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10.6 Electing Candidates to Office

Millions of voters go to the polls in the presidential elections for the selection of members of the Electoral College. Thus in making his choice of President on election day, the voter technically does not vote directly for a candidate, but chooses between slates of presidential electors. Each slate is made up of men that the state party has selected, generally in party conventions, to serve in this honorary role. Nominees for the Electoral College are usually prominent party workers. It is understood that if they are elected, they will vote for their party's candidate for President, whose name appears on the ballot, above the party's list of nominees for the Electoral College. A voter generally votes for the slate of candidates of the party whose candidate for President he is in favor of. Thus the party that gets a plurality of the popular vote, gets a state's entire electoral vote.

The electors on the winning slate travel to their state capital where they go through the ceremony of casting their ballots for their party's candidates. The ballots are then sent to Washington. Here there is a formal counting by the House and Senate, followed by announcement of the name of the next President. Several have appealed for an abandonment of the Electoral College system, in favor of direct election of the President. However in the less populous states, direct election would not be acceptable, as they would not have as much vote in the election of the President, as they do now. Under the present system, the Electoral College forces the presidential candidates, and ultimately the president, to be specially responsive to the problems and interest of groups such as organized labor, Catholics and African Americans.

10.6a The Coattails Effect

At the top of the ballot (including candidates for the House and Senate, governor, the State Legislature, and Local offices), is the name of the party's nominee for President. The Presidential nominee's capability in getting the other officials on the slate elected is referred to as the coattails effect. Thus in 1980 Ronald Reagan succeeded in getting a sufficient number of Republicans elected to give the party control of the Senate, by the coattails effect. (Ronald Reagan had long coattails.)

10.6b Congressional elections

Every two years, the entire membership of the House of Representatives and one-third of the members of the Senate, are chosen by the voters of the state, in a November election. Special or off-year elections to the Congress do not attract much attention. They increase in importance only when the outcome may lead to a shift of political control in the Congress, or if special issues are involved. An example of special interest is the election of a U.S. senator in Mississippi in November 1947, in which candidates had sharp differences on the extent to which white supremacy had to be maintained.


10.0 - Introduction
10.1 The Expansion of Suffrage
10.2 Obstacles to Voting
10.3 Voter Turnout
10.4 Voting Choices
10.5 Getting Nominated and Compaigning for Office
10.6 Electing Candidates to Office

Chapter 11

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