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American Popular Election: The United States has not achieved a Quorum for Democracy since 1900 HA-29-10-10

 

By Anthony J. Sanders

 sanderstony@live.com

 

                                           Contribute to Health and Democracy

 

                                              Blog About It

 

Part One: 66% Voting Age Population Turnout Quorum

 

Part Two: Restrictions on Voter Eligibility

 

Part Three: Incumbent Democratic-Republican Two Party System

 

Stage One: Hamiltonian Federalists defeated by the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans 1788-1820

 

Stage Two: Jacksonian Democrats and the Whigs 1820-1856

 

Stage Three: Progressive Republican Era 1860-1896

 

Stage Four: Republican Populism 1900-1928

 

Stage Five: New Deal Democrats 1932-1968

 

Stage Six: Split Ticket Voting 1972-present

 

Part Four: Evolution of the Federal Corrupt Practices Campaign Act

 

Part Five: Vote for Me: An Aspiring Young Multi-party Democracy at 222

 

Part One: 66% Voter Age Population Turnout Quorum

 

On Tuesday, 2 November 2010, voters in the United States will elect members of the 112th United States Congress, including all members of the United States House of Representatives and almost one-third of the United States Senate (IFES ’10). The Democratic and Republican (DR) bipartisan system holds all public offices at all levels of government in a nearly totalitarian grip.  In 2005 ninety-nine of the one hundred U.S. senators were either republicans or Democrats, 434 of the 435 representatives in the House of Representatives are affiliated with one of the two major parties, all fifty of the state governors and more than 7,350 of the approximately 7,400 state legislators elected in partisan elections ran under major party labels (Maisel & Buckley ’05:267).  Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe a third major political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic Parties do a poor job of representing the American people. Independents, express a greater degree of support (74%) for a third party, but 47% of Republicans and 45% of Democrats also expressed a desire for the creation of a third party.  Sixty-two percent of those who describe themselves as Tea Party supporters would like a third major party formed, but so do 59% of those who are neutral toward the Tea Party movement.  (Jones ’10).  Congressional approval, averaging 35%, dipped to 16% in March 2010, Presidents usually enjoy a higher job approval rating, averaging around 50%, between 20-90% (Newport ’09).   Overall Gallup's annual Governance poll finds a continued deterioration in public confidence in U.S. government institutions. Just 26% of Americans say they are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed, the lowest in the eight-year history of the Governance poll and tying a 1973 Gallup reading, as the lowest in the poll’s 34 year history (Jones ’08).

 

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The legitimacy of a democracy depends upon voter participation.  In a democracy the people are sovereign.  As a rule of thumb, endorsed by the now defunct Election World website, a minimum of 2/3 voter participation is needed to qualify as a popular democracy (Huntley ’98).  Therefore, according to the US Census Bureau Bicentennial Edition statistics, the United States has not technically qualified as a popular democracy since 1900 when voter participation was 73.2 percent.  The 2008 president election, typically at least 10 percentage points more popular than midterm elections such as the 2010 congressional election, garnered only 56.8 percent turnout - the highest turnout rate since 1968 when it was 60.6 percent.  For a while though, in the Civil War and Reconstruction era between 1840 and 1900 US voter participation was between 69.6 percent in 1952 and 81.8 percent in 1876 including the newly eligible black voters under the XV Amendment of 1870, 1900 was the last election to enjoy 66% turnout.  Equal suffrage for women under the XIX Amendment of 1920 was more problematic and the presidential elections of 1920 with 49.2 percent turnout and 1924 with 48.9 percent turnout were the lowest presidential election, since the first popular presidential election 1824, with the exception of 1996 (49.1%), that reinstated Clinton with a mandate to balance the budget.  The XVI Amendment of 1971 to allow all people 18 or older to vote similarly had a negative impact on voter turnout pushing voting age turnout in the presidential elections forever below the 60 percent enjoyed throughout the 1950s and ‘60s (Morton & Barabba ’70).  Turnout in the once awed European democracies is over 75 percent in Great Britain and France, over 80 percent in west Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, over 90 percent in Italy.  Currently the United States ranks twentieth among twenty-one democracies in turnout as a percentage of the voting-age population (only Switzerland is worse).  If people are too intimidated or apathetic to come to the polls this indicates the government is either too abusive or too negligent to elect a representative government, which means the government should not be expansive but self-determinant.  Fifty million additional American would have had to vote in 1984 to bring turnout back to nineteenth-century levels (Schlesinger 99: 256)

 

Turnout of Voting Age Population in Presidential Election Years 1824-2008

 

2012

2008

2004

2000

1996

1992

?

