Today, millions of Americans have and will be waiting in line at the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. For many students at MSU, this is their first time getting to vote in a presidential election.

In the US, there is a particular voting structure enforced by the state and federal governments in order to ensure free and fair elections. In order to vote, citizens age 18 and up must register by a date that is typically a couple of weeks before the election, this date varies from state to state. Also, citizens can register to vote in only one district, usually the district of their permanent address. If, for any reason, a citizen is unable or unwilling to vote or if they won’t be in their voting district on the day of elections, they are allowed to vote in advance by filling out what is referred to as an “absentee ballot.” They then seal their ballot in a designated envelope and their vote will make it to the polling place on election day. Voting is a severely confidential matter here in the US and any violation of a voter’s privacy can result in major consequences.

While it’s crucial that as many Americans as possible cast their ballots, the deciding factor of the election actually isn’t the popular vote. In America, there is an institution called the Electoral College. This institution is made up of 538 people called electors. Every state has a certain number of electors that was decided on based on the number of senators and representatives it has in the U.S. Congress. Michigan has 16 electors. The electors each cast an electoral vote that automatically goes to the presidential candidate who won the popular vote in that state. In order to win the election, a presidential candidate must earn 270 electoral votes.

Whichever way the results go, tonight will be an important night in American history. I’m happy to live in a country where I have the opportunity to choose my president. May the best candidate win!

Dena Elian is an International Relations Senior at MSU’s James Madison College. Currently, she is the Experiential Learning Intern at OISS. Her campus activities include involvement with organizations that promote Middle Eastern politics and Arab Culture.