Fishbowl: Nomination & Election Process
Elections enable voters to select leaders and to hold them accountable for their performance in office. Where the electoral process is competitive and forces candidates or parties to expose their records and future intentions to popular scrutiny, elections serve as forums for the discussion of public issues and facilitate the expression of public opinion. Elections also provide political education for citizens and ensure the responsiveness of democratic governments to the will of the people. They also serve to legitimize the acts of those who wield power, a function that is performed to some extent even by elections that are noncompetitive. In a caucus, voting is conducted at local party meetings and is done by raising hands or breaking up into groups. Only members registered with the political party can participate (if closed system). The states that use caucuses are Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa. In a primary, an election is held with a secret ballot. Some states allow only registered party members to vote; some allow party registrations on the same day; some are completely open to all residents of the state. As far as which states are primary, it is the remaining states left. Frontloading is a decision to move a primary date to the beginning (“front”) of the presidential nomination season. The problem with it is that it causes the presidential race to be cut short, meaning candidates have less opportunities to espouse their policy positions. Conventions used to be held by each party to pick a candidate. There would be primaries and state caucuses, but usually no candidate had a huge majority of delegates by the time of the convention, so it would be argued out there. They aren’t as important as in past years because starting in the 80s, the parties did it differently. Usually a 'winner' would be picked very early in the process. The party leaders would pick him and line up all the money behind him. Coming into the race with the most money, the media would simply assume he was the winner and would treat him that way. Super-delegates are elected members of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Governors, Democratic US Senators and Reps., distinguished party leaders, and unpledged “add-ons” chosen by the DNC. They are designed to act as a check on ideologically extreme or inexperienced candidates. It also gives power to people who have a vested interested in party policies: elected leaders. Because the primary and caucus voters do not have to be active members of the party (in New Hampshire they can sign up and sign out going-and-coming at the polls), the super-delegate system has been called a safety-value. Some functions that parties perform are, they help elected leaders gather support and power. They’re stable coalitions that work between elections, as well as during them. Parties promote stability and act to moderate public opinion due to their pragmatic drive to win elections. Parties provide linkages among branches of government. They allow the often disparate parts of our political system to work together. Because parties must win national elections, they can also function as unifiers of the counter. They damper sectionalism and give people in remote parts of the country something in common with the U.S. The factors that have contributed to the decline of political parties are as follows: the establishment of primary elections in many states, the establishment of the civil service, and the direct election of senators - all gave more power to voters and less to the parties. Primary elections give power to the people, allowing their voting to be done with a secret ballot and not through the political party meetings. Civil service laws have removed patronage, or the “spoil system,” form the control of parties. Government jobs now go to those who pass merit-based tests. With the direct election of senators,...
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