GOVT by Ib7358QG



 Learning Objectives
Explain how elections are held and how the electoral college functions in presidential

Discuss how candidates are nominated.

Indicate what is involved in launching a political campaign today, and describe the structure
and functions of a campaign organization.

Describe how the Internet has transformed political campaigns.

Summarize the laws that regulate campaign financing and the role of money in modern
political campaigns.

Describe what took place during recent presidential elections and what these events tell us
about the American electoral system.
Types of Elections

Types of Ballots

Conducting Elections & Counting Votes

Presidential Elections and the Electoral College
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
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.
Conducting Elections & Counting Votes
• All local government units, such as cities, are
  divided into smaller voting districts, or
• 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.
Presidential Elections and the Electoral
• 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).
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.
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
Party Control Over Nominations

The Party Nominating Convention

Primary Elections and the Loss of Party
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
• The caucus system collapsed in 1824; it was
  widely seen as undemocratic.
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.
Primary Elections
• An election in which voters go to the polls to decide
  among candidates who seek the nomination of their
• 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-
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.
Presidential Primaries


Primaries & the Rush to be First

The Impact of Front Loading

National Party Conventions
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.
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
• 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.
• 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
• 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.
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
Responsibilities of the Campaign Staff

The Professional Campaign

The Internet Campaign
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
The Professional Campaign
• 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
• Political consultants generally specialize in a
  particular area of the campaign, such as
  researching the opposition, conducting polls, or
  developing advertising.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,,
  eventually racked up over a million members.
The Federal Election Campaign Act

Skirting the Campaign Finance

The Bipartisan camp

Campaign contribution
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
FECA Amendments in 1974
• Amendments that were passed in 1974 did the
 ▫ 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
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.”
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
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.
Skirting the Campaign-Finance Rules,
• 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.
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
               • 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.
Constitutional Challenges to the 2002
• 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.
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
  ▫ 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
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
• 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.
The 2004 Presidential Elections
• The 2004 presidential election was another
  close race, with President Bush defeating
  Democratic challenger John Kerry by just 35
• 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.
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

                              • 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

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