Electing a President


If Election Day is November 8 in 2016, that's the only day we have to think about electing a president...right? Wrong! There are many steps in the presidential election process. And - surprise! - the president is not officially chosen until the Electoral College votes in December - and those votes are counted on January 6, 2017. Here are the major steps it takes to elect the President of the United States:


Candidate announces that he or she is entering the race.

Primaries and Caucuses

Members of the same party run against each other, trying to become the party’s candidate. Each state holds its elections on specific dates in January-June.

  • Primaries: Party members vote for candidates, win delegates to the convention. North Carolina’s primary is March 15, 2016. (Students - vote here!)
  • Caucuses: Party members select delegates to the convention at meetings.


Representatives, or delegates, of each political party meet to talk about the party platform and officially nominate their candidate. This person runs for President of the United States.  2016 conventions include:

  • Libertarian Party - May 27-30 in Orlando, Florida
  • Republican Party – July 18-21 in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Democratic Party – July 25-28 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Learn more and watch the conventions

Fall campaign and debates

Through campaigns, speeches, political ads and debates, the candidates communicate their positions on different issues. This is an important time when voters learn about the candidates, think about their positions, and decide who to vote for!

Learn more and watch the debates

Election Day

Voters vote for president. This is called the “popular vote.” Election Day is November 8. In North Carolina, Early Voting begins in late October.

Electoral College

Through the “popular vote”, voters are really voting for electors who are pledged to a candidate. The Electoral College is made up of all of the electors.

  • The electors vote in December. A candidate must get at least 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win the election.
  • On January 6, Congress officially counts the ballots. If no candidate has at least 270 votes, the U.S. House of Representatives selects the president and the U.S. Senate selects the vice president.

Inauguration Day

The president and vice president are sworn into office on January 20. By law, the President must take the Oath of Office before noon.

Tags: elections, government, history, president

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