Parties and Elections in America: The Electoral Process

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Although there are a variety of minor political parties, there are two major ones — the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Democrats and Republicans nominate most of the candidates who run for public office in the United States. In most elections, each major party selects a candidate and supports him or her with money, advice, and publicity. Political campaigns increasingly use direct-mail fliers and television advertisements to present the candidates'positions to the electorate.

Electoral Process in the United States

In other words, campaigns let the electorate know how the candidates "stand on the issues. Qualifications Necessary to Run for Office. Although they need not belong to a political party, candidates must meet certain minimum requirements to run for various offices. For example, according to the U. Constitution, to serve in the U. House of Representatives a candidate must have been a U. To serve in the U. Senate, a candidate must have been a U.

To become president of the United States, a candidate must have lived in the country for at least 14 years, be a natural-born U. If these requirements are not met, a person cannot legally serve, even if elected. A variety of nominating procedures are used to select candidates in the United States. Usually, any person who wants to run for an elective office must show that he or she has a minimum amount of public support.

A potential candidate might have to collect a minimum number of signatures of registered voters to qualify to appear on the ballot. Or a candidate might be nominated by a party caucus, which is an organized group of citizens that represents their party and have the authority to select its candidates. In the case of presidential nominations, states send representatives called delegates to each party's presidential convention. At the convention, the delegates agree on a final candidate and publicly demonstrate their support for that candidate.

If more than one candidate from a single political party runs for the same office, it may be necessary to hold a primary election , which usually takes place several months before a general election. In a primary election, candidates from the same party run against one another to determine which of them will represent the party in the general election.

In a closed primary voters may only cast votes for candidates within their own party. In an open primary voters may cast votes for candidates in any party. Some states and local governments may hold a blanket primary , where party affiliations do not appear on the ballot by the candidates'names. This nonpartisan system is commonly used when electing judges. States require voters to be U. Traditionally voters also had to be at least 21 years old. This was based on an old Anglo-Saxon law that considered people adult at The 26th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified approved by the states in , officially lowered the voting age to 18 for all elections, state and federal.

States also require various periods of residency before voting is permitted. Until the 's, some states required citizens to prove that they could read and write before voting. If an examiner decided a citizen could not read well enough, that citizen was denied the right to vote. In southern states, examiners used these literacy tests unfairly to deny most black people the right to vote. In , Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which suspended the use of most literacy tests, and several years later the tests were banned permanently. According to the 26th Amendment to the U.

The only major exceptions are convicted criminals and the mentally incompetent. But before a citizen can vote, he or she must register, or sign up, with the proper authorities except in North Dakota. In many states registration takes place through the mail, usually on forms available from the local registrar of voters. In some other states, the person wishing to register must locate the proper public official and appear in person at the proper government office. Registration laws vary from state to state.

Typically the registration closing date, or deadline, is several weeks before an election day. In some states, citizens can register on the day of the election. If a citizen fails to register prior to the closing date, he or she will not be allowed to vote. Some states may require re-registration if a citizen fails to vote in every election, misses or certain number of elections, or changes address. Each state, county, city, or ward is divided into voting districts called precints.

Citizens register to vote in the precint where they live. Elections for the members of the U. House of Representatives are conducted among candidates who live in a particular congressional district , which may include any number of precints. According to Article I, Section 2 of the U. Constitution, the number of congressional districts each state may have is determined by its population. A national census is taken every ten years to determine state populations. A congressional district may cover a large or small territory, but each district within a state contains approximately the same number of citizens.

On election day registered voters go to the polls to vote. This means they appear in person at the official polling place in their precint. Public schools are often used for this purpose.

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The polls are open from early in the morning until late in the evening. Members of the armed forces and civilians who are away from home may vote by absentee ballot and need not appear in person. At the polling place, the voter identifies himself or herself and is checked off an official list of registered voters. Then the voter is led to a voting machine or handed a paper ballot, which lists the names of all the candidates from every party.

Today most states use voting machines instead of paper ballots.

