When are primaries and debates? Key dates in the 2020 presidential election calendar

Alex Woodward
Voters casting their ballots in the US election last November. Despite winning the Electoral College vote, President Trump still alleges voter fraud took place: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 2020 presidential race is finally drawing closer to ballots being cast for the candidates in primary contests across the US.

As Democratic presidential candidates prepare for vital early primaries, they'll also participate in six more televised debates. The Democratic nominee will then participate in presidential debates this fall.

Republican parties in several states have cancelled their party primaries, presuming Donald Trump will be the incumbent nominee on the ballot, though he has attracted several challengers.

Here's a schedule of key election events in 2020.

14 January

Five candidates qualified for the seventh Democratic debate, which will be hosted by CNN and The Des Moines Register at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. On the stage will be Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

3 February

Bernie Sanders won the largest share of votes but was narrowly defeated by Pete Buttigieg for state delegate equivalents in the Iowa caucus, which captured the first votes cast in the Democratic primary race. After a chaotic release of the vote totals that ultimately led to the resignation of the state's Democratic party chair, there was heavy scrutiny over the results of the primary season's opening contest, leading to speculation for the candidates' futures as larger state primaries followed, and as the campaigns — and donors — strategised ahead of the election's crucial next few months.

7 February

ABC, WMUR and Apple News at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire hosted the eighth Democratic primary debate.

11 February

After winning the state in a landslide in 2016, Senator Sanders won the popular vote in the New Hampshire primary, followed by a second-place finish from Pete Buttigieg and a surprise third from Amy Klobuchar. Andrew Yang, Michael Bennett and Deval Patrick later dropped out.

19 February

NBC News, MSNBC and The Nevada Independent hosted the ninth Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.

22 February

Senator Sanders won the Nevada Democratic caucus, which offered a glimpse of candidates' success outside the East Coast in a key state with a large Latino voting population. The senator received 24 delegates to the former vice president's nine. No other candidate passed the threshold for delegate consideration.

25 February

CBS News, Twitter and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute at The Gaillard Center hosted the 10th Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

29 February

Joe Biden won nearly 49 per cent of the popular vote in South Carolina, the first southern state to enter the primary contest, serving as a test of the strength of African-American support among the Democratic candidates. The former vice president captured 39 delegates to Senator Sanders 15. Following the primary, Tom Steyer — who came in third place — dropped out of the race. Republicans cancelled their party's primary in the state, with the incumbent president as the presumed nominee.

3 March

Fifteen states across the US held primary contests on Super Tuesday, including California, which has the largest delegate count in the US, with 415 delegates pledged to the Democratic nominee, and Texas, the second-largest delegate trove, with 228 delegates pledged to the Democratic nominee. After Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar withdrew from the race and endorsed Joe Biden, his resurgent campaign won nine states, including Texas, while Bernie Sanders won California and three other states. After disappointing finishes throughout the primary, including no victories on Super Tuesday, Elizabeth Warren ended her campaign two days later. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg also dropped out and endorsed Biden.

3-10 March

US citizens living abroad cast their votes in the Democrats Abroad primary.

10 March

There are Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Washington and Michigan, which has shaped into a battleground state between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, each hoping for a decisive victory for a share of its 147 delegates, the most up for grabs. The candidates are hoping to win symbolic support from the state's diverse black and white blue-collar and working-class voters.

15 March

CNN and Univision host the 11th Democratic debate, between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, at the Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix. It airs at 8pm EST.

17 March

There are Democratic and Republican primaries in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Washington DC. There's a Democratic primary in Arizona; Republicans cancelled their primary in Arizona.

March 29

Puerto Rico holds its Democratic primary.


A date and time for the 12th Democratic primary debate are yet to be scheduled.

4 April

There are Democratic and Republican primaries in Louisiana and Wyoming. Alaska and Hawaii will host Democratic primaries, but the GOP cancelled the party's primaries in those states.

28 April

There are primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York, likely the last major delegate state in the election. There are 274 Democratic delegates the state. If there's a clear winner among primary states at this point, Democrats are likely to band around a candidate as the race moves closer to the party convention.

2 May

There are primaries in Guam and Kansas.

5 May

Indiana holds its primary election.

12 May

There are primary elections in Nebraska and West Virginia.

19 May

Kentucky and Oregon hold their primary elections.

22-25 May

The Libertarian Party hosts its annual convention in Austin, Texas. Delegates will choose their candidate for the ballot from among the party's 14 declared candidates.

2 June

There are primaries in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Washington DC.

6 June

The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico hold their primaries.

9-12 July

The Green Party holds its annual convention in Detroit, Michigan where delegates will select its candidate; formally recognised candidates include party co-founder Howie Hawkins and Dario Hunter of New Jersey.

13-16 July

Democratic delegates will convene in Milwaukee to nominate their candidate during the Democratic National Convention.

24-27 August

Republicans will hold their annual nominating convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

29 September

The University of Notre Dame hosts the first 2020 presidential debate.

7 October

Republican and Democratic nominees for vice president will debate at the University of Utah.

15 October

The second presidential debate will take place at the University of Michigan.

22 October

Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee will host the third and final presidential debate.

3 November

Election Day — voters across the US will participate in a general election to select the next president, along with other candidates that appear on local ballots.

14 December

Electoral college representatives meet in state capitols to formally cast votes.

6 January 2021

Congress enters electoral votes into the record, and the Senate president announces vote tallies.

20 January 2021

Inauguration Day — the president-elect will be formally sworn into office.