The Purpose of Elections o Legitimize government, even in authoritarian systems. o Organize government. o Choose issue and policy priorities. o Electorate gives winners a mandate.
1) Getting the Voters Involved o Electorate: Those eligible to vote o Initiative: citizens propose legislation and then vote on it. o Referendum: state legislature submits proposed legislation to voters (aka “punting”) o Recall: Voters seek to remove an elected official. o Incumbent: an official already in office
2) Primaries and Caucuses 1.Closed Primary – registered voters of a particular party 2. Open Primary – Independents and often members of any party Non-Partisan Primary – Voting without regard to party affiliation 3. Caucus – only a few states use these- more complicated than primaries- registered party members meet and debate the merits of each candidate and then vote
Open Primary Ballot for both Republican and Democratic primaries
Democratic Party members in Iowa vote in a presidential caucus
3) Presidential Elections o Held every 4 years o Each major party nominates a candidate o Winner is determined by the Electoral College
THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES o Winner Take All o Proportional o Caucus o Front Loading by States o National Convention: Out of Power Party goes first. o Labor Day is the traditional “kick-off” but that has changed in recent years
Campaigning in primaries
Presidential Campaign Debate between Republican challenger Romney and Democratic President Obama in 2012
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE o 538= 435 plus 100 plus 3 o Originally designed to operate without political parties and to produce a non-partisan president o Red is GOP and Blue is Democratic o Largest is California (55); then Texas (38); then New York and Florida (29)…. o Average district size is now going to be over 570K
o A candidate only needs a plurality of the votes in the state to carry the state and get all its electoral votes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUilsDiFdIg
o In three elections (1876, 1888, and 2000) the candidate which won the popular vote lost the Electoral College and therefore lost the election
o In presidential election years a popular candidate or present can have coattails meaning that his popularity will help get Congressional members of his own party elected that year.
4) CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS Incumbents have a huge advantage: Mass mailings Well known Constituent Services Large War Chests **OTHER KEY TERMS TO REMEMBER** 1.Redistricting 2.Gerrymandering 3.Midterm Elections (low turn out) 4. Coattails in a Presidential Election
o Candidates only need a plurality to win a district (SMD system) o Senators are elected every 6 years on a rotating basis o Representatives are elected every 2 years
Drawing District Boundaries o Malapportionment: districts have very different populations, so the votes in the less-populated district “weigh more” than those in the more-populated district o Gerrymandering: boundaries are drawn to favor one party rather than another, resulting in odd-shaped districts www.redistrictinggame.com
Gerrymandered district in Illinois
The effects of gerrymandering in Ohio Congressional elections
5) Campaign Finance Reform o Hard money- money which is regulated and given directly to candidates o Soft money- any money given to help a party or candidate, not directly, and originally completely unregulated
Table 10.2: Sources of Campaign Funds: All House and Senate Candidates in 2001-2002, by Party (in Millions)
Figure 10.1: The Cost of Winning Updated from Federal Election Commission report, May 15, 2001.
Figure 10.2: Growth of PACs Federal Election Commission.
1974 Campaign Finance Reform o 1972: Watergate and illegal donations from corporation, unions, and individuals catalyzed change o Brought about the 1974 federal campaign reform law and Federal Election Commission (FEC)
Raising Money (Old System) o Individuals can give $2,000; PACs can give $5,000 in each election to each candidate o Candidates must raise $5,000 in twenty states in individual contributions of $250 or less to qualify for federal matching grants to pay for primary campaigns
Problems with Campaign Financing o Independent expenditures: an organization or PAC can spend as much as it wishes on advertising, so long as it is not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign o Soft money: unlimited amounts of money may be given to a political party, so long as it does not specifically advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate.
Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act: McCain-Feingold Bill 2002 Sharply restricted independent expenditures ◦Corporations, unions, trade associations, nonprofit organizations cannot use their own money for an advertisement referring to a candidate by name 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election