The much-anticipated 2020 presidential election is less than a year away, and although November 3 may still seem a long way off, this year’s election schedule promises to keep voters busy until then. Here are some of the other important dates you may want to mark off on your calendar. 


Presidential Debates

Beginning in September, 2020, the Democratic and Republican nominees for president and vice president are expected to face off in a series of debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates

  • September 29:
    First Presidential Debate
    Location: Notre Dame, IN
  • October 7:
    Vice Presidential Debate
    Location: Salt Lake City, UT
  • October 15:
    Second Presidential Debate
    Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • October 22:
    Third Presidential Debate
    Location: Nashville, TN

Primaries and Caucuses

Although the general election may not be until November, voters in some states will cast their votes for their party’s nominee as early as February. There are two main methods used by political parties in each state to select a candidate; most opt for a primary election, but a few states still use caucuses

Primary elections, much like general elections, give registered voters a chance to come to a polling location and cast a vote for the candidate of their choice. The specific rules of primary elections vary by state, but can generally be classified into two categories: closed primaries and open primaries. 

In a closed primary state, voters may only vote in the primary of the party with which they are registered. That means that registered Democrats can vote only in the Democratic primary and Republicans can vote only in the Republican primary. Some states permit independents to vote in the primary of their choosing, while in other states, unaffiliated voters are unable to participate in the primary process.

In states that hold open primaries, voters do not have to be registered with either party to cast a vote. Instead, they choose privately which party’s primary they wish to vote in, making it easier to vote across party lines. 

For voters in caucus states, election day looks a little different. Rather than casting their vote on a paper ballot, registered party members who choose to participate attend local meetings where they discuss the candidates and select delegates. There are only a few states still using the caucus method — most notably Iowa and Nevada — because participating in a caucus is time consuming and generally results in much lower turnout than a traditional primary election. As a result, many states have abandoned their caucuses in favor of state-run primaries. 

Whichever method a state uses, the final tally will determine how many delegates each candidate will receive. Those delegates will then go on to cast their vote at their party’s national convention. 

February 2020 Primaries

There’s a reason that presidential candidates spend a lot of time campaigning in Iowa. As the first state to hold a primary, it wields a disproportionate amount of political influence. The four states that vote in February set the tone for primary season. 

March 2020 Primaries

The first Tuesday in March is known as Super Tuesday, because there are more primaries held on this day than any other day of the election season. This year, with the addition of California’s primaries, the results of Super Tuesday will be more significant than ever. Although the nominating conventions are still months away, the candidates who come out on top on March 3 will have a meaningful head start. 

April 2020 Primaries

By the end of April, 90 percent of the delegates will be determined, and the states with the highest delegate counts will be spoken for. This means that some candidates will likely already know that they have lost. Those still in the running will vie for delegates from the remaining states, the most populous of which is New Jersey. 

May 2020 Primaries

June 2020 Primaries 

National Conventions

Once the votes are in, the delegates from each state go on to their parties’ national conventions, where they cast their votes for the candidate they are pledged to. 

In addition to each state’s chosen delegates, the Democratic National Committee also recognizes 700 “superdelegates.” These are important elected democratic officials, who are automatically sent to the convention as delegates and are not pledged to any candidate, allowing them to vote for whomever they choose. This year, the DNC has put in place a new rule preventing superdelegates from voting at the convention unless the initial vote ends in a deadlock. 

  • July 13-16:
    Democratic National Convention
    Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • August 24-27:
    Republican National Convention
    Location: Charlotte, NC

Election Day

The first Tuesday in November is the day of the general election. The last polls close at 9 p.m. pacific time. Be sure to check your local board of elections website for information on polling locations and hours. 

  • November 3:
    General Election

Declaring a Winner

In order to win the presidential race a candidate must earn at least 270 electoral votes. In December members of the electoral college meet in their states to cast their votes for President and Vice President based on their states’ results.

Those votes are certified and sent to Congress where they are counted on January 6. The winners are officially declared and then sworn into office on January 20.