Background Information

 

Introduction and Reasons Why

Voting in an integral part of being a citizen of the United States of America. When our forefathers set up our government, they created a democracy. A democracy is defined as:

This means that we as members of this society, have the right to choose our leaders. Not only do we have our freedom to choose what we want to do, but we also have the freedom to choose our leaders and policies. Our forefathers were trying to escape the constraints imposed on them in their native lands, namely England. No longer are we forced to obey a monarchy, but we can choose whom we will obey as our leader.

Along with that, we are free to make informed decisions based on criteria that are important to each individual. Part of this is the voting process, which is based on the opinion of each individual and their responsibility to voice that opinion. Especially in this day and age, all the information we need to make an informed decision is at our fingertips. No longer do we have to listen only to a debate on the radio, but we have the Internet, newspapers and televisions to aid in our assessment.

This freedom is not absolute, however, there are certain requirements to vote, to let our voice be heard and to be a part of our democracy. One must be a US Citizen, at least 18 years of age, and cannot be a convicted felon, or in jail. Another unstated requirement is that one must care for the welfare of our American soil and respect the power of a democracy. We are no longer subjects to a king or queen, but in essence, we are subject to ourselves.

 

Registration

When are person goes to the polling place, how do the officials know that he or she is a qualified voter? This is the main reason for registration; it allowed the government to know who you are and that you are eligible. When people register they show things such as date of birth, name and address to prove that they meet the requirements needed. Cards may be used as identification to show that a person is eligible. All states differ in their registration requirements and procedures. (People in North Dakota, do not have to register to vote!) To find out that your requirements are, contact your local governmental offices.

 

History of Voting

When the government first started, only land owning males were allowed to vote in the elections. The right to vote, also called suffrage, has changed since then to include almost all people who are citizens. As outlined in the Amendments to the Constitution, more and more people gained suffrage.

15th Amendment (1870) – African Americans were guaranteed the right to vote. It also outlined that no one could be denied to vote based on race or color.

17th Amendment (1913) – Eligible voters in a state were able to elect the state’s U.S. senators.

19th Amendment (1920) – American women gained the right to vote.

23rd Amendment (1961) – People living in Washington D.C. (the District of Columbia) were given the right to vote for the president and vice-president.

24th Amendment (1966) – Forbade the use of poll tax (a special tax, for people choosing to vote).

26th Amendment (1971) – Lowered the age of voting from 21 years old to 18 years old, in the entire nation.

 

The Voting Process

The president is not actually elected by popular vote, he is elected by the Electoral College. Citizens, who are registered to vote, enter polling places in their community and vote not only for the president (every four years), but also for local leaders, issues and referendums. It only takes about 10 minutes to cast your vote, but the choice lasts much longer. It is commonly said that one cannot have grievances against the government without taking the time to let your voice be heard, namely voting.

 

Campaigns and Issues

Campaigning for office is a big job and cannot be done alone. It takes many people to build and run a campaign. A campaign has to be very organized and takes a lot of planning and money. Many people stuff envelopes make telephone calls, pass out flyers, and ring doorbells. The name of the game is to get the people in a community or country familiar with the candidate.

The campaign manager is one of the most important people on a campaign staff. They plan where the candidate will go, and what issues to talk about. They also guide members of the staff in fundraisers, speech writing, media appearances and so on. As part of a campaign the candidate appears at many functions such as meetings, rallies, and picnics.

In a campaign someone has the job of keeping track of what the public thinks. They take polls on what issues are important to voters. It is very important for a candidate to know what the voters are interested in and the polltakers are able to give that vital information to the candidate from what they find in the polls.

Also a candidate needs money to run a campaign. Campaigns get their money from several different resources. First many individuals will donate money to different campaigns. Also businesses and interest groups donate money. In the 1970’s people became very concerned about all of these people giving money because it could influence the candidates decision. Congress then passed a law in which nobody can donate over $1,000 to one particular candidate and the candidate has to report the name of anyone that donates over $200. This then makes sure that a candidate can not be bought.