Elections lie at the heart of the political process. It is the formal process of selecting people for public office or for accepting or rejecting a rule through voting.
It is fairly understandable that we debate on who would rule over us and what rules are being followed. In our conceptual understanding, elections are the key part in democracy. The most important notion in this idea is the concept of representation. Elections provide a brief contribution to democratic governance. In modern times, application of direct elections like that of the Greek period has become obsolete and impractical. Therefore, the idea of representative government came into the limelight in order to solve this problem.
Elections facilitate the people to choose their leaders and empower them to hold the representatives accountable for their office by subjecting to the rules of election accounts them from the succession of leadership or avoid nepotism. Moreover, the process of election is highly competitive requiring the candidates to expose their records and intentions to the public. Therefore, the elections provide a platform for discussions of public interests and facilitate public expression and opinion. We can then say that one of the most important functions of election is to educate the public politically and provide them with enough information to ease them with their decisions.
Secondly, elections also supplement and reinforce the stability and legitimacy of the political community. One way to do this is that elections link citizens to each other and this way strengthens the concept of polity. This result in the idea that elections help to facilitate social and political integration.
Another function of election is that it gives the citizen an opportunity to choose their representatives legitimizing their say in what they want and what they need. This further increases their dignity and their sense of belongingness is increased.
Expanding the above into 7 main points, elections have a variety of functions:
In political term, representation is described as a relationship through which a group of people or an individual stands or acts on behalf of a larger group of people. In the governmental system, representation is often understood the concept of democracy. Representation strengthens and legitimizes democracy.
There are two systems available in representative system mainly explaining how the votes can be transferred to votes in the electoral college. The first one is known as the majoritarian system in which large political parties win a typically higher proportion of seats than the proportion of votes they receive in the election. For example, the UK political system follows the system in which for a long time, a single party is able to firmly establish despite the fact that none of the political parties in the election has been able to secure majority since 1935.
This system includes:
The other system is known as the proportional representative system which propounds that parties should be represented in a Parliament in proportion to their electoral strength which is equal to their proportional votes. It guarantees or at least provides a confirmation on the equal relationship between the seats won by the party and the votes gained in the election.
This system includes:
In order to briefly understand the process of US Presidential election nomination, we must eventually focus on how the electoral college is formed.
The Electoral College is the primary body which files and nominates the candidate. The US election system is unique in a way that the President is not directly elected by the people but by the electoral college which is comprised of officials. This system follows the rules of the American Constitution and relates to the state and federal laws. Each state of the US has a number of electors in the electoral college which is proportionate to its population. It comprised of the sum of its number of senators which is two and representatives in the House.
In practice, Americans on election day vote the voters or simply the electoral college and not the candidates themselves. Though, in most cases, the electoral names are not on the ballot itself. For example, California, the most populous state in the country, has 55 electoral votes or 55 number of officials in their electoral college. Other few small states and the District of Columbia have only three votes. The electoral college, today has 538 electors. A candidate needs to win a number of 270 electoral votes which is half of the total plus one in order to win the election.
In this process, the states hold a number of elections for the electoral college. There are two types of elections held by the states, primary and caucus and other states may use a combination of both. These elections are generally held in the months of January and February and end about mid-June before the general election in November.
There are four most common types according to which election process is determined. They are open, closed, semi-open and semi-closed. Eventually, it is the wishes of each state to decide which type it wants to adopt.
Open primaries and caucuses allow all registered voters, regardless of any party affiliation, to vote in any election. The states that use this system may use a single ballot and the electorates choose on the ballot itself. Closed primaries and caucuses require voters who are registered with a specific party to be able to vote for that party’s candidates. Semi-open primaries and caucuses admit any registered voter to vote in any party contest, but they must request a party’s specific ballot (party affiliation). Semi-closed primaries and caucuses follow the same rules as a closed system.
In America, much like in any other democratic establishment, the political parties are the essence of democracy. It is an all-inclusive feature of American democratic system as the parties are comprised of people from different race, color, culture, religion linguistic background and different socio-economic background. But the most important element that binds them together as a political party is the fact that these people have a common mutual agreement on a certain type of ideology, common understanding on issues related to public interest and in deciding a future leader. Therefore, political parties are an integral part of US electoral process and it is the main engine that drives the elections. Their main functions include recruiting members who would suit best as workers and even who would serve to be their nomination, participate in the electoral process, act as a mechanism to operate as a means to educate the public opinion and many other functions.
