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GOVT. CHAPTER 9 CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS. Learning Objectives. HOW WE ELECT CANDIDATES. Types of Elections. The general election is a regularly scheduled election held in even-numbered years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

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GOVT

CHAPTER 9

CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS




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Types of Elections

  • The general election is a regularly scheduled election held in even-numbered years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

  • A special election is held at the state or local level when voters must decide an issue before the next general election or when vacancies occur by reason of death or resignation.


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Types of Ballots

  • Since 1888, all states have used the Australian ballot – a secret ballot that is prepared, distributed, and counted by government officials at public expense.

    • Most states use the party-column ballot which lists all of a party’s candidates in a single column under the party label.

    • Other states use the office-block ballot, which lists together all of the candidates for each office.


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Conducting Elections & Counting Votes

  • All local government units, such as cities, are divided into smaller voting districts, or precincts.

  • An election board supervises the polling place and the voting process in each precinct.

  • Representatives from each party, called poll watchers, are allowed into each polling place to make sure that the election is being run fairly and to avoid fraud.


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Presidential Elections and the Electoral College

  • When citizens vote for president and vice president, they are voting for electors who will cast their ballot in the electoral college.

  • The electors are selected during each presidential election year by the states’ political parties.

  • Each state has as many electoral votes as it has U.S. senators and representatives. There are three electors from the District of Columbia.

  • The candidate who receives the largest popular vote in a state is credited with all of that state’s electoral votes (a winner-take-all system).


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The Electoral College, cont.

  • In December, after the general election, electors meet in their state capitals to cast their votes for president and vice president.

  • A candidate must receive more than half of the 538 electoral votes available. Thus, a candidate needs 270 votes to win.


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The Electoral College, cont.

  • If no presidential candidate gets an electoral college majority (which has happened twice – in 1800 and 1824), then the House of Representatives votes, with each state delegation casting only a single vote.

  • If no candidate for vice president gets a majority of electoral votes, the vice president is chosen by the Senate, with each senator casting one vote.



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Party Control Over Nominations

  • Beginning in 1800, members of Congress who belonged to the two parties held caucuses to nominate candidates for president and vice president.

  • The caucus system collapsed in 1824; it was widely seen as undemocratic.


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The Party Nominating Convention

  • In 1832, both parties settled on a new method of choosing candidates for president and vice president - the national nominating convention.

  • Those who attended the convention were called delegates, and they were chosen to represent the people of a particular geographic area.

  • Delegates were typically appointed by local party officials, who gained their positions in ways that were less than democratic.

  • Corruption in nominating conventions led reformers to call for a new way to choose candidates – the primary election.


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Primary Elections

  • An election in which voters go to the polls to decide among candidates who seek the nomination of their party.

  • In a direct primary, voters cast their ballots directly for candidates.

  • In an indirect primary, voters choose delegates, who in turn choose the candidates.

  • The major parties use indirect primaries to elect delegates to the national nominating conventions that choose candidates for president and vice- president.


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Open & Closed Primaries

  • Closed primary – only party members can vote to choose that party’s candidates, and they may only vote in the primary of their own party.

  • Open primary – voters can vote for a party’s candidates regardless of whether they belong to that party.



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Presidential Primaries

  • Most of the states hold presidential primaries, beginning early in the election year.

  • In some states, delegates are chosen through a caucus/convention system; other states use a combination of primaries and caucuses.

  • Iowa is an early caucus state, while New Hampshire traditionally holds the first primary.


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Primaries & The Rush to be First

  • In 1988, a group of southern states created a “Super Tuesday” by holding their primaries on the same day in early March.

  • The practice of “front-loading” primaries has gained momentum over the last decade.

  • The rush to be first was particularly notable in the year or so preceding the 2008 presidential primaries.

  • By 2007, about half the states had moved their primaries to earlier dates. Many states opted for February 5th, or “Super-Super Tuesday” – as the date for their primaries.


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Caucuses

  • An alternative to the primary system, the caucus is a party convention held at the local level that elects delegates to conventions at the county or congressional district level.

