Election of the President
The process of electing a President was set up in the United
States Constitution. The Constitution requires a candidate for the presidency
- At least 35 years old
- A natural born citizen of the United States
- A resident of the United States for 14 years
So how does one become President of the United States?
The following steps outline the general process for presidential elections.
Step I: Primaries and Caucuses
There are many people who would like to become
President. Each of these people have their own ideas about how our
government should work. Some of these people can belong to the same
political party. That's where primaries and caucuses come in.
In these elections, party members get to vote for
the candidate that will represent their party in the upcoming general
Step 2: National Conventions
At the end of the primaries and caucuses, each
party holds a national convention to finalize the selection of one
Presidential nominee. During this time, each Presidential candidate
chooses a running-mate (or Vice-Presidential candidate).
Step 3: The General (or Popular) Election
Now that each party is represented by one candidate,
the general election process begins. Candidates campaign throughout
the country in an attempt to win the support of voters. Finally in
November, the people vote for one candidate.
When a person casts a vote in the general election,
they are not voting directly for an individual Presidential candidate.
Instead, voters in each state actually cast their vote for a group
of people, known as electors. These electors are part of the Electoral
College and are supposed to vote for their state’s preferred candidate.
Step 4: The Electoral College
In the Electoral College system, each state gets
a certain number of electors, based on each state's total number of
representation in Congress. Each elector gets one electoral vote.
For example, a large state like California gets 54 electoral votes,
while Rhode Island gets only four. All together, there are 538 Electoral
In December (following the general election), the
electors cast their votes. When the votes are counted on January 6th,
the Presidential 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 two weeks later, on January 20th.
For a more detailed description of this process,
check out the 6-8