• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


National Elections

Page history last edited by Sarah Mann 13 years, 11 months ago


Previous Section: State Elections

National Elections:




National Elections consist of elections for the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President.  Elections are held every two years for the House of Representatives, every six years for each of a state’s two seats in the Senate, and every four years for the President.  Federal elections are held at the same time as state elections.  The processes of electing these 3 different positions differ greatly, however there is a general cycle that exists, outlining the process of electing officials.



Election Cycle:



1. Nominations:


Nominating officials begins the election process.  Most elected officials first receive the endorsement, or nomination, of one of the two major parties.  Nominees usually have worked in government previously.  During the year before the first primaries, potential candidates attempt to become better known.  The candidates make public appearances, obtain media coverage, and take positions on important issues.  At this time, campaign personnel are assembled to help manage the campaign.


2. Primaries:


Primaries happen next.  There are different types of primaries.  Closed primaries are the most common.  In closed primaries, voting is restricted to registered members of a political party and voters can only vote for candidates running for the nomination of the party they have declared.  Open primaries are where voters vote only in one party’s primary, but can vote in whichever party primary they choose.  People choose what party in the voting booth.  Many see an issue with open primaries, as some think that it is a way for voters to sabotage their opponents’ primaries by crossing party lines to vote for the candidate least likely to win the general election.  The last kind of primary is a blanket primary.  Blanket primaries use the same procedures as general elections and voters may vote for one candidate per office of either party.  Primaries for legislators and state officials differ from primaries for the presidency.


Primaries for Legislators and State Officials:


The candidate who receives a plurality in each primary is determined to be the winner.  Some states make the winner receive a minimum percentage of the vote, but if no candidate receives the required share of votes, a runoff primary is held between the top two candidates.


Primaries for the Presidency:


Voters choose delegates pledged to a particular presidential candidate.  The winning delegates attend their party’s National Convention.  Some states select presidential convention delegates at state caucuses, conventions, and local meetings of party members where representatives are selected to send to statewide party meetings.  The state caucus and convention process usually attracts fewer participants compared to the primaries.  Those participating are typically more informed and active in politics.  





3. Primary Season:


After January 1, candidates begin to participate in debates and campaign in different states, delivering their “stump speeches.”  Many candidates use media to cover their campaign trials.  Candidates who receive less than 10 percent of the vote in two successive primaries lose eligibility for funds.  In these cases, many candidates have to drop out of the race for financial reasons.  Primaries are held in every state, however they are held on different dates in different states.  Many states have moved their primary elections date forward.  This process is referred to as front-loading.  In turn, this has led to an increase in pressure on candidates to succeed early.  Some argue that this forces voters to choose early in the process which is deemed unnecessary. 





After the primary season ends, both parties hold National Conventions.  Since primary elections can often damage a party through attacks from different candidates, National Conventions are held in hopes of unifying the party.  National Conventions are also designed to show off party unity for political gain.  These conventions confirm the parties’ nominees.  If no candidate has received the pledge of the majority, then the nominee will be selected at the convention.  This is known as a brokered convention.  Brokered conventions often divide parties and in turn, parties have tried to design it so that brokered conventions won’t occur.  These conventions can affect the general election in positive and negative ways.




Shows the parties’ unity




In 1968, rioting outside the Democratic convention in Chicago showed a bad impression among voters in contrast to the Republican convention in Miami weeks later.


National Conventions have also changed throughout the last century.  About mid-century, conventions and convention delegates selected and nominated the candidate.  This has transformed where now the nominees are generally determined before the convention even begins. 



5. General Elections:


Next, general elections are held.  Then voters decide who will hold office through these general elections.  General elections for federal offices are held on the first Tuesday of November.  During general elections, campaigning happens.  The candidates will hold rallies, participate in debates, run campaign advertisements and obtain media coverage.  The distinct difference between general elections and primary elections is that during primaries, candidates run against members of their own party who have subtle differences between their campaigns.  However in general elections, candidates run against members of different parties and tell of their general policy and philosophy as they will often clash with the other candidate’s policy and philosophy.





The last part of the election cycle happens through the Electoral College.  The Electoral College is a body of people representing each state in America, who formally cast votes for the election of the president and the vice president.  Presidential elections in turn are determined not by the final popular vote, but by the Electoral College.  Each state is given a number of electors.  This number is equal to the sum of a state’s federal legislators, or the sum of the senators plus the representatives from the House.  The winner of the presidential election in each state wins all of that state’s electors, except in Maine and Nebraska.  In these states, the candidate who wins the popular vote receives two electoral votes.  The remaining electoral votes are awarded based on the candidate that receives the most votes in each district.  The Electoral College places emphasis on election results in heavily populated states.  For this reason, candidates focus on gaining the vote from those heavily populated states.  Candidates also focus on “swing” states, or states where the polling could go either way.  The Electoral College was created by the framers of the Constitution as a way of insulating the government from the less educated people of the time.  Many think that the Electoral College is outdated and doesn’t apply to today’s times.






Images (in the order they appear):

“Dr. Suess Cartoon” http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dspolitic/pm/11104cs.jpg > (4 December 2009)


“Bridge Building Cartoon” http://emedia.thetimes-   tribune.com/Portals/Emedia/JohnColeToons/6-20-07%20coletoon.jpg> (2 December 2009).


“Vote for Me For a Better America Cartoon” http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-7 MeBr1llvM/R4zls5ts84I/AAAAAAAACB8/8SrdoQ3XYV4/s400/individual+results.jpg (2

          December 2009).




Meltzer, Tony and Paul Levy, eds., Cracking the AP U.S. Government & Politics Exam 2010

          Edition. New York: Random House, Inc., 2009.


Next Section: Presidential Elections










Comments (1)

mberry said

at 9:38 am on Nov 17, 2009

Nicely done! I like all the images (adds good humor), but I wonder if the Dr. Seuss image might be better on the history page as it is a critique of Tammany Hall (the late 19th century political machine in NYC). That might open an opportunity for you discuss fraud and corruption in the electoral process...

You don't have permission to comment on this page.