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, qualified voters now determine who gets voted. Political parties still exist mainly because of money and publicity. Parties can raise big money at conventions. Major contributors are treated to endless receptions and special events. The actual convention business – nominations, acceptance speeches, platforms – could easily be completed in a weekend.But the process is stretched out over four days to provide plenty of time for fundraising. The PACs, political machines, etc. all raise massive amounts of money for the election as well as for the media, which enables them to not only continue covering the election, but pocket cash as well. The benefit to this is that whoever raises the most money and support, ultimately is the winner of the election. Many factors — including family, gender, religion, race and ethnicity, and region — all contribute to American political attitudes and behavior.Parents tend to influence their children first and most enduringly. As people grow older, influences criss-cross; however, the influence still remains. The more politically active your family, the more likely you are to hold the same beliefs. Through the 1950s women tended to vote for Republicans. Even though more women voted for Franklin Roosevelt — a Democrat — than for his Republican opponents, they still supported him by smaller margins than did men. By the 1960s, women began to shift their loyalty to the Democrats. In recent elections women have voted strongly Democratic.This is because women think the Democrats more strongly support “women’s issues,” such as equal work, equal pay, and equal legal rights. Jewish voters are more likely to support Democrats than are Catholics or Protestants. Catholics tend to be more liberal on economic issues (such as minimum wage and taxes) than they are on social issues (such as abortion and divorce). The Religious Right tends to support more conservative candidates for public office, and they are more likely to contribute to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party.This tendency is more clearly associated with social issues such as school prayer, abortion, and divorce, than with economic issues or foreign affairs. African Americans have been the most loyal Democrats than any other identifiable group. Latinos as a whole have a tendency to vote Democratic, but the relationship is not as strong as it is for blacks. Various Latino groups have very different voting patterns. For example, Cuban Americans overall have a strong tendency to vote Republican, and Mexican Americans have an equally strong tendency to vote Democratic.Asians typically vote conservative. People on either coast tend to be more liberal than those in the middle of the country. The south, especially, has a tendency to vote Republican. Party realignment occurs when the minority party becomes stronger than the majority party, usually as the result of a minority party candidate winning a critical election. The increase in Independent voters marks a shift toward party dealignment. This shift can be an indication of either a highly informed electorate that is issue-oriented or a hyper-pluralist political environment unwilling to form coalitions.A two-party system is a system where two major political parties dominate politics within a government. One of the two parties typically holds a majority in the legislature and is usually referred to as the majority party while the other is the minority party. The factors that account for the two-party systems are various, one being the winner takes all election rules. In such systems, while chances for third party candidates winning election to major national office are remote, it is possible for groups within the larger parties, or in opposition to one or both of them, to exert influence on the two major parties.The factors that work against the ability of third parties to succeed in American politics include “winner-take-all,” an electoral system in which the party that receives at least one more vote than any other party wins the election. Another factor would be the states allowing Democrats and Republicans a place on the ballot, but have laws requiring third parties to gather signatures. Another would be the “single member plurality system. ” In this, only the winner of the electoral votes gets elected, making it hard for third parties to compete on their own with little representation.I think the political system should be changed to make it easier for third parties to exist because they are an important aspect to the political system. They help major parties to change and force them to acknowledge alienated groups, incorporate new ideas, and nominate more attractive candidates. They bring new issues to the attention of more well-known candidates and bring recognition to otherwise ignored matters. The influence of parties as they exist in Congress is relative to their selection of leadership of both houses, as they arrange committees and organize and operate Congress.The Congressional party leaders have methods of enforcing party discipline such as good committee assignments, prime office assignments, and fundraising help. The carrot and stick of party money, as well as the growth of party based advertising and polling play a role in party unity and cohesion. The president’s successes and failures reflect on the party. Pro party presidents are interested in party building and are helpful to party organizations and candidates. The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President.Under the system of the Electoral College each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have representative in Congress, so no state could have less then 3. There is an unfair advantage to voters in the small states whose votes actually count more then those people living in medium and large states. One aspect of the electoral system that is not mandated in the constitution is the fact that the winner takes all the votes in the state. Therefore it makes no difference if you win a state by 50. 1% or by 80% of the vote you receive the same number of electoral votes.This can be a recipe for one individual to win some states by large pluralities and lose others by small number of votes, and thus this is an easy scenario for one candidate winning the popular vote while another winning the electoral vote. This winner take all methods used in picking electors has been decided by the states themselves. The maximum allowable contribution for individuals under federal law for congressional and presidential elections was 2,300 per election to each candidate in 2007-2008, with primary and general elections considered separately.Individuals in 2007-2008 were also limited to a total of $108,200 in gifts to all candidates, political action committees, and parties combined per two year election cycle. PACs attempt to gain support for their interests by contributing to political campaigns, hoping their favors will be returned once candidates reach office. Because federal-level political campaigns cost so much during the late twentieth century, candidates who eschewed PAC money could not compete with those who accepted PAC donations, unless they were independently wealthy. U. S. corporations and unions provided unprecedented amounts of soft-money contributions during the 1996 and 2000 election cycles.
At the same time, the Federal Election Commission had its budget cut, making the commission virtually helpless to prevent the parties from skirting existing campaign finance laws. In light of the impact soft money made on elections, reformers believed soft money must either be eliminated or severely limited. The McCain-Feingold legislation imposed a soft money ban on all federal elections. It also limited the amount of soft money contributors may give to state, district, and local committees.The ban on soft money was one of the highlights in the legislation, but it was expected to come under attack in light of Buckley v. Valeo. Critics of the soft-money ban argue that the contribution of money to political parties is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. In December 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of these limits by a vote of 5–4. The McCain-Feingold legislation actually increased the amount of “hard” money that individuals and other supporters could contribute. The amount of money individuals might contribute to state parties in federal elections increased from $5000 to $10,000.The total amount these individuals might contribute to federal candidates, parties, and other organizations increased from $25,000 to $30,000. PACs could be considered bad for politics because of the following reasons: There is an unfair advantage to incumbents because of the fact that they hold office for long periods of time therefore collecting large amounts of money. It weakens the political influence of the citizens because it does all the fundraising, campaigning, etc. , and the average person is unable to participate as much as PACs do. Also, the costs of campaigning is increased.An election becomes a race of who can spend the most and gain the most support. Many PACs spend billions of dollars on campaigns. However, they do regulate campaign expenditures, and with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, soft money contributions were outlawed so they can’t lawfully collect unregulated money. They also give avenue of political influences to business and introduce policy issues to campaigns. A super PAC is a relatively modern breed of political-action committee that is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, individuals and associations.The role of super PACs is similar to that of traditional political-action committees. They advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for federal office by purchasing television, radio and print advertisements and other media. There are conservative super PACs and liberal super PACs. Some examples are: Restore Our Future, a conservative super PAC that supported Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Winning Our Future, a conservative super PAC that supported Republican presidential hopeful and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s run for the presidency. People in office tend to stay in office.Primary causes of incumbency advantage: staff support, media and travel, the “scare-off” effect, redistricting. The ability of an elected official to help the public i. e. the voters with his hand picked staff to keep them happy. Most incumbents are highly visible in their districts. Convenient schedules and generous travel allowances increase the local availability of incumbents. The “Scare-Off” Effect is an indirect advantage of incumbency: the ability of the office holder to fend off challenges from strong opposition candidates; This also explains why reelection rates tend to be lower in the Senate than in the House. ?