In the American system, there are five main mechanisms which are necessary for the inclusion of party or candidate representatives in the electoral process. These are:
The American electoral voice is influenced by various factors. There may be short term and long term factors which actually influence the voting pattern. In general, not only in the American experience, citizens usually have the same opinion about a candidate or a political party over a long period of time. But then the scholars and academicians have tried to define varieties of factors which affect the election campaign in the USA. There are 5 factors which actually influence the voting pattern of the electoral process.
For an individual, there are three main factors which will decide who he/she may vote. They are
Election campaigns are important because they have the condition to create and spread the party’s message which is specifically designed to persuade voters. The campaign should be crafted in such a way that it is in time to influence the voters and should be successful. They must decide on what issues to emphasize as well as when to campaign the most. Political parties try different campaigning strategies because there aren’t any style which specifically proven successful.
Campaigns are a necessary means to remind voters about their voting preferences. Election campaigns not only influence voters but they also affect how people chose to vote. Campaigns can also affect the reasons people vote in a certain way, which is caused by a process called priming. If campaigns can influence the focus on issues or details that are significantly beneficial to them, or if they can control the agenda set for the election, they are more likely to change the minds of the voters.
The US political system is a bicameral structure of legislation. It is known as the Congress and consists of two houses - the House of Senate and the House of Representatives. The members are elected through direct election.
The Senate is the upper house of the US Congress. Each state has two senators as representatives of the state, regardless of the number of population. This legally ensures equal representation of each state in the Senate. U.S. Senators serve six-year terms.
According to the U.S. Constitution, Senators must have the following requirements:
It has 100 members in a dual seat constituency or two senate seats. The senate is divided into three groups which are known as ‘class’. One class will be up for election every two years. The election to the Senate coincides with the elections to the House of Representatives which is normally held on the first Tuesday in the month of November. They are elected by their state. In most states, a primary election is held first for the Republican and Democratic parties, with the general election following a few months later.
The House of Representatives, commonly referred to as "the House," is the lower house of the US Congress. Each state has representation in the House of Representatives according to the proportion of its population. But the total number of voting representatives is currently fixed at 435. Apart from the state representatives, there are five delegates and one resident commissioner, who do not have full voting rights. Members of House representatives serve two-year terms.
According to the U.S. Constitution, Representatives must have the following requirements:
Congressional elections are held every two years where ⅓ of the senators are elected every two years and the remaining sit for a period of 6 years. All the members of House of Representatives seat for election every two years. The US Constitution lays down laws for the method of the election but the states eventually play a key role in deciding the details of the election. The elections are held midway through a president’s term and are therefore also known as midway elections. The U.S. midterm elections give the necessary opportunity to the citizen to rearrange the political makeup of the U.S. Congress.
There are few factors which influence the US Congressional election. Party identification is one such long term factor which influences the outcome. It is evident that voters choose a particular candidate because of their party allegiance and loyalty. They vote for those who they can identify with and who they support. Incumbency is another long-term factor that voters rely on to make decisions. Voters usually have a low level of information of the available candidates, therefore, the incumbents can make an impressive influence on the voting behavior. Voters would have been familiar with the incumbents and therefore they have a better chance of influencing the voters by providing information and ideas.
Typically there are three types of congressional elections:
The U.S. midterm elections give the necessary opportunity to the citizen to rearrange the political makeup of the U.S. Congress. It is viewed as an' opportunity to express their satisfaction or frustration with the president's performance. Therefore, it puts the President in a very complicated situation.
Issues of redistricting and gerrymandering are often at the centre of the Congressional election debate. Redistricting is the process in an election which is concerned with the redrawing of legislative districts. A citizen of the US lives in a Congressional district. By the US federal law, redistricting can appear following a census for two reasons. First, when a state gains or loses legislative districts as a result of the apportionment of congressional districts to the states. Second, governments must redraw districts so that the districts have equal populations, even if the number of districts does not change. Though, some governments may choose to conduct redistricting for narrow political reasons. The most infamous case in recent times was the 2003 re-redistricting in Texas, where Democratic state legislators fled the state to prevent a mid-decade congressional redistricting.
Redistricting affects the nature of political power. It plays an important role in determining which party controls Congress and state and local governments. Even when the population is divided equally, drawing the lines can reward Democrats and punish Republicans or vice versa. Therefore, redistricting has a direct impact on what matters a legislature chooses to tackle, and which to ignore.
Gerrymandering refers to the manipulation of district lines to favor or change political power. It is a deliberate process and, according to opponents, an unfair attempt to redraw district lines to influence the possibility of a particular political result. Incumbents have an urge to create districts that are likely to re-elect them, sometimes dividing communities among one or more districts. There are two types of methods according to which gerrymandering is done - racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering. These two have seen to be the most influential factor that has caused problems between Congress and the White House.