  • These mid-level conventions then choose the delegates to the state convention, which finally elects the delegates to the national party convention.

  • Twelve states choose national convention delegates through caucuses; four states use caucuses to allocate some of the national convention delegates and use primaries to allocate the rest.


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National Party Conventions

  • National conventions, held in late summer, are unique in Western democracies.

  • Delegates adopt the party’s platform and nominate the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

  • At one time, the conventions were often giant free-for-alls. As more states opted to hold presidential primaries, however, the drama of national conventions diminished.

  • Today, convention activities are highly staged events.



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Responsibilities of the Campaign Staff

  • Raise funds

  • Get media coverage

  • Produce and pay for political ads

  • Schedule the candidate’s time effectively with constituent groups and potential supporters

  • Convey the candidate’s position on the issues

  • Conduct research on the opposing candidates

  • Get the voters to go to the polls


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The Professional Campaign Organization

  • With the rise of candidate-centered campaigns, the role of the political party in managing campaigns has declined.

  • Professional political consultants now manage nearly all aspects of a presidential candidate’s campaign.

  • Political consultants generally specialize in a particular area of the campaign, such as researching the opposition, conducting polls, or developing advertising.


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The Professional Campaign Organization, cont.

  • At least half of the budget for a major political campaign is consumed by television advertising. Media consultants are pivotal members of the campaign staff.

  • In recent years, the Internet has become a political playing field that is in some ways more important than any other.

  • Internet fundraising grew out of an earlier technique, the direct mail campaign. Now, email messages can be sent at almost zero cost.


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Fund-raising on the Internet

  • Internet fund-raising grew out of an earlier technique, the direct mail campaign.

  • The cost of direct mailing, though, is well over a dollar, whereas the cost of each email message is essentially zero.

  • In the 2004 presidential campaign, Howard Dean focused on collecting donations over the Internet.

  • His campaign had raised about $50 million by the time he ceded the nomination to John Kerry.


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Fund-raising on the Internet, cont.

  • Barack Obama took Internet fundraising to a new level during his 2008 presidential campaign.

  • The Obama campaign recruited as many supporters as possible to act as fundraisers, soliciting contributions from friends and neighbors.

  • In August 2008, the Obama campaign set a record, raising $66 million, the most ever raised in one month by a presidential campaign.

  • Most of the 2.5 million people who donated to Obama’s campaign had been contacted through the Internet.


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Targeting Supporters

  • In 2004, President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, pioneered a technique known as microtargeting, which involved collecting as much information as possible about voters in a giant database and then filtering out various groups for special attention.

  • This technique is entirely Web-based and uses information about people’s online behavior to tailor the advertisements that they see.

  • This technique raises privacy concerns, and both Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have held hearings on the practice.


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Support for Local Organizing

  • As with fund-raising, Obama took Web-based organizing to a new level – his campaign used existing sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

  • On YouTube, Obama’s videos were viewed 50 million times, compared with McCain’s 4 million.

  • Obama’s own Web site, My.BarackObama.com, eventually racked up over a million members.



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The Federal Election Campaign Act

  • The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) was passed by Congress in 1971 in an effort to halt and prevent abuses in the ways that political campaigns were financed.

  • The act restricted the amount that could be spent on mass media advertising, including TV.

  • The act also limited the amount that candidates and their families could contribute to their own campaigns and required disclosure of all contributions and expenditures of more than $100.


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FECA Amendments in 1974

  • Amendments that were passed in 1974 did the following:

    • Created the Federal Election Commission (FEC)

    • Provided public financing for presidential primaries and general elections

    • Limited presidential campaign spending

    • Required disclosure of contributors and how funds were spent

    • Limited contributions by individuals and groups


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Buckley v. Valeo

  • In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a provision of the 1971 act that limited the amount that each individual could spend on his or her own campaign.

  • The Court held that this is protected by the First Amendment – “a candidate … has a First Amendment right to engage in the discussion of public issues and vigorously and tirelessly to advocate his own election.”


