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How the President Is Elected

Part 2: How It All Ends Up

Once the conventions are finished, the home stretch for the presidential election begins. Speeches, fundraisers, and debates follow, with all candidates trying to keep themselves in the public eye as much as possible. The popularity of the Internet has added a dimension to candidates' ability to get their message across.

The presidential election takes place every four years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. (If November 1 is a Tuesday, then the election takes place on November 8.) People across the country cast their votes for whichever candidate they believe will do the best job. Votes are counted, and this is called the popular vote, but it is more than a popularity contest. This is where the Electoral College comes in.

The Electoral College is a group of people who gather to cast their votes for the various presidential candidates (much like the delegates at the political party conventions). When we as Americans are casting our votes for the presidential candidates, we are actually casting our votes for electors, who will cast their votes for the candidates.

The presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each states gets all of the electoral votes for that state. In other words, if the state of Vermont has three electoral votes, it casts all of its electoral votes for the winning candidate. So if Diana Valdez has 4,100,103 votes and Fred Smith has 4,100,100 votes, Diana Valdez still gets all three of Vermont's electoral votes and Fred Smith gets 0. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the Electoral College.)

When all the electoral votes are counted, the president with the most votes wins. In most cases, the candidate who wins the popular vote also wins in the Electoral College. (A few times before, this has not been the case. See the Electoral College article for more.)

The presidential election takes place in November, but the new president doesn't take office until January 20 of the following year. (If a president gets re-elected, he goes right on serving.) The Constitution limits presidents to two terms. Once a president has served two terms, he retires from public office, making way for the next group of political hopefuls. Every four years, the process starts all over again.

First page > How It Starts > Page 1, 2

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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