The Election Process

Young People Vote

How US Presidential Caucus, Primary Process Works

The U.S. presidential election cycle is split into two voting phases. First is the voting for the nomination in primary elections and caucuses, which takes place on different days in different states. Then comes the general election, which takes place on Election Day everywhere in the country.”

The Primary Election is where the political parties hold an election for registered voters to exercise their right to choose which candidate they want to compete against the candidate of the opposing party for the political office being sought. Many candidates can compete in the primary election, but only one candidate comes out victorious to go on to compete in the General Election

Think of the primary election as the means to determine the party's one official presidential candidate or senate candidate or representative or governor to be on the ballot in the final step of the election process, the General Election, which is always the Tuesday following the first Monday in November


A midterm election is held two years after the presidential election. Think of it as the election half way through the President’s four-year term. Up for reconsideration by the voters during the midterm election are all 435 members in the House of Representatives, and some members of the Senate.

How the two political parties select their presidential nominees?

"Presidential primary elections or caucuses are held in each U.S. state and territory as part of the nominating process of U.S. presidential elections. Some states only hold primary elections, some only hold caucuses, and others use a combination of both. The primaries and caucuses are staggered between January and June before the general election in November."

Difference between a primary and a caucus?

“The primary elections are run by state and local governments, while caucuses are private events that are directly run by the political parties themselves.

"State governments fund and run primary elections in much the same way they do the general election in the fall. Voters go to a polling place, vote and leave.

"At a caucus, individuals who are viewed favorably within the party are identified as potential delegates. After a comprehensive discussion and debate, an informal vote is held to determine which individuals will serve as delegates at the national party convention.”

Types of primary elections and caucuses

"The four most common types of primary elections are open, closed, semi-open and semi-closed. Each state must decide which type it wants to adopt.

  • "Open primaries and caucuses allow all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in any party contest. Certain states that use this format may print a single ballot and the voter chooses on the ballot itself which political party's candidates they will select for a contested office.
  • Closed primaries and caucuses require voters to register with a specific party to be able to vote for that party’s candidates.
  • Semi-open primaries and caucuses allow any registered voter to vote in any party contest, but when they identify themselves to election officials they must request a party’s specific ballot.
  • Semi-closed primaries and caucuses follow the same rules as closed ones, but they also allow voters who are not affiliated with a political party to vote."


U.S. Constitutional Requirements for Presidential Candidates

The President must:

  • Be a natural-born citizen of the United States
  • Be at least 35 years old
  • Have been a resident of the United States for 14 years

“Any person who meets these requirements can declare his or her candidacy for President at any time. Candidates must register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) once they receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $5,000. Within 15 days of reaching that $5,000 threshold, candidates must file a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC authorizing a principal campaign committee to raise and spend funds on their behalf.”