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begins with primary elections and caucuses. These are two methods that states use to select a potential presidential nominee tooltip Nominee: the final candidate chosen by a party to represent them in an election.. In general, primaries use secret ballots for voting. Caucuses are local gatherings of voters who vote at the end of the meeting for a particular candidate. Then it moves to nominating conventions, during which political parties each select a nominee to unite behind. During a political party convention, each presidential nominee also announces a vice presidential running mate. The candidates then campaign across the country to explain their views and plans to voters. They may also participate in debates with candidates from other parties.

What is the Role of the Electoral College?

During the general election tooltipGeneral Election: a final election for a political office with a limited list of candidates. , Americans go to their polling place tooltipPolling Place: the location in which you cast your vote. to cast their vote for president. But the tally of those votes—the popular vote—does not determine the winner. Instead, presidential elections use the Electoral CollegeĐang chơi bài. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes. In the event no candidate receives a majority, the House of Representatives chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vice president.

What is a Typical Presidential Election Cycle?

The presidential election process follows a typical cycle:

  • Spring of the year before an election – Candidates announce their intentions to run.

  • Summer of the year before an election through spring of the election year – Primary and caucus tooltip Caucus: a statewide meeting held by members of a political party to choose a presidential candidate to support.Đang chơi bài debates take place.

  • January to June of election year – States and parties hold primaries tooltipPrimary: an election held to determine which of a party's candidates will receive that party's nomination and be their sole candidate later in the general election. and caucuses.

  • July to early September – Parties hold nominating conventions to choose their candidates.

  • September and October – Candidates participate in presidential debates.

  • Đang chơi bàiEarly November – Election Day

  • December – Electors tooltip Elector: a person who is certified to represent their state's vote in the Electoral College.Đang chơi bài cast their votes in the Electoral College.

  • Đang chơi bàiEarly January of the next calendar year – Congress counts the electoral votes.

  • January 20 – Inauguration Day

Đang chơi bàiFor an in-depth look at the federal election process in the U.S., check out .

. Teachers, use this lesson planĐang chơi bài created for use with the poster.

Đang chơi bài

How to become President of the United States infographic. See description below.
  • How to Become President of the United States

    The U.S. Constitution's Requirements for a Presidential Candidate:

    • At least 35 years old
    • A natural born citizen of the United States
    • A resident of the United States for 14 years

    Step 1: Primaries and Caucuses

    Đang chơi bàiThere are many people who want to be president. Each of these people have their own ideas about how our government should work.  People with similar ideas belong to the same political party. This is where primaries and caucuses come in. Candidates from each political party campaign throughout the country to win the favor of their party members.

    • Caucus: In a caucus, party members select the best candidate through a series of discussions and votes.
    • Primary: In a primary, party members vote for the best candidate that will represent them in the general election.

    Step 2: National Conventions

    Each party holds a national convention to finalize the selection of one presidential nominee. At each convention, the presidential candidate chooses a running-mate (vice presidential candidate).

    Step 3: General Election

    The presidential candidates campaign throughout the country in an attempt to win the support of the general population.

    Đang chơi bàiPeople in every state across the country vote for one president and one vice president. When people cast their vote, they are actually voting for a group of people known as electors.

    Step 4: Electoral College

    Đang chơi bàiIn the Electoral College system, each state gets a certain number of electors based on its total number of representatives in Congress.

    Each elector casts one electoral vote following the general election; there are a total of 538 electoral votes. The candidate that gets more than half (270) wins the election.

    The president-elect and vice president-elect take the oath of office and are inaugurated in January.

    Definitions:

    • Caucus: A meeting of the local members of a political party to select delegates to the national party convention. A caucus is a substitute for a primary election.
    • Delegate: A person authorized to represent others as an elected representative to a political party conference.
    • Elector: A member of the electoral college.
    • Electoral College: The voters of each state, and the District of Columbia, vote for electors to be the authorized constitutional members in a presidential election.
    • Natural Born Citizen: Someone born with U.S. citizenship includes any child born "in" the United States, the children of United States citizens born abroad, and those born abroad of one citizen parent.
    • Primary: An election where voters select candidates for an upcoming general election. Winning candidates will have delegates sent to the national party convention as their party’s U.S. presidential nominee.

    You can .

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The process of using electors . It was a compromise between a popular vote by citizens and a vote in Congress.     

The Electors

Đang chơi bàiEach state gets as many electors as it has members of Congress (House and Senate). Including Washington, D.C.’s three electors, there are currently 538 electors in all.

Đang chơi bàiEach state’s political parties choose their own slate of potential electors. 

How Does the Electoral College Process Work?

Đang chơi bàiAfter you cast your ballot for president, your vote goes to a statewide tally. In 48 states and Washington, D.C., the winner gets all the electoral votes for that state. Maine and Nebraska assign their electors using a .

