How American elections work Three kinds of elections: Primary elections: voters select party nominees General elections:contested between nominees of each party Elections on specific policy questions for legislation—recently become more common in some states and in European countries (EU vote, etc.) • Two ways for public to pass legislation directly: • Referendum—Whereby voters are given the opportunity to approve or disapprove some legislative act • Initiative Petition –Requires gaining signatures on a proposed law equal to 10% of the number of voters in the previous election • (24 states do this: SD, CA, OR, CO, etc.)
1800: The First Electoral Transition of Power Incumbent President John Adams (Federalists) • Challenger Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican) Issue was with the initial set up of the Electoral College First peaceful transfer of power between parties via the electoral process in history
1896: A Bitter Fight over Economic Interests • Incumbent president, (D) Grover Cleveland, was blamed for 1893 depression • William Jennings Bryan (Democrat) V. William McKinley (Republican) • 80% eligible voters turned out and voted • Democrats’ main issue: unlimited coinage of silver • William Jennings Bryan won the Democratic Party nomination with speeches about the virtues of silver • McKinley won the election and the Republicans regained majority status. • Thus the way was clear for the Progressive Movement to impose a new way of thinking and a new agenda for politics.
The U.S.presidential election of 2000 was one of the closest elections in U.S. history, decided by only several hundred votes in the swing state of Florida. On election night, the media prematurely declared a winner twice based on exit polls before finally conceding that the Florida race was too close to call. It would turn out to be a month before the election was finally certified after numerous court challenges and recounts. Republican candidate George W. Bush won Florida's 25 electoral votes by a razor-thin margin of the popular vote there, and thereby defeated Democratic candidate Al Gore. 2000: What a Mess!!
2004: The Ratification of a Polarizing Presidency • George W. Bush became the fourth Republican since McKinley to win a second term. • The intensity of the election was in part due to the controversy of the 2000 election. • The 2004 campaign was characterized by negative campaigning. • Leadership of the War on Terrorism and “moral values” proved to be key issues.
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First Choice From Government in America, 13th edition.
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’sFirst Choice • U.S. has low voter turnout • Downs: it is rational to not vote • Those who see clear differences between parties are likely to vote. • If indifferent, then one may rationally abstain from voting. • Political Efficacy: the belief that one’s political participation really matters • Civic Duty: the belief that in order to support democratic government, a citizen should always vote
Who Votes? • Based on: Education • Age • Race • Gender • Marital status • Mobility • Union membership http://www.usatoday.com/interactives/news/politics/how-the-race-was-won
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First Choice • Who Votes? • Marital Status: Married = more likely to vote • Union Membership: Union member = more likely to vote • Traits are cumulative–possessing several adds up http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/05/08/six-take-aways-from-the-census-bureaus-voting-report/
How Americans Vote: Explaining Citizens’ Decisions • Policy Voting • Basing your vote choice on issue preferences and where the candidates stand on policy issues • Policy voting may occur if : • Voters know where they and the candidates stand on issues and see differences between candidates • Unlikely to occur because: • Candidates can be ambiguous on the issues. • Media tend to focus on the “horse race” not issues. • Today candidates are forced to take a clear stand in the party primaries increasing chances for policy voting.
How Americans Vote: Explaining Citizens’ Decisions • Mandate theory of elections: The idea that the winning candidate has a mandate from the people to carry out his or her platform and politics • Party identification • How Americans see the candidates • Policy voting: When people base their choices in an election on their own issue preferences
The Last Battle: The Electoral College • Electoral college actually elects the president—founders wanted him chosen by the elite of the country • States choose the electors • Winner-Take-All system gives bigger emphasis to more populated states
The Last Battle: The Electoral College • How it works today: • Each state has as many votes as it does Representatives and Senators. • Winner of popular vote typically gets all the Electoral College votes for that state • Electors meet in December, votes are reported by the vice president in January • If no candidate gets a majority (270 votes), the House of Representatives votes for president, with each state casting one vote.
The Last Battle: The Electoral College • ABA: “archaic, undemocratic, complex, ambiguous, indirect, and dangerous” • According to Lineberry “many, but certainly not all, political scientists oppose its continued use, as do most voters” (p.314) • Founders wanted president to be elected by the nation’s elite not the people