56.8%

55.3%

51.3%

49.1%

55.1%

1988

1984

1980

1976

1972

1968

50.1%

53.1%

52.6%

53.6%

55.2%

60.6%

1964

1960

1956

1952

1948

1944

61.7%

64.0%

60.6%

63.3%

53.0%

55.9%

1940

1936

1932

1928

1924

1920

62.5%

61.0%

56.9%

56.9%

48.9%

49.2%

1916

1912

1908

1904

1900

1896

61.6%

58.8%

65.4%

65.2%

73.2%

79.3%

1892

1888

1884

1880

1876

1872

74.7%

79.3%

77.5%

79.4%

81.8%

71.3%

1868

1864

1860

1856

1852

1848

78.1%

73.8%

81.2%

78.9%

69.6%

72.7%

1844

1840

1836

1832

1828

1824

78.9%

80.2%

57.8%

55.4%

57.6%

26.9%

 

Source: Series Y 27-78 Morton, Rogers C.B. Secretary of Commerce; Barabba, Vincent P. Director of the Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970. Bicentennial Edition pg. 1071-1072

 

Voter participation is actually a function of three factors- eligibility, registration and turnout.  The first is who is eligible to register to vote?  The second factor involves how many eligible people bother to register.  The third factor is the decision of those eligible and registered to turn out to cast their ballot on Election Day.  Turnout is often expressed as a percentage of registered voters who actually turn out and vote.  Voter age population (VAP) rates are however the standard by which elections are judged, VAP rate is the percentage of voting age population (VAP) who votes.  States vary tremendously in their turnout rates.  In the 2000 election, eleven states had turnout rates greater than 60 percent of the voting age population, led by Minnesota, at 68.8 percent, and Maine, at 67.3 percent, at the other extreme sixteen states had turnout rates less than 50 percent of the voting age population, with Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada and Texas all below 45 percent.  The debate over ease of registration has been heated.  Turnout during congressional election years is typically under 40 percent (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 80 & 89).  A factor that can overturn elections is a percentage of invalid votes exceeding 0.7% in the Parliament and 2% in the presidential election.  Out of the past 20 biannual elections between 1968 and 2008 only two of the ten presidential elections resulted in turnout of registered voters less than 66% but in the ten mid-term elections has not achieved 66% turnout since 1970.  The turnout of registered voters is not typically used as the gauge of voter participation, however the voter turnout of registered in the United States between 1968 and 2008 does indicate a democratic belief in the President exclusively amongst registered party members or independents.  As a percentage of voter age population (VAP) turnout during the 36 biannual elections between 1946 and 2008 not once has the USA achieved the requisite 66% participation of the VAP.  Not since the election of 1900 has US voter participation achieved 66% of the VAP (Morton & Barraba ’70: 1071-1072). 

 

Parliamentary Election Turnout United States of America 1946- 2006

 

Year

The year the election took place or a law was passed, etc

Total vote

The total number of votes cast in the relevant election. Total vote includes valid and invalid votes, as well as blank votes in cases where these are separated from invalid votes.

Voter Turn-
out

The voter turnout as defined as the percentage of registered voters who actually voted

Registration

The number of registered voters. The figure represents the number of names on the voters' register at the time that the registration process closes (cut-off date), as reported by the electoral management body.

 

 

 

Registration as a percent of voting age population (VAP)

Voting age population

The voting age population (VAP) includes all citizens above the legal voting age

VAP Turn-
out

The voter turnout as defined as the percentage of the voting age population that actually voted

