The Ultimate Guide to The American Election Process

The presidential election process isn’t even clear for people that have voted several times in their lives. Younger voters are even more confused when it comes to the American election process.

The process isn’t complex when it’s broken down into easy-to-understand parts.

In essence, the election follows a cycle of nine major events:

  • Candidates announce their intention to run as president the Spring prior to the election.
  • Primary and caucus debates take place the Summer before the election.
  • States hold primaries and caucuses between January and June of the election year.
  • Nominating conventions for all candidates are held between July and September.
  • Presidential debates are held between September and October.
  • Election day occurs in November. This year, it will be November 8th.
  • The Electoral College will receive Elector votes in December.
  • Congress counts the electoral votes in early January.
  • Inauguration Day occurs on January 20.

And this is the basis for the election season.

Requirements to be a Presidential Candidate

Anyone can declare their candidacy for president, but they must register with the Federal Election Commission if they spend or receive contributions of $5,000. Anyone that wants to run for presidency must be:

  • A natural-born US citizen
  • 35 years of age or older
  • A resident of the US for 14 years

Caucuses and Primaries

Caucuses and primaries must take place in each state. These can be defined as:

  • Open – people can vote for any party
  • Closed – people can only vote for the party they’re registered to vote with
  • Semi-open – a hybrid approach is taken

State primaries are held by the local and state governments and a secret ballot is held. Caucuses are private meetings of political parties in the state. the parties try and garner support for t heir desired candidate and will take a vote.


The main goal of all caucuses and primaries are delegates. Each candidate must meet a certain threshold of delegates to win the majority vote to become the nominated candidate for a party. Both the Republican and Democratic party have different delegate amounts required.

In the 2016 election, the needed delegates are:

  • 2,383 for Democrats
  • 1,237 for Republicans

There are also unpledged or superdelegates which can vote for any candidate. These delegates work in an effort to ensure many grass roots candidates do not get elected. These delegates have come under fire as many pledge their alliance to candidates well before others have a chance to campaign.

National Conventions

The Democratic and Republican party both hold a national convention. This is a convention that is held over a period of 4 days and includes backers of the potential nominee. All nominees must be crowned as their party’s nominee during the convention, and there can be contested conventions.

The following parties hold conventions:

  • Democratic
  • Republican
  • Constitution
  • Libertarian
  • Green

But the two parties that are promoted the most are the Republican and Democratic party. The lack of other parties often leads to the questioning of the number of parties in the country.

All candidates that make it to the general election will need to receive more than half of the electoral votes to be crowned president. There are a total of 538 electors, and candidates must receive 270 votes to win the election.

Written by Andrew

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