The 2020 presidential campaign has begun and a variety of candidates have entered the race. The Iowa Caucuses are months away (Feb. 3, 2020) but candidates are already scrambling to get momentum in a crowded field. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney entered the race early, throwing his hat in the ring July of 2017.
Overview of the Presidential Election Process
An election for president of the United States takes place every four years on Election Day, which is held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
U.S. Constitutional Requirements for Presidential Candidates
- 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.
Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
Before the general election, most candidates for president go through a series of state primaries and caucuses. Primaries and caucuses are run differently, but they both serve the same purpose—to allow the states to help choose the political parties’ nominees for the general election.
Caucuses: Private meetings run by political parties. Participants divide themselves into groups according to the candidate they support, with undecided voters forming into a group of their own. Each group then gives speeches that support its candidate and tries to persuade others to join its group. At the end of the caucus, party organizers count the voters in each candidate’s group and calculate how many delegates each candidate has won.
State Primaries: Run by state and local governments. Voting occurs through secret ballot.