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Abraham Lincoln campaign poster. (This spelling is common in Lincoln campaign media)
History Channel. (2010). [Lincoln campaign poster]. Retrieved from http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2013/12/presidential-elections-hero-H.jpeg
Presidential election buttons
Clarke, A. (2016). Presidential election badges [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/US_presidential_election_badges.jpg
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama participate in a presidential debate.
Loeb, S. (2012, October 9). Mitt Romney and Barack Obama participate in the first Presidential Debate. [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://assets.rollingstone.com/assets/images/story/how-the-hype-became-bigger-than-the-presidential-election-20121009/large_20121005-romney-obama-600x-1349475594.jpg
President Truman holding newspaper incorrectly claiming his rival, Dewey, won the election
[President Truman holding up Chicago Tribune newspaper with the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman" at the train station in St. Louis, Missouri.]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/running-for-office/assets/images/artifacts/45.1-zoom.jpg
McKinley campaign poster
Look and Learn. (2012, August 3). [McKinley campaign poster]. Retrieved from http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/lookandlearn-preview/XC/XC2002/XC2002719/XC2002719195.jpg
Tally of electoral votes for the 1800 presidential election, February 11, 1801.
Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives. (n.d.). Presidential Election Tally, 1800 [Digital image]. Retrieved from http://sspd.humanitiestexas.org/albums/album-35/lg/1800_election_tally_web.jpg
Kennedy and Nixon at the first televised presidential debate
Fouhy, E. (2012, October 11). [Kennedy-Nixon debate]. Retrieved from http://s3.amazonaws.com/media.wbur.org/wordpress/16/files/2012/10/1011_1960_debate.jpg
President Ford at a rally at the Nassau Coliseum
Kennerly, D. H. (1976, October 31). [Ford campaigns at the Nassau County Veterans Coliseum]. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/President_Ford_campaigns_at_the_Nassau_County_Veterans_Coliseum_-_NARA_-_7027912.jpg
Grover Cleveland campaign poster
Frizzell, S. S. (n.d.). [Grover Cleveland campaign poster]. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3g05081/
Caption: An available candidate--the one qualification for a Whig president
Currier, N. (1848). [An available candidate--the one qualification for a Whig president]. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/resource/pga.04723/
A baby peeks out of the voting booth
Emmert, D. (2015, December 15). [Baby peeks out of a voting booth]. Retrieved from https://cbsmiami.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/141619140.jpg?w=640&h=360&crop=1
The inauguration of James K. Polk
Miller center of public affairs. (n.d.). [Inauguration of James K. Polk]. Retrieved from http://millercenter.org/president/gallery-image/inauguration-of-james-polk
How to become President of the United States
Overview of the Presidential Election Process
An election for President of the United States occurs every four years on Election Day, held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
During the general election, Americans head to the polls 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 College. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes. In the event no candidate receives the majority, the House of Representatives chooses the President and the Senate chooses the Vice President.
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 debates take place.
January to June of election year – States and parties hold primaries and caucuses.
July to early September – Parties hold nominating conventions to choose their candidates.
September and October – Candidates participate in Presidential debates.
Early November – Election Day
December – Electors cast their votes in the Electoral College.
Early January of the next calendar year – Congress counts the electoral votes.
January 20 – Inauguration Day
U.S. Constitutional Requirements for Presidential Candidates
The President must:
Be a natural-born citizen of the United States
Be at least 35 years old
Have been a resident of the United States for 14 years
Any person who meets these requirements can declare his or her candidacy for President at any time. Candidates must register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) once they receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $5,000. Within 15 days of reaching that $5,000 threshold, candidates must file a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC authorizing a principal campaign committee to raise and spend funds on their behalf.
Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
Before the general election, most candidates for President go through a series of state primaries and caucuses. Though primaries and caucuses are run differently, they both serve the same purpose—to allow the states to help choose the political parties’ nominees for the general election.
State primaries are run by state and local governments. Voting occurs through secret ballot.
Caucuses are private meetings run by political parties. In most, participants divide themselves into groups according to the candidate they support, with undecided voters forming into a group of their own. Each group then gives speeches supporting its candidate and tries to persuade others to join its group. At the end of the caucus, party organizers count the voters in each candidate's group and calculate how many delegates each candidate has won.
The parties have different numbers of total delegates due to the complex rules involved in awarding them. The requirements combine national and state political party rules and practices with aspects of federal and state election laws.
The national conventions typically confirm the candidate who has already won the required number of delegates through the primaries and caucuses. However, if no candidate has received the majority of a party’s delegates, the convention becomes the stage for choosing that party’s Presidential nominee.
Delegates: Types and Numbers Required
Some parties require a specific number of delegates a candidate needs to win his or her party’s nomination in 2016. These include:
If no nominee has a party’s majority of delegates going into its convention, then the delegates pick their Presidential candidate in a brokered or contested convention. Pledged delegates usually have to vote for the candidate they were awarded to in the first round of voting, while unpledged delegates don't. Pledged delegates may be allowed to choose any candidate in subsequent rounds of voting. Balloting continues until one nominee receives the required majority to win.
General Election Campaigning
General election campaigning begins after a single nominee is chosen from each political party, via primaries, caucuses, and national conventions. These candidates travel the country, explaining their views and plans to the general population and trying to win the support of potential voters. Rallies, debates, and advertising are a big part of general election campaigning.
When you cast your vote for President, you are actually voting for a group of people known as electors. They are part of the Electoral College, the process used to elect the U.S. President and Vice President.
The Electoral College serves as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.
For example: Nebraska has five electoral votes (one for each of the three congressional districts plus two for the state’s senate seats). The winner of each district is awarded one electoral vote, and the winner of the statewide vote is then awarded the state’s remaining two electoral votes.
U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College.
It is possible for a candidate to receive the majority of the popular vote, but not of the electoral vote, and lose the Presidential election.
For example: If the United States had only three states each with a population of 100, each state would have three electoral votes (2 Senators plus one House of Representatives member) so a candidate would need 5 electoral votes to win the election.
Candidate 1 wins the first two states by receiving 51 votes per state and loses the third state by receiving just one vote. This gives them a total of 103 popular votes from all three states (51 + 51 + 1). And this translates into a total of six electoral votes--three each from the states the candidate won and none from the state the candidate lost.
Candidate 2 loses the first two states by receiving 49 votes per state and wins the third state by receiving 99 votes. This gives them a total of 197 popular votes from all three states (49 + 49 + 99). And this translates into a total of three electoral votes--none from the two states the candidate lost and three from the state the candidate won. Because electoral votes are what count in the end, even though Candidate 2 won the popular vote, they lost the electoral vote and therefore lose the election.