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The Federal Election Process

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Presentation on theme: "The Federal Election Process"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Federal Election Process
or, how we elect our president…and why it works that way…. FYI: Q: Do all secretaries of state handle elections?   A: No, although the majority of secretaries of state (39) do have election responsibilities. AZ’s secretary of state does.

2 The Democratic and the Republican
Americans regularly exercise their democratic rights by voting in elections and by participating in political parties and election campaigns. Today, there are two major political parties in the United States; The Democratic and the Republican The Democratic Party evolved from the party of Thomas Jefferson, formed before 1800. The Republican Party was established in the 1850s by Abraham Lincoln and others who opposed the expansion of slavery into new states then being admitted to the Union. Minor political parties -- generally referred to as "third parties" -- occasionally form in the United States, but their candidates are rarely elected to office. Minor parties often serve, however, to call attention to an issue that is of concern to voters, but has been neglected in the political dialogue. When this happens, one or both of the major parties may address the matter, and the third party disappears.

3 The Process… At the national level, elections are held every two years, in even-numbered years, on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. State and local elections often coincide with national elections, but they also are held in other years and can take place at other times of year. The nominating process within the political parties officially begins with the first state primaries and caucuses, which usually occur in the month of February of the election year. These primaries and caucuses choose slates of delegates (usually pledged to support particular candidates) to represent the state at the national party conventions.

4 The Process continues…
At the national party conventions, traditionally held in the summer, the delegates from the states cast votes to select the party's candidate for president. On election day -- the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of an election year -- every citizen of legal age who has taken the steps necessary in his or her state to meet the voting requirements (such as registering to vote) has an opportunity to vote. However, the president is not formally chosen by direct popular vote. The constitution calls for a process of indirect popular election known as the electoral college.

5 How the Electoral College numbers can change…
The distribution of electoral votes among the States can vary every 10 years depending on the results of the United States Census. Every state has at least 3 electoral votes, because the Constitution grants each State two Senators and at least one Representative. In addition to the 535 electoral votes divided among the States, the District of Columbia has three electoral votes because the 23rd Amendment granted it the same number of votes as the least populated State.

6 Red and Blue states…it means?
The (contiguous 48) states of the country are colored red or blue to indicate whether a majority of their voters voted for the Republican candidate (George W. Bush) or the Democratic candidate (John F. Kerry) respectively. The map gives the superficial impression that the "red states" dominate the country, since they cover far more area than the blue ones. However, as pointed out by many others, this is misleading because it fails to take into account the fact that most of the red states have small populations, whereas most of the blue states have large ones. The blue may be small in area, but they are large in terms of numbers of people, which is what matters in an election.

7 Presidential election results map
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Cheney, Blue denotes those won by Kerry/Edwards. Numbers indicate electoral votes allotted to a state.

8 Electoral College…antiquated, or not?
The political parties (or independent candidates) in each state submit to the chief election official a list of electors pledged to their candidate for president and equal in number to the state's electoral vote. Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. senators (always 2) plus the number of its U.S. representatives (based on population…larger states =more electoral votes). Following election day, on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, these electors assemble in their state capitals, cast their ballots, and officially select the next president. As a rule, whichever presidential ticket gets the most popular votes in a state wins all of that state's electors (except in Maine and Nebraska). The president-elect and vice president-elect take the oath of office and are inaugurated on January 20th.

9 Electoral Votes…needed for Presidential Election
The Electoral College consists of 538 electors (one for each of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators; and 3 for the District of Columbia by virtue of the 23rd Amendment. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President and Vice President. No Constitutional provision or Federal law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their State. If no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives elects the President from the 3 Presidential candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each State delegation has one vote. The Senate would elect the Vice President from the 2 Vice Presidential candidates with the most electoral votes. Each Senator would cast one vote for Vice President. If the House of Representatives fails to elect a President by Inauguration Day, the Vice-President Elect serves as acting President until the deadlock is resolved in the House.

10 Why do we still have the Electoral College?
The Electoral College process is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution. It would be necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment to change this system. Note that the 12th Amendment, the expansion of voting rights, and the use of the popular vote in the States as the vehicle for selecting electors has substantially changed the process. Many different proposals to alter the Presidential election process have been offered over the years, such as direct nation-wide election by the People, but none have been passed by Congress and sent to the States for ratification. Under the most common method for amending the Constitution, an amendment must be proposed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the States.

11 References

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