Lesson Objectives:- The ballot system
- Straight-ticket voting
- Voting issues
- Voter turnout and its effects
- Legal restrictions on voting
The election system we use in the United States is the Australian Ballot, which is a secret ballot prepared, distributed, and tabulated by government officials at public expense. Since 1888, all states have used the Australian ballot rather than an open, public ballot.
The form we use is called an Office-Block. Also known as a Massachusetts Ballot, it is a form of general election ballot in which candidates for elective office are grouped together under the title of each office. It emphasizes voting for the office and the individual candidate, rather than for the party.
As you can imagine, parties do not favor this type of ballot because it emphasizes the office over the party.
Another type of ballot is the Party-Column, or Indiana, Ballot. With the Party-Column ballot, all of a party's candidates for elective office are arranged in one column under the party's label and symbol. It emphasizes voting for the party, rather than for the office or individual.
This encourages straight-ticket voting, which can enhance the Coattail Effect -- the influence of a popular candidate on the electoral success of other candidates on the same party ticket.
Citizens doing business abroad or people serving in the military can use a mail ballot to get their vote to count. There are states that do "all-mail elections," where every registered voter receives a ballot by mail, and voter turnout is higher in those states.
Voter fraud comes in many forms. It is easier these days for a fake voter registration or absentee ballot to be made and trick the average person. But, experts argue that voter fraud only amounts to a small margin of error and that mistakes are going to be made when it comes to millions of people.
Voter ID Requirements have become more enhanced, motivated by the desire to eliminate voter fraud. Opponents argue, however, that stricter voter ID requirements are just a way to disenfranchise the poor since they are less likely to have the required identification.
In 2014, 227.2 million people were eligible to vote. Only 81.7 million actually did. That is 36% of the population making a decision for the entire country.
One of the most concerted efforts being made by the political parties is to increase Voter Turnout. Voter turnout is the percentage of citizens taking part in the election process; the number of eligible voters who actually "turn out" on Election Day to cast their ballots.
It is a real issue when it comes to Midterm Elections. Those are the National elections in which candidates for president are not on the ballot. In midterm elections, voters choose all the members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the members of the U.S. Senate.
There is usually a lower voter turnout for midterm elections than in a presidential election year.
Low voter turnout can be looked at in two different ways. In one way, it is a concern. The nation's leaders are being chosen by only a small few. It also might mean that voters are not really interested in the process or the issues.
But also, experts say that low voter turnout works. It could mean that of all the eligible voters, most are happy with the way things are going. Also, people who do not vote tend to agree with the outcome anyway.
One way to calculate voter population is Voting-Age Population. That is the number of people of voting age living in the country at a given time, regardless of whether they have the right to vote.
Another method is to look at the Vote-Eligible Population. That would be the number of people who, at a given time, enjoy the right to vote in national elections.
Most voting issues concerned property rights when the nation's founders were coming up with the rules, so property ownership was originally a requirement. By 1850, most states had rewritten that requirement to extend the franchise, or the right to vote.
As we have discussed before, at first, voting was only extended to white males. Black men gained the right to vote in 1870 and women in 1920. Then in 1971, the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18.
One voter restrictions still in place is denying the right to vote to felons who have completed their prison sentence. Most democracies throughout the world allow felons to vote if they have served their time. Some experts argue that it should be allowed in the United States as well.
In order to vote, most states require voter-eligibility to register. Registration is the entry of a person's name on to the list of registered voters for elections. To register, a person must meet certain legal requirements of age, citizenship, and residency.
Some states do not have a registration. If an eligible voter has obtained a state ID, they are automatically registered and no further action is required. It has been argued that the registration process itself hinders voter participation.