People who intently follow politics and elections can find it hard to believe that others don’t. They expect everyone to know every facet of the election process and that is simply not the reality. However, there are a few things that every voter should know just to understand what’s going on. It’s basic lingo that will help them jump into the conversation if they should ever so desire. We’ve got you covered in that department.
The Political Spectrum
This one has gotten a bit trickier than it needs to be in recent years. It’s supposed to refer to which group your beliefs land you in politically with Conservatives on the right (traditionally in favor of smaller government) and Liberal/Progressives on the left (traditionally in favor of more state assistance). Republicans tend to correlate with Conservatives and Democrats with Liberals, but there can be Liberal Republicans and Conservative Democrats. Then there are Centrists in the middle, which you might think would correlate with Independents. However, Independents tend to lean one way or the other.
It’s gotten trickier because people seem to be letting their group choose their beliefs instead of the other way around. It’s an alarming trend.
There are actually a few elections before an important office is filled. First, there are Primary Elections, where each party will select the person they want to put into the running for the office. Next, there’s the General Election. The candidates chosen by their respective parties campaign against each other. Whoever wins gets the office.
There are two types of Primaries; open and closed. In an open primary, you can vote for whoever you want. In a closed primary, you have to choose a party and only vote within it.
PACs and Super PACs
A PAC is a Political Action Committee. PACs raise money to help candidates with their campaign. Have you ever heard “Paid for by the committee to elect blah blah blah” at the end of a campaign commercial? That was paid for by a PAC. If money is influence, they have a lot of influence. PACs are only supposed to contribute a set amount of money to a campaign.
Super PACs, on the other hand, can raise as much money as they want, so long as they use it independently. That means they are not supposed to give the money to the campaign, but they can still use it towards the goal of getting the person elected. Those waters tend to get murky.
It’s amazing that there is still so much confusion around this concept, considering it is how we have chosen the president for over 200 years. The long and short of it is that each state has a certain number of electoral votes, based on their population. The more people you have, the more electoral votes you have. The Electoral College is the group of people from each state who actually choose the President. However, the Electoral College members are expected (in some places, required) to vote for whoever won the popular vote in their state. There have only been a handful of times where this didn’t happen and it was a huge deal.
The Electoral system makes it so you have to campaign to States as opposed to the whole country. However, with most States, it’s fairly easy to predict which way they will go. The few States that could go either way are called Swing States or Battleground States. They are the places that will win or lose a Presidential Election. The exact States change for election to election but usually consist of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida to name a small few.
We hope this helps a little and maybe even gets you more engaged in the political process. It has become as interesting as it is important.