Election of the President & Vice President: Primary Election

An explanation of the primary facet of the presidential election process in the United States. Students learn all about campaigning, the nomination process, and more.
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According to the United States Constitution, a presidential election is to be held once every fourth year. The process of electing a President and Vice-President begins long before Election Day. Candidates from both major and minor political parties and independent candidates begin to raise money and campaign at least one year in advance of the general presidential election. In order to officially represent a political party, a candidate must be nominated by that party.

The nominating process officially begins with the first state primaries and caucuses, which usually occur in the month of February of the election year. It is at these local events that voters are given their first chance to participate in electing the nation’s next President.

There are many factors that influence who will ultimately become the candidate for a party. The public’s perception of the candidates is influenced by such things as media reports, public opinion polls, candidate preference surveys, and advertising.

The Spring of an election year is characterized by intense campaigning for primaries and caucuses all over the nation. This process reaches its peak at the national conventions of the political parties. Once at the national party conventions, the delegates from the states cast votes for the person who will represent the political party in the November general election. In order to secure a party’s nomination, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes from the delegates. It is not unusual for delegates to vote several times before one candidate secures the majority of the votes and officially becomes that party’s candidate for the election to determine the next President of the United States. The candidate for President then must choose a vice-presidential candidate.

If a President is running for re-election, this nomination process must be completed. Even if the President does not have any opponents from within his own political party, the national convention will still occur. The conventions are extravaganzas, full of pageantry and showmanship. They serve to help jump start the general election campaign for the presidential candidates.

Source: Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

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