VOTING IN THE U.S.A.
Voting is one of the main responsibilities of U.S. citizens. Voters usually choose a CANDIDATE (person who runs for
office) based on POLICY (a plan of action to fix a problem).
• People do not have to belong to any POLITICAL PARTY (an organization made up of citizens who usually
agree on public policy).
• Political parties can be found in Federal, State, County, and Local politics.
There are dozens of political parties in the United States. The largest parties are the DEMOCRATIC and the
REPUBLICAN parties. Recently, a large number of Americans have been joining the INDEPENDENT PARTY.
Other parties, sometimes called “third parties” include:
Green Party * Communist Party * Libertarian Party * Socialist Party
Liberal Party * Conservative Party * Labor Party * Reform Party
People who want to run for office must get a certain number of party members to sign a petition. Then, candidates
are selected by their party to be the one candidate in one of the following ways:
1. At a Convention, where the delegates of the party vote for the candidates.
2. In a Primary, an election where members of the party choose a candidate by secret ballot.
3. In a Caucus, where party members meet in small neighborhood groups to cast their votes (not by secret
Of course, the most popular parties are the Democratic and Republican parties. That is why American government
primarily relies on the TWO-PARTY SYSTEM (two large parties control the political process).
Despite George Washington’s advice, Americans have used the two-party system almost since the beginning.
Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans (Anti-Federalists)
Whig party vs. Democratic party
Republican party vs. Democratic party
Many citizens have become DISENFRANCHISED (When people do not believe in something anymore ) with political
parties, due to the PARTISAN (only able to see one side of an issue) fighting and constant name-calling and
The result; many ELIGIBLE (allowed to take part) American voters stay home on election day.
All American CITIZENS (people born here, or immigrants who have lived here for at least 7 years, and passed the
citizenship test) are eligible to vote.
However, you must REGISTER (sign up) in the town that you live in. There are other restrictions, depending upon
the state that you live in, as the states set up the rules for who is eligible.
Federal elections (President, Congress) are to be held on the Tuesday after the first Sunday of November.
Presidential elections are held every FOUR years.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every TWO years.
Members of the Senate are elected every SIX years.
STATE and LOCAL offices VARY (are different) from state-to-state.
There are several policy ISSUES (situation, or problem that government must deal with) that political parties take
• Economic issues
Interest Rates for loans
Labor and Workplace problems
INTERNATIONAL TRADE (business outside the United States).
DOMESTIC (business inside the United States).
Energy (some would also count this as a Social issue)
• Social issues
Law Enforcement / Punishment
Health and Welfare
Transportation / Highways
Staffing and Equipping the Military
Domestic Security (new since September 11th)
There are three basic philosophies of politics.
CONSERVATIVE – Opposed to large changes.
LIBERAL – In favor of large changes.
MODERATE – Sometimes Conservative, sometimes Liberal.
Many in the USA would like to see the existing two (or three) parties replaced with Conservative, Liberal, and
Moderate, since they usually line up that way.
REPUBLICANS usually CONSERVATIVE
DEMOCRATS usually LIBERAL
INDEPENDENTS usually MODERATES
The reason that many would like to see the change is because there are frequently Liberal Republicans, and
Conservative Democrats. See this example:
JOHN BREAUX– Louisiana Democrat (conservative)
TED KENNEDY – Massachusetts Democrat (liberal)
TRENT LOTT – Alabama Republican (conservative)
OLYMPIA SNOWE – Maine Republican (liberal)
On most issues,
Kennedy and Snowe agree,
Breaux and Lott agree,
even though they are in different parties. This is why most Americans would favor changing the party labels.
HOWEVER IT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD THAT MOST REPUBLICANS ARE CONSERVATIVE, AND MOST
DEMOCRATS ARE LIBERAL. THERE ARE MODERATES IN BOTH PARTIES.
JOHN McCAIN – Arizona Republican (moderate)
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN – Connecticut Democrat (moderate)
NOONE gets to vote directly for the Presidential candidate of their choice.
The creators of the Constitution did not completely trust the people to make wise choices on Election Day. They
built-in some “filters” to make sure that the voters do not make a mistake.
• State Legislatures would choose the two U.S. Senators from each state (repealed by the 17th Amendment in
• An ELECTORAL COLLEGE (Group of people from each state chosen to elect the President) would meet to
choose the President.
The people would vote, and ELECTORS (members of the Electoral College) from their state would then vote “for”
them in the Electoral College.
The number of Electors, or Electoral votes is easy to figure out.
You just add up the members of Congress (House & Senate) in a state. That number is the total number of
electoral votes for a state.
For example, Massachusetts has 10 members of the house, and 2 Senators; thus we have 12 electoral votes.
The rules regarding who is chosen as an elector, how they have to vote, and how to divide a states total electoral
vote is left up to the states.
Here is how this works:
1. In the 2032 Presidential election, here is how Massachusetts voted:
Kristen Veber / Zachary Smith (Republicans) 3,000,000 votes
Josh Avey / Alanna Sunderland (Democrats) 2,000,000 votes
Marquan Christy / Amy Fimbel (Green party) 1,000,000 votes
2. When the Electoral College meets, Veber & Smith receive all 12 of Massachusetts’ Electoral votes.
3. After the electors of each state vote, the candidates with the most Electoral Votes wins.
Many people want to get rid of the Electoral College. They say that it is old-fashioned, and unnecessary with all of
the technology that we have today.
For example, it is possible for the candidates with the most votes from the people, called POPULAR VOTES (votes
cast by the regular people) to lose the election.
This is what happened to Al Gore & Joe Lieberman in the election of 2000.
SO, WHO IS WINNING?
Therefore, even though Avey & Sunderland have 19 million more votes, they are losing the election to Veber &
According to some states rules, electors can vote for whomever they want. Even though the voters in New York
voted for Veber/Smith, the electors could vote for Avey/Sunderland, giving them the lead.
In the past, electors have voted for Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson, Joe Namath, and Mickey Mantle.
However, The House of Representatives has to approve any election, so if Bart Simpson actually did receive the
most electoral votes, the House could stop him from being President.