Background Information

For Teaching About Elections



Qualifications for the Office of the President

- A natural-born U.S. citizen;

- At least thirty-five years old;

- A U.S. resident for at least fourteen years.

What is a Primary Election?

In a primary election, voters go to the polls to choose among a party's presidential candidates.


Closed Primary: A closed primary is the most common, participation is restricted to voters who have registered with the party sponsoring the election.

Open Primary: In an open primary a voter shows up at the polls and at that time can choose which party's primary he or she wants to vote in.

The Function of the National Conventions

- Nominate candidates for president and vice president.

- Adopt a national party platform.

- Adopt the rules that govern the party for the next four years.

How does the Electoral College Work?

The number of electors per state is equal to the combined number of U.S. senators and representatives from that state. There are 535 electors from the states plus 3 from the District of Columbia for a total of 538. The presidential candidate that gets the most votes in the state wins all of the electoral votes. That is why candidates focus their campaigning in large states with more electoral votes. To be elected president, the candidate must receive an absolute majority (270) electoral votes.


Choosing the President: A Citizen's Guide to the 2000 Elections. The League of Women Voters, The Lyons Press, 1999.