US Election 2020: Everything you need to know about the parties, debates and voting day

Campaigning is in full swing for Democrats and Republicans ahead of the US Election.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are attempting to evict incumbent President Donald Trump and his vice Mike Pence from the White House.

The presidential debates are set to begin this week with the politicians likely to face questions about the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic and response.

Then it will be up to Americans to take to the voting booths for the election on November 3 to elect their new President. 

Here's everything you need to know:

What's happened so far?

Donald Trump was elected President of the United States in 2016 in a shock win against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. 

Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump won the race with more electoral college votes.

In April 2019, Joe Biden joined the Democratic presidential contest declaring on Twitter: "We are in the battle for the soul of this nation".

"If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen."

Biden, a lifelong politician and former vice-president to Barack Obama, became a front runner along with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination.

In March 2020, amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic, more democrats dropped out of the race leaving Senator Elizabeth Warren, billionaire Mike Bloomberg, and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, along with Biden and Sanders.

On Super Tuesday, Biden pulled out in front with Sanders trailing in second place. Trump took out every Republican primary.

On April 8, Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign making Biden the last candidate standing and effectively crowning him the Democratic nominee.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Photo credit: Getty

During this time the COVID-19 pandemic took off in the United States, with the country overtaking every other country for the most cases on March 27.

In May protests and riots broke out around the United States and the world following the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes.

In August, Biden announced California Senator Kamala Harris had been selected as his running mate and potential vice-president.

The Democratic and Republican Conventions kicked off in September as the candidates began their campaign for the presidency.

Now the candidates are preparing for the presidential debates which will begin this week.

The Republicans

The Republican Party, which is also known as the Grand Old Party (GOP), is founded on conservative beliefs.

Previous Republican presidents include George W Bush, George H W Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon.

The party is known for it's 'pro-life' stance and restrictions on abortions, being historically against same-sex marriage.

They also advocate for the right to own a gun and focus on immigration restrictions.

Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 and is seeking to be re-elected in the 2020 election, along with his running mate, Vice-President Mike Pence.

The Democrats

The Democratic Party is the other main American political party and it supports liberalism.

Former Democratic Presidents include Bill Clinton, John F Kennedy and Barack Obama.

They are known for advocating for LGBTQI+ rights, wanting to end discrimination, opportunity through education, curbing the effects of climate change, equal pay, access to abortions, legalisation of cannabis, affordable health care, and stricter gun laws.

Joe Biden is the Democratic Party's presidential nominee for 2020 and his running mate is California Senator Kamala Harris.

The Presidential Candidates

Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Republican candidate Donald Trump. Photo credit: Getty

Donald Trump

Donald Trump was born and raised in Queens, New York City in 1946. 

Before his political endeavours, he studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Finance and followed his fathers into real estate development. He became president of his father's real estate business in 1971 and renamed it The Trump Organisation. 

In the 1990s Trump owned the Miss Universe brand and from 2004, he produced and hosted the reality television show The Apprentice.

Trump announced his intention to compete for the US Presidency in June 2015 and used the well-known slogan "Make America Great Again".

He had never run for political office until his presidential campaign, where he defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

During his term in office, Trump has been known for his Twitter account, "Build the Wall", a tense relationship with the media, and his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump is married to Melania Trump and has five children. He's currently 74 years old and his primary residence is in Palm Beach, Florida.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Photo credit: Getty

Joe Biden

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1942, Biden moved to Claymont, Delaware at age 10.

He studied at the University of Delaware where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with double majors in history and political science. He then went on the Syracuse University where he earnt a law degree and then went on to work at a law firm.

In 1969, he won his campaign for the New Castle County Council, then at age 29, he became one of the youngest people ever elected into the US Senate.

However, only a few weeks later he lost his wife and 1-year-old daughter in a car accident.

Biden, a lifelong politician, spent six terms as a Senator and attempted to gain the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008.

After dropping out of the 2008 race, Barack Obama named Biden as his running mate and they went on to win the Presidency and vice-Presidency.

In 2015, he lost his eldest son to brain cancer.

He launched his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination in April 2019 and became the presumptive nominee in April 2020.

If he wins the election Biden, 77, would be the oldest US President.

He is married to his second wife Jill Biden and has two other children.

The Debates:

  • First presidential debate

Trump and Biden will go face-to-face in their first debate on September 30, 2pm (NZ Time) in Cleveland, Ohio. Fox News' Chris Wallace will be moderating.

  • Vice presidential debate

The only vice presidential debate between Harris and Pence will take place on October 8, 2pm (NZT) in Salt Lake City, Utah. It will be moderated by Susan Page from USA Today.

  • Second presidential debate

Trump and Biden will debate again on October 16, 2pm (NZT), at a performing arts centre in Miami, Florida. Steve Scully of C-SPAN Networks is set to moderate the debate. This debate has since been cancelled after Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

  • Third presidential debate

In their final chance to win over voters, Trump and Biden will take to the stage in Nashville, Tennessee. NBC's White House correspondent Kristen Welker will be hosting the debate on October 23, 2pm (NZT).

Donald Trump and Joe Biden are set to go head-to-head in the presidential debates.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden are set to go head-to-head in the presidential debates. Photo credit: Getty

How does the Electoral College work?

The voting system in the US is unique as the candidate who gets the most votes (the popular vote) doesn't always win, as seen in the 2016 election. 

Instead, the candidates are vying to win the Electoral College vote, which determines the next US President.

Each of the country's states is given a specific number of electoral votes which is based on their number of congressional districts, based on a state's population.

There are 538 electoral votes in total and the candidates need a majority of 270 to win.

California has the most electoral votes (55) followed by Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), and Pennsylvania (20). Each state has at least three.

Generally, the states award all of their electoral college votes to those who won the most votes in that state.

For example, if Trump won 51 percent of the vote in Texas, they would be awarded all of the state's 38 electoral college votes.

Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, divide up their electoral college votes based on the proportion of ordinary votes each candidate receives.

The swing states

Most states in the US always vote a specific way, Democratic or Republican, but there are a few which could vote either way. They are known as "swing states" or "battleground states".

Presidential candidates often target the swing states with the most electoral college votes in their campaigns as they are often where the election will be won or lost.

The BBC reports that the Republicans generally win Idaho, Alaska, and many southern states while the Democrats generally win California, Illinois, and the New England region on the northeast coast.

Arizona (11 votes), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10) are likely to be swing states in 2020, according to the BBC.

The Guardian also expects Florida (29), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6) to be important states.

Election Day is on November 3, 2020.
Election Day is on November 3, 2020. Photo credit: Getty

Election Day

Votes are set to be counted and a new President of the United States announced on November 3, 2020 (US Time). 

Throughout the day it will slowly become clear who the winner of the presidential race will be.

The losing party traditionally concedes and phones their opponent before giving a concession speech the following day.

Donald Trump has let on he may refuse to commit to a peaceful transfer of power but top Republicans have assured the outcome will be accepted.

When the new President is announced, they become the president-elect until January 2021 when they are sworn in at the inauguration.

From there the President makes their way to the White House in a parade and begins their four-year term as US President.