“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
~ President John F. Kennedy
(This page last updated 9/5/12)
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.
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.]
Comparison of the 2008 platforms – [2012 comparison to be posted when available.]
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?
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.
Visit the campaign websites and YouTube pages for the 2012 presidential candidates 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? 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 “presidential.” 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 don’t affect American politics by winning national elections, but they can act as “spoilers” by taking votes from one of the two major parties. Third parties sometimes take votes away from one party allowing a candidate without a majority to win an 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). Ron Paul is not running as a third party candidate, but he is staying in the race as a Republican to try to cause the Republican party to consider his views (though he knows he has no chance of winning the nomination). In this election, if Ron Paul were to run as a third party candidate, he would most likely take votes away from Mitt Romney and possibly help President Obama to win reelection.
Few third-party candidates hold elected office at the state and national level. There are dozens of “third parties” in the U.S. We list here only third party presidential candidates who have made it to the ballots in a majority of states.
- Virgil Goode, Constitution Party (conservative): goodeforpresident2012.com and youtube.com/virgilgoode2012
- Jill Stein, presumptive nominee of the Green Party (liberal): jillstein.org and youtube.com/user/JillStein2012
- Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party (in general socially liberal, fiscally conservative): garyjohnson2012.com and youtube.com/user/govgaryjohnson
The central focus of a presidential debate should be to provide voters with information they need to measure the suitability of the candidates for the White House.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced four debates for the 2012 Presidential election. All debates will take place from 9:00 – 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
First Presidential Debate – watch at: c-span.org/Debates/Events/Presidential-Debate-on-Domestic-Policy/10737434292
Topic: Domestic policy. The debate will be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and were “announced several weeks before the debate,” according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.
Location: University of Denver in Denver, Colorado
Moderator: Jim Lehrer (PBS NewsHour Executive Editor)
Thursday, October 11, 2012
First (and only) vice presidential debate – watch at: c-span.org/Debates/Events/Vice-Presidential-Debate/10737434293
(between Vice President Joe Biden Mitt Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan)
Topic: Foreign and domestic topics. The debate will be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the question.
Location: Centre College, Danville, Kentucky
Moderator: Martha Raddatz (ABC News Sr. Foreign Affairs Correspondent)
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Second presidential debate - watch at: c-span.org/Debates/Events/Town-Hall-Presidential-Debate/10737434294
Topic: Town meeting format on foreign and domestic issues. In the town meeting format, citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
Location: Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York
Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN Chief Political Correspondent and CNN’s State of the Union Anchor)
Monday, October 22, 2012
Third presidential debate
Topic: Foreign policy. The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate: the debate will be divided into six time segments of approximately 15 minutes each on topics to be selected by the moderator and were “announced several weeks before the debate,” according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a discussion of the topic.
Location: Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida
Moderator: Bob Schieffer (CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent and Face the Nation Moderator)
All debates will be moderated by a single individual and will take place from 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. There will be no opening statements and two-minute closing statements in all the debates. In all the debates except town meeting, the CPD recommends that the candidates be seated at a table with the moderator. Moderators were selected and announced in August.
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.
Watch the Presidential Debates or the Vice Presidential Debate live at c-span.org/Debates. 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.
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 that 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?
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)
SENATORS / REPRESENTATIVES / GOVERNORS:
- Elections to the United States Senate are to be held on November 6, 2012, with 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate being contested in regular elections whose winners will serve six-year terms from January 3, 2013 until January 3, 2019.
- The Senate is currently composed of 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats (democratic socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut).
- Currently, Democrats are expected to have 23 seats up for election, including the 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats, while Republicans are expected to have 10 seats up for election.
- The 2012 United States House of Representatives elections will be held on November 6, 2012.
- Elections for United States House of Representatives will be held for all 435 seats, representing the 50 U.S. states.
- Elections will also be held for the delegates from the District of Columbia and five major U.S. territories.
- The winners of this election cycle will serve in the 113th United States Congress. This will be the first congressional election using congressional districts apportioned based on the 2010 United States Census.
- The House is currently composed of 241 Republicans and 191 Democrats. [There are 3 vacancies due to 2 resignations and one death.]
- The United States gubernatorial elections of 2012 will be held in eleven states and two territories on November 6, 2012.
- There are currently 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and 1 Independent [in Rhode Island] holding the office of governor in the states, and 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans (one is also a member of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico) as governor of United States Territories and mayor of Washington, D.C.
[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 for House, Senate and governor who are running in your state.
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 2012 ballot measures at ballotpedia.org.
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?
2012 ELECTION MAPS AND POLLS:
- politico.com/2012-election/map/#/President/2012/Primary (click on tabs at top of page for Senate, House and Governor races) (NOTE: links are primary maps; 2012 general election maps to be posted when available)