What is Super Tuesday? Your guide to the night | US news

What is Super Tuesday?

It’s the day when the greatest number of US states cast their votes to nominate presidential candidates, who will eventually compete for the White House in November’s general election.

It is the biggest day in the US election calendar apart from election day itself. The candidates have each held hundreds of meet-and-greet events, travelled thousands of miles, eaten a lot of junk food, and their campaigns have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get them to this make-or-break moment.

In 2020, Super Tuesday falls on 3 March. Both Democrats and Republicans will be voting, but because Donald Trump does not face any serious challengers, all eyes will be on the Democratic contest.

The early voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – have all had their say over the past month, with Bernie Sanders emerging as the possible national frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination.

But now, 14 states across the country – Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia – as well as one US territory (American Samoa) and Democrats abroad will cast their votes on the same day.

Who are the Democratic presidential candidates?

There are eight leading Democratic presidential candidates competing: former vice-president Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former mayors Mike Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg, billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer and Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Sanders and Warren are on the progressive side of the party, while candidates such as Biden, Klobuchar, Bloomberg and Buttigieg are regarded as more moderate.

This will be the first time that Bloomberg will be on the ballot, and will be a key test of whether the hundreds of millions of dollars he has invested in his own campaign have paid off. He controversially skipped the first early voting states to concentrate on winning support in larger, delegate heavy states.

Why is Super Tuesday important?

The primaries and caucuses are a series of contests, in all 50 US states plus Washington DC and US territories, by which the party selects its presidential nominee.

The goal for the candidates is to amass a majority of pledged delegates whose job it is to nominate the candidate at the party’s convention. In all states, delegates are awarded proportionally among top winners.

To become the Democratic presidential nominee, the candidate must secure 1,991 pledged delegates from a total of 4,750.

So far, less than 5% of delegates have been allotted, but on Super Tuesday, more than a third of available delegates are up for grabs – giving it the potential to propel one candidate to frontrunner status, and prompt others who perform badly to quit the race.

California has the most pledged delegates (494) followed by Texas (261), North Carolina (72) and Virginia (65).

The Super Tuesday states also represent a much broader sweep of the US population, not just in terms of geography, but demographics too, than the early voting states. The results will therefore give a more detailed picture of who supports the candidates, and what their chances of winning on a national level may be.

Do all the states vote at the same time?

Polling times vary state by state. Vermont’s polls close first at 7pm ET and California’s close last at 11pm ET.

More than a week ahead of Super Tuesday, almost 2m ballots had already been cast as several states allow early voting.

What time will the results be announced?

Results will begin to be reported after the first polls close at 7pm ET. The Guardian will be reporting the results live, as they come in.

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