The 2020 American presidential election has come and seems to have gone, at least, for now.
A winner, who will pilot the affairs of the country for the next four years, has emerged after months of intense campaigns by the candidates of the two main political parties — Donald Trump of the Republican Party and Joe Biden of the Democratic Party.
And the winner is Mr Biden. At 78, he will be the oldest first term American president. The Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris has also made history. She is the first female VP in the White House.
A historic election on many fronts, President Trump, however, has refused to concede, claiming the election was rigged. He has vowed to reclaim his mandate via the courts.
Although the presidential election in the United States of America comes up every four years just like in Nigeria which had its last presidential election in 2019, the nature and processes of the two countries’ presidential elections differ considerably in some material respects.
Unlike Nigeria, US has no central electoral commission:
In the U.S., whose democracy is over 200 years old, there is no central or federal electoral commission that conducts the presidential election.
Rather than have a federal commission that supervises the conduct of the election in its 50 states, the American system operates a heavily decentralised commission with each state saddled with the responsibility of conducting its own election.
In fact, all elections- federal, state and local – are conducted by the individual states, including choosing the electors in the Electoral College that elects the president.
In Nigeria, however, there is the Independent National Electoral Commission that supervises and conducts presidential elections in the country, all happening on the same day.
The election takes place in the 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, in the West African nation.
INEC also conducts all the governorship elections in the 36 states.
However, while INEC also has the added responsibility of supervising the integrity of the election, especially as it relates to campaign finance, the US has Federal Elections Commission whose principal responsibility is to protect the integrity of the election process by providing transparency and fairly enforcing and administering federal campaign finance.
Early voting in the US, none in Nigeria
In the U.S. presidential election, there is usually early voting which takes place several weeks running before the main Election Day.
Early voting can either be in-person at early voting stations or absentee which is by post.
The essence of early voting, which availability and time differ from one state to the other, according to political analysts, is to increase voter participation.
It is also meant to decongest polling stations on Election Day.
Early voting in the 2020 election was much more than it was in 2016.
Nearly 99 million American eligible voters had cast their votes before the Election Day which was November 3 in the 2020 American presidential election.
No deadline for presidential campaign in the US.
There is usually no deadline to campaign as candidates can still shop for votes even on Election Day.
The candidates normally use various platforms including TV adverts, podcasts, social media and even rallies to reach out to voters, especially in the swing states that are neither Blue nor Red.
The Blue states are traditionally pro-Democratic Party while the Red states are for the Republicans.
In the just concluded 2020 presidential election, the two dominant candidates – Messrs Trump and Biden – were seen campaigning intensely on D-Day.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden
In Nigeria, however, all campaigns and rallies stop a few days before Election Day.
Any political party or candidate who openly contravenes the deadline will incur the wrath of INEC.
With the advent of social media, Nigerian politicians contesting in elections now explore various social media platforms to reach out to their supporters and undecided voters even on Election Day as there is no clear provision in the Electoral Act that forbids them from doing so.
The Electoral College
In the U.S., Americans elect their president through the Electoral College while they elect members of the Congress directly.
In the history of presidential elections in the US, only five presidents who did not win the popular votes have become president through the Electoral College.
The last one was Donald Trump who emerged president in 2016 in spite of losing the popular votes to Hillary Clinton, who was the candidate of the Democratic Party.
What Mr Trump’s win in 2016 means is that a winner may lose the popular votes and still emerge the real winner of the election.
Although the winner is mostly known once the election is over, members of the Electoral College, however, statutorily meet on December 14 to ratify the election of the winner.
A candidate needs to poll 270 votes of the Electoral College to emerge winner of the election. Mr Biden now has 273 from the 46 states where the results have been projected by the media, to edge out his closest challenger, Mr Trump.
Statutorily, the Electoral College has 538 electors from the fifty states plus Washington D.C.
Each state is allowed by the Federal Constitution to choose its own elector for the Electoral College in accordance with its own laws.
Most award all their electoral college votes to the candidate that gains the most votes in the state by whatever margin, while some award the votes on the basis of congressional districts won. In this election, one of Nebraska’s five votes goes to Mr Biden, while the other four goes to Mr Trump who won the most votes in the state.
The Electoral College votes are awarded to states roughly in accordance to their population, but with each state having at least three votes. That is the reason that the largest state, California, has the highest number of electoral college votes (55) while small states like Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas have three electoral votes each.
American presidential election is a two-step process. The general voters cast their ballots to elect the electors who in turn meet to formally elect the President.
Critics of the process say it is undemocratic because it sometimes prevents the collective choice of the generality of the voters from emerging winner of the election going by popular votes.
However, its promoters continue to play up its merit, saying it serves the purpose of avoiding outright domination by some states.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the people elect the president directly.
The candidate, who has the most valid votes cast and the necessary geographical spread, is declared the winner of the election by the country’s electoral commission.
Electronic voting in the U.S, none in Nigeria
While there is electronic voting in the United States, which has been on for years, Nigeria is yet to embrace it despite several agitations in different quarters calling for its application in the country.
Electronic voting means the use of computer and other digital-related devices to cast one’s vote which is then sorted out via various processes by those saddled with the responsibility to do so to determine its validity or otherwise.
The latest person to add his voice to the use of electronic voting in Nigeria is former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr Jonathan said the adoption of e-voting would curb the ugly trend of politicians using thuggery and cultism to win elections in the country.
The Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) 2018 talked about the adoption of electronic voting in subsequent elections in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari, however, declined his assent to the amendment.
Critics of the Buhari administration had said Mr Buhari declined assenting to the bill because he feared being voted out of office in the 2019 presidential election, which he eventually won as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In denying the insinuation then, the Presidency via a release from Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson, said the president declined his assent to the bill because there were ” draft errors” in the document.