by law to vote as the people did (though this is not the case in all states). A majority of 270 electoral college votes is required to win presidency.
We live in a great country with plenty of opportunities. Which is why so many people choose to leave their home countries and everything they know, for a better life. My family did that 22 years ago, and I couldn’t be more grateful. My brother and I got the opportunity to go to college and get a better education and careers than if we would have stayed in Mexico.
While it’s easy to take things for granted, like voting, just remember not everyone has that great opportunity. If you are 18 and have the ability to vote, do it. Your one vote can make a difference.
Democratic caucus’ in the state of Washington are happening on March 26, between 10 a.m. and noon. Find out where you are registered to vote and attend the caucus to make your voice heard.