american government 10th edition by theodore j lowi benjamin ginsberg and kenneth a shepsle l.
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AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, 10th edition by Theodore J. Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle. Chapter 10: Elections. The Paradox of Voting in America. Americans believe voting is important. They see it as: a civic duty key to maintaining popular control of government

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american government 10th edition by theodore j lowi benjamin ginsberg and kenneth a shepsle

AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, 10th editionby Theodore J. Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle

Chapter 10: Elections

the paradox of voting in america
The Paradox of Voting in America

Americans believe voting is important.

They see it as:

  • a civic duty
  • key to maintaining popular control of government
  • the very essence of democracy
slide3
At the same time, Americans tend not to vote and voter turnout is low by historical standards.
  • Between 70 and 75 percent of the voting-age population is registered to vote.
  • About 50 percent vote in presidential elections.
slide8
The costs of voting in America are also high because of the frequency of American elections.
  • Two-year election cycles are nearly half the length of election cycles of similar democracies.
  • Americans’ rare use of primary elections doubles the frequency with which Americans are asked to vote.
slide9
Finally, in other countries, political parties play important roles in mobilizing voters and thus decrease the costs of voter turnout.

Whereas in the 19th century American parties performed this mobilization role, the decline of American party organizations in the 20th century made American parties ill-equipped to perform it.

slide10
While the costs of voting are high in America, many potential voters perceive the benefits of voting to be low.

Americans often believe that:

  • one vote cannot make a difference
  • it does not matter which party controls the government
slide11
Turnout is the highest for presidential elections, which are held every four years, when about 50 percent of the voting age population votes.
slide12
Midterm elections for congressional and gubernatorial elections are held in the even-numbered years that do not coincide with presidential elections.

Without the presidency at stake, voter participation tends to be lower. About 33 percent of the voting age population votes in midterm elections.

slide13
Primary Elections are elections used by political parties to select their candidates for general elections; these can be either open or closed.

Even fewer vote in off-year, special, and primary elections.

slide14
Open primaries are those in which the voter can wait until the day of the primary to choose which party to enroll in.

Closed primaries are those in which voters must choose which party to enroll in prior to the day of the primary.

california s primary
California’s Primary
  • Closed Primary SystemA "closed" primary system governed California's primary elections until 1996. In a closed primary, only persons who are registered members of a political party may vote the ballot of that political party.
  • Open Primary SystemThe provisions of the "closed" primary system were amended by the adoption of Proposition 198, an initiative statute approved by the voters at the March 26, 1996 primary election. Proposition 198 changed the closed primary system to what is known as a "blanket" or "open" primary, in which all registered voters may vote for any candidate, regardless of political affiliation and without a declaration of political faith or allegiance.
  • On June 26, 2000, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in California Democratic Party, et. al. v. Jones, stating that California's "open" primary system, established by Proposition 198, was unconstitutional because it violated a political party's First Amendment right of association. Therefore, the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 198.
  • Modified Closed Primary SystemCalifornia currently has a "modified" closed primary system. SB 28 (Ch. 898, Stats. 2000), relating to primary elections, was chaptered on September 29, 2000 and took effect on January 1, 2001. SB 28 implemented a "modified" closed primary system that permits unaffiliated ("decline to state") voters to participate in a primary election if authorized by an individual party's rules and duly noticed by the Secretary of State.(Ch. 898, Stats. 2000)
slide16
There are structural features of the American electoral system that undermine the impact of individual votes.
  • America’s single-member plurality (SMP) electoral system tends to dilute the impact of individual votes in specific geographic areas, particularly when compared to proportional representation (PR) electoral systems.
  • The electoral college system of selecting the president also decreases the potential impact of individual votes on electoral outcomes.
slide17
Some electoral systems are proportional representation systems in which multiple seats are awarded for a particular geographic area, and each party receives a percentage of those seats proportional to the percentage of votes it received.
slide18
Majority and plurality electoral systems tend to reduce the number of parties in a political system.

Proportional representation electoral systems tend to increase the number of competitive political parties.

slide19
Majority and plurality electoral systems tend to accentuate the importance of geographic district boundaries.

Redistricting refers to the process of drawing election districts.

When redistricting is viewed as an unfair process designed to give an unfair advantage to a particular group, candidate, or party, it is often called gerrymandering.

slide20
Although television and other forms of media have made candidate characteristics and issue appeals more salient in voter decision-making, for many voters partisanship remains preeminent.
slide21

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGcU5U2xUPE (ad)

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QazmVHAO0os (debate clip)
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXEkz6ksxdk (JFK Elephant clip)
money and politics
Money and Politics

As contemporary election campaigns have come to depend more on media, polls, and other “capital intensive” means of reaching voters, candidates and their campaigns increasingly rely on donors.

slide25
Individual donors contribute largely based on issues and ideology, whereas professional givers like political action committees often donate money to campaigns to advance their cause and gain access to political officeholders.
slide27
In recent years, campaign finance reforms have sought to reduce the impact of money and fundraising on political campaigns.

For example, the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) sought to reduce the amount of soft-money contributions to political parties.

slide28
Still, critics charge that BCRA led to an increase in the influence of independent 527 committees, which funnel large amounts of money into elections through issue advocacy ads but are less accountable than political parties.
the benefits of elections to elites
The Benefits of Elections to Elites

Democracies derive legitimacy from popular consent. Having been elected by the public, political elites work to translate the public support conferred upon them into a tool of governance.

slide30
Individual politicians claim mandates for governmental actions based on electoral outcomes.
  • When they win, politicians claim that their victories amounted to a referendum for a certain set of policies.
  • The larger the margin of victory, the more plausible the claim that voters conferred a “mandate.”
slide31
Claims of “mandates” are often dubious:
  • People tend to vote for or against politicians for a variety of reasons, including policy, party, and personality.
  • There is good evidence that voters vote retrospectively; that is, they vote to reward or punish the incumbent party rather than confer a mandate on an opposition candidate.
slide32
Elections are the most direct, equal, and authoritative means of gaining popular control over politicians.
  • Failing to vote in elections surrenders the control of politicians (our agents) to those who do, in fact, turn out.