Population

The total population

2008

131,313,820

89.75%

146,311,000

65%

225,080,141

58.34%

303,824,640

2006

82,121,411

47.52%

172,805,006

78.5%

220,043,054

37.32%

298,444,215

2004

121,862,329

68.75%

177,265,030

82.5%

215,080,198

56.66%

293,027,571

2002

73,844,526

45.31%

162,993,315

77.4%

210,464,504

35.09%

278,058,881

2000

99,738,383

63.76%

156,421,311

73.1%

213,954,023

46.62%

284,970,789

1998

73,117,022

51.55%

141,850,558

67.4%

210,446,120

34.74%

280,298,524

1996

96,456,345

65.97%

146,211,960

74.4%

196,511,000

49.08%

265,679,000

1994

75,105,860

57.64%

130,292,822

67.3%

193,650,000

38.78%

262,090,745

1992

104,405,155

78.02%

133,821,178

70.6%

189,529,000

55.09%

255,407,000

1990

67,859,189

56.03%

121,105,630

65.2%

185,812,000

36.52%

248,709,873

1988

91,594,693

72.48%

126,379,628

69.1%

182,778,000

50.11%

245,057,000

1986

64,991,128

54.89%

118,399,984

66.3%

178,566,000

36.40%

239,529,693

1984

92,652,680

74.63%

124,150,614

71.2%

174,466,000

53.11%

236,681,000

1982

67,615,576

61.10%

110,671,225

65.2%

169,938,000

39.79%

233,697,676

1980

86,515,221

76.53%

113,043,734

68.7%

164,597,000

52.56%

227,738,000

1978

58,917,938

57.04%

103,291,265

65.2%

158,373,000

37.20%

221,537,514

1976

81,555,789

77.64%

105,037,989

68.9%

152,309,190

53.55%

218,035,000

1974

55,943,834

58.15%

96,199,020

65.8%

146,336,000

38.23%

214,305,134

1972

77,718,554

79.85%

97,328,541

69.1%

140,776,000

55.21%

208,840,000

1970

58,014,338

70.32%

82,496,747

66.3%

124,498,000

46.60%

203,211,926

1968

73,211,875

89.66%

81,658,180

67.9%

120,328,186

60.84%

200,710,000

1966

56,188,046

 

116,132,000

48.38%

197,730,744

1964

70,644,592

 

114,090,000

61.92%

192,119,000

1962

53,141,227

 

112,423,000

47.27%

186,512,143

1960

68,838,204

 

109,159,000

63.06%

180,684,000

1958

45,966,070

 

103,221,000

44.53%

175,038,232

1956

58,434,811

 

106,408,890

54.92%

168,903,000

1954

42,509,905

 

98,527,000

43.15%

162,725,667

1952

57,582,333

 

96,466,000

59.69%

157,022,000

1950

40,253,267

 

94,403,000

42.64%

151,325,798

1948

45,839,622

 

95,310,150

48.10%

146,631,000

1946

34,279,158

 

88,388,000

38.78%

142,049,065

Source: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. County View: United States 2009

 

Overall in 2008 225 million people were of voting age, 74% of the total population of 303.8 million.  65% these 225 million adults, 146.3 million registered to vote, 48.1% of the total.  Of those registered 131.3 million actually voted, a turnout of 89.75%, the highest since the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) began tracking this measure of voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters in 1968.  It is also remarkable that voter registration declined significantly from 172.8 million to 146.3 million, 15.6% between the midterm election of 2006 and the presidential election of 2008.  There is not normally much difference in voter registration between presidential and midterm elections, voter registration has progressively increased in all but 8 of the past 20 biannual elections since 1968, with the exception of the midterm elections of 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2008.  The 2008 presidential election was the first election to ever register a decline in voter registration from the previous presidential election and the first to register a decline from the previous midterm election.  Numerically voter registration in the 2008 election regressed a decade to 1998-2000 levels.   The 2008 presidential election had the lowest rate of registration of voter age population (VAP), at 65% since records began being collected in by IDEA in 1968, only in 1982 did it drop so low as 65.2%, so soon after the high of 82.5% in the 2004 presidential election when the HAVA of 2002 was enforced.  Otherwise voter age population (VAP) turnout rate, denied the vote of convicted felons by many states, was 58.34%.  The 2008 election is remarkable, for electing a black man to the White House by a landslide, for his record campaign finance contribution, low voter registration and high turnout of registered voters.  

 

General Election VAP Turnout Rates, State by State 2000-2008

 

State

VAP
2008

VAP

2006

VAP

2004

VAP

2002

VAP

2000

 

