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What are the steps in the U.S. presidential election process?

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There are different ways to set out the steps in this process.  This is because some teachers may say a particular thing is a step in the process while other teachers will not.  For example, is selecting a running mate a step in the process?  What about filing to run as a candidate?  Here are what I see as the important steps in this process.

First, each party has to select its nominee for the presidency.  That is what is about to start happening when Iowa holds its caucuses in a couple of weeks.  There is no limit to how many people can try to get nominated to run for president from each of the parties.  Therefore, there has to be a way of selecting the nominee from each party.  Today, the nominees are selected through a mix of primary elections (where people come out and vote just like in a regular election) and caucuses (where people actually have to go to a meeting, discuss the candidates, and then make their choices).  When voters cast ballots in these elections, they are voting for slates of delegates to a national convention.  Those delegates are committed to vote for a specific candidate.  Usually, the nomination is wrapped up well before the convention, but it is possible for the delegates to go to the convention and have to choose who the nominee will be.  Through this process, each party chooses a nominee to run for president.

Next, there is the general election.  This happens in November of a presidential election year.  Here, the party nominees run against one another, with one nominee per party.  There are no caucuses in this election, just regular voting.  However, when people vote for a candidate, they are technically not voting for that candidate.  Instead, they are voting for people who will become part of the Electoral College.  The president is officially elected by the Electoral College.  When a person voted for President Obama in 2012, they were officially voting for candidates for the Electoral College who had promised to vote for Obama.  The popular vote is totaled in each state and the candidate who gets the most votes in a state gets “their” candidates elected to the Electoral College.  In mid-December, the Electoral College meets and officially elects the president.

Thus, the main steps in this process are choosing the nominee for each party, the popular vote in the general election, and the meeting of the Electoral College in which the president is officially elected.

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