US election 2016: How do you become president?

  • 1 November 2016
The White House
Image caption The White House in Washington DC is the official home and workplace of the President of the United States. But who will be living there next?

The road to becoming president is a very long one.

It takes years of hard work and political campaigning, and a lot of money is needed to do this.

But if you wanted to become president, what would you have to do? And what's in store when you finally get the job?

Who can be president?

It doesn't matter if you are a man or woman, or what race or religion you are. However, there are certain things that you have to be or have done in order to be in line for the job. These are:

  • Be a natural-born US citizen
  • Be at least 35 years old
  • Have lived in the US for 14 years

Normally, a person wanting to be president would have worked in politics before, but this doesn't have to be the case.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Before becoming president, Barack Obama served in the Illinois state senate from 1996 to 2004, before being elected to the US Senate in 2004

For example, Hillary Clinton used to be the US secretary of state, which is a job in the government. Her supporters say this makes her better qualified for the job of president.

Donald Trump is better known for being a successful businessman. His supporters think that it is time that somebody who wasn't a politician was given the job.

How do you become president?

The American people decide who will be their president by voting.

However, if you want to be president, you have a lot of people to convince before you can get the job.

Once you have announced you want to be president, first of all you need to persuade your party to let you represent them. The Democrats and Republicans can only choose one person to enter the competition to be president for them.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Hillary Clinton had to convince members of the Democratic party to let her represent them in this year's presidential election

You would do this through a series of votes called primaries and caucuses, which take place across the country in the first half of the election year.

At these, you need to win the support of people called delegates, who are people in your political party who have the power to vote for you to be a presidential candidate.

After the primaries and caucuses comes a big meeting called the party convention. At this, the delegates vote for who they like and both parties officially announce who they have chosen to represent them in the election. If you win this, you're halfway there!

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The Republican party chose Donald Trump to be their presidential candidate

After this, you would choose a running mate to stand by your side, who will be your vice-president if you win the election.

Then, you have to convince the people of America to vote for you!

This take weeks of hard campaigning, spending a fortune on advertising, travelling for many hours, giving many speeches and working extremely hard all over the country.

Image copyright AP
Image caption When you travel around the country to convince the people of America to vote for you, you need to have the support of other people. Michelle Obama has been campaigning on behalf of Hillary Clinton

Once you've done this, you need to hope that they vote for you in the election! If you win this vote, then you will finally become president and officially start the job on 20 January the following year.

What does the US president actually do?

Given that the US president is perhaps the most powerful person on the planet, it is far from an easy job. The president is in charge of the most powerful country in the world.

He or she suggests laws and how much money the country should spend. He is automatically made commander-in-chief of the US army and generally responsible for how the US deals with other countries. He also oversees the national US government.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The president works alongside a part of the government called Congress, which you will find in this building called the Capitol, and the Supreme Court to run the country

The president also chooses the judges who will work in the Supreme Court. Although, the Senate has to agree to these.

Everything you do and say as president is very carefully watched. There will be many people that will agree with you, but many that don't - so the president must be ready to receive a lot of criticism throughout their time in the job.

It's certainly not easy!

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