VAP

2008

VAP

2006

VAP

2004

VAP

2002

VAP 2000

United States

56.9%

37.1%

55.4%

36.3%

50.0%

Missouri

64.5%

48.1%

62.9%

43.9%

56.2%

Alabama

59.0%

35.9%

55.2%

40.4%

50.1%

Montana

65.6%

55.6%

63.4%

47.7%

60.6%

Alaska

64.0%

47.8%

65.2%

51.0%

65.0%

Nebraska

59.9%

45.1%

59.8%

37.3%

55.0%

Arizona

47.7%

33.3%

47.0%

30.7%

40.2%

Nevada

49.7%

31.1%

47.3%

31.1%

40.2%

Arkansas

50.1%

36.5%

51.0%

39.7%

46.0%

New Hampshire

69.0%

39.9%

68.4%

46.0%

60.7%

California

49.7%

32.2%

47.1%

29.0%

44.1%

New Jersey

58.4%

34.1%

55.2%

32.6%

50.1%

Colorado

64.1%

43.1%

61.2%

42.0%

53.7%

New Mexico

55.8%

38.6%

53.9%

35.7%

45.4%

Connecticut

61.1%

42.5%

59.7%

38.9%

56.6%

New York

50.8%

30.3%

50.2%

31.4%

47.5%

Delaware

61.3%

39.0%

59.4%

37.9%

54.9%

North Carolina

61.3%

28.7%

53.9%

37.2%

47.5%

District of Columbia

55.4%

25.5%

48.9%

27.1%

43.9%

North Dakota

63.3%

44.1%

63.8%

47.6%

59.7%

Florida

58.3%

34.3%

56.1%

39.5%

47.9%

Ohio

64.7%

46.3%

65.1%

37.6%

55.4%

Georgia

54.7%

30.7%

50.0%

32.2%

42.4%

Oklahoma

53.2%

34.3%

55.3%

39.6%

48.0%

Hawaii

45.4%

34.6%

44.1%

40.2%

39.9%

Oregon

62.5%

48.4%

66.8%

47.2%

59.1%

Idaho

58.7%

42.0%

58.7%

42.0%

53.5%

Pennsylvania

61.4%

42.6%

60.6%

37.3%

52.3%

Illinois

57.0%

36.3%

55.7%

37.7%

51.4%

Rhode Island

57.2%

46.7%

52.9%

40.1%

50.7%

Indiana

57.2%

35.2%

53.0%

33.3%

48.3%

South Carolina

55.8%

33.1%

50.7%

35.6%

45.7%

Iowa

67.2%

46.3%

67.4%

45.7%

59.6%

South Dakota

62.8%

56.4%

66.9%

59.7%

56.9%

Kansas

58.8%

41.1%

58.3%

41.4%

54.0%

Tennessee

54.5%

39.5%

54.1%

37.3%

48.1%

Kentucky

55.7%

39.0%

56.9%

36.4%

50.4%

Texas

45.8%

25.8%

45.4%

28.8%

42.4%

Louisiana

58.6%

28.3%

58.5%

37.8%

54.2%

Utah

50.4%

31.8%

54.7%

35.0%

50.3%

Maine

70.0%

53.3%

72.6%

50.1%

66.4%

Vermont

65.9%

53.8%

65.0%

48.1%

63.1%

Maryland

61.0%

42.2%

57.2%

41.6%

51.0%

Virginia

62.2%

40.6%

56.2%

26.9%

50.9%

Massachusetts

60.1%

44.4%

58.7%

44.4%

55.4%

Washington

60.3%

42.7%

60.8%

37.9%

56.2%

Michigan

65.7%

49.9%

63.9%

42.3%

57.3%

West Virginia

49.9%

32.3%

53.4%

30.8%

46.1%

Minnesota

73.1%

56.4%

73.9%

59.7%

66.4%

Wisconsin

69.0%

50.8%

71.6%

43.2%

64.5%

Mississippi

59.3%

28.5%

54.2%

29.2%

47.8%

Wyoming

62.6%

49.4%

63.7%

49.2%

58.2%

Source: United States Election Project. General Elections 2000-2008. October 2010

 

State-by-state in the five biannual elections between 2000 and 2008, turnout is much higher during presidential elections than midterm elections.  Not a single state achieved a 66% quorum during midterm elections, however during the Presidential elections a few states qualify every year.  Average national VAP turnout in midterm elections of 2006 was 37.1% with a high of 56.4% in Minnesota and low of 25.5% in the District of Columbia, and in 2002, 36.3%, with a high of 59.7% in Minnesota and low of 26.9% in Virginia.  In the 2008 presidential election average participation was 56.9% however five states, Minnesota with 73.1%, Maine with 70.0%, Wisconsin and New Hampshire with 69.0% and Iowa with 67.2% achieved the 66% supermajority VAP turnout needed for a quorum.  In 2004 average national participation was 55.4% nonetheless seven states achieved the quorum, the same states as 2008, plus Oregon with 66.8% and South Dakota with 66.9%.  In the 2000 presidential election voting age turnout was 50.0%, only two states, Maine and Minnesota with 66.4% VAP turnout were popular.  Hawaii consistently had the lowest VAP turnout in presidential elections with 45.4% in 2008, 44.1% in 2004 and 39.9% in 2000.  Americans have become more involved in the electoral process since a low of in 1996 and 2000.  Americans however do not participate at the desired rates. 

 

Voting Age Population Turnout in Recent Parliamentary Election in 21 Most Populous Aspiring Democracies

 

  Country

VAP Turn­out - Parliamentary

The voter turnout as defined as the percentage of the voting age population that actually voted in the parliamentary elections

VAP Turn­out - Presidential

The voter turnout as defined as the percentage of the voting age population that actually voted in the presidential elections

  Country

VAP Turn­out - Parliamentary

The voter turnout as defined as the percentage of the voting age population that actually voted in the parliamentary elections.

