Background materials for the election and election process in the United States of America:
• 2012 Primary Schedule and current schedule
• Presidential Candidates & Campaign Biographies (also: PDF, 600Kb)
• Campaign Finance Reform and the 2004 Election (McCain-Feingold)
• Democratic National Convention
• The Electoral College
• FAQs on U.S. Elections and Political Conventions
• Federal Election Commission Regulates Presidential Campaigns
• Financing Campaigns
• Glossary of U.S. Election Terms
• Presidential Nominations
• Republican National Convention
• The Role of Political Parties
• USA Elections in Brief or e-Book (PDF, 3.8Mb)
• Youth Votes! The 2012 U.S. Elections (PDF,9.6Mb)
• What Happens After Elections?
2012 U.S. Elections News
07 November 2012 Democrats Retain Control of U.S. Senate President Obama’s Democratic Party strengthened its hold on the Senate after winning several hotly contested races November 6. The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, said the election results show that voters want the two parties to work together.
07 November 2012 U.S. Voters Set New State Laws on Same-Gender Marriage, Marijuana President Obama’s re-election victory may have been the worldwide focus of the United States’ Election Day, but the millions of Americans who voted did much more than choose the country’s next president. As well as electing a host of state and local representatives, U.S. voters cast ballots to change a number of state laws.
07 November 2012 Voters Elect Governors in 13 Jurisdictions in November 6 Election Voters in the states of Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia and the territories of American Samoa and Puerto Rico all were selecting their next governors.
07 November 2012 The 2012 Vote Will Maintain Status Quo in House of Representatives Republicans held on to a majority of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, though the exact size of their majority is still unknown, pending final counts — and possible recounts — in some of the 2012 contests around the country.
07 November 2012 World Reacts to U.S. Presidential Election Nations around the globe reacted to the re-election of President Obama on November 6. In the village of Kogelo in western Kenya, where President Obama’s father was born, men, women and children sang and danced in the streets. “Kenya, as always, is proud of our association with you," Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said in a statement. "We look forward to the deepening of relations between our two countries during your second term in office."
06 November 2012 -U.S. Elections Day 2012
Soak up the party atmosphere by following @USAinUK using hashtag #USAinUKNov6. Short, bite size nuggets will keep you up-to-date without having to leave home!
05 November 2012 How the News Media Can Predict Election Winners As election officials across the United States are counting votes several hours after the polls close on November 6, news media outlets will already be reporting results and confidently declaring which states have been won by President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
26 October 2012 International Observers Arrive in U.S. for 2012 Elections Since 2002, the United States has invited members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to assess whether the American electoral process has met international standards. It is a commitment that the United States has made as a participating OSCE country.
25 October 2012 Close Presidential Race Puts Focus on U.S. Electoral System U.S. political polling on how Americans are likely to vote November 6, particularly in hotly contested swing states,
has generated many predictions that the contest between President Obama
and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is going to be very
close. Because U.S. presidents actually are chosen by 538 electors rather than
directly by the voters, is it possible that neither Romney nor Obama
will receive the 270 electoral votes needed to win? Or could one win the
most votes overall but lose the electoral vote? Could they even tie,
with 269 electoral votes apiece?
• The Electoral College
23 October 2012 Final Presidential Debate Keeps Some Focus on U.S. Economy In their last debate before the November 6 election, President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney agreed on the goal of transferring full security responsibility in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by 2014 and on continuing international sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear activities. But both presidential candidates also managed to shift their conversation away from the October 22 debate’s announced foreign policy topics to discuss the main issue on the minds of most American voters: the U.S. economy.
22 October 2012 What Happens After U.S. Presidential Elections? U.S. elections are fought hard. Yet citizens expect that elections will be fair and the results respected, with a peaceful transition of power from one leader to the next. That is so not only for the presidency, but also for elections to Congress, for state governors and legislatures, and for local elections.
17 October 2012 Second Obama-Romney Debate Reflects Americans' Economic Concerns The second presidential debate between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and President Obama offered the only opportunity for American voters, rather than just a debate moderator, to pose questions to both candidates.
12 October 2012 U.S. Vice Presidential Hopefuls Spar in TV Debate The sole vice presidential debate for the 2012 presidential election covered a surprising array of U.S. foreign policy topics, despite the fact that most Americans usually base their votes on domestic issues, particularly the U.S. economy.
06 October 2012 Campaign 2012: In a Sea of Numbers, One Stands Out In this churning sea of dollars, statistics and calendars, one number carries special importance for the 2012 presidential race: the national unemployment rate. For voters and politicians alike, jobs are an important indicator of the nation’s overall economic health.
