GS Mains Model Question & Answer: How the President of the
United States is Elected?
Q. How the President of the United
States is Elected ? (12.5 Marks)
(General Studies Mains Paper II - Polity : Comparison of the Indian
constitutional scheme with that of other countries*)
Model Answer :
The basic process of selecting the President of the United States is spelled
out in the U.S. Constitution, and it has been modified by the 12th, 22nd, and
U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
An election for President of the United States occurs every four years on
Election Day, held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The
2016 Presidential election will be held on November 8, 2016.
A person must be at least 35 years of age, they must be
native-born citizens of the United States, and they must have been residents of
the U.S. for at least 14 years. Also, a person cannot be elected to a third term
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES AND CAUCUSES
The election process begins with the primary elections and
caucuses and moves to nominating conventions, during which political parties
each select a nominee to unite behind. The nominee also announces a Vice
Presidential running mate at this time.
The candidates then campaign across the country to explain their views and
plans to voters and participate in debates with candidates from other parties.
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
(1) The national presidential election actually consists of a
separate election in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia; the
voters are really voting for "electors" pledged to one of the tickets. These
electors make up the "Electoral College."
(2) Each state has the same number of electors as it has
senators and representatives (there are two senators from each state, but the
number of representatives depends on the state population in the most recent
census). The District of Columbia, although it isn't a state, also participates
in presidential elections -- it currently has three electors. In most of the
states, and also in the District of Columbia, the election is winner-take-all;
whichever ticket receives the most votes in that state (or in D.C.) gets all the
(3) The Electoral College then votes for President and for
Vice-President, with each elector casting one vote; these votes are called
electoral votes. Each elector is pledged to vote for particular candidates for
President and Vice-President.
(4) In most elections, all the electors vote in accordance
with the pledge they made; it is not clear what would happen in the unlikely
event that a large number of electors violated their pledge and voted
(5) Normally, one of the candidates for President receives a
majority (more than half) of the electoral votes; that person is elected
President. That candidate's vice-presidential running mate will then also
receive a majority of electoral votes (for Vice-President), and that person is
(6) In the rare event that no presidential candidate receives
a majority of the electoral votes, then the President is chosen instead by the
House of Representatives, from the top three presidential vote-getters in the
Electoral College; each state delegation in Congress casts one vote.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CYCLE
The Presidential election process follows a typical cycle:
- Spring of the year before an election – Candidates announce their
intentions to run.
- Summer of the year before an election through spring of the election
year – Primary and caucus debates take place.
- January to June of election year – States and parties hold primaries and
- July to early September – Parties hold nominating conventions to choose
- September and October – Candidates participate in Presidential debates.
- Early November – Election Day
- December – Electors cast their votes in the Electoral College.
- Early January of the next calendar year – Congress counts the electoral
- January 20 – Inauguration Day