Parties and Elections

Voting machines are either mechanical or computerized devices that keep count of the votes for each candidate. The voter makes his or her selections in a private voting booth. Then either the voting machine automatically records the vote, or the paper ballot which is folded or otherwise concealed from public view is deposited in a ballot box.

After all the votes in a precint have been counted, a public official certifies the results and the winners for that precinct are declared. In state and national elections, each state's secretary of state, who is the official administrator of the state's election laws, must be notified of the results.

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Other Types of Elections. Usually, if a candidate receives a majority of the votes, he or she is declared the winner. However, in a race where there may be three or more strong candidates, it is possible that no one will receive a majority of votes.

Electoral Process in the United States | Scholastic

In such a situation, a runoff election may be held several weeks later. Its votes are sealed and sent to the U. When the Congress meets in January, the current vice president of the United States unseals the envelope and announces the results to the Senate.

This is the official moment at which the president and vice president are really elected. Sample some of the following activities to learn more about the electoral process. The following are places to go some real and some virtual to find out about the electoral process. P re K Education. Canvas Logins Find an Institution. Resources and services for Utah Higher Education faculty and students such as Canvas and collegEmedia. Services and resources for learners of all ages.


Our goal is to educate, engage, and enrich the lives of Utah residents through broadcast programs and services. Contacts E-mail More Distance Education. United States Electoral Process An election is the process by which citizens select the thousands of men and women they want to run their government--at all levels.

Democratic Party Visit Democratic headquarters and find out about their candidates, their voter outreach, and the latest Democratic news. Republican National Committee Visit the Republican National Committee headquarters and find out about their platform, their party history, and their elected officials. Democratic National Leader DemocraticLeader. Elmo Burns Roper, Jr. One of his biggest mistakes was his forecast that New York Governor Thomas Dewey would defeat Harry Truman for president in the election.

President of the United States This site is a source for information about the President, White House news and policies, White House history, and the federal government. Project Vote Smart This site offers unbiased political information on current elected officials as well as candidates in upcoming elections.

Learn about the latest news about the GOP. He tried to sell his machine to the U.

1800 United States presidential election

Congress for when they voted on bills and resolutions. It would have speeded up the process of voting out loud. But the lawmakers rejected it because it was too fast! Some Republicans who felt that Taft was too conservative formed a new party called the Progressive party and nominated former president Theodore Roosevelt as their candidate.

When Roosevelt said that he was as strong as a bull moose, the party became known as the Bull Moose party. The Center for Voting and Democracy Find out how redistricting can affect election results. Commission on Presidential Debates Suggest topics for the presidential and vice-presidential debates.

Democratic Party Learn about the origins of the Democratic party. It was originally called the Democratic-Republican party or Anti-Federalist party. The Anti-Federalist party favored a weaker central government and strong state governments. It was allied with small farmers rather than business people. Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Anti-Federalist party. Are the original tenents of this party still at the core of the Democratic party today?

The Electoral College Find out the history of the electoral college and how it works. In order to be elected, the person running for president must have a majority of the votes of the electoral college. If no candidate receives a majority of the Electoral College votes, the president is then chosen directly by the House of Representatives. If this happens, each state gets just one vote. Federal Election Commission Have students find out what the duties of this commission are.

What is their role in campaign financing and expenditures? Federalist Party Learn about the Federalist party, the first major political party in the United States. At its core was a belief in a strong central government. It was an advocate for many merchants, bankers, and business people. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton were Federalists. Inaugural Quiz Take this interesting question quiz about the inauguration of presidents. When was the first televised inauguration? The goal of this site is to educate and involve youth in the election process today.

League of Women Voters: Making Democracy Work Use this resource to find voter and candidate information. Elections in American Memory Learn about the American system of elections. Mechanical Lever Machines Check out voting machines. Today, most votes are cast electronlically. But for many years mechanical voting machines were used.

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The first voting maching was used in an election in Lockport, New York in The United States was the first country to use voting machines. Youth Voting Initiative Inform students about the election process and citizenship responsibilities. Political Memoribilia Check out all the doodads that go with political conventions and elections--buttons, pins, watch fobs, ribbons, etc. Republican Party Learn how this party got its start.