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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the stages in the election process
  • Compare the primary and caucus systems
  • Summarize how primary election returns lead to the nomination of the party candidates

Elections offer American voters the opportunity to participate in their government with little investment of time or personal effort. Yet voters should make decisions carefully. The electoral system allows them the chance to pick party nominees as well as office-holders, although not every citizen will participate in every step. The presidential election is often criticized as a choice between two evils, yet citizens can play a prominent part in every stage of the race and influence who the final candidates actually are.

Deciding to run

Running for office can be as easy as collecting one hundred signatures on a city election form or paying a registration fee of several thousand dollars to run for governor of a state. However, a potential candidate still needs to meet state-specific requirements covering length of residency, voting status, and age. Potential candidates must also consider competitors, family obligations, and the likelihood of drawing financial backing. His or her spouse, children, work history, health, financial history, and business dealings also become part of the media’s focus, along with many other personal details about the past. Candidates for office are slightly more diverse than the representatives serving in legislative and executive bodies, but the realities of elections drive many eligible and desirable candidates away from running.

Jennifer L. Lawless. 2012. Becoming a Candidate: Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Despite these problems, most elections will have at least one candidate per party on the ballot. In states or districts where one party holds a supermajority, such as Georgia, candidates from the other party may be discouraged from running because they don’t think they have a chance to win.

“Partisan Composition of State Houses,” http://ballotpedia.org/Partisan_composition_of_state_houses (November 4, 2015); Zach Holden. 20 November 2014. “No Contest: 36 Percent of 2014 State Legislative Races Offered No Choice,” https://www.followthemoney.org/research/blog/no-contest-36-percent-of-2014-state-legislative-races-offer-no-choice-blog/.
Candidates are likely to be moving up from prior elected office or are professionals, like lawyers, who can take time away from work to campaign and serve in office.
“Legislators’ Occupations in All States,” http://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/legislator-occupations-national-data.aspx (November 3, 2015).

When candidates run for office, they are most likely to choose local or state office first. For women, studies have shown that family obligations rather than desire or ambition account for this choice. Further, women are more likely than men to wait until their children are older before entering politics, and women say that they struggle to balance campaigning and their workload with parenthood.

Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox. 2010. It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office . Revised Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Because higher office is often attained only after service in lower office, there are repercussions to women waiting so long. If they do decide to run for the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate, they are often older, and fewer in number, than their male colleagues ( [link] ). As of 2015, only 24.4 percent of state legislators and 20 percent of U.S. Congress members are women.
“Women in State Legislatures for 2015,” 4 September 2015. http://www.ncsl.org/legislators-staff/legislators/womens-legislative-network/women-in-state-legislatures-for-2015.aspx.
The number of women in executive office is often lower as well. It is thus no surprise that 80 percent of members of Congress are male, 90 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree, and their average age is sixty.
Philip Bump, “The New Congress is 80 Percent White, 80 Percent Male and 92 Percent Christian,” Washington Post , 5 January 2015.

Questions & Answers

What is pressure group
Felcia Reply
what is election
Faith Reply
A election is a formal and organized choice by voters of a person or people for a political office or other position.
Tina
Ok. Thanks not sure why you sent that to me. But ok?
Chatbot
What if the people of country did not want
Sadam Reply
Can you explain the Stockdale Paradox
Patricia Reply
How the capital market can create a better future for all import and benefit
Egbo Reply
in the dred scott case what did the supreme court decide the Congress had no power to do
Kazi Reply
who was james madison
Ceceilia Reply
Founding Father who fought to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution he helped write (called the "Father of the Constitution"). He and Jefferson didn't want the federal govt to overpower the states (Democratic-Republican party). Cowrote The Federalist Papers. 4th President of the US (1809-1817).
Aaron
hi
Serah
how are you doing
Bubacarr
hi
Nicole
hello
faithsia
who has the power to declare war
Fernandy Reply
president who is commander in chief
Abu
Adam the president
Talima
are spelled out in Constitution
leticia Reply
What is constituencies
Patrick Reply
is the body of voters who elect their representatives for their area
Ernest
Can you say is the process by which voters who elect their representatives for their area
Lydia
people respresenting Congress
Nicole
but are you sure?
Anna
so does anyone UNDERSTAND the laws of the CITY and the City Council...
Anna
the first Republic political parties
Baby Reply
how call government system in Zambia
esenam Reply
was it Britain that colonialised usa
Temiloluwa Reply
Yes because is in the document of Britain which it cannot be change.
Abu
what is government?
Busari
what is Electoral malpractice
Bailey Reply
it is a practice which is against the rules of electoral activities(electoral commission ).
Abu
Electoral malpractice, is illegal interference with process of an election.
Tina
Clifford constitution of 1922
ABAH Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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