We the People 5th edition
by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi and Margaret Weir
Chapter 10. Campaigns and
Elections in America
Types of Elections
American politics makes frequent use
of elections to:
Nominate party candidates
Make policy directly
In the United States, elections coinciding
with Presidential elections are held every
Midterm elections, for example, are
congressional and gubernatorial elections
held in the even-numbered years that do
not coincide with presidential elections.
Open primary defined: a primary in
which the voter can wait until the
Primary Elections are day of the primary to choose which
elections used by party to enroll in to select
political parties to candidates for the general election.
select their candidates
for general elections;
these can be either
open or closed. Closed primary defined: a primary
in which voters can participate in the
selection of candidates for a party to
which they belong prior to election
Twenty-four states have
provisions that allow for
citizens to vote directly, by
referendum, on proposed
laws or other government
Eighteen states have
provisions for recall
elections that allow voters
to remove governors and
other state officials prior to
the end of their term.
The Criteria for Winning
In majority systems,
candidates must receive a
majority (50 percent plus
The means by which one) of the votes in a district
elections are conducted, in order to win a seat.
votes are counted, and
winners are determined
play key roles in In plurality systems, like
elections. most elections in the United
States, candidates need only
receive the most votes in an
election, regardless of
whether it constitutes a
Some electoral systems are
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.
Majority and Plurality
Majority and plurality electoral
systems tend to reduce the number of
political parties in a political system.
electoral systems tend to increase the
number of competitive political parties.
Districting and Re-districting
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, this is often called
The very structure of an election ballot can
have profound effects on electoral
First, flawed balloting systems or variations
from one voting district to the next can
advantage some voters over others.
Straight Party Ticket
Second, in the 19th century,
many Americans voted by a
party ballot that meant that
they had to vote a straight
party ticket. Ballot reforms
at the end of the 19th century,
made it possible for voters to
split their ticket and vote for
different party candidates for
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think that the use of referenda
and recall are good for policy-making and
the political system or might they make
the system too democratic?
Do plurality electoral systems generally
care too much about “lines on a map”
and too little about voter sentiment?
In recent years, critics charge that
redistricting has become too partisan and
political. Is there a better way to draw
Election campaigns are efforts by
political candidates and their staffs
to win the backing of donors,
political activists, and voters.
These elaborate organizations rely
on a complex of pollsters,
consultants, political professionals,
party activists and volunteers to
achieve the goal of winning political
After the 1830s, parties used
conventions to select their
These party meetings played
key roles in brokering intra-
party deals and selecting the
Since the mid-20th century,
party conventions tend
more to ratify decisions
that have already been
made by party voters in
caucuses and primaries.
This has left some to
question whether party
conventions are all that
important in contemporary
Of course, an important election rule
in American politics is the use of the
electoral college in which
presidents are selected by electors
from each state.
Because, to win, presidents must win
a majority of the electoral college,
presidential candidates often focus
more on key states rather than on
winning majority or plurality popular
How Voters Decide
In making their decisions, voters
balance a mix of cues and
Money and Politics
As contemporary election
campaigns have come to rely
more on media, polls, and other
“capital intensive” means of
reaching voters, candidates and
their campaigns increasingly rely
Donors & PACs
Individual donors largely contribute 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.
In recent years,
reforms have sought to
For example, the 2002
reduce the impact of
money and fundraising
Reform Act (BCRA)
on political campaigns.
sought to reduce the
amount of soft money
contributions to political
Still, critics charge that BCRA led to
an increase in the influence of
independent 527 Committees that
funnel large amounts of money into
elections through issue advocacy
ads but are less accountable than
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think it is best to vote for the
party, based on the issues, or for
particular candidates? Why?
Do you think the electoral college should
be abolished in favor of direct popular
election of the president? How might
this affect presidential campaigns?
Is there too much money in elections? Is
there a way to reduce the impact of large
donors without trampling on their free
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