04 October 2012 After First Debate, Incumbent Faces Re-energized Challenger On October 3, with fewer than 1,000 people in attendance, the Republican and Democratic nominees to the U.S. presidency faced off in the first of three scheduled debates. The true audience for the 90-minute discussion at the University of Denver in Colorado was much larger, with television viewership estimated at 60 million in the United States and 200 million worldwide.
03 October 2012 U.S. Helps Ensure Americans Overseas Can Vote Americans serving their nation overseas will have the resources they need to exercise their right to vote, U.S. military officials affirm.
02 October 2012 Presidential Debates Come Too Late to Influence Some U.S. Voters In the hours leading up to the first debate between the Republican and Democratic nominees to the U.S. presidency, pundits and political analysts are themselves debating whether the matchup will change minds.
01 October 2012 U.S. Comedians Eagerly Await Presidential Debates Up to 50 million viewers are expected to tune in October 3 to the first of three debates between President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. While there are plenty of news stories describing the debates as a last chance for the candidates to win support, Gwen Ifill, who moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice presidential debates, says most voters have already made up their minds.
11 September 2011 Obama-Romney TV Debates Set for October President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will face off in three 90-minute debates this October, giving still-undecided voters their best chance to compare the two side by side, and allowing all viewers to watch the candidates as they respond to tough questions and react to unscripted moments on live television.
01 September 2012 Festive End to Republican National Convention Balloons and confetti herald the end of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The party's presidential and vice presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, now embark on a grueling campaign schedule that will carry them through Election Day.
30 August 2012 Presidential Nominations Rules within parties for nominating presidential candidates are not spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. As noted, there were no political parties in existence at the time the Constitution was drafted and ratified in the late 1700s, and the founders of the Republic had no interest in proscribing procedures for such entities.
30 August 2012 Republican Party Formally Nominates Vice Presidential Candidate In the weeks between the national party conventions and the U.S. election in November, vice presidential candidates from both parties will crisscross the nation in an exhausting schedule of personal appearances aimed at winning votes.
29 August 2012 Convention Speeches Can Be Star Makers When Republicans and Democrats host their national conventions for the 2012 election season, you’ll see some of the most famous names in U.S. politics carrying the flag for their political parties. But there will also be faces that aren’t so familiar. Yet.
29 August 2012 Keynote Speech Aims to Whip Up Republican Enthusiasm The keynote speech, which aims to set the tone for the convention and get participants and viewers excited about the party and its nominees, is one of the most coveted speaking slots at a national party convention.
24 August 2012 Youth Votes in the 2012 U.S. Elections This issue of eJournal USA looks at how the Millennials — Americans born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s — are changing the face of the U.S. electorate and politics. How are they different from previous generations? What is at stake for the Millennial Generation in the November 2012 election? Are they joining the two major U.S. political parties? And why do they support various candidates and causes?
• In 2012: What’s at Stake? Why Bother to Vote?
• Millennials Facts
• Campaign Volunteer Blogs
• On the Issues
• Your Guide to U.S. Election Jargon
• Everything (Almost) You Wanted to Know About U.S. Elections
13 August 2012 Romney Picks Fiscal Conservative Paul Ryan as Running Mate The Republican Party’s presumed presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has picked Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential nominee.
13 July 2012 Latinos' Political Power Growing, Experts Say What role will America’s growing Latino community play in the 2012 presidential election? On July 9, a group of experts gathered at the New America Foundation to answer this question.
13 July 2012 African Americans Could Prove Decisive in Some Swing States Some Americans were surprised that presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney addressed the oldest U.S. civil rights organization’s convention on July 11, since African-American support for Republican presidential nominees has dropped well below 10 percent over the past several decades.
11 July 2012 In U.S. Elections, "Swing State" Voters Get the Most Attention As President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney work the campaign trail between now and November, some paths will be more heavily traveled than others. But by far, the most attention will be lavished on a handful of states, some large and some small, because their voters will cast the decisive votes in the next U.S. presidential election.
01 July 2012 Frequently Asked Questions on Political Conventions The processes of the political national conventions have evolved over more than a century, but the purpose has remained the same: to nominate presidential candidates and lay out goals and party priorities.
22 June 2012 Young Delegates Enthusiastic About 2012 Political Conventions Three young delegates gearing up to attend their political party’s 2012 national conventions are excited about their roles in choosing candidates to the U.S. presidency.
22 June 2012 Memories of 1968 Democratic Convention Still Resonate The city of Chicago in 1968 offered the “perfect storm” for a controversial political convention, set against the backdrop of an unpopular war and a closely contested presidential nominating contest, and it triggered controversy and violent protests.