VAP Turn­out - Presidential

The voter turnout as defined as the percentage of the voting age population that actually voted in the presidential elections

Indonesia

87.60%

(2004)

74.77%

(2004)

Russian Federation

61.91%

(2007)

62.22%

(2004)

Brazil

83.54%

(2006)

83.57%

(2006)

India

60.57%

(2004)

 

Italy

79.13%

(2008)

 

United Kingdom

58.32%

(2005)

 

Thailand

76.23%

(2007)

 

Philippines

54.87%

(2007)

 

Turkey

73.99%

(2007)

 

France

54.52%

(2007)

76.75%

(2007)

Germany

71.99%

(2005)

 

Iran, Islamic Republic of

54.08%

(2008)

67.62%

(2005)

Japan

66.62%

(2005)

 

Nigeria

46.63%

(2003)

65.33%

(2003)

Ethiopia

66.19%

(2005)

 

Korea, Republic of

46.59%

(2008)

64.17%

(2007)

Bangladesh

64.57%

(1996)

53.10%

(1986)

Pakistan

38.77%

(2008)

 

Mexico

63.62%

(2006)

63.26%

(2006)

United States

37.32%

(2006)

58.23%

(2008)

 

 

 

Egypt

19.75%

(2005)

16.41%

(2005)

Source: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Voter Turnout

 

With 37.32% voter age population (VAP) turnout during the United States parliamentary elections of 2006 ranked 169th out of 188 nations using recent election data recorded by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).  41%, 77 nations of the 188 had VAP turnout greater than the arbitrary 66% in their most recent parliamentary election.  Vietnam reported VAP turnout of 100.79%, either their children are voting or they are having technical difficulties.  Rwanda had 93.6% VAP turnout, Indonesia 87.6%, Belgium 86%, Peru 84.1%, Denmark 83.2% while Japan hangs on with 66.62%.  While it might be difficult to achieve 66% voter turnout, 41% of nations do, and 59% do not.  China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations are conspicuously absent from the electoral statistics.  India, often called the world’s largest democracy, ranked 100th with 60.57% VAP turnout.  Technically, the world’s largest popular democracy is Indonesia with 87.6% of adults.  Of the 21 most populous aspiring democracies only 8 actually qualified with more than 66% of the vote.  Out of 106 nations the U.S. Presidential election of 2008 VAP turnout, usually much higher than in the mid-terms, was 70th place, with 58.2% VAP turnout, Afghanistan placed 71st at 57.9%, only 47, 44.3% of participating nations, garnered the 66% supermajority of VAP turnout needed to qualify as popular democracies.  The US Parliamentary elections ranked 20th out of the 21 most populous aspiring democratic nations, only Egypt, a major recipient of US foreign military assistance had lower turnout in their parliamentary elections.  The United States scored much higher in the presidential election of 2008 with 58.23% VAP turnout, 17th out of 21, while Brazil took first place with 83.57% while fewer Indonesians 74.77% voted for their President than Parliament 87.60%.  While the presidential election increases voter turnout in some countries, France and Iran are the only nations whose presidential elections helped the nation to achieve a passing VAP turnout, in Mexico, Egypt and Indonesia turnout was lower during the Presidential than Parliamentary election (IDEA ’09).          

 

There is a saying that “people get the government they vote for.” The implication of the maxim is that if undesirable or unwise legislation is enacted, if executive branch officials are inept or ineffective, or if the government is beset with widespread corruption, then such unfortunate results are the consequence of the electorate’s decision regarding whom to trust with the powers and prestige of public office.  No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live (Kant 1795 §2.1).  However, when governments and political parties have monopolized and manipulated all the options, voting becomes counterproductive to the voter. It is argued that voting is a civic duty and that the state can expect patriotic citizens to invest a certain amount of effort toward that duty.  By not voting however, a citizen is expressing that they do not support the political system and either fear or dislike it so much they do not want to be exposed it.  If sufficient number of voters turnout to support the government, then the legitimacy of the democracy to embark on expansionist policies, is not typically questioned.  However, if less than 66% of the VAP turnout, the electorate has clearly expressed that they want the government to be less intrusive.  Secretaries of State aim to ensure that the voting process is accessible to voters and also work to secure the integrity of the ballot box against fraud, waste and abuse.  Elections must be conducted in an orderly fashion to guarantee a free and fair election that validly reflects the choice of the electorate (Blackwell ’09: 107-123).  Democracy is only a form of despotism, where the executive power is established by the election of a tyranny of the majority, therefore a republican constitution must establish principles to ensure firstly, the freedom of the members of a society, secondly, dependence of all upon a single common legislation, as subjects, and, thirdly, by the law of their equality, as citizens. A republican constitution gives a favorable prospect for the desired consequence, i.e., perpetual peace (Kant 1795 §2.1).  

