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POLSC333: Campaigns and Elections

Unit 1: History and Context of the U.S. Electoral System   This unit will provide you with a basic understanding of the purpose of elections, the various types of elections that exist, voting rights, and the rules that govern elections in the United States.  Subunit 1.1 will focus on explaining the purpose of elections in the American political system.  You will learn about the historic significance of representation and citizenship and the right to vote in the United States.  Although the principle of representative democracy existed in colonial America, it took a long time for all citizens to earn the right to vote and have their voices heard by the government.  In subunit 1.2, you will gain a general sense of the various types of elections in the United States and the role that citizens play in the process.  Finally, this unit will conclude with a discussion on how elections are run in the United States and how electoral outcomes can be shaped by redistricting.  By the end of this unit, you should have a strong sense of the role that elections play in the United States.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 14.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 1.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 4.75 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.3.1: 2.25 hours
☐    Sub-subunit 1.3.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.4: 5.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.4.1: 4 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.4.2: 1.5 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Explain the role that elections play in American democracy. - Describe the historical movement toward universal suffrage in the United States. - Illustrate the connection between voting rights and citizenship. - Explain the differences between a primary and a caucus. - Describe how the Electoral College works. - Discuss the various stages of the presidential nomination process. - Explain the defining characteristics of congressional elections. - Examine the laws which govern state and local elections. - Analyze the role of redistricting in shaping the electoral landscape.

1.1 History and Purpose of American Elections   - Reading: eJournal USA: Eric Bjornlund: “More Than Elections” and Valerie Bunce: “Ingredients of a Resilient Democracy” Links: eJournal USA: Eric Bjornlund: “More Than Elections” (PDF) and Valerie Bunce: “Ingredients of a Resilient Democracy” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click the “View PDF” link and then read pages 4–9, which are two short articles that discuss how democracies transfer power in accord with the will of the people, expressed through free and fair elections.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.1.1 Why Elections Matter   - Reading: U.S. Department of State: Bureau of International Information Programs’ “What Is Democracy? Elections” Link: U.S. Department of State: Bureau of International Information Programs’ “What Is Democracy? Elections” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this article.  The author discusses the role of elections as the central institutions of democratic representative governments. Government “by the people” (democracy) necessitates a mechanism for free and fair elections.

 This reading should take approximately 15-20 minutes to
complete.   

 Terms of Use: This material is available in the public domain.
  • Reading: eJournal USA: Eric Bjornlund's: “More Than Elections” and Valerie Bunce's: “Ingredients of a Resilient Democracy” Links: eJournal USA: Eric Bjornlund's: “More Than Elections” (PDF) and Valerie Bunce's: “Ingredients of a Resilient Democracy” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please on the link above, then select the “View PDF” link, and then read pages 4–9 of the document, which covers two short articles that discuss how democracies transfer power in accord with the will of the people, expressed through free and fair elections.
     
    These readings and note-taking should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Time Magazine: Jackson Dykman and Sean Gregory's: “10 Elections That Changed America” Link: Time Magazine: Jackson Dykman and Sean Gregory's: “10 Elections That Changed America” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage, ensuring to click the “Next” button to read about each election.  How do you think the 2008 presidential election holds up to other historical elections?
     
    This reading and question should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
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1.1.2 Voting Rights and Citizenship   - Reading: Colonial Williamsburg: Ed Crews' : “Voting in Early America” Link: Colonial Williamsburg: Ed Crews' : “Voting in Early America” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage, which discusses how the early colonial settlers set up the first system of voting and representation.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
  
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  • Reading: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: Steven Mintz's: “Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights” Link: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: Steven Mintz's: ““Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights” (HTML)
     
    Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage, ensuring to click “Continue” to read all three pages to learn how voting rights in the United States became (virtually) universal.  Why did this country’s founders initially restrict voting rights to only propertied white men?
     
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  • Web Media: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America: “Citizenship: Making Government Work” Link: Annenberg Foundation: Democracy in America: “Citizenship: Making Government Work” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please scroll down to #1 and then click the “VoD” icon to listen to this entire video (approximately 28 minutes).  This video discusses the role of responsible citizenship and the importance of voting in a democratic society.  What does it mean to be an American citizen? In your opinion, does voting make one a “good citizen”? Why or why not?
     
    Viewing this video and answering the questions about should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.

