Presidential elections are held every four years on the first Tuesday of November. All United States citizens over 18 years of age are eligible to vote. Citizens living outside the United States can vote by asking for an absentee ballot in advanced and mailing it to their voting district. Each resident of the United States must register to vote and its assigned a voting place. This avoids people voting twice at different locations.
The presidential election process is interesting because it is the only important elected office where the people do not directly vote for the president. In reality, the people vote for the electoral college dates from the early days of presidential election process, when transportation and communication were not what they are today.
In the old days, each state was assigned a number of electoral votes based on it?s population. This system is still in effect today, with populous states like California, New York, Florida, Texas and Illinois carrying much more weight than sparsely populated smaller states like North Dakota, Rhode Island, Delaware, Wyoming, and Alaska.
This means essentially that the individual voter votes not for his or her candidate of choice, but rather for someone who intern votes according to the majority in the state. Therefore, if one candidate wins for only one vote in a given state, all the electoral votes of that state go to that candidate, This means that it is possible for the popular vote to be different from the electoral vote, causing someone to be elected that did not have a moyority of the votes of the American people. In practice, this has only happened once, during the election of Samuel Adams in 1803. This caused a constitutional crisis in which was resolved by a special vote in congress, allowing the candidate with the most votes to win.
However before I get to the actual election, there is an important process to complete to choose the candidates that will run for office. This is the primary process. Starting about a year before the election, states begin to hold primary elections. The first is always held in New Hampshire and tradition has it that whoever wins in New Hampshire will win the nomination for the presidency. Each political party held their own primary in each state. At the end of the primaries, each party holds a convention to nominate their candidate of choice and to publish their ideas and views so the public can choose between the candidates. These published ideas and vies are called a party platform and each mayor party has one.
The mayor parties are the Republicans and the Democrats. There has never been a very successful third party in the United States, although Ross Perot and John Anderson tried to launch one in the elections of 1992 and 1988 respectively. This year, former senator Bob Dole is running for the Republican party and the current president, Bill Clinton is running for reelection. If reelected, Bill Clinton will not be able to run again because constitutionally, the president is limited to two consecutive four year terms. This limitation is relatively recently. in fact, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran and was elected three times. His third election represented a break in a tradition started by George Washington, when he decided not to run a third time. However, it is widely believed that Roosevelt?s third election was tolerated because the country was in the middle of World War II. When Roosevelt died in April 12 1945, he had yet completed his third term. According to the constitution, Harry Truman, The Vice President finished his term.
Each candidate has his own views on important issues. For example, Bob Dole has recently proposed a cut in the Capitol gains tax. In addition, he is against abortion and favors less government interventory in business. In contrast, Bill Clinton thinks that taxes should not be reduced right now. He also would allow abortion in certain cases, like rape, of if the mother?s life were in danger. Clinton would create more government to reform health care and welfare. However, despite their differences the candidates have more in common than one might think. For example, both believe in democracy and the American electoral process. Both believe in a strong America and on independent Foreign policy.
The press has an interesting and growing role in the political process. Before the modern age of telecommunications, the press?s role was relatively limited. However, since television was invented, the role of the press has gotten more and more important. The first election in which the press had a decisive role was in 1960. The Republican candidate was Richard Nixon and the Democratic candidate was John Kennedy. The two candidates held a debate on television. Richard Nixon hadn?t shaved well enough and started to sweat under the lights of the television studio. Kennedy looked fresh and youthful. The result was that Nixon looked untrustworthy and evil. He lost the election. Ofcourse he went on to win the first of his two elections in 1968. In that election he had learned to use the power of the press to his advantage. Today, the press follows every movement of the candidate,
his family and his staff. Every movement is looked at closely. The good part of this is that the American people can be better informed. This information allows for better decision making at election time and ensures the continued success of the American political system.