When is the US election? Everything you need to know about the 2024 race

The election is officially a two horse race
The election is officially a two horse race
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The 2024 US election will be a rematch between president Joe Biden and Donald Trump after both proved dominant in their primaries.

Immigration, abortion, age and threats to democracy itself are likely to dominate a bitterly-fought race for the White House.

Battleground states, or swing states, are predicted to play a key role in what is likely to be an extremely tight vote.

When is the next US election?

The US election day will be held on Tuesday, Nov 5 2024.

The winner will serve four years in the White House starting from their inauguration on Jan 20 2025.

Voters will be electing not just a president, but Congressional candidates for seats in the House of Representatives and the US Senate.

What are the key battleground states?

The road to the White House effectively runs through a few critical battleground states, which play an outsized role on election day.

The states are typically divided, and flip between Democrat and Republican with a narrow margin of victory.

Pennsylvania, and its 19 electoral college votes, has proved to be a critical state in the last few presidential elections, and 2024 is no different.

Mr Trump, or any other Republican candidate, will also have to flip Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada, which Mr Biden narrowly carried in 2020 to win the presidency.

Florida and Ohio, once considered marginal, have been safe Republican territory in recent elections. However, nothing is set in stone.

What happens on election day?

The majority of voters go to the polls and ballots are counted. Many people may have already cast their vote ahead of time using the postal voting system or early voting.

Votes are counted in each state after their respective polls close. Poll close times vary from state to state but generally begin from around 7pm local time.

The range of time zones across the US means that on the east coast, ballots will have been tabulated while voters in states like Alaska and Hawaii are still making their way to the polls.

The winner of the election will likely not be projected for days. Even then, the results are not properly finalised for months. However, states and the whole election result are typically “called” long before final votes are counted.

What is the electoral college?

While voters in the general election are in theory selecting their choice for president, in reality, they are choosing delegates for the electoral college.

All 50 US states and Washington DC have a set number of electors in the electoral college, roughly proportional to the population size of the state.

All but two states, Maine and Nebraska, use a winner-takes-all system - which means that if a candidate wins the most votes in a state, they take its entire haul of electoral college votes.

In order to become president, either candidate needs to win a majority of the 538 electors in the electoral college - so 270.

Critics have questioned the electoral college system because it does not guarantee the most popular candidate gets to the White House.

For example, in 2016 Hillary Clinton won 48.2 per cent of all votes across the US and Mr Trump 46.1 per cent. But as he won more states, sometimes by a narrow margin, he was elected president.

The 2024 election will be the first since the 2020 census changed the make-up of the electoral college to adapt to shifting population sizes in each state.

Texas has gained two electoral votes, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each gained one. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia each lost one.

What are the polls showing?

Recent polls suggested Mr Trump is leading Mr Biden in a number of critical states, causing alarm among Democrats.

But while both candidates easily won their primaries, they remain largely unpopular among the whole electorate, with generally low approval ratings.

Mr Biden’s critics say the Democrat president is too old to seek a second term which would end in his 86th year. His son is also mired in scandal over his business deals.

Mr Trump, who will be 78 when voters go to the polls, is facing 91 criminal counts across four indictments with several cases expected to go to trial during the height of the election campaign.

The recent primary elections showed Mr Trump underperforming compared with early polling, while Mr Biden was damaged by Democrat voters marking “uncommitted” as a protest over his handling of the war in Gaza.

What about independents?

There are currently three independent candidates running for the White House.

They are not affiliated with Republicans or Democrats and could draw votes away from the main parties.

They include Robert Kennedy Jr, an anti-vax former Democrat from the Kennedy dynasty, who has veered to the Right and may eat into Mr Trump’s support. He is polling unusually high for an independent.

The other two, Jill Stein, a green candidate, and Cornel West, a Left-leaning progressive, are likely to steal votes from the Democrat base.

US congressional elections: Who else is running in 2024

The general election will also decide control of Congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Currently, the Republicans control the House of Representatives by a small majority (currently 221 - 213) and Democrats control the Senate by an even more razor thin margin (51-49).

Polls suggest control of both chambers could flip in 2024.

Members of the House serve two-year terms and every single seat in the chamber will be on the ballot in 2024.

Senators, however, serve six-year terms and elections to the senate are staggered so that only about a third of the chamber is up for re-election.

Democrats need a net gain of just five seats to claim the House.

Meanwhile, Republicans have high hopes of seizing the Senate since the electoral map is so favourable to them this cycle. The GOP needs just two more seats to gain the majority.

Can Trump run if indicted or convicted?

In practice, yes. The Constitution does not bar a natural-born citizen over 35 from running for the White House.

The former president has insisted that he will continue his campaign even if convicted and sentenced on any of the 91 criminal counts he has been indicted over.

There is historical precedent. In 1920, Eugene Debs ran for president on behalf of the Socialist Party despite serving 10 years for three counts of violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

He even ran his campaign from his prison cell at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, with the authorities allowing him to issue a weekly political statement to the press.

The only caveat standing in Mr Trump’s way was also overturned in a unanimous Supreme Court decision. The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, contains a clause barring anyone who “engaged in insurrection” from office.

Campaigners in various states had resurrected the amendment in an attempt to have Mr Trump removed from the election ballot, before it was quashed by the court ahead of Super Tuesday.

Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 2021
Trump supporters breached security and entered the Capitol on January 6 2021 - SAUL LOEB/AFP

However, in the eyes of many political pundits, a serious conviction is likely to damage Mr Trump’s reputation, and subsequently his electability.

Even veteran Republican insiders admit they are very unsure of how a conviction would affect Mr Trump’s campaign. As they point out, the indictment of the former president has plunged the US into uncharted waters.

How did the parties choose their candidates?

In the first stage of the 2024 elections the two main political parties selected their presidential candidates through either primary elections or caucuses in each state.

Primaries are regular elections to choose delegates for the party convention, where the party’s final candidate is confirmed.

Mr Trump won a landslide victory against main rivals Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley in the first states to vote.

He faced a single opponent, Ms Haley, on Super Tuesday, when he won all states but one before she suspended her campaign the morning after results.

Donald Trump accepting the Republican party nomination at the Republican National Committee Convention in 2020
Donald Trump accepting the Republican party nomination at the Republican National Committee Convention in 2020 - Evan Vucci

Despite a crushing victory, polls suggest some moderate Republicans who supported Ms Haley may not vote for Mr Trump in the presidential election, making the race for the White House tighter still.

As for Mr Biden, the president eased to victory in every race apart from American Samoa, where he drew with rank outsider Jason Palmer to share the delegates. The overseas US territory does not vote in the presidential election.

It is now all but certain that Americans will face a rematch between the two candidates come November.

This article is kept updated with the latest information for the 2024 election.

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