US government and civics
A high-level overview of the presidential election process.
US presidential elections are held every four years, but the process is long and consists of several stages. It can take candidates more than a year of campaigning even to win the nomination of their party, let alone the presidency itself.
|caucus||A meeting in a voting precinct at which party members choose nominees for political office after hours of speeches and debates. Caucuses tend to promote the views of dedicated party members since participating requires a large time commitment.|
|closed primary||A primary election limited to registered members of a political party. For example, in a state with closed primaries, only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary to choose candidates for local, state, and national office.|
|Electoral College||The group of electors chosen by each state to formally vote for the next US president based on the result of voting in the state.|
|general election||An election that decides which candidate will fill an elective office. General elections usually pit candidates from opposing parties against one another.|
|incumbency advantage||The tendency of incumbents (officials already holding a political office) to win reelection. Incumbents have advantages in media exposure, fundraising, and staffing.|
|open primary||A primary election that is not limited to registered party members. For example, in a state with open primaries, independent voters or Republicans can vote in the Democratic primary to choose candidates for local, state, and national office.|
|party convention||A meeting of delegates from one political party to vote on policy and select party candidates for public office.|
|popular vote||The total or percentage of votes won by each candidate.|
|primary election||An election that decides which candidate a party will send on to a general election. Primary elections pit candidates from the same party against one another.|
|winner-takes-all||An electoral system in which the candidate with the most votes is elected, or, in the case of the US Electoral College, gains all the votes of a state or district’s electors.|
Presidential election timeline for modern elections
|Time period||What happens?|
|Spring-summer before election year||Most serious candidates declare their intention to run for president.|
|January-June, election year||States hold primaries and caucuses to vote for party nominees.|
|Summer, election year||Parties hold national conventions to formally nominate their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, typically choosing the candidate with the most votes from state primaries and caucuses.|
|November, election year||The presidential election takes place on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.|
|December, election year||The Electoral College casts votes, at which the president and vice president are formally elected.|
The Electoral College
The president and vice president are formally elected at the Electoral College in December following the general election. Electors from each state plus the District of Columbia cast votes; most states require all their electors to vote for the statewide popular vote winner. This “winner-takes-all” approach to distributing electors raises questions over the extent to which the Electoral College facilitates or impedes democracy.
Critics of the Electoral College highlight the potential for a candidate to lose the nationwide popular vote but win the presidency, as in the elections of 2000 and 2016. The “winner-takes-all” allocation of most electors in the Electoral College also means that voters in “safe states” (those that have consistently voted for the same party in recent presidential elections, such as California and Texas) are often less engaged and less motivated to vote in a presidential election, compared to voters in more competitive “swing states” where both Democratic and Republican candidates have won recently, such as Florida and Ohio.
On the other hand, defenders of the Electoral College argue that it incentivizes candidates to campaign in states of different sizes, rather than just the largest states and cities, and that it keeps a prominent role for the states in a federal election.
What are the stages of a presidential election?
What are the arguments for the Electoral College facilitating democracy?
What are the arguments for the Electoral College impeding democracy?
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- Can faithless electors change the outcome of elections?How do they prevent selection of faithless electors?(4 votes)
- How do the electors get selected?(2 votes)
- Generally, the parties either nominate slates of potential electors at their State party conventions or they chose them by a vote of the party's central committee. When the voters in each State cast votes for the Presidential candidate of their choice they are voting to select their State's electors.(2 votes)
- Q1: Stages of Presidential Election
Spring-summer before election year is when the most serious candidates declare their intention in running for office
January-June, election year is when all of the states hold primaries and/or caucuses to vote for party nominees.
Summer, election year is when the parties hold national conventions to officially nominate their presidential and vice presidential candidates
Then, the presidential election takes place on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November
December, election year the Electoral College takes place at which the president and vice president are formally elected(2 votes)