English Across the Curriculum

The American President

Road to the White House

1. Primaries

There are many people who would like to become President. From January to June of the election year, the two big parties, Republicans and Democrats, hold primaries in many states. In these primaries, people decide who should become the party's candidate for the presidential election in November.


2. Conventions

At the end of the primaries, each party organizes a big party called a convention. Thousands of party members meet and select the candidate who did best in the primaries. At the convention, the candidate also tells the people who will become Vice President if he or she gets elected .

Democratic Convention in 2008
Image: Qqqqqq at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA


3. General Election

From August to November the candidates of each party travel all over the country, hold speeches and try to get the people to vote for them. On the first Tuesday in November the American people vote for one of the presidential candidates .

In most cases, there are only two candidates, a Republican and a Democrat, but in the last elections candidates from other parties have taken part in the election.

Voting machine at an American election
Image :Douglas W. Jones / CC0


4. Electoral College

Americans do not vote for the President directly. They select electors who represent them in the electoral college .

Each state has a certain number of electors. Big states with a large population, like California have many electors (55) and small states, like Hawaii only have a few electors. All together there are 538 electors who get together in the Electoral College.

In December all the electors meet and elect a president. Most of the time they vote for the candidate who has won in their state. The candidate who has 270 or more electoral votes becomes President .

Candidates often concentrate on the big states with lots of electors. They know that if they win in states like California, New York or Texas they have a good chance of becoming President.

Number of electors of each state in the Electoral College
Image:Original: Cg-realmsDerivative work: Ali Zifan / Public domain


5. Inauguration

On January 20th of the following year the new President and his Vice President begin the new term . They put their left hand on a Bible and take an oath .

Inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017
Image: The White House / Public domain