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U.S. Presidential Election Facts

Who can become President of the United States?
To be eligible to become President of the United States, the candidate must:
  • be a natural-born citizen of the United States
  • be over thirty-five years old
  • have resided in the United States for at least 14 years
Who can become Vice President of the United States?
The above rules for presidential eligibility also apply to the vice president, since he or she would succeed the president. The Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no person that is ineligible to become president can be the vice president. This rule stems from the original election system, in which the candidate who came in second place would become the vice president.

How many terms can a president be in office?
Since the ratification of the Twenty-second Amendment in 1947, the President of the United States can be elected to a maximum of two terms as president. Further, if any president has finished out more than two years of another president's term, that is considered one term.

Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only president to have served more than two terms as president, though not many former presidents even attempted to serve a third term. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to serve four terms as president, but he died before he could finish out his fourth term.

Who can vote in Presidential elections?
To be eligible to vote, you must:
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be a legal resident of the state in which you register
  • Be at least 18 years old at the time of the election
Most states have additional requirements that prohibit people who have been judged mentally incapable by a court, or those currently serving time in prison or on parole for committing a felony from voting. In some cases, convicted felons in general are prohibited from voting until their rights are legally restored. Voters must be registered to vote in only one place, and must submit the registration form before the deadline designated by the state.

What Constitutional Amendments changed voter eligibility?
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, allowed free men of any race or color to vote. Women were not eligible to vote until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, making it illegal to deny the right to vote based on sex. The Twenty-third Amendment allowed citizens of the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections, and the Twenty-fourth removed poll taxes from the voting process.

How are presidential candidates chosen?
Each of the major political parties chooses a candidate in several ways.

Statewide elections, either primary elections or caucuses are held in every state to determine the nominee from the Republican and Democratic parties, while some third parties choose their nominee using other methods.

Political parties usually have national conventions in the months leading up to the election, in which they officially select their best candidate to compete in the presidential election, based on the results of the primaries. Delegates from the political parties are elected to attend the convention to cast their ballots.

How is the vice president chosen? In our current system, the president chooses a vice president to be his or her running mate, and they run on the same ticket. This way, voters cast votes for the president and vice president with the same vote. However, the Electoral College casts separate votes for the president and vice president.

Earlier in U.S. history, the candidate who received the second highest number of votes became the vice president, but this changed in 1804, with the ratification of the Twelfth Amendment.

How is the president elected?
After the parties have chosen their nominees in the statewide primaries and caucuses, a nationwide vote is conducted, in which American voters cast their ballot for the next President of the United States. However, this is not a direct vote for a candidate. Instead, voters select delegates, called electors, who pledge their vote to the popular winner of their district. Electors of each state attend a meeting of the electoral college in their state capital, in which they cast official votes for the president, representing their states. The candidate that receives more than 270 electoral votes – just over half of the total number – is the winner.

When does the new President of the United States take office?
The President-elect takes office on January 20, known as Inauguration Day. On Inauguration Day, the new President must take the oath of office, as specified in Article Two, Section One of the U.S. Constitution:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States - Presidential Oath of Office

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