Donald Trump faces off with Joe Biden in today’s US election but the current President could stay put even if he loses.
Both Republican and Democrat candidates need to win enough votes from the electoral college to be named winner of the Presidential race.
Unlike the UK’s parliamentary voting system, the US operates under a presidential system, meaning voters cast their ballot for a person instead of a political party.
Dr Gina Yannitell Reinhardt from the Department of Government at the University of Essex told the Mirror : “In America, the President is decided by the Electoral College system. Instead of voting for a presidential candidate, voters instead cast their ballot for an elector from their State.
“Each State gets a certain amount of votes in the electoral college. There are 538 votes to capture in the electoral college, so the key thing for each candidate is to win States rather than votes.”
Even if Donald Trump fails to win the popular vote or the electoral college, he has a third option that could keep him in the White House for another term.
The losing candidate can challenge the result in the Supreme Court, which Trump-backed Amy Coney Barrett has recently been appointed into.
Dr Reinhardt said: “This can end up in the Supreme Court and will be up to them to make a decision. The Supreme Court is very conservative and the decision will be taken by three justices.
“I don’t think it’s very likely because I think the election will be decisive enough that the Supreme Court wouldn’t be comfortable invalidating the election.”
She went on: “I don’t think Trump would have a lot of ground to stand on and there’s a chance he won’t contest the result at all, for example, if it’s a landslide and people around him convince him that he would look ridiculous.”
Candidates need to capture more than half of the 538 votes in the electoral college to win an election, so focusing on state backing is the priority.
Despite winning almost three million more votes in the popular vote, Hillary Clinton still lost out on the presidency to Donald Trump in 2016.
The candidate who reaches 270 or more of the electors from the electoral college has won the election.
Dr Reinhardt said: “The vote today is a popular vote and it’ll tell us who got the most popular vote but the election hasn’t been determined until the electoral college has voted and that happens a few weeks later.
She explained: “People are concerned Trump will refuse to concede even if he looks likely to lose. He’ll surely lose the popular vote, he didn’t win it in 2016 and he’s unlikely to win it now.
“There’s also not much chance he’ll win the electoral college, around a one in six chance, so it’s possible he could win, but not likely.
“However, he could refuse to concede and then we will have to wait and see what each state’s results are, officially. Also, if we don’t have a concession we can count each State’s precincts carefully.”