21 June 2012 Foreign Press See U.S. Conventions Through a Different Lens International journalists who report on the U.S. political conventions recently shared the challenges and frustrations of explaining a complicated political process when politicians and pundits are more interested in scoring points with U.S. voters than reaching out to foreign audiences.
13 June 2012 Conventions Stress Voter Access, Community Service Republicans and Democrats typically differ on a wide range of issues, so many people might be surprised to learn that the two major U.S. political parties are following nearly identical approaches as they prepare to launch their presidential nominating conventions.
13 June 2012 U.S. Political Party Conventions Evolve to Remain Relevant As with many aspects of U.S. politics, national party conventions and their roles in the race to the White House have evolved over time to serve the changing needs of the electorate.
12 June 2012 Political Conventions Aim to Dazzle During the U.S. Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer, thousands of delegates will be waving American flags and signs bearing the name of their party’s candidate for president. It will be a stirring sight.
31 May 2012 Two Cities Prepare for Presidential Nominating Conventions The final sprint to the U.S. presidential election begins when the two major political parties throw two major parties: the Republican and the Democratic national conventions.
30 May 2012 Texas Gives Romney Majority Needed for Republican Nomination Although former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s eventual nomination as the 2012 Republican candidate for president has been presumed for several weeks, his May 29 primary victory in Texas put him past the 1,144 delegates needed to ensure he will be the nominee.
14 May 2012 African-American Voters Set to Play Key Role in November Election African-American voters are set to play a key role in the November presidential election, continuing a trend of increased black voter turnout that helped to secure Barack Obama the presidency in 2008 over opponent John McCain.
13 April 2012 Who Are America’s Independent Voters? Why Are They Crucial? The United States may have a political system dominated by two parties, Republican and Democratic, but according to a recent poll, more Americans identify themselves as being independent rather than belonging to either party, and the historical record has shown that independents tend to sway the outcome of U.S. elections.
10 April 2012 "Ready to Run" Invites Women to Jump into Politics Men and women are different, and that's especially true when it comes to running for an elected public office, says an educator with Rutgers University in New Jersey.
23 March 2012 Surviving News Media a "Good Test" for Candidates At some point, all politicians in the United States and elsewhere must ask themselves how they will face the news media and the challenge of steering clear of controversies while simultaneously delivering their messages so that they will be broadcast accurately to potential voters. But through their adversarial role, the media are both critical and positive to elections, argues David Mark, a senior editor at the Washington-based news outlet Politico.
21 March 2012 U.S. Elections: 2012 Primary Schedule This 2012 Republican primary/caucus schedule is based on the most current information available from state election boards. (President Obama’s nomination by the Democratic Party is not contested.)
19 March 2012 American Political Candidates Need More than Money to Win Although Americans running for political office need money, and lots of it, to pay for campaigns, political expert Sam Garrett says successful fundraising alone cannot determine a candidate’s outcome at the polls. However, Garrett acknowledged that American campaigns tend to be fairly expensive — more and more so with each election cycle
07 March 2012 Tuesday, March 6, Not So Super for American Voters March 6, dubbed Super Tuesday in American politics because so many states held nominating contests, largely failed to generate enough excitement to draw voters to the polls. Voter turnout is typically lower for primaries than for a general election, but participation in 2012 primaries and caucuses was particularly low in many jurisdictions.
29 February 2012 U.S. Elections: 2012 Primary Schedule (updated 12 March) This 2012 Republican primary/caucus schedule is based on the most current information available from state election boards. President Obama’s nomination by the Democratic Party is not contested.
16 February 2012 U.S. Official’s Invitation to OSCE to Observe U.S. Elections Political Counselor Robinson: "On behalf of the United States Government, I want to take this opportunity before the Permanent Council to extend an invitation to the OSCE participating States to observe these elections."
06 February 2012 Romney Win in First Republican Race in West Fails to Shrink Field On February 4, Nevada became the first Western state to weigh in on the Republican race for the nomination for the U.S. presidency. In a “closed” process in which only registered Republicans were allowed to participate, caucus-goers determined how the state’s 28 delegates (of a total 2,286 to be awarded nationally) would be allocated among the four candidates who remain in the Republican race.
22 January 2012 South Carolina Voters Keep Things Interesting in White House Race As with all U.S. elections, the results are unofficial until certified by the South Carolina secretary of state. After the polls close, state officials must confirm that all ballots are legitimate and have been appropriately counted. In very close contests, that process can change the initially announced outcome.
17 January 2012 Huntsman Drops Out of Race for U.S. Presidency Jon Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, is now a former Republican presidential candidate. Huntsman announced that he was withdrawing from the race for the White House and throwing his support to Mitt Romney.
