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Participation, Voting and Elections

Voting is the simplest form of participation in a democracy. Were a country without it, it would not be regarded as a democratic polity. The core spirit of a democratic system lies intrinsically in the people’s power to freely cast votes. But although democratic states essentially adhere to the same ideology and are guided by the same values, nearly all have disparate ways in which votes count, elections are administered, and campaigns are organized.

Rooted in the idea of a “real choice,” a view of there being more than one party and that each party should stand for different policies, the prospective/responsible voting model gives way to the belief that voters are attentive to the future plans of a party and throw ballots in support of the best fit candidate. This is one of several models that attempt to explain the voting process. The electoral competition model suggests parties take the middle path, choosing to position themselves on middle ground on nearly all issues, while the retrospective voting model looks at what has been accomplished so far, and relies on most often the quick judgments of voters.

Participating politically can come in a handful of forms. Besides voting, conventional participation includes assisting campaigns, parties and possibly contacting officials. Unconventional can consist of aiding in protests, demonstrations, strikes, and walks. As for voting suffrage in this past century, it has now extended itself to all Americans, save for convicted felons. Still, even with an ever-growing population who all possess the right to vote, voter turn-out has decreased significantly in the past two decades, possibly indicating things at home are not that bad, and citizens are happy with the way things are going.

The race for the presidency begins with campaign fundraising and moves on to primaries and caucuses that are state-based, and are aimed at winning state delegates for the nominees. National conventions now-a-days are merely extravagant displays of a party’s support which do not pick the nominees on the spot. As candidates vie for the seat in the oval office, they compete on different planes, from past experience, to their personal, but broad implementation of ideology, to individual characteristics, and as the current election has seen: the ability to be the well-spring of new ideas and change.

A commonly talked about subject among political pundits, campaign financing is a paramount and overriding step in successfully starting, and then winning, a campaign. Contributions to candidates have become more and more under the watchful eyes of the media, election committees, and rival parties, making it much more regulated through the years. Hard money, which is the chief form of contributions, comes from PAC’s, interest groups, and supporting organizations. Nevertheless, a candidate’s low level of contributions will preclude them from running a victorious bid. By the fall, campaigns are partially supported through public funds that trickle down from taxpayers, and as the last election saw, can supply close to $100 million to the candidates.

The way voters decide their candidates is based on several factors that range from social characteristics, age, sex, socio-economic status, education, to party loyalties, inculcation from social groups and families, a candidates personality, and largely, the issues at hand. Voters cast ballots for their candidates, who are then elected by members of a state’s Electoral College in a first-past-the-poll, winner-take-all system. In past elections, scenarios have arisen where the popular vote of the country does not ensure a candidates position in the Whitehouse.

The premise vital to free elections and indispensable from democratic theory is the notion that individuals will cast ballots unrestrained and without coercion. But of course, an uninformed voter undermines this principle. It is hopeful to think voters will have a modicum of familiarity with the issues, but enough at least to know exactly what their vote stands for. In the past several weeks of caucuses voters have come out in droves to support one candidate or another, their presence at polling sites breaking records. Pundits have mentioned the idea that the average person is going to their local public school to vote, due largely because of the historic significance the election will have. The issues, however, remain mundane, as rhetoric and gender supersede anything else, altogether dejecting the idea of conscientious voting and neglecting the most apt, erudite, and experienced candidates.


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