US President Election: Eligibility and Process

By | June 3, 2021
US President Election: Eligibility

It is important for the readers to know about the eligibility and process of the US President Election. This article is an attempt to do so, the author has divided the article into two main parts. The first part expressly deals with the eligibility criteria to become the President of the USA, and the second part declares how the United States elects its president.

I. Introduction | US President Election

The power of the Executive Branch in the United States of America is vested in the President, who is the head of government in the country. The President is the head of the state and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces but there are certain eligibility criteria that a candidate must satisfy to become the President of America. Let’s see what those requirements are and what the process of US Presidential election stepwise is:

II. Eligibility Criteria to become US President

To become can become the President of the United States of America, the U.S. Constitution requires the candidate to fulfil the below eligibility criteria[1]:

  • A natural-born citizen of the United States of America.
  • A resident of the United States for 14 years.
  • At least 35 years old.

It is pertinent to note here that a Natural Born Citizen refers here to someone born with US citizenship. This includes any child born “in” the United States, the children of United States citizens born abroad, and those born abroad of one citizen parent.

III. Process of US Presidential Election

The process of election of the President of United States of America can be mainly divided into five essential steps:

  1. Primaries and Caucuses
  2. National Convention
  3. General Election
  4. Electoral College
  5. Inauguration

The entire process for the election of the US President takes over a 9 to 10 months time period, which starts in February/March with the voting procedure in November, and lastly the inauguration ceremony in the Month of January. Let us understand each of the processes of presidential elections in detail:

Step 1: Primaries and Caucuses

The first and foremost step for the political parties in the White House race is to nominate a leader from their side for the post of President. But since there are several people who wish to run in the presidential election, each having their own ideas about how the government should function, people of similar notions belong to the same political party. This is where primaries and caucuses come in which suggests candidates from each political party to campaign throughout the country to win the favour of their party members.[2]

In order to choose the nominee, political parties first hold primaries and caucuses in different states of the nation to pick upon the ‘delegates’ who will after go on to support the nominee for the President’s post. While some of the states chose to use a secret ballot (Primaries) to pick delegates, others chose their delegates by a show of hands in an open meeting (Caucuses).

So, essentially:

In a Caucus: Party members select the best candidate through a series of discussions and votes.

In a Primary: Party members vote for the best candidate that will represent them in the general election.

Step 2: National Convention

The National Convention is a large gathering for all the chosen delegates by each of the states during the first stage of Primaries and Caucuses. Each party holds a national convention to select a final presidential nominee. This gathering for the National Convention is usually held in a stadium or a big open space where the delegates from the states vote for the nominee and the party announces who is going to run for the Presidential elections from their party.

At the National Convention, voting also takes place for the nomination of Vice President, also called the Running mate. Each of the political parties holds their National Conventions separately and once the nominees for the President and Vice President’s post are announced, campaigning for the Presidential election along with rallies and televised debates begin

Step 3: General Election

The General Election is called the voting process in which every citizen of America who is of age 18 or above can vote to choose their President. Unlike in most Presidential elections, the person who becomes US President is not necessarily the candidate who wins the most votes on the Election Day conducted usually in the month of November. Instead, the voting for the US President takes place in two significant stages:

In the first stage, voters cast ballots on Election Day in each state. In nearly every state, the candidate who gets the most number of votes wins the ‘electoral votes’ from that state and gets that number of voters in the ‘Electoral College’

In the second stage, the voters of each of the 50 states in the USA gather in December and they vote for their choice of President among the nominees. The nominee who receives the majority of the votes from electors from the ‘Electoral College’ becomes the President of America. For example, in the 2020 Presidential election, citizens did not directly vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump, instead, they voted for the electors in November who will then vote for the President in December during the Electoral College.

It is to note here that electors are local leaders who collectively form the Electoral College and each party has to release their list of electors.

Step 4: Electoral College

Under the Electoral College system, each of the 50 states is assigned a fixed number of votes. There are 538 electoral votes in total. The assignment of the number of votes to the states under this system depends majorly on the size of the state’s population. For example, while California being the largest state of the US, is assigned with a maximum number of electors at 55, Alaska being again the largest state by area but due to low population, has assigned with only 3 electors.

The formula for determining the number of votes for each state under the Electoral College system is straight: each state gets two votes for its two US Senators, and then it gets one additional vote for each member it has in the House of Representatives. So, for California, this means that it gets 55 votes, including 2 US Senators and 53 members of the House of Representatives.

These electors vote in December for the President and the Vice President candidates. The candidates running in the election need a simple majority of 270 votes in the Electoral College to win the Presidential election.

Step 5: Inauguration

The role of US Congress is to count the votes given to the candidates and officially declare the winner of the Presidential election. This is called the inauguration when the new President of the United States of America takes oath on a fixed date which is 20th January.

 IV. Conclusion

The President and the Vice President of America are not elected directly by the voters. Instead, it is the ‘electors from each of the states who elect the US President and Vice President.

The Electoral College consists of a total of 538 electoral votes, including from the 50 states of America and the District of Columbia. It is clear from the above explanation of the process for the US Presidential election that the election results in the US are largely influenced by the voter behaviours in large swing states and to win the election, the potential candidate needs to secure 27 electoral votes.


[1] Presidential Election Process, Official Website, Available Here

[2] Primaries and Caucuses, Available Here


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Author: Deepshikha

Deepshikha is a law student from National Law University, Odisha.

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