11 January 2012 Republican Candidates Face New Hampshire Voters On January 10, voters in the New Hampshire primary became the first Americans to cast secret ballots in the long race for the U.S. presidency. When the votes were counted, Mitt Romney — a former governor of neighboring Massachusetts — had won, with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Ron Paul finished second with 23 percent and Jon Huntsman third with 17 percent.
04 January 2012 Iowa Has Spoken. Does It Matter? Iowa is important in the U.S. election process because it is the first political referendum on presidential candidates. It tests the candidates’ stamina, poise, fundraising ability and organizational skills, but success in Iowa is no guarantee of future success, nor does failure in Iowa mean the death of a campaign.
04 January 2012 Financing Campaigns Federal law dictates how candidates for the federal offices of president, senator and representative — and certain of their political allies — may raise funds, as well as from whom and in what amounts. Federal campaign finance laws are separate from state laws that regulate elections for state and local offices.
04 January 2011 U.S. Elections: Caucuses Explained What are caucuses? How do they work? Find out how Americans pick their presidential candidates through caucuse in our U.S. Elections video.
28 December 2011 U.S. Elections: 2012 Primary Schedule For those states holding primaries, voters go to polling places and cast their ballots. In caucus states, voters gather in meeting places throughout the state to discuss candidates and reach a consensus on which candidate they will support.
05 December 2011 U.S. Political Parties: An Ongoing Evolution On Election Night in America, television networks update U.S. maps with a crazy-quilt pattern of red and blue to designate states where Democrats or Republicans have won the vote. It is a display that Americans intuitively understand because the two-party system is part of their everyday lives.
09 November 2011 How Raucous Is the Caucus? Essentially a neighborhood meeting, the name “caucus” derives from an American Indian word for a conference of tribal leaders. In U.S. electoral politics, the tribes are political parties; the leaders are party activists and concerned citizens.
02 November 2011 U.S. Federal Offices: Who Can Serve in Washington? There is a saying in America that anyone can grow up to be president. That is not exactly true. The U.S. Constitution sets qualifications for high federal offices, but those requirements can be met by the vast majority of the nation’s citizens.
02 November 2011 Federal Election Commission Regulates Presidential Campaigns Candidates for president of the United States come from all walks of life. Many are career politicians; others are political activists, wealthy businessmen, or even professional entertainers. Regardless of their backgrounds or incomes, all must appear on each state’s separate ballot and all must abide by rules enforced by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
01 November 2011 U.S. Elections the First Influenced by “Super PACs” Like it or not, Americans who seek election to the U.S. presidency or Congress need money to fund months of campaigning, advertisements and other ways to make themselves and their views more visible to voters, as well as to attack their opponents. Recent legal rulings have opened new avenues for political spending by corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations,
01 November 2011 Road to the White House Is Paved with Delegates On November 6, 2012, Americans will go to the polls to cast their ballots for the man (or woman) who will serve as U.S. president for the following four years, but first they must select delegates who will vote at national conventions to determine which candidates appear on those ballots.
05 November 2010 No Major Foreign Policy Shift After U.S. Midterm Election Following major Republican gains in the November 2 midterm elections, President Obama is expected to face challenges implementing his agenda, but the foreign policy objectives are not expected to change, political experts say.
04 November 2010 Midterm Elections Reduce but Retain Democratic Majority in Senate Democrats and Democratic-caucusing independents will hold at least 52 seats and Republicans at least 47 in the 112th Congress that convenes in January 2011. The outcomes of two races in the far northwestern part of the nation were still inconclusive on November 4. The midterm elections will shift the composition of the Senate a bit to the right as Republicans gain seats, but Democrats will retain control of the chamber when the next Congress convenes.
03 November 2010 Midterms Show Voters Still Worried About Economy, Obama Says
Reacting to the 2010 midterm elections November 2 that resulted in the
Democratic Party losing control of the House of Representatives,
slimming its majority in the Senate and losing some gubernatorial
contests, President Obama said American voters had sent a message that
they are frustrated with the state of the U.S. economy and acknowledged
he had not made as much progress as he had hoped on several domestic
• Press Conference by President Obama on Midterm Elections
29 October 2010 State Governors Play Key Role in U.S. Government No presidential contest will top U.S. ballots on November 2, but citizens in 37 states are choosing a chief executive who probably will have a greater effect on their daily lives than a U.S. president ever will. Governors head state governments that loosely mirror the U.S. federal government with executive, legislative and judicial branches. The governor performs many of the same functions at the state level that the U.S. president does at the national level: sets policy, appoints department heads, prepares and administers a budget, recommends legislation, and signs laws. In most states, the governor also plays an important role in appointing state and local judges.