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The Rise of PACs

  • The FECA allows corporations, labor unions, and special interest groups to set up national political action committees (PACs) to raise money for candidates.

  • PACs can contribute up to $5000 per candidate in each election, but there is no limit on the amount of PAC contributions during an election cycle.


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Skirting the Campaign-Finance Rules

  • Contributions to political parties were called soft money –one of the loopholes in the federal laws.

  • The FECA and its amendments did not prohibit individuals or corporations from making contributions to political parties.

  • Contributors could make donations to the national parties to cover the costs of party activities such as registering voters, printing brochures, advertising, and holding fund-raising events.

  • Soft dollars became the main source of campaign money in the 2000 presidential race.


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Skirting the Campaign-Finance Rules, cont.

  • Another loophole in the federal laws was that they did not prohibit corporations, labor unions, or special interest groups from making independent expenditures – expenditures for activities that are not coordinated with those of a candidate or political party.

  • These groups could wage their own “issue” campaigns, as long as they did not say to vote for a particular candidate.


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The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002

  • The new law banned the contributions to national political parties known as soft money.

  • It also regulated campaign ads paid for by interest groups and prohibited any issue advocacy commercials within thirty days of a primary election or sixty days of a general election.

  • The 2002 act set the amount that an individual can contribute to a federal candidate at $2,000 and the amount that an individual can give to all federal candidates at $95,000 over a two-year election cycle.

  • Individual contributions to state and local parties cannot exceed $10,000 per year, per individual.


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Constitutional Challenges to the 2002 Law

  • In December 2003, the Supreme Court upheld nearly all clauses of the act in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.

  • In 2007, however, the Court held that restricting all TV ads paid for by corporate or union treasuries during a particular timeframe amounted to censorship of political speech.


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Independent Expenditures After 2002

  • A major attempt to exploit loopholes in the 2002 act was the establishment of 527 independent committees.

  • During the 2004 election cycles, 527 committees spent about $612 million to “advocate positions.”

  • By 2008, 527 committees began to decline in relative importance due to the creation of the 501(c)4 organizations.

    • A 501(c)4 could, according to some lawyers, make limited contributions directly to campaigns and could conceal the identity of its donors.

    • A ruling on the legality of this technique has yet to be issued.



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The 2000 Presidential Elections

  • In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by 540,000 votes – but on election night, the outcome in Florida was deemed “too close to call.”

  • There was a great deal of controversy over the types of ballots used, and some of the counties in Florida began to recount ballots by hand.

  • The issue that ultimately came before the US Supreme Court was whether manual recounts of some ballots and not others violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Here, Florida officials attempted to see if the “chads” in the voting punch cards had been clearly punched or not.


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The 2004 Presidential Elections

  • The 2004 presidential election was another close race, with President Bush defeating Democratic challenger John Kerry by just 35 electors.

  • In contrast to the situation in 2000, though, Bush won the popular vote in 2004 by a 2.5 percentage point margin.

  • The elections were decided by the closely contested vote in Ohio, which had early on been viewed as a battleground state– a state where voters were not clearly leaning toward either major candidate leading up to the elections.


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The 2008 Presidential Elections

  • At times during the campaign, the presidential contest appeared to be close – but the financial panic that struck on September 15 tipped the elections decisively in Obama’s favor.

  • Obama’s popular vote margin over John McCain was about 7.2 percentage points, nearly a 10 point swing to the Democrats from the elections of 2004.

  • With approximately 52.9% of the popular vote, Obama was the first Democrat to win an absolute majority (over 50%) of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter did so in 1976.

  • While the results of the 2008 election did not constitute a landslide, if the voters in 2012 believe that Obama’s presidency has been a success, he may win a true landslide that year, as Reagan did in 1984.


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POLITICS ON THE WEB

  • www.commoncause.org

  • www.fec.gov

  • www.opensecrets.org

  • moneyline.cq.com/pml/home.do

  • www.vote-smart.org

  • www.4ltrpress.cengage.com/govt


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