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Election 101: Here is how it all works

Decision 2020 for Web

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- It is almost the day we have had circled on the calendar for the last two years! Election Day! After months of campaigning, primaries, and caucuses the 2020 Presidential cycle is finally coming to an end.

Election Day and the process of voting can be a little confusing, so here is a primer.

You have seen them and heard their names. Incumbent President Donald Trump is running for re-election against the Democratic nominee, Former Vice President Joe Biden. The two have campaigned in Iowa, making trips to the Hawkeye State to make their pitch to Iowa voters in the closing days of the campaign.

Find voting information here.

Find your polling place here.

Track your absentee ballot here.


You may have seen a commercial or a yard sign for someone not named Joe Biden or Donald Trump. They are not the only ones on the ballot. Every one of the 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives is up for election. Lawmakers elected to the US House serve two-year terms. In Iowa's first Congressional district, incumbent Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer is running for re-election. She is in a tight race against Republican State Representative Ashley Hinson.

Dave Loebsack, the Democratic Congressman who currently represents Iowa's Second Congressional District is not running for re-election so his seat is up for grabs. In that race, Republican Marianette Miller-Meeks is running against Democrat Rita Hart.

The Democrats currently control the house with 232 lawmakers. There are also 192 Republican lawmakers, one Libertarian, and five vacant seats in the House. On Tuesday, control of the chamber is up for grabs.

In the United States Senate, 35 seats or just over a third of lawmakers are up for re-election. That includes Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. She is locked in a tight battle against Democrat Theresa Greenfield. It's considered one of the most competitive in the country and could decide the Senate's control.

Senators serve six year terms. A rotating block of about one third of seats are up for re-election every two years.

Right now, Republicans are in control of the Senate. They hold 53 to the Democrats 45. Two Independent senators tend to vote with Democrats.

Several state and local leaders are also out trying are also on the ballot.

Electoral College: how does it work?

While some Senate races are high-profile, most of the attention is focused on the President and Vice President at the top of the ticket.

In state, congressional and local races, your vote determines who wins. But that is not how it works when it comes to the Presidency.

Voters do not directly vote for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Instead, members of the Electoral College decide who gets to occupy the White House.

Confused yet? If so, let's break things down.

The Electoral College has been around since the nation's founding.

Each state is assigned a certain number of electoral votes based on how it's represented in Congress.

All states have two senators and a certain number of representatives determined by population. A state's electoral votes equal the number of representatives plus the two senators.

Iowa has four representatives and two senators, bringing the state's electoral votes to six. You can see how many votes each state has here.

This system causes electoral delegates to represent more people in more populous states, making votes more influential in states with smaller populations.

When a candidate wins a state, they receive all of the electoral votes from that state, no matter how close the race is.

The goal of the presidential race is for one candidate to get to 270 electoral college votes, at which point they have won.

Below is an interactive map accounting for the number of electoral votes garnered by Republican and Democratic presidential contenders.

You can view the past electoral results and play a game to come up with your own predictions.

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