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Election Day USA• Federal elections are held on the first Tuesday in November of every even numbered year• Every 4 years we vote for President
Requirements for registering to vote in Durham County: You must be a citizen of the United States. You are a person 18 years of age or older. You are a person 17 years of age who will be 18 by the date of the general election. You have been a legal resident of Durham County of North Carolina for 30 days before the election.In order to vote in an election, the voter registration form must be: Postmarked at least 25 days before the election, or Delivered to the local board of elections office no later than 5:00 PM on the 25th day before the election
Elections• Primary Elections – Purpose: to determine who will represent the party in the General election • Ex: Hillary Clinton v. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination• General Elections – Purpose: vote between the nominees of the different party • Ex: John McCain (R) v. Barack Obama (D)
Open and Closed primaries• Closed primary: – Only registered party members can vote• Open primary: – Any registered voter can vote, regardless of party
How does the National Convention work?• Delegates from state parties meet to choose a Presidential candidate• In modern times, there is little suspense as the state primaries have already made it clear who the nominee will be
Campaigning• Canvassing – Door to door or telephone contact with potential voters – Done mainly by volunteers – Purposes • Identifying supporters • ‘Get out the Vote’ • Explaining positions • Signing up new members
Campaign Financing• Where does the money come from? – Small individual contributions – Wealthy individuals and families – The candidates • Ross Perot spent $65 million of his own $$$ – Political Action Committees (PACs) – Parties • Fundraisers, internet requests, direct mail, etc.
Campaign Finance Reform• The Federal Election Commission oversees the following: – Disclosure: candidates must tell where money came from – Limits on contributions ($2100 for individual)
Problems with Finance Reform…• Special Interest Groups • No incentive for and PACs politicians to ‘fix’ the – Special interest groups system because it represent a particular benefits those already in industry or cause power – PACs are the fundraising arm of an Interest Group • The courts have held that campaign contributions• “Hard” money v. “Soft” are protected as “free money speech” – “Soft” money is money spent on issue awareness and getting out the vote – There is almost no limit on ‘soft’ money
Special Interest Group examples• Abortion – Planned Parenthood v. National Right to Life• Environment – Greenpeace v. American Land Rights Association• Gun control – NRA (National Rifle Association) v. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Lobbyists• Def: Lobbyists are employed by Special Interest Groups to influence lawmakers to vote for or against legislation – The name came from the fact that they worked in the lobbies of Congress• There are many rules that regulate what lobbyists can and cannot do• Biggest criticism: they have too much influence on lawmakers
Voters and Voting Behavior• Def: Electorate – The electorate is defined as all eligible registered voters• Def: Absentee Voting – If you will be out of your voting area on election day, you can file an absentee ballot
Why do some people choose NOT to vote?• The United States suffers from voter apathy:
The Media and Elections• Public Opinion: attitudes held by a significant number of people on matters of government and politics
How is public opinion formed?• Family – Fundamental attitudes, including religion• Schools – First ‘outside’ influence• Media – What a person sees and reads• Peers – What are the attitudes of your friends and colleagues?• Opinion Leaders – Well known people, Celebrities, etc.• History – Ex: The Great Depression, 9/11
How is public opinion measured?• Elections• Polling – Relies on a random sample of responses – How reliable are polls? • If questions worded properly, they are fairly accurate – What purpose do they serve during campaigns? • They inform the candidates of how well they are doing and what issues are most important to the voters
The Electoral College• The framers created the electoral college because they were afraid voters would be uninformed on national elections• How does it work? – Each state has a set number of electoral votes (# of Reps + # of Senators) – Whichever candidate gets the most votes in a state gets ALL of the electoral votes – You need 270 to win – If no one gets 270, the House of Representatives picks the President
Electoral College Setup• The electoral college votes decide who will be president, not the popular vote• Each state has electoral votes equal to the number of its congressional representatives• For example, a state with two Senators and three congressmen would have ﬁve electoral votes• The District of Columbia also has three electoral votes, even though it has no voting congressional representation 29
Election Process• Winner-take-all: The presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the state will get all of the electoral votes. 30
535 electoral votes for each member ofCongress + 3 electoral votes for theDistrict of Columbia = 538 31
Shortcoming of the Electoral College System• A candidate who does not win the popular vote can still be elected president. This has happened four times in American history. Winning under these circumstances usually results in an ineffective presidency. 32
The Big Question…• Do we still need the electoral college? – Many argue that with modern elections and vote counting, the person who earns a plurality of the votes should win – Candidates don’t campaign in states they don’t think they can win – What do you think?