Election Terms and Dates to Teach to Your Children

After months of being immersed in political banter, Americans will head to their polling places this month to cast their votes in the next presidential election, and while we’ll finally be freed from political advertisements, the election process itself will have only just begun.

Especially for children, the process of selecting our country’s next leader can be quite confusing.

“What’s the Electoral College, and why does it exist?”

“I thought that voters chose the president of the United States.”

“What do you mean we won’t know who won the election until January?”

Perhaps these are questions or comments you’ve heard from your own children. They serve as excellent reminders of why it’s important to discuss the election process with them and how taking the time to do so during an election year can get them engaged in understanding the process. As you prepare to head to the polls this year, take a moment to brush up on important terms, dates, and resources you can use to teach your children the basics of how presidential elections work.


The Popular Vote is awarded to the candidate who receives the most individual votes on Election Day. Within each state, the popular vote determines which electors represent that state in the Electoral College.

Electors are the individuals who make up the Electoral College. They are selected by the individual political parties within each state during the spring and summer months of an election year. Generally, electors are dependable party members who can be counted on to vote for the party’s nominee for president if their party wins the popular vote on Election Day. However, they are not required to vote for their party’s nominee.

The Electoral College is a group of citizens who cast the final votes for President and Vice President of the United States. The group consists of 538 members – one for each U.S. senator and representative, and three for the District of Columbia. Members of the Electoral College are determined by the popular vote in each state on Election Day.

Absolute majority can be simply defined as more than half of the total possible votes. To officially win an election, a presidential or vice presidential candidate must receive an absolute majority (at least 270) of the Electoral College’s votes.


Election Day – November 3, 2020
Held on the first Tuesday after a Monday in November, Election Day is the day our citizens head to the polls to select the electors that represent their state in the Electoral College.

Meeting of the Electors – December 14, 2020
At this meeting, held on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, electors gather in the states they represent to cast their votes for president and vice president of the United States.

Counting of the Electoral Ballots – January 6, 2021
On this day, three days after being sworn into office, the newly elected 117th Congress will meet to count the electoral votes. This meeting always takes place on January 6, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case the counting takes place the following day.

Inauguration Day – January 20, 2021
This is the day the president-elect and vice president-elect are officially sworn into office. This ceremony takes place for each new presidential term, even if the president is continuing in office for a second term. The presidential inauguration always takes place on January 20, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case the inauguration takes place the following day.

If you need a little extra help explaining the process to your younger children, check out Ben’s Guide to the election process or the catchy Schoolhouse Rock video that explains how the Electoral College works.

National Conference of State Legislatures
The Washington Post

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