Elections 2012; who are you voting for?

[Above photo provided by Getty Images]

By Jade Scott

On Nov. 6, millions of Americans will flood the polls to cast their vote for the future President of the United States as well as several other positions.  In 35 states, including the District of Columbia, many have already cast their vote in absentee voting (began on Oct. 9 for Indiana).

So the question remains, who are you going to vote for and why?  Far too often people cast their vote by voting straight Republican/Democratic or by just picking names.

 (Straight-ticket voting)
“Earlier in American history party affiliation was a large part of people’s social identity,” said Ron Moore, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College adjunct professor, who is currently teaching the course ‘History in the Making, Our National Elections’.  “…people vote for social reasons and to exercise their civic duty, though it is safe to say that only a minority of voters are as fully informed on all the candidates and issues as we would be in an ideal world.”

As of Oct. 9 there are 15 states that allow straight-ticket voting with a few exceptions.  This means that a voter can simply fill in one circle, or push a button if done electronically, and a vote will be cast for all those within that party.  The few exceptions for straight-ticket voting occur with four states; New Jersey, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.

In New Jersey the option of straight-ticket voting is only allowed for the primary elections. In North Carolina, it is available for all except for the vote for President.  For Rhode Island this option is only for the general election.  In the case of New Mexico, up until recently, this state had offered straight-ticket voting but has recently decided to not offer this for the general election of 2012.

For Indiana, you can vote straight-ticket, but you can also customize your straight-ticket vote.  This means that you can select straight-ticket but you can also go through and individually select certain candidates if you wish.

The option of straight-ticket voting has been declining since the 1990’s with six states abolishing the option; Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

(Defining Political Terms)
When it comes to the differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in present day, Democrats are more likely to support more government involvement in the economy but with less government involvement in personal matters, such as faith and morals.  On the opposite hand, Republicans are more likely to support less involvement in the economy with more involvement in personal matters.

A platform is the list of actions the political party or individual supports and plans to put into action if elected.  Official party platforms do not carry any real weight since candidates are free to adopt or discard them as they see fit, but this is the basis as to how they campaign to the voters.

“Platforms, like all official party business, are largely written and shaped by the activists in the parties, meaning that these positions are generally more to the right or left on most issues than the vast moderate middle of American voters,” Moore explained.

[Editor’s Note:  The above table shows information gathered from http://www.mittromney.com, http://www.barackobama.com, http://www.freep.com, and http://www.guardian.co.uk based on each party’s campaign platform.   This is not a complete list of all platform topics.]

(Resources and fact checking)
Sites like http://www.washingtonpost.com/, http://www.nytimes.com/, and http://realclearpolitics.com/ are great resources to use to become informed on both political parties, their platforms, and to be informed on who and what you will be voting for.  Also, it would be helpful to visit each party’s official website. 

For information on local and state candidates, a great website that includes all information on the State races (Governor, Congress, Senate, etc.) is http://ballotpedia.org.wiki.index.php/Indiana.

“Of course, virtually all sources will have their own partisan leanings, which is why I strongly encourage people to do some serious ‘comparison shopping’,” Moore said.  “Start with centrist sites (e.g., PBS) before also looking at the candidates’ sites, as well as sites you already know are partisan (e.g., FOX, NYT, etc.).  I believe this sort of ‘triangulation’ is about the only way we can conduct a full-spectrum assessment and overcome our natural human tendencies to simply look for what we want to see.”

[Graph taken from politico.com at http://www.politico.com/p/2012-election/polls/president/national/national-12-president-general-election-216/]

“The elections class has definitely helped me understand the election process,” said Emma Bird, SMWC junior, when discussing what the class has done for her.  “We covered the historical perspective of elections and what the writers of the Constitution were thinking when they set up the system we use for determining who will be president. We have also learned about election forecasting and the various methods that are used.”



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