Democracy 101

Democracy in Motion

Every four years, a president is elected in the United States. Every two years, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is elected.

States have their own schedules, but many of them plan their statewide and municipal elections on the same day as federal elections.

In 2004, in addition to the presidential election, voters will select 34 senators, 435 House members and 11 governors.


The current balance in the Senate is 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Independent who generally votes with Democrats. In 2004, 15 Republican and 19 Democratic seats will be contested.

House of Representatives

The current balance in the House is 229 Republicans, 205 Democrats, and one Independent who aligns with Democrats.


Currently, Republican governors hold 27 seats and Democrats hold 23 seats. Three states -- Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi -- will elect their governors in 2003. Democrats hold two of those seats and Republicans have one.

Among the governors up for election in 2004, five are Republicans and six are Democrats. States electing governors in 2004 are Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

Electoral College

The U.S. Constitution dictates that the president will be chosen by a majority of the electoral college. The electoral college consists of 538 electors, one for each of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 senators and three for the District of Columbia. Each state's allotment of electors is equal to the number of House members to which it is entitled plus two senators. The president-elect must earn at least 270 electoral votes.

Most states do not bind their electors to vote the way the state's popular vote suggests, but rarely has an elector voted against the majority, particulary as they are usually elected to their positions by the political parties.