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AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, 10th edition by Theodore J. Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle


AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, 10th edition by Theodore J. Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle Chapter 10: Elections ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, 10th edition by Theodore J. Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle

AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, 10th editionby Theodore J.
Lowi, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Kenneth A. Shepsle
  • Chapter 10 Elections

The Paradox of Voting in America
  • Americans believe voting is important.
  • They see it as
  • a civic duty
  • key to maintaining popular control of government
  • the very essence of democracy

  • At the same time, Americans tend not to vote and
    voter turnout is low by historical standards.
  • Between 70 and 75 percent of the voting-age
    population is registered to vote.
  • About 50 percent vote in presidential elections.

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  • The costs of voting in America are also high
    because of the frequency of American elections.
  • Two-year election cycles are nearly half the
    length of election cycles of similar democracies.
  • Americans rare use of primary elections doubles
    the frequency with which Americans are asked to

  • Finally, in other countries, political parties
    play important roles in mobilizing voters and
    thus decrease the costs of voter turnout.
  • Whereas in the 19th century American parties
    performed this mobilization role, the decline of
    American party organizations in the 20th century
    made American parties ill-equipped to perform it.

  • While the costs of voting are high in America,
    many potential voters perceive the benefits of
    voting to be low.
  • Americans often believe that
  • one vote cannot make a difference
  • it does not matter which party controls the

  • Turnout is the highest for presidential
    elections, which are held every four years, when
    about 50 percent of the voting age population

  • Midterm elections for congressional and
    gubernatorial elections are held in the
    even-numbered years that do not coincide with
    presidential elections.
  • Without the presidency at stake, voter
    participation tends to be lower. About 33
    percent of the voting age population votes in
    midterm elections.

  • Primary Elections are elections used by
    political parties to select their candidates for
    general elections these can be either open or
  • Even fewer vote in off-year, special, and
    primary elections.

  • Open primaries are those in which the voter can
    wait until the day of the primary to choose which
    party to enroll in.

Closed primaries are those in which voters must
choose which party to enroll in prior to the day
of the primary.
Californias Primary
  • Closed Primary System A "closed" primary system
    governed California's primary elections until
    1996. In a closed primary, only persons who are
    registered members of a political party may vote
    the ballot of that political party.
  • Open Primary System The provisions of the
    "closed" primary system were amended by the
    adoption of Proposition 198, an initiative
    statute approved by the voters at the March 26,
    1996 primary election. Proposition 198 changed
    the closed primary system to what is known as a
    "blanket" or "open" primary, in which all
    registered voters may vote for any candidate,
    regardless of political affiliation and without a
    declaration of political faith or allegiance.
  • On June 26, 2000, the United States Supreme Court
    issued a decision in California Democratic Party,
    et. al. v. Jones, stating that California's
    "open" primary system, established by Proposition
    198, was unconstitutional because it violated a
    political party's First Amendment right of
    association. Therefore, the Supreme Court
    overturned Proposition 198.
  • Modified Closed Primary System California
    currently has a "modified" closed primary system.
    SB 28 (Ch. 898, Stats. 2000), relating to primary
    elections, was chaptered on September 29, 2000
    and took effect on January 1, 2001. SB 28
    implemented a "modified" closed primary system
    that permits unaffiliated ("decline to state")
    voters to participate in a primary election if
    authorized by an individual party's rules and
    duly noticed by the Secretary of State.(Ch. 898,
    Stats. 2000)

  • There are structural features of the American
    electoral system that undermine the impact of
    individual votes.
  • Americas single-member plurality (SMP) electoral
    system tends to dilute the impact of individual
    votes in specific geographic areas, particularly
    when compared to proportional representation (PR)
    electoral systems.
  • The electoral college system of selecting the
    president also decreases the potential impact of
    individual votes on electoral outcomes.

  • Some electoral systems are proportional
    representation 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

  • Majority and plurality electoral systems tend to
    reduce the number of parties in a political
  • Proportional representation electoral systems
    tend to increase the number of competitive
    political parties.

  • Majority and plurality electoral systems tend to
    accentuate the importance of geographic district
  • 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, it is
    often called gerrymandering.

  • Although television and other forms of media
    have made candidate characteristics and issue
    appeals more salient in voter decision-making,
    for many voters partisanship remains preeminent.

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Money and Politics
  • As contemporary election campaigns have come to
    depend more on media, polls, and other capital
    intensive means of reaching voters, candidates
    and their campaigns increasingly rely on donors.

  • Individual donors contribute largely 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.

Campaign Spending 2008
  • In recent years, campaign finance reforms have
    sought to reduce the impact of money and
    fundraising on political campaigns.
  • For example, the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform
    Act (BCRA) sought to reduce the amount of
    soft-money contributions to political parties.

  • Still, critics charge that BCRA led to an
    increase in the influence of independent 527
    committees, which funnel large amounts of money
    into elections through issue advocacy ads but are
    less accountable than political parties.

The Benefits of Elections to Elites
  • Democracies derive legitimacy from popular
    consent. Having been elected by the public,
    political elites work to translate the public
    support conferred upon them into a tool of

  • Individual politicians claim mandates for
    governmental actions based on electoral outcomes.
  • When they win, politicians claim that their
    victories amounted to a referendum for a certain
    set of policies.
  • The larger the margin of victory, the more
    plausible the claim that voters conferred a

  • Claims of mandates are often dubious
  • People tend to vote for or against politicians
    for a variety of reasons, including policy,
    party, and personality.
  • There is good evidence that voters vote
    retrospectively that is, they vote to reward or
    punish the incumbent party rather than confer a
    mandate on an opposition candidate.

  • Elections are the most direct, equal, and
    authoritative means of gaining popular control
    over politicians.
  • Failing to vote in elections surrenders the
    control of politicians (our agents) to those who
    do, in fact, turn out.

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