A candidate needs the vote of at least 270 electors—more than half of all electors—to win the presidential election.

Đang chơi bàiIn most cases, a projected winner is announced on election night in November after you vote. But the actual Electoral College vote takes place in mid-December when the electors meet in their states. See the for the 2020 election.

While the  electors to follow their state's popular vote, many states' laws do. Though it's rare, electors have challenged those laws and voted for someone else. But in July 2020 the that those state laws are constitutional. Electors must follow their state's popular vote, if the state has passed such a law. 

Special Situations

Winning the Popular Vote but Losing the Election

It is possible to .  This happened in 2016, in 2000, and three times in the 1800s.

What Happens if No Candidate Wins the Majority of Electoral Votes?

, the vote goes to the House of Representatives. House members choose the new president from among the top three candidates. The Senate elects the vice president from the remaining top two candidates.

Đang chơi bàiThis has only happened once. In 1824, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as president.

How to Change the Electoral College

Đang chơi bàiThe Electoral College process is in the . It would take a  to change the process. For more information, contact your  or your.

Đang chơi bài . Though primaries and caucuses are run differently, they both serve the same purpose. They let the states choose the major political parties’ nominees for the general election.

2020 Presidential Primary and Caucus Dates

Many states have delayed their presidential primaries or caucuses due to the coronavirus. The last ones are now scheduled for August 11, in Connecticut. They kicked off on February 3 with the Iowa caucuses.

  • Find the expected for each state. 

  • Check the deadline to register to voteĐang chơi bài in your state to ensure you can vote in its presidential primary.

State Primaries and Caucuses for the Presidential Elections

  • State primaries are run by state and local governments. Voting happens through secret ballot.

  • Đang chơi bàiCaucuses are private meetings run by political parties. They’re held at the county, district, or precinct level. In most, participants divide themselves into groups according to the candidate they support. Undecided voters form their own group. Each group gives speeches supporting its candidate and tries to get others to join its group. At the end, the number of voters in each group determines how many delegates each candidate has won.

  • Both primaries and caucuses can be “open,” “closed,” or some hybrid of the two.

    • Đang chơi bàiDuring an open primary or caucus, people can vote for a candidate of any political party.

    • During a closed primary or caucus, only voters registered with that party can take part and vote.

    • “Semi-open” and “semi-closed” primaries and caucuses are variations of the two main types.

Awarding Delegates from the Primaries and Caucuses

Đang chơi bài These are individuals who represent their state at national party conventions. The candidate who receives a majority of the party’s delegates wins the nomination. The parties have different numbers of delegates due to the rules involved in awarding them. Each party also has some unpledged delegates or superdelegates. These delegates are not bound to a specific candidate heading into the national convention.

Đang chơi bàiWhen the primaries and caucuses are over, most political parties hold a national convention. This is when the winning candidates receive their nomination.

For information about your state's presidential primaries or caucuses, contact your state election office or the political party of your choice.

. That includes naming a principal campaign committee to raise and spend campaign funds.

National Conventions

Đang chơi bàiAfter the primaries and caucuses, most political parties hold national conventions.

What Happens at a National Political Convention?

Conventions finalize a party’s choice for presidential and vice presidential nominees.

To become the presidential nominee, a candidate typically has to win a majority of delegates. This usually happens through the party’s primaries and caucusesĐang chơi bài. It’s then  confirmed through a vote of the delegates at the national convention.

Đang chơi bàiBut if no candidate gets the majority of a party’s delegates during the primaries and caucuses, convention delegates choose the nominee. This happens through additional rounds of voting.

Types of Delegates at a National Convention

Đang chơi bàiThere are two main types of delegates:

  • Pledged, or bound delegates must support the candidate they were awarded to through the primary or caucus process.

  • Unpledged delegates or superdelegates can support any presidential candidate they choose.

Contested and Brokered Conventions

In rare cases, none of the party’s candidates has a majority of delegates going into the convention. The convention is considered “contested.” Delegates will then pick their presidential nominee through one or more rounds of voting. 

  • In the first round of voting, pledged delegates usually have to vote for the candidate they were awarded to at the start of the convention. Unpledged delegates don't.

  • Đang chơi bàiSuperdelegates can't vote in the first round unless a candidate already has enough delegates through primaries and caucuses to get the nomination.

  • Đang chơi bàiIf no nominee wins in the first round, the convention is considered “brokered.” The pledged delegates may choose any candidate in later rounds of voting. Superdelegates can vote in these later rounds.

  • Đang chơi bàiBalloting continues until one candidate receives the required majority to win the nomination.

At the convention, the presidential nominee officially announces their selection of a vice presidential running mate.

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Last Updated: July 13, 2020

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