Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

How does the United States presidential election system work?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

We have a process in the United States for electing our president. Each party must choose its candidate that will represent the party in the general election. Prior to the nominating convention, candidates for each party will compete in primary elections and caucuses for delegates to the nominating convention. Assuming a candidate gets a majority of the party’s delegates, that person will then be nominated to represent that party in the general election.

In the general election, each candidate tries to win the vote in as many states as possible. Each state carries a certain number of electoral votes. The number of electoral votes a state has is equal to the number of members of Congress that each state has. In order to become President, a candidate must get at least 270 electoral votes. When a candidate wins a state, the candidate gets that state’s electoral vote. In most states, it is a winner-take-all system. Whoever wins the popular vote in a state gets all of that state’s electoral votes. As a result of this system, candidates focus their attention and their campaigning in the states that have a large number of electoral votes and some key swing states where the vote is expected to so close that either candidate could win that state. States with few electoral votes or states that tend to vote for one party most of the time will get very little attention from the candidates. The goal is to get at least 270 electoral votes. If that is accomplished, that person will become the next president.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the United States, there is a process that is used to choose the candidates for President for each political party. When an election is going to occur, candidates announce that they will run for the office of President. Each state holds either a primary election or a party caucus to determine how many delegates each candidate will receive from that state. A candidate must get a certain number of delegates in order to get the party’s nomination. After all the primaries and the caucuses are held, the party will hold its national nominating convention.

One of the purposes of the national nominating convention is to choose the party’s candidate for President. Once a candidate gets the nomination from his or her party, all of the candidates will face each other in the general election. In the general election, the candidates try to win as many states as possible in order to get at least the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. When a candidate wins a state, the candidate gets either all of or a portion of the electoral votes from that state.

The Electoral College will then choose the President and the Vice President in the middle of December, completing the electoral process.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team