“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
~ President John F. Kennedy
(This page last updated 8/6/13)
The 2013 United States general elections will be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. This is an off-year election. Off-year elections only feature special elections, if any, to the U.S. Congress to fill vacant seats, usually either due to incumbents resigning or dying while in office. Regularly scheduled elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives are always held in even-numbered years.
Five states elect their respective governors to four-year terms during off-year elections:
- New Jersey
Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi hold their gubernatorial elections during the off-year before the presidential election; and those in New Jersey and Virginia are held in the off-year after the presidential election. These same five states also hold off-year state legislative elections.
(Note: Special elections to Congress occur when a legislator resigns or is removed from office. Depending on the specific state laws governing vacancies, a state can either hold an election within the same calendar year, or wait until the next regularly scheduled election. As of August 2013, a total of eight congressional special elections have been scheduled to occur at some point in 2013-2014.)
- Special elections to the United States Senate for seats in Massachusetts and New Jersey are to be held on November 5, 2013.
- The Senate is currently composed of 52 Democrats, 46 Republicans, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats (democratic socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut).
- This off-year election will feature special elections to the 113th United States Congress to fill any vacancies due to resignations or deaths. Five special elections have taken place or will take place to fill seats in the House of Representatives. Two were due to Congressmen taking seats in the U.S. Senate (Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts), two resigned to take jobs in the private sector (Republican Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri and Republican Jo Bonner of Alabama), and Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois resigned due to an impending federal indictment of misuse of campaign funds.
- The House is currently composed of 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats.
- The United States gubernatorial elections of 2013 will be held on November 5, 2013 in two states: New Jersey and Virginia
- There are currently 30 Republicans and 20 Democrats serving as state governors. Two Democrats (including one from the Popular Democratic Party of Puerto Rico), two Republicans, and one independent also occupy territorial governorships. No other third parties hold a Governorship.
[For links to all state races, go to ballotpedia.org and click on your state. You will find information on all races on your state page.]
Name the candidates running for office in your state. Include party affiliation and office each candidate is running for.
STATE ELECTION WEBSITES:
Links for all 50 states’ Election Board websites are provided below. (Note: Many states include information and/or links to candidates’ websites.)
Visit your state’s official election webpage.
1. What requirements does a prospective candidate need to complete to have his/her name on the ballot in your state?
2. What type of information would you like to see on your state’s elections page? Send an email to your state’s Secretary of State with your suggestion. Identify yourself with your name, school and city. Be clear, concise and polite.
*Washington D.C. – NOTE: Voting rights of citizens in the District of Columbia differ from those of United States citizens in each of the fifty states. District of Columbia residents do not have voting representation in the United States Senate, but D.C. is entitled to three electoral votes for President. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the District is entitled to a delegate, who is not allowed to vote on the floor of the House, but can vote on procedural matters and in House committees. (from wikipedia)
CONSERVATIVE vs. LIBERAL BELIEFS:
Check out StudentNewsDaily’s “Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs” chart. [NOTE: This is a general overview of the conservative and liberal positions on the issues.]
Read through the chart. For each issue, state which position best represents your beliefs and explain why.
Anything that appears on a ballot other than a candidate running for office is called a ballot measure. Ballot measures are broken down into two distinct categories – initiatives (or propositions) and referendums.
- Initiative – Citizens, collecting signatures on a petition, place advisory questions, memorials, statutes (laws) or constitutional amendments on the ballot for the citizens to adopt or reject. “Initiative” refers to newly drafted legislation submitted directly to a popular vote as an alternative to adoption by a state legislature. Twenty-four states have the initiative process.
- Referendum – In many of the same states the citizens have the referendum process – the ability to reject laws or amendments proposed or already passed by the state legislature.
The terms above are all forms of “direct democracy” practiced by various states. In a direct democracy, all citizens, without the intermediary of elected or appointed officials, can participate in making public decisions. Ballot measures are a form of direct democracy practiced by many states in the U.S.
Read more about ballot measures (initiatives and referendums) at the Initiative and Referendum website iandrinstitute.org.
View a map that shows what type (if any) of ballot measures your states allows at iandrinstitute.org/statewide_i%26r.htm.
Find a list of state and local ballot measures at ballotpedia.org
or for a map of ballot measures on your state’s ballot for 2013, go to ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Portal:Ballot_measures
Does your state practice direct democracy through the ballot measure process?
