Americans are in the middle of an interesting election year, where Republican and Democrat candidates are competing to represent their political parties. On April 11, 2016, celebrity and businessman Donald Trump was leading Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich in the Republican primaries, and Senator Hillary Clinton was leading Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democrat primaries. After each party chooses its candidate, they will face each other in the general election in November. Have you heard some of the slogans, “Feel the Bern,” “Let’s Make America Great,” “TrusTed?” Each candidate hopes their campaigning will eventually take them to the White House.
The U.S. Constitution and Choosing a President
The American Founding Fathers wrote in the Constitution that the President and Vice President are elected through the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an institution, or process. States are given a certain number of “electors,” people who vote for a President and Vice President. The number of electors given to each state depends on how many representatives each state has in the House of Representatives. The electors are directed by their state legislators how to vote and were initially given two votes. (A legislator is a person who makes laws.) The candidate with more than 50% of the electoral vote becomes the President, and the candidate with the second most votes becomes the Vice President. The Founding Fathers wanted proven leaders to decide who should be president, because they thought professional politicians would best understand who should lead the country.
Choosing a U.S. President in History
In the first two Presidential elections (1789 and 1782), George Washington won the unanimous vote of all electors. Once Washington left office, political parties became more important and initially this caused problems for the Electoral College. In the election of 1796, electors chose a President and Vice President from opposing parties. Federalist Party candidate John Adams became President, but Democratic-Republican Party candidate Thomas Jefferson became the Vice President. This would be like Bernie Sanders becoming President and Ted Cruz becoming Vice-President in 2016.
In the 1800 elections, the electors wanted Jefferson as President and his running mate Aaron Burr to become Vice President. Electors cast the same number of ballots for Jefferson and for Burr. Because the electors didn’t write which one they wanted for President, there was confusion over who won the election. In 1804, the states passed the Twelfth Amendment which forced electors to cast two separate ballots – one for President and one for Vice President. Electors today still vote in this same manner.
Before 1824, electors were chosen primarily by state legislators. American politicians, especially Andrew Jackson, thought that all American citizens should choose the electors. Because of Jackson and others, the people became the main voice of who should be President, not the state politicians. Today, each state holds an election and allows its citizens to choose electors.
A History of Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
Presidential Primaries and caucuses are elections in each state that choose the representative for each political party. There is nothing in the Constitution about this process, and it has developed over time, with some differences, in each state. Because of this historical development, sometimes the primary season appears confusing. Beginning with the 1796 election, Presidential candidates were chosen by politicians from each party’s state politicians. In 1831, the Anti-Masonic Party held the first national party convention to choose their Presidential candidate. From this time through the early 1900s, candidates for President and Vice President were chosen at national party conventions, where powerful party leaders decided.
In the early 1900s, Americans wanted to take the power away from political leaders and give to all citizens in deciding who should choose presidential candidates. Beginning with Florida, Wisconsin, and Oregon, states held primary elections or caucuses to choose delegates to the party conventions. These delegates would then choose the candidate. In most cases, party delegates are bound to vote for the person who won in their state, but in some states, they are not.
There are two types of elections where state citizens choose their candidate: a primary and a caucus. In a primary, citizens vote in a traditional election with a secret ballot. In a caucus, people gather for a meeting, express their views, and vote either secretly or in the open.
2016 Primary Elections
The 2016 Primary Elections have been one of the most interesting election cycles in this author’s lifetime. At the beginning, there were at least 16 Republican candidates. Now, there are three, and it appears that none of them will win the required number of delegates before the Republican national convention. On the Democrat side, there is a Socialist who is not even a member of the party competing against a former first lady. On both the Republican and Democrat side, both leaders are disliked by over 50% of the population, in many polls. In the summer, the Democrats and Republicans will have their party conventions, and it is at these meetings that each party will declare who its candidate will be.
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John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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