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U.S. Elections

National Conventions - The U.S. Election Process

Once at the national party conventions, the delegates from the states cast votes for the person who will represent the political party in the November general election.

In order to secure a party’s nomination, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes from the delegates. It is not unusual for delegates to vote several times before one candidate secures the majority of the votes and officially becomes that party’s candidate for the election to determine the next President of the United States.

The candidate for President then must choose a vice-presidential candidate. Generally, a running mate is chosen that will in some way balance the party’s ticket for the general election. This balance may be geographic (choosing a running mate that is very popular in one region where the Presidential candidate is not) or ideological (choosing a running mate with a different ideological framework than the presidential candidate), and the balance is intended to make the overall general election ticket of a political party acceptable to as wide a range of voters as possible.

If a President is running for re-election, this nomination process must be completed. Even if the President does not face any opposition from within his own political party, the national convention will still occur.

The conventions are extravaganzas, full of pageantry and showmanship. They serve to help jump start the general election campaign for the presidential candidates.
The national conventions of the political parties are the culmination of the primary election process. Once the national conventions have been held, and the candidates from the political parties have been nominated and chosen, the presidential election begins in earnest as a contest between the candidates from the political parties. Any divisions or factions that have surfaced within a political party up to the nomination process tend to be set aside and the entire party becomes unified behind its candidate and begins to work to get that person elected.

Independent Candidates

Some people choose to run for president without being affiliated with a political party. Such independent candidates need not concern themselves with getting nominated by a party, but must meet other requirements. For example, such candidates are required to collect a large number of signatures to support their nominations. The sources of funding used by independent candidates comes from personal funds and loans as well as fundraising campaigns.

An independent candidate for President must file a declaration of candidacy and a certification of the candidate's selection for vice president with the secretary of state prior to circulation of the candidate's nominating petitions. The candidate and the candidate's selection for vice president must sign the certification before it is filed. No petition or certificate of nomination may be circulated prior to the first day of January of the year in which the election will be held. Once the required number of signatures is received by the person, s/he is able to run in the general election.

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Source: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office.
Last modified: 20070820
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