You may have heard adults that you know talk about voting and what candidates they support. Voting is one of the most important rights Americans have. There are many places in the world where people do not have the right to vote. By voting, people can make sure that their opinion is shared with community leaders. If you are a citizen of the United States and eighteen or older, you have the right to vote in local, state and national elections. Voting may not be new to you, though — if you have helped to choose officers for a club or school government, you have already exercised your right to vote!
Each of us (when we're old enough) has one and only one vote. Voting is one of the few times when all grown-ups in the U.S. have an equal say. No matter how much money you have or who your friends are, you only get one vote.
One of the most important events in American government and politics is the election of the president. This event is held every four years and is often compared to a race. We say that someone is “running for office” and that the “presidential race” is on. People who are trying to be elected to a particular official job are called “candidates.” Almost any citizen who wants to be president can announce that they are a candidate. Usually, serious candidates for president are people with a lot of experience in government and he or she may have served as a senator, congress person or governor of a state.
Candidates usually belong to one political party whose members have similar ideas about government. The United States has two main political parties: the Democratic party and the Republican party. There are some smaller parties, too. This allows for more than two candidates to run for president.