Citizens of democratic countries consider voting one of their chief rights because it allows them to choose who will govern them. People vote on many issues besides elections for public officials. For example, they may vote on whether to build a school, expand the police force, or impose a tax.
Who May Vote?
In Utah to register and vote you must meet the following criteria:
Not too long ago only white, male, property owners could vote in America. Go to the History of Voting Rights section to learn how voting laws changed over the last 225 years.
Registration is the process by which a person's name is added to the list of qualified voters. On election day, officials check each person's name against the list before they let the person vote. According to the League of Women Voters of Utah web site, Utahns can register to vote:
The election office will notify applicants when their application has been approved and where to vote. In Utah you must register 20 days before the general election. Contact the appropriate Utah County Clerk Office with specific registration questions.
In the United States, each county, township, or ward of a state is divided into voting districts called precincts. Citizens may vote only at the polling place in the precinct in which they live. Visit the Registered Voter Lookup web page to find the address of your polling place.
All registered voters can submit an absentee ballot application if they would like to vote by mail. To become a permanent absentee voter, check "Yes" in the permanent absentee section of the application.
The Constitution of the United States requires that a congressional election be held every two years. At that time, voters elect all the members of the House of Representatives for a two-year term and about one-third of the Senate members for a six-year term. The Constitution also requires the election of a President and a Vice President every four years. The process of becoming the president of the United States involves many steps and a lot of money. After deciding to run for president, one of the first steps is to win in a primary election.
In a primary election, a political party basically holds an election among its own members to select the party members who will represent it in the coming general election. Any number of party members can run for an office in a primary, but only the winning candidate can represent the party in the general election. Parties learn from the primary votes which candidates the members of their parties prefer. Presidential primary elections are held early during the election year.
The two major U.S. parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, hold national conventions to officially select their nominees for president and vice president. Usually these conventions are held about 3 months before Election Day. Visist the sites of the National Republican Committee and the National Democratic Committee to learn about the committees that organize these conventions.
For eight to ten weeks between the Convention and Election Day, the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates campaign. The candidates state their thoughts on the party platform and make promises on behalf of the government. They also make speeches and appear at rallies and debates to present their philosophies and views on current issues.
Campaign funds are necessary to pay personnel and to finance advertising, travel, and other needs. Recently, campaign costs have become enormous. As a result, parties and candidates need to raise many millions of dollars. The majority of candidates raise most of their funds by soliciting donations from supporters, associates, and friends, and from members of their own family. Do you know how much an individual can contribute to a presidential campaign?
Put on your campaign manager hat and complete these campaign advertising activities.
Check out the presidential campaign memorabilia of past presidents. I bet you can come up better slogans than:
Election Day is always the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The 2006 election will be November 7.
In the United States the people do not elect the president and vice president directly. The framers of the Constitution thought it would be impossible for such a widely scattered nation to learn anything about candidates from other states. They solved this problem by setting up the Electoral College.
This is how the Electoral College works:
This U.S. map shows the number of electoral votes each state has as a result of the 1990 census.
The inauguration is the ceremony of installing the new or reelected president in office. It is held at noon on January 20 after the election. During the inauguration ceremony the new president takes the oath of office from the chief justice of the United States. With right hand raised and left hand on an open Bible, the new president says: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Test your inauguration knowledge with this online quiz.
Below are web resources to help you learn more about the political parties and elections.
During colonial times, the right to vote was limited to adult white males who owned property. Most women could not vote, though some colonies gave the vote to widows who owned property. After the United States became an independent nation, the Constitution gave the states the right to decide who could vote. One by one, the states abolished property requirements and, by 1830, all white male adults could vote.
Since the 1800's, democratic nations have extended suffrage (the right to vote) to many people. The Constitution of the United States has been amended several times for this purpose.
African American History Resources
Woman Suffrage Resources
According to the U.S. Census, only 32% of eligible eighteen to twenty-four year olds exercised their right to vote. Something must be done to turn the tide. We must work towards securing democracy for the future by involving youth in the election process today. Here are some online resources that educate, as well as involve young people in the voting process.