How do voting and elections work?

Video: How to Become President of the USA

Explains the presidential election process from beginning to end.

Overview of the Presidential Election Process

An election for president of the United States happens every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The next presidential election will be November 3, 2020.

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

Anyone who meets these requirements can declare their candidacy for president. Once a candidate raises or spends more than $5,000 for their campaign, they must register with the Federal Election Commission. That includes naming a principal campaign committee to raise and spend campaign funds.

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. They let the states choose the major political parties’ nominees for the general election.

National Conventions

After the primaries and caucuses, most political parties hold national conventions.

Electoral College

Map showing the number of electoral votes assigned to each state.

In other U.S. elections, candidates are elected directly by popular vote. But the president and vice president are not elected directly by citizens. Instead, they’re chosen by “electors” through a process called the Electoral College.

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