 

Democratic peace theory is that democracies do not make more upon each other, nor do they commit genocide against their own citizens.  If the United States wishes to improve their low VAP turnout the USA must not make war or abuse their citizens and come to identify their nation not as a democracy but as an aspiring democracy (MD §34). The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), have facilitated voter registration and the ability to cast ballots with little success. The Acts had four official purposes: (1) to establish procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office; (2) to make it possible for Federal, State, and local governments to implement this Act in a manner that enhances the participation of eligible citizens as voters in elections for Federal office; (3) to protect the integrity of the electoral process; and (4) to ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained (Blackwell & Klukowski ’09:114).  The NVRA of 1993 actually led to the lowest percentage turnout of voting age population since 1924 in the presidential election of 1996.  HAVA of 2002, on the other hand, may have brought some people to the polls.  In crafting a strategy to improve voter participation the federal government must be sure that it not only reminds citizens of their right to vote but protects the integrity of the ballot box and voter registries against intimidation and injustice.  People don’t want to the come to the polls for two reasons.  One, because they fear having their identity stolen by abusive officials.  And two, with the nearly absolute Democratic and Republican monopoly of political parties at nearly every level of government voting would do no good because all votes just perpetuate the bipartisan system.  The reason for the decline in participation since 1900 is the taxman became more oppressive with the epidemiologic surveillance of the U.S. Census Bureau of 1900, income tax of 1916 and prohibition of 1919.    

 

Part Two: Restrictions on Voter Eligibility

 

The federal constitution forbids age or gender restrictions on voting rights for any citizen of at least 18 years, though some states restrict specific groups including those convicted of felonies. Registration is self-initiated and not compulsory. Most states require citizens to register by some deadline well in advance of an election, though a few permit same day or Election Day registration, and one does not conduct registration at all.  State-level officials (Board of Elections or Secretary of State) design registration forms and determine requirements, but most election boards use continuous voter registries maintained by local governments.  Two populations, people under 18 and convicted felons are the two remaining populations to be legally disenfranchised from the polling booth.  No state in the world allows children to vote.  Four states (Maine, Massachusetts, Utah, Vermont) do not disenfranchise convicted felons. In forty-six states and the District of Columbia, criminal disenfranchisement laws deny the vote to all convicted adults in prison. Thirty-two states also disenfranchise felons on parole; twenty-nine disenfranchise those on probation. And, due to laws that may be unique in the world, and in violation of the “no previous condition of servitude” clause of the XV Amendment, in fourteen states even ex-offenders who have fully served their sentences remain barred for life from voting, although their crime had nothing to do with electoral fraud.  These restrictions cut into the third party vote and overall VAP turnout.  An estimated 3.9 million Americans, or one in fifty adults, have currently or permanently lost the ability to vote because of a felony conviction, an estimated 1.7% of the voting age population, 3% of voter turnout (JD §264: 882-887).  The U.S. foreign-born population is 36.5 million, with 14.4 million naturalized citizens. Research documents that naturalized citizens are less likely to register and vote than native citizens (Crissey ’08).   

 

Impact of Felon Disenfranchisement on Voter Age and Voting Eligible Populations under State Voting Law 2008

 

State

Total Turnout

Voting Age Population

VAP Turnout Rate

Voting Eligible Population

VEP Turnout Rate

Non- Citizen

Prison

Probation

Parole

Total Ineligible Felons

Overseas Eligible

Alabama

2,105,622

3,558,576

59.0%

3,418,204

61.6%

2.2%

30,508

53,252

8,042

61,155

74,079

Alaska

327,341

510,020

64.0%

481,716

68.0%

3.7%

5,014

6,708

1,732

9,234

60,686

Arizona

2,320,851

4,809,400

47.7%

4,165,988

55.7%

11.6%

39,589

82,232

7,534

84,472

90,036

Arkansas

1,095,958

2,167,235

50.1%

2,064,173

53.1%

2.9%

14,716

31,169

19,908

40,255

43,963

California

13,743,177

27,279,556

49.7%

22,153,555

62.0%

17.9%

173,670

0

120,753

234,047

486,207

Colorado

2,422,236

3,748,718

64.1%

3,419,539

70.8%

8.0%

23,274

0

11,654

29,101

71,854

Connecticut

 

2,695,793

61.1%

2,443,533

 

