Big issues, big money, big stakes: making sense of a messy process.
An ongoing series that includes explanatory articles, multimedia resources, and embedded audio/video.
The National Front
Electoral funkiness and the big issues at play this year
“Direct democracy,” Golden State style
Campaign Finance and Media
Money, ads and influence
ESL Election Resources
Bring the 2012 election into your multilingual classroom(w/ EDUCATOR GUIDES)
Watch Map Center: What If the Battleground States Go Red? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
Because nearly every state in the nation has a winner-take-all presidential electoral system (except Nebraska and Maine), the outcome on election day in most states is fairly predictable. No Republican presidential candidate, for instance, has won California since 1988, and there’s no sign of that trend changing anytime soon. So it wouldn’t be the smartest move to put your money on Mitt Romney here.
Likewise, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. So Barack Obama’s chances of winning over the Longhorn State this election? Pretty slim.
Of course, on the rare occasion there have been some monumental upsets. Take Indiana, which hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but in 2008 picked Obama (albeit narrowly and ephemerally: the state is back to it’s solid red roots this year).
The majority of the presidential race is downright predictable.
So where’s the suspense? Where’s the action? Continue reading
This November, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which proposes adding labels to food products containing ingredients hat have been genetically modified.
Genetically modified what?
Yeah – this is about as confusing as it gets, and there’s weird science behind the whole thing, which makes it even harder to understand for us normal folk. Continue reading
Elections aren’t supposed to be super complicated. But they are. And if you feel like you still need a diagram to figure out our electoral process, here are two good ones to get you started (created independently and shared on the site visual.ly). Click on the first one to see it full size.
Here’s a little factoid that never fails to mightily confuse most voters. As Americans, we actually DO NOT directly elect our presidents and vice presidents. I repeat, the U.S. president is not chosen through a one-person, one-vote system!
Simply put: this is not direct democracy!
When we head to the polls on election day to choose a presidential candidate, we’re not actually really voting for that person. Instead, we’re throwing our support behind a group of “electors” who belong to a strange institution called the electoral college. And it’s that group that actually casts the direct votes to decide who the next president and vice president will be.
Don’t believe me? Check out Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Says it right there. Honest.
Here’s how it works:
First off, what is the Electoral College (and do they have a good football team)?
It’s more of an institution than a place. No dorms. No frat boys. No teams. No crazy parties. Basically, none of the fun stuff.
Here’s what it is: During the presidential election every four years, the various political parties in each state (for instance: California’s Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc.) choose a group of “electors,” generally party activists who have pledged their electoral votes to the presidential candidate of that party should he/she win the popular vote in that state. Pretty much anyone who’s registered to vote is eligible to be an elector, with the exception of members of Congress and federal government employees). Continue reading
What’s the electoral college, who are delegates, and why in the heck do we vote on Tuesday?
National elections, especially presidential ones, offer great teaching moments. But explaining the basic mechanics of America’s ever confusing electoral system can be daunting, especially for students who lack a basic understanding of the process.
Fortunately, there are a ton of great free digital resources out there to help your students demystify the process, using pretty engaging and creative formats. Of course, finding them entails the equally daunting task of spending hours online in search of the best unbiased content out there.
So, with that in mind, rather than adding to the cyber-pile, I’ve compiled a list of six excellent sites that do a good job in driving home basic election concepts, and, hopefully, encouraging your students to think critically about the process (rather than just learning about it as a given). This is by no means a comprehensive list (a good longer list can be found at the National Writing Project’s site), so if you have additional suggestions, please share in the comment box below. Continue reading
American youth under 18 years old live under the same laws as adults. They pay sales taxes (every time they buy something). And some can even work jobs and get drivers licenses.
But … they can’t vote.
And that’s just not fair, say a growing number of student rights groups across the country that are lobbying to have the voting age lowered to at least 16. Continue reading
Click each county on the map below for stats on California’s eligible and registered voters, as well as a breakdown of political party affiliation (but keep in mind there’s a big difference between registered and “likely” voters). The darker the shade, the higher the percentage of registered voters.
(Source: California Secretary of State, May 2012 data)
President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, called voting “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.”
But in California – where nearly 24 million adults are eligible to vote – the number of people who actually take advantage of this right is surprisingly small.
Consider these California voting stats (approximated):
- 24 million: People who are eligible to vote
- 17 million: People registered to vote (about 72% of those who are eligible)
- 6 million: “Likely voters” (those who regularly vote)
- 5.3 million: The number of votes cast in the June 2012 primary election
A Public Policy Institute of California survey also found that California’s “likely voters” are not representative of the state’s racial and economic diversity. About 65 percent of them are white (even though whites make up only 44 percent of the state’s adult population) and only 17 percent Latino (who make up about one-third of the state’s population). Likely voters are also generally older, more educated, more affluent, and far more likely to own a home than the average Californian. And more than 80 percent were born in the U.S.
For more on how to register to vote and who is eligible, go here.
Guest post by Jennifer A. Waggoner
President, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Voting is essential to the democratic process; it allows citizens to participate in shaping the role and scope of government. And it remains one of the most powerful and interactive forms of civic engagement.
In most Democratic nations throughout the world, universal suffrage is a right that’s been fought hard for. And in some democracies, voting among the adult population is actually mandatory.
Yet in America, it’s a right that’s grown strikingly underutilized. Continue reading