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9 Questions

What is the process for electing the president and vice president of the United States?

How many electoral votes are needed to win the presidential election in the United States?

What happens if no candidate receives an absolute majority of electoral votes in the US presidential election?

When do presidential elections occur in the United States?

What is the winner-take-all system in the US presidential election?

What is the coattail effect in American elections?

When are midterm elections held in the United States?

What is the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971?

What is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact?


Type of Election in the United States:

  • The election of the president and vice president in the US is an indirect election through the Electoral College.

  • Citizens vote for electors who then cast direct votes for president and vice president.

  • The candidate who receives an absolute majority of electoral votes (at least 270 out of 538) is elected.

  • If no candidate receives an absolute majority, the House of Representatives elects the president and the Senate elects the vice president.

  • The Electoral College is established in the US Constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 4, and the Twelfth Amendment.

  • The manner for choosing electors is determined by each state legislature, with most states now using the popular vote to choose electors.

  • Faithless and unpledged electors have not affected the ultimate outcome of an election in modern times.

  • Presidential elections occur quadrennially in years evenly divisible by 4, with registered voters casting their ballots on Election Day, typically the first Tuesday after November 1.

  • The nomination process consists of primary elections and caucuses, followed by nominating conventions in the summer.

  • The winner of the national popular vote has also carried the Electoral College vote in 54 of the 59 total elections held so far.

  • Constitutional amendments have been submitted seeking to replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote, but none has passed both Houses of Congress.

  • The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 requires candidates to file a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission before receiving or making campaign contributions of more than $5,000.The Presidential Election Process in the United States

  • The presidential election process is highly decentralized, with state law regulating most aspects of the election, including primaries and the electoral college.

  • The process includes two major parts: a series of presidential primary elections and caucuses held in each state, and the presidential nominating conventions held by each political party.

  • Candidates must submit separate filings in each of the 50 states to qualify on each state's ballot, and the requirements for filing vary by state.

  • The eligibility of an individual for voting is set out in the Constitution and regulated at the state level, with the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate voter eligibility and registration.

  • The final way to be elected for president is to have one's name written in at the time of election as a write-in candidate, although most write-in votes do not count.

  • Most state laws establish a winner-take-all system, wherein the ticket that wins a plurality of votes wins all of that state's allocated electoral votes, and thus has their slate of electors chosen to vote in the Electoral College.

  • Each state's winning slate of electors then meets at their respective state's capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for president and vice president.

  • If no candidate receives a majority of the electoral vote (at least 270), the president is determined by the rules outlined by the Twelfth Amendment.

  • Between the general election and Inauguration Day, the apparent winner is referred to as the "president-elect" (unless it is a sitting president who has won re-election).

  • The typical periods of the presidential election process are as follows: primaries and caucuses (January to June), nominating conventions (July to August), general election campaign (September to November), and electoral college voting (December).

  • Among the 45 persons who have served as president, only Donald Trump had never held a position in either government or the military prior to taking office.

  • Fifteen presidents also served as vice president, six of whom began their first term after winning an election, and the remaining nine began their first term as president according to the presidential line of succession.

  • Sixteen presidents had previously served in the U.S. Senate, including four of the five who served between 1945 and 1974.The United States presidential election process is influenced by various factors, including the candidates' job experience, occupation, and profession. Lawyers and military personnel have been the most common job backgrounds for presidents, with several former Cabinet Secretaries and governors also elected to the presidency. The advent of technology and media has also impacted presidential campaigns, with radio, television, and the internet forming the basis for political advertisements and grassroots fundraising. The use of media and framing by candidates is a key part of presidential campaigns, with the ability to influence voters' perceptions of opponents and current issues. Critics of the presidential election process argue that it is undemocratic and discourages voter turnout, with the staggered nature of the primary season giving small states a disproportionate influence. Several proposed changes to the election process have been suggested, including a lot system, direct popular vote, and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Voter turnout has shown an increase in recent years, with the 2008 election seeing the highest turnout since 1968. Finally, financial disclosures have become an important part of presidential campaigns, with many candidates releasing their tax returns to the public.Presidential Coattails in American Elections

  • Presidential elections are held on the same date as those for all the seats in the House of Representatives, the full terms for 33 or 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate, the governorships of several states, and many state and local elections.

  • Voter turnout is generally higher during presidential election years than either midterm election years or odd-numbered election years.

  • Truman's win in 1948 and Eisenhower's victory in 1952 remain the last two elections in which the same party both won the White House and elected enough members of the House take control of it from its opponents.

  • The last American presidential election in which the same party both won the White House and elected enough members of the Senate to take control of it from its opponents was Barack Obama's win in 2008.

  • Since the end of World War II, there have been a total of five American presidential elections that had significant coattail effects: Harry Truman in 1948, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Barack Obama in 2008.

  • Coattail effects refer to the tendency of presidential candidates to bring out supporters who then vote for their party's candidates for other offices.

  • The coattail effect is significant as it helps candidates from the same party as the presidential candidate to win other offices.

  • Midterm elections are held two years after a presidential election year, and voter turnout is generally lower in midterm elections.

  • Odd-numbered election years are those years when there are no presidential elections and fewer offices are up for election.

  • The coattail effect is not always guaranteed, and some presidential candidates could have a negative effect on the chances of candidates from their party.


Do you know how the President of the United States is elected? Test your knowledge with our quiz on the types of elections in the United States. From the indirect election through the Electoral College to the nomination process and presidential coattails, this quiz covers it all. See how much you know about the complex process of electing a president in the United States.

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