Elections The election process is at the very heart of the democratic concept.
Extent of Federal Control
Most election law in the United States is State – not federal- law.
BUT the Constitution states that Congress has the power to fix “the Times, Places and Manners of holding Elections” of members of Congress.
Congress has set the date for holding congressional elections as the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of every even-numbered year. It has the same date every fourth year for presidential elections.
Help America Vote Act of 2002
Federal legislation that required states to:
replace lever-operated and punchcard voting machines
upgrade the way elections were handled, especially better training of local officials and poll workers.
centralize and computerize voter registration system, to identify qualified voters quicker and cut down on fraudulent voting.
provide for provisional voting, a person will still get to vote even if their eligibility is challenged so their vote will count later.
prevents election day from falling on Sundays (to maintain the principle of separation of church and state.)
prevents election day from falling on the first day of the month, which is often payday and therefore peculiarly subject to campaign pressures.
Absentee voting – a process by which they could vote without actually going to their polling places on election day.
was originally intended for the ill or disabled
Occurs when a strong candidate running for an office at the top of the ballot helps attract voters to other candidates on the party's ticket. “Rides the coattails” of the more prestigious personality.
Examples include: In 1980 and 1984 Ronald Reagan's coattails helped many Republican candidates win office.
is a voting district.
smallest geographic unit for the conduct of elections.
A polling place – the place where the voters who live in a precinct actually vote – is located somewhere in or near each precinct.
Polls are usually open from 7:00 or 8:00 am to 7:00 or 8:00 pm.
A ballot is the device by which a voter registers a choice in an election.
State law requires that ballots be cast in secret.
They use to be either by voice or just a slip of paper (sometimes colored paper). The political corruption of the post-Civil War years brought widespread demand for ballot reforms.
4 essential features:
It is printed at public expense
It lists the names of all candidates in an election
It is given out only at the polls, one to each qualified voter
It is marked in secret.
Two types: Office-Group ballot and Party-Column ballot.
aka Massasschusetts ballot or office-block ballot.
candidates for an offices are grouped together under the title of that office.
aka Indiana ballot
it lists each party's candidates in a column under the party's name.
encourages straight ticket voting.
Kind of like practice ballots. They cannot be cast but can help prepare for an election.
First used in Oregon in 1907, an official voter's pamphlet is mailed to voters before every election.
The ballots in American elections are lengthy and because of this referred to as bedsheet ballots.
Longest ballots are found at the local level.
Critics reject the notion that the more people you elect, the more democratic you are.
Many believe the rule should be: Elect those who make public policies; appoint those whose job it is to administer those policies.
Thomas Edison patented the first voting machine – the first mechanical device for the casting and counting of votes – in 1868.
Lever operated machines were used for a long time, but they were quite cumbersome.
Electronic Vote Counting
EDP – Electronic data processing techniques were first applied to the voting process in the 1960's.
EDP used Punch-card ballots. Bad though because they produced “hanging chads”.
major problem in the presidential vote count in Florida in 2000.
Vote by mail has typically been confined to local elections.
Vote by mail is integral in absentee voting.
Critics – threatens the principle of the secret ballot, worry about fraud.
Supporters – can be as fraud-proof as any other method of voting, increases voter turn-out in elections, reduces the cost of conducting them.
Casting ballots via the Internet.
Supporters – it will make participation much more convenient , increase voter turnout, and reduce the costs of conducting elections.
Critics – electronic infrastructure is not ready for e-voting, jammed phone lines, blocked access, hackers, viruses, denials of service attacks, fraudulent vote counts, and violations of voter secrecy. Not everyone can afford home computers.