Political Processes

Functions of Political Parties

Political parties are organized groups of people with similar ideas or ideology about the government, with shared policy goals that work together to elect individuals to political office, create and implement policies, and further a political agenda.

Parties gain control over the government by winning elections with candidates they sponsor or nominate for positions in government on all levels. They also coordinate political campaigns and mobilize voters.

List of Functions:

  1. Recruiting and nominating candidates

  2. Educating the electorate about campaign issues

  3. Helping candidates win elections

  4. Monitoring actions of officeholders

Characteristics of Political Parties

  • A two-party system characterizes the American political process.

    • Republican and Democratic Parties

  • Although third parties rarely win elections, they can play an important role in public politics

  • Similarities between parties

    • Organize to win elections

    • Influence public policies

    • Reflect both liberal and conservative views

    • Define views to win majority support by appealing to the political center

  • Differences between parties

  • Third parties

    • Introduce new ideas and/or press for a particular issue

    • Often revolve around a political personality

  • Campaigns for elective office emphasize and use media to attract voters

  • Voters evaluate information presented in political campaigns to make reasoned choices among candidates

  • How do citizens make informed choices in elections?

    • Separating fact from opinion

    • Detecting bias

    • Evaluating sources

    • Identifying propaganda

  • How does the media play a role in the political process?

    • Mass media roles in elections

    • Identifying candidates

    • Emphasizing selected issues

    • Writing editorials, creating political cartoons, publishing op-ed pieces

    • Broadcasting different points of view

Role of Campaign Contributions and Costs

  • Rising campaign costs mean that candidates must conduct extensive fundraising activities

    • limits opportunities to run for public office

    • gives an advantage to wealthy candidates

    • encourages the development of political action committees (PACs)

    • gives issue-oriented special interest groups increased influence

    • has led to efforts to reform campaign finance (limits placed on contributions)

Requirements for Voter Registration/Participation

  • Voters must register before they are allowed to vote

  • Voting determines how important election issues are to citizens

  • What are the qualifications for voter registration in Virginia?

    • Qualifications to register to vote in Virginia:

      • Citizen of the United States

      • Resident of Virginia and precinct

      • At least 18 years old

  • How to register to vote in Virginia

    • In person at the registrar’s office, at the DMV, or at other designated sites

    • By mail-in application

    • Voter registration is closed 22 days before elections

  • Factors predict voter turnout (which citizens will vote) -- education, age, lack of interest, failure to register, etc.

Every vote is important!

Role of Electoral College in Presidential Elections

The Electoral College process is used to select the president and vice president of the United States.

Electoral College process

  • Electors for each state are chosen by popular vote (the number of electors of each state is based on the state's population)

  • Most states have a winner-take-all system

  • The electors meet to vote for president and vice president

The winner-take-all system leads to the targeting of densely populated states for campaigning, although candidates must pay attention to less populated states that are swing states.

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