Presidential Elections

Understanding Your Presidential Electiosn

Presidential elections in the United States are very important events that shape our country's future and history. Knowing how these elections are operated will only serve to make you a better citizen. Americans elect their president through a combination of custom, state law, and constitutional requirement such as the electoral college as specified in Article II, Sections 2 and 4 and Amendment 12. Furthermore, Article II, Section 5 plus Amendments 20 and 23 of the United States Constitution pertain to election of the president. The following statements describe the presidential election system in the United States.

Presidential Election Rules & Requirements

The president has to be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen, and resided in the US for 14 consecutive years.

People vote for the president but the winner is determined from the electoral college of each state.

In each state, each party on the ballot selects electors equal to that state's number of senators and representatives in Congress (also, there are 3 members from the District of Columbia as mandated from the 23rd Amendment).

Eligible voters in each state and the District of Columbia vote for the president on the designated election day (the first Tuesday of November, or they cast absentee ballots if they are out of the state on the official election day; these are what we know as the popular votes.

Entire bodies of electors are pledged to each of the presidential nominees in every state (except Maine, where special presidential elector districts allocate delegates) so that the winner of the state's popular vote, even if it becomes a plurality, takes all of the electoral votes of that state (even though the Constitution does not require electors to vote for the candidate receiving the most popular votes in the general election).

Electors will then cast ballots in their state capitals the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. It is important to note here that the electoral college never meets as a whole.

Ballots are sent to Washington and counted before a joint session of the new Congress on January 6.

If no candidate does in fact win a majority of electors in the electoral college (i.e., 51 percent or 270 electoral votes), then the election of the president goes to the House of Representatives, where each state casts one vote, determined by those state's representatives.

If the House of Representatives cannot elect a president by majority vote before the president's scheduled inauguration on January 20, then the vice president-elect shall act as President until a president shall have qualified; (taken directly from the Twentieth Amendment).

The president-elect is sworn in every four years on January 20.

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