29 October 2010 Divided U.S. Government Can Work, Scholars Say The prospect of a divided U.S. government — with a president from one political party and at least one chamber of Congress controlled by the other party — has raised questions about what the next two years might be like in Washington.
28 October 2010 Popularity, Effectiveness Determine Obama's Midterm Campaigning President Obama was warmly welcomed to the popular comedy program The Daily Show, but during his lengthy interview with host Jon Stewart, it became clear the president had not come to tell jokes or offer humorous anecdotes about White House life.
28 October 2010 Nonstop Reporting and Analysis Affects U.S. Midterm Elections "Ideological" Internet and cable television news shows running day and night with commentators expressing personal opinions about political candidates could affect the outcome of the November 2 midterm elections, political experts say. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said that although critics may decry the latest trend toward ideological media, "which only reinforces people's viewpoints instead of challenging them, the proliferation of new media outlets is positive too."
28 October 2010 American Muslims Look to Exercise Their Vote in Midterm Elections Discussions over Islam’s place in America ahead of national midterm elections are prompting American Muslims to make their voices heard through voting.
28 October 2010 "Watergate" Reporter Stresses Patience, Accuracy, Fact-Gathering American investigative journalist Bob Woodward, the winner of two prestigious Pulitzer Prizes for distinguished work in journalism, met with some 150 journalists from 125 countries in an interactive session at the U.S. Department of State. The event was part of the fifth Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists, named for the award-winning and pioneering broadcast journalist.
27 October 2010 Midterm Senate Races Pose Tough Challenges for Incumbents On Election Day, only 37 U.S. senators will be chosen, but those political contests are among the most contentious in the 2010 elections. U.S. senators, who serve six-year terms, are divided into three groups for staggered elections. Approximately one-third of the seats are filled every two years.
27 October 2010 Republicans Poised for Gains in U.S. House of Representatives Republicans and Democrats are campaigning feverishly in the final days before the nationwide congressional elections November 2. Nearly all analysts predict the Republican Party will gain seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Those predictions from pollsters and politicians differ only in the extent of the shift, and whether it will be sufficient to turn the House majority from Democratic to Republican.
26 October 2010 Young U.S. Voters Ready for Election Day Young American voters registered in numbers higher than expected to cast their ballots in the November midterm elections, continuing a trend of increased political participation by young U.S. citizens. Rock the Vote, a U.S. organization seeking to engage young Americans in politics, registered nearly 300,000 youth to vote in the November elections, exceeding its registration goal by 50 percent.
26 October 2010 Small but Enthusiastic Movement Influencing Midterm Elections It is a story nearly all American students learn: In December 1773, angry with British tax and trade policies, colonists sneak aboard British ships in the Boston harbor and dump the cargoes of tea overboard. The Boston Tea Party, as it came to be called, shaped America’s independence movement. Today, a small but enthusiastic group of Americans is using this event to symbolize their frustration over U.S. economic policies and are playing an influential role in the 2010 midterm elections.
22 October 2010 On Election Day, U.S. Voters Find More than Candidates on Ballot When American voters head to the polls November 2, many are not just selecting their future leaders. They are weighing in on a variety of issues, including how their taxes are spent or what rights their state constitutions guarantee.
21 October 2010 Midterm Elections Determine Control of U.S. Congress On November 2, Americans will cast their ballots to determine who will represent them in the 112th Congress, scheduled to convene in January 2011. These elections, because they occur in even-numbered years at the halfway point of a presidential term, are known as midterm elections. This timing encourages pollsters and political pundits to view the outcomes as referendums on the policies of the current president, but that narrow interpretation can distract from their true importance.
21 October 2010 Americans Can Vote Early, Use New Technology in Midterm Elections As the U.S. midterm elections approach, Americans have more options than ever in deciding how and when to exercise their right to vote. More than 3 million people already have cast their ballots, and voting will continue in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories through November 2.
06 October 2010 Economic Recession Influences U.S. Midterm Election The results of the November 2 U.S. midterm election will likely reflect Americans’ discontent about the country’s slow economic recovery, according to political scientist Thomas Mann. Mann, a Washington-based Brookings Institution scholar and the former executive director of the American Political Science Association, says the public’s concern about President Obama’s handling of the recession should allow the opposition Republican Party to make large gains.
This video explains the process and
what it is designed to achieve.
video sets out what happens on election day. It is part of a series of
videos from the US Embassy explaining the U.S. electoral system.
picking the candidates. The transcript is here.
- This video tells you all you need to know.
Americans pick their presidential candidates through caucuses.