If so, what initiatives or referendums are on your state’s ballot in the upcoming election?
If there are ballot measures in your state, how would you cast your vote on each question?
2013 ELECTION MAPS, POLLS and EDITORIALS:
Visit the campaign websites and YouTube pages for candidates running for office in your state/county/city to learn where they stand on the issues.
List 3 issues you believe are important to consider in this election.
1. What does each candidate say he would do to address each issue? (What are his solutions?)
2. What actions have each taken (legislation) to support or undermine his position on each issue?
3. What do you think is the best way to improve the economy and reduce unemployment in your town? Cut taxes? Cut government spending? Raise taxes on the wealthy? (if so, define wealthy) Raise taxes across the board?
Consider this: Some people vote for a candidate based on the person’s age, sex, race or religion. Some vote for a candidate because he is an interesting or dynamic speaker, is attractive, or looks like a leader. Before you are eligible to vote, decide that you will vote for a candidate based on his/her positions on the issues.
NOTE: The U.S. has a two-party system, which distinguishes American government from most other democracies. Most Western democracies, particularly those in Europe, have multiparty elections and parliaments, but the American government traditionally has had a two-party system. Since the Civil War the two parties have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
From time to time, third parties have gained traction with the electorate, most recently the Reform Party, led by Ross Perot, who won 19% of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential election. Third parties can sometimes push the major parties to consider their position on a specific issue (generally when they believe the party is not taking a strong enough stand, or is taking a moderate position on the issue). Few third-party candidates hold elected office at the state and national level. There are dozens of “third parties” in the U.S. including the Constitution Party (conservative), the Green Party (liberal) and the Libertarian Party (in general socially liberal, fiscally conservative).
The central focus of a debate should be to provide voters with information they need to measure the suitability of the candidates for office.
The Commission on Presidential Debates was established in 1987 and has sponsored all presidential and vice presidential general election debates since 1988. Visit the Commission on Presidential Debates library to view Presidential Debate History. Are any candidates holding debates for your state or local office?
Attend a local debate between the candidates. Pay attention to the questions the moderator asks.
Did the moderator’s questions cause each candidate to clearly explain his position on each issue? Explain your answer.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS – THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE:
The Electoral College consists of popularly elected representatives (electors) who formally elect the President and Vice President of the United States. Since 1964, there have been 538 electors in each presidential election. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution specifies how many electors each state is entitled to have and that each state’s legislature decides how its electors are to be chosen. U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an example of an indirect election.
Electoral Votes for the presidential election: Each state has a certain number of electoral votes. The more people who live in your state, the more electoral votes your state gets. (Can you see why candidates would spend a lot of time in California, New York, and Texas?) In 48 of the states, the candidate who gets the most votes gets all the electoral votes for that state. Nebraska and Maine do not follow the winner-take-all rule – there could be a split of electoral votes among candidates through a proportional allocation of votes. The first candidate to win 270 electoral votes becomes the President.
- For more on the electoral college visit the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Visit the U.S. National Archives page “Frequently Asked Questions” regarding the Electoral College and electors.
- View a map of electoral college votes by state at: 270towin.com
- Take the “Electoral College Quiz” at: 270towin.com/quiz
1. How many electoral votes does your state have?
2. Why is your vote meaningful under the electoral college system?
A National Platform is the official statement of a political party’s position on a wide variety of issues. Each issue category included in the Platform is a “plank.” A new Platform is adopted every four years by both the Democratic and Republican parties and is generally approved during the party’s national convention.
2012 Republican Party Platform (compare to 2008 Republican Party Platform)
2012 Democratic Party Platform (compare to 2008 Democratic Party Platform) - [NOTE: 2012 Platform was passed during convention on 9/4/12 and amended to add mention of God and Jerusalem on 9/5/12.]
View all current and previous party platforms at The American Presidency Project.
(also see 2012 Libertarian Party platform [its last platform was created in 1972],
Constitution Party Platform and the Green Party platform)
How specific or detailed is each party on its positions on the issues?
1. Choose 3 issues and summarize each party’s position.
2. For each issue, explain if you believe the party was specific or vague in stating its position. Why do you think this is so?
3. What role does each party believe the government should take on each issue? (What type of government action and/or legislation, if any, does each party support?)
4. For these issues, how does each party’s position line up with your own?