8.5%

20,661

0

2,328

21,825

45,799

Delaware

413,562

672,304

61.3%

620,448

66.7%

5.3%

7,075

17,216

551

15,959

12,658

District of Columbia

266,871

479,880

55.4%

430,690

62.0%

10.3%

0

0

0

0

6,916

Florida

8,453,743

14,395,399

58.3%

12,542,585

67.4%

11.2%

102,388

279,760

4,528

244,532

451,907

Georgia

3,940,705

7,169,980

54.7%

6,380,404

61.8%

7.3%

52,719

397,081

23,448

262,984

141,001

Hawaii

456,064

1,000,026

45.4%

897,488

50.8%

9.7%

5,955

0

0

5,955

20,090

Idaho

667,506

1,116,659

58.7%

1,028,291

64.9%

4.9%

7,290

49,513

3,361

33,727

26,779

Illinois

5,578,195

9,684,345

57.0%

8,743,436

63.8%

9.2%

45,474

0

0

45,474

200,530

Indiana

2,805,986

4,808,900

57.2%

4,636,209

60.5%

3.0%

28,322

0

0

28,322

89,605

Iowa

1,543,662

2,285,881

67.2%

2,203,793

70.0%

2.6%

8,766

22,958

3,159

21,825

43,108

Kansas

1,264,208

2,102,464

58.8%

1,994,038

63.4%

4.2%

8,539

16,263

4,958

19,150

42,495

Kentucky

1,858,578

3,281,251

55.7%

3,156,184

58.9%

2.2%

21,706

51,035

12,277

53,362

58,518

Louisiana

1,979,852

3,343,411

58.6%

3,206,903

61.7%

2.0%

38,381

40,025

24,636

70,712

68,285

Maine

744,456

1,045,008

70.0%

1,031,496

72.2%

1.3%

0

0

0

0

21,362

Maryland

2,651,428

4,317,486

61.0%

3,901,736

68.0%

7.8%

23,324

96,360

13,220

78,114

77,074

Massachusetts

3,102,995

5,123,478

60.1%

4,672,376

66.4%

8.6%

11,408

0

0

11,408

77,830

Michigan

5,039,080

7,613,003

65.7%

7,311,245

68.9%

3.3%

48,738

0

0

48,738

163,673

Minnesota

2,921,147

3,980,782

73.1%

3,744,757

78.0%

4.0%

9,910

127,627

5,081

76,264

70,063

Mississippi

 

2,176,453

59.3%

2,099,663

 

1.9%

22,754

22,267

2,922

35,349

45,082

Missouri

2,992,023

4,533,017

64.5%

4,352,278

68.7%

2.5%

30,186

57,360

20,683

69,208

96,710

Montana

497,599

750,159

65.6%

736,697

67.5%

1.3%

3,545

0

0

3,545

22,898

Nebraska

811,923

1,337,385

59.9%

1,264,519

64.2%

4.3%

4,520

19,606

846

14,746

27,311

Nevada

970,019

1,946,641

49.7%

1,650,759

58.8%

14.1%

12,743

13,337

3,908

21,366

45,656

New Hampshire

719,643

1,030,415

69.0%

1,000,628

71.9%

2.6%

2,702

0

0

2,702

25,558

New Jersey

3,910,220

6,627,332

58.4%

5,755,371

67.9%

11.7%

25,953

128,737

15,849

98,246

110,559

New Mexico

833,365

1,486,830

55.8%

1,345,199

62.0%

8.3%

6,402

20,883

3,724

18,706

31,444

New York

7,721,718

15,048,837

50.8%

13,099,560

58.9%

12.4%

60,347

0

52,225

86,460

263,787

North Carolina

4,354,571

7,029,536

61.3%

6,521,263

66.8%

5.9%

39,482

109,678

3,409

96,026

133,483

North Dakota

321,133

499,894

63.3%

492,052

65.3%

1.3%

1,452

0

0

1,452

11,179

Ohio

5,773,387

8,802,396

64.7%

8,557,033

67.5%

2.2%

51,686

0

0

51,686

174,703

Oklahoma

1,474,694

2,747,092

53.2%

2,596,910

56.8%

4.0%

25,864

27,940

3,073

41,371

57,046

Oregon

1,845,251

2,925,885

62.5%

2,709,299

68.1%

6.9%

14,167

0

0

14,167

63,480

Pennsylvania

 

9,790,263

61.4%

9,435,272

 

3.1%

49,215

0

0

49,215

203,791

Rhode Island

475,428

824,604

57.2%

762,509

62.4%

7.0%

4,045

0

0

4,045

13,827

South Carolina

1,927,153

3,445,524

55.8%

3,284,019

58.7%

3.4%

24,326

41,254

1,947

45,927

72,241

South Dakota

387,449

608,222

62.8%

596,337

65.0%

1.2%

3,342

0

2,720

4,702

20,144

Tennessee

2,618,238

4,767,143

54.5%

4,558,557

57.4%

3.1%

27,228

58,109

10,578

61,572

127,930

Texas

 

