The United States presidential elections determine who becomes the President of the United States for the next four years.
For the latest U.S. election see U.S. presidential election, 2004
How elections are administered
The election of the United States President is governed by Section 1 of Article Two of the United States Constitution, as amended by Amendments XII, XXII, and XXIII. The President and Vice President are elected on the same ticket by the U.S. Electoral College, whose members are elected directly from each state; the President and Vice President serve four-year terms.
Elections take place every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November (although in many states early and absentee voting begins several weeks before Election Day). The last election was held on November 2, 2004. See U.S. presidential election, 2004.
The next election will take place on November 4, 2008.
See also: U.S. presidential election maps.
Presidential election trends
In recent decades, presidential nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties have all been either incumbent Presidents seeking a second term or sitting or former Vice Presidents, state Governors, or U.S. Senators. The last nominee from either party who had not previously served in such an office was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who won the Republican nomination and ultimately the presidency in the 1952 election.
Contemporary electoral success has perhaps favored state governors. Of the last five Presidents (Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush), only George H.W. Bush had never been Governor of a state. Geographically, these Presidents were all from either very large states (California, Texas) or from a state south of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of Texas (Georgia, Arkansas). The last elected President from a northern state and sitting U.S. Senator elected President was John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in 1960.
* "Major Opponent" is defined as a candidate receiving greater than 1% of the total popular vote for elections including and after 1824, or greater than 5 electoral votes for elections including and before 1820. (This column may not be complete).
† Denotes a minority President—one receiving less than 50% of all popular votes.
‡ Denotes a (minority) President who did not receive a plurality of the popular votes and the opposing candidate who did.
** Denotes an election in which a losing candidate received an absolute majority of the popular votes.
Note: Presidents John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur and Gerald Ford served as president but never won an election for president; Ford was never elected vice-president. Tyler and Johnson never ran, not even as incumbents; Fillmore ran later, but not as an incumbent.
Voter turnout in Presidential elections has been on the decline in recent years, although it bounced back sharply during the 2004 election from the 1996 and 2000 lows. While turnout has been decreasing, registration has been increasing. Registration rates varied from 65% to 70% of the voting age population from the 1960s to the 1980s, and due in part to greater government outreach programs, registration swelled to 75% in 1996 and 2000. Despite greater registration, however, turnout in general has not greatly improved, save the sharp bounce back in 2004.
||Voting Age Population ¹
||% Turnout of VAP
||55 to 60%
Sources: Federal Election Commission, Office of the Clerk, U.S. Census Bureau
¹ It should be noted that the voting age population includes all persons age 18 and over as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, which necessarily includes a significant number of persons ineligible to vote, such as non-citizens or felons. The actual number of eligible voters is somewhat lower, and the number of registered voters is lower still. The number of non-citizens in 1994 was approximately 13 million, and in 1996, felons numbered around 1.3 million, so it can be estimated that around 7-10% of the voting age population is ineligible to vote.
Note that the large drop in turnout between 1968 and 1972 can be attributed (at least in part) to the expansion of the franchise to 18 year olds (previous restricted to those 21 and older). The total number of voters grew, but so did the pool of eligible voters- so total percentage fell.
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