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1.2 Elections: The Rules of the Game   1.2.1 Evolution of the U.S. Electoral System   - Reading: Constituting America: Dr. Kyle Scott's: “Federalist No. 59 – Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members, From the New York Packet (Hamilton)” Link: Constituting America: Dr. Kyle Scott's: “Federalist No. 59 – Concerning the Power of Congress to Regulate the Election of Members, From the New York Packet (Hamilton)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage.  The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 essays from 1787 and 1788 that promote the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  What was the rationale behind the Founding Fathers’ decision to cede most of the power of governing elections to the states?
 
Reading and answering the question above should take approximately 25-30 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Web Media: The Century Foundation: “Why We Vote on Tuesdays” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

1.2.2 Voting Systems   - Reading: Mount Holyoke College: Dr. Douglas J. Amy's: “What Are Voting Systems and Why Are They Important?” Link: Mount Holyoke College: Dr. Douglas J. Amy's: “What Are Voting Systems and Why Are They Important?” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage, which explains the two types of voting systems most utilized in Western democracies.  How does a plurality voting system (used in the U.S.) differ from a proportional one (used mostly throughout Europe)?
 
Reading and answering the question above should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
  
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  • Reading: Encyclopedia Britannica's: “Primary Elections” Link: Encyclopedia Britannica's: “Primary Elections” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage to learn about what primary elections are and how they function.
     
    This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
      
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1.3 Types of Elections   1.3.1 The Presidential Election   1.3.1.1 The Nominating System   - Reading: Pearson Education: Magruder’s American Government Foundations: “Section 4: Presidential Nominations” Link: Pearson Education: Magruder’s American Government Foundations:  “Section 4: Presidential Nominations” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please scroll down to “Section 4: Presidential Nominations,” then click the PDF link, and read this entire PDF.  Running for president is a long, grueling, and expensive process—from forming an exploratory committee to election day.  As a result, most candidates drop out early in the race.  Why do you think the presidential nominating system is set up this way?  It is beneficial for the candidates and the voters?  Why, or why not?
 
Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Khan Academy’s “Primaries and Caucuses” Link: Khan Academy’s “Primaries and Caucuses” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the video (approx. 8 minutes), which will help in your understanding of how the states choose their delegates for the national party conventions.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0. It is attributed to the Khan Academy.
     

1.3.1.2 The Electoral College   - Web Media: Khan Academy’s “Electoral College” Link: Khan Academy’s “Electoral College” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and watch the video (approx. 11 minutes), which provides a helpful primer on the role of the Electoral College in electing U.S. presidents.  Despite its criticisms, why has the Electoral College been able to adapt and endure over two centuries of sometimes controversial presidential elections?
 
Viewing this video and answering this question should take approximately 15 minutes.

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/). It is
attributed to the Khan Academy.  
  

1.3.2 Congressional, State, and Local Elections   - Reading: America.gov: L. Sandy Maisel's: “Congressional Elections” Link: America.gov: L. Sandy Maisel's: “Congressional Elections” (HTML)
           
Instructions: Please read this entire webpage, which discusses the unique aspects of congressional elections in the United States.

 This reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.  
              
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: College of William & Mary School of Law: Election Law Program: Elizabeth Birch's: Election Law Manual: “State Regulation of Voters” and “Election Administration” Links: College of William & Mary School of Law: Election Law Program: Elizabeth Birch's: Election Law Manual: “State Regulation of Voters” (PDF) and “Election Administration” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please click the “Chapter 5” and “Chapter 6” links and then read these entire PDFs (36 pages total).  Because states govern most elections, it is important to understand how they administer and regulate them. State election law is by no means uniform across the country; however, there are some similarities (i.e., age, residency requirements).

    These readings should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
               
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1.4 Redistricting: Shaping the Electoral Landscape   1.4.1 What Is Redistricting?   - Reading: Brennan Center for Justice: Justin Levitt and Erika Wood's: “A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting, 2010 Edition” Link: Brennan Center for Justice: Justin Levitt and Erika Wood's: “A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting, 2010 Edition” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, then select the “Download Guide” link, and then read pages 1–71 to learn about redistricting—what it is, how it works, and why it matters.  Unlike in many countries, the redistricting process in the United States is viewed as overtly and acceptably political.  Why do you think this is the case?
 
Reading and answering these questions should take approximately 4 hours to complete.

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1.4.2 The Politics of Gerrymandering   - Reading: Drury University: Maraleen D. Shields' : “Racial Gerrymandering: Enfranchisement or Political Apartheid?” Link: Drury University: Maraleen D. Shields' : “Racial Gerrymandering: Enfranchisement or Political Apartheid?” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage.  What is the strongest argument Shields provides as to the pros or cons of racial gerrymandering?
 
Reading and answering the question above should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete.
 
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