17,654,414

45.8%

14,841,794

 

13.5%

172,506

427,080

102,921

437,507

549,216

Utah

971,185

1,889,690

50.4%

1,746,298

55.6%

7.2%

6,552

0

0

6,552

31,783

Vermont

326,822

493,436

65.9%

483,487

67.6%

2.0%

0

0

0

0

10,546

Virginia

3,753,059

5,982,805

62.2%

5,518,704

68.0%

6.6%

38,276

53,614

4,471

67,319

124,689

Washington

3,071,587

5,036,901

60.3%

4,564,797

67.3%

7.8%

17,926

113,134

11,768

80,377

138,296

West Virginia

731,691

1,429,429

49.9%

1,407,009

52.0%

0.8%

6,059

8,283

2,005

11,203

33,788

Wisconsin

2,997,086

4,322,269

69.0%

4,135,627

72.5%

3.0%

23,379

50,418

18,105

57,641

78,721

Wyoming

256,035

406,742

62.6%

394,627

64.9%

1.7%

2,084

5,438

727

5,167

13,832

U.S. Total

132,645,504

230,782,870

56.9%

213,231,835

62.2%

8.4%

1,605,448

2,451,085

627,680

3,144,831

4,972,217

 

Source: United States Election Project. General Elections 2008. October 2010

 

The impact of various factors, such a felony disenfranchisement laws, non-citizenship and overseas eligibility need to be analyzed.  In the 2008 election of the 230.8 million people of voting age and 132.6 million showed up to vote between 56.9%-57.5% allowed by the 8.4% margin of non-citizens.  Only 213.2 million of the 230.8 million voter age population, in 2008 were eligible to vote, 17.6 million votes were disqualified either because they were one of the 20 million non-citizens, not all of them permanent residents, or they were among the 3.1 million convicted felons disenfranchised by state law, or the ballot was unreadable.  There are nearly 5 million overseas votes (US Election Project ’08).  The disenfranchisement of felons weighs particularly heavily upon the 1.4 million African American men, or 13 percent of the black adult male population, are disenfranchised, reflecting a rate of disenfranchisement that is seven times the national average. More than one-third (36 percent) of the total disenfranchised population are black men. Ten states disenfranchise more than one in five adult black men; in seven of these states, one in four black men are permanently disenfranchised. Given current rates of incarceration, three in ten of the next generation of black men will be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime. In states with the most restrictive voting laws, 40 percent of African American men are likely to be permanently disenfranchised (Human Rights Watch ’98; JD §264: 882-887).  The United States really needs to review the previous condition of servitude clause of the XV Amendment reinstate the right to vote to people who have served their sentence, and consider reinstating it to all 3.1 million people have been denied the right to vote on the grounds that were sentenced to prison, probation and parole.  This reform would be more likely to improve than detract from voter turnout because felon disenfranchisement is more of a continuation of the black slavery issue than the overprotection of women and children

 

In colonial times only those white males who owned land were empowered to vote.  The first step in expanding the franchise involved eliminating the property requirement that only taxpayers could vote.  This reform happened on a state-by-state basis, starting before the ratification of the Constitution, when Vermont granted universal male suffrage in 1777 and when South Carolina substituted a taxpayer requirement for a property-holding requirement. In 1789 only white males who owned property were generally eligible to vote, only around one in thirty Americans.  At independence, the newly formed states rejected some of the civil disabilities inherited from Europe; criminal disenfranchisement was among those retained. In the mid-nineteenth century, nineteen of the thirty-four existing states excluded serious offenders from the franchise.  Convicted felons were not the only people excluded from the vote. Suffrage was extremely limited in the new country: women, African Americans, illiterates, and people without property were also among those unable to vote.  Before the Civil War the United States Constitution did not provide specific protections for voting. Qualifications for voting were matters which neither the Constitution nor federal laws governed. At that time, although a few northern states permitted a small number of free black men to register and vote, slavery and restrictive state laws and practices led the franchise to be exercised almost exclusively by white males.  The history of equal suffrage has four phases, first, an increase in white male eligibility, enfranchisement of black citizens, enfranchisement of women, and enfranchisement of those between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one.  The property qualification finally disappeared when Virginia eliminated it in 1850 (Morton & Barabbas ’70: 1071-1072).  It is possible a compromise between the North and South could have been reached allowing the Republican Party to enroll southern blacks as members of their party pursuant to voting and Union rights.  A great many people participated in the political process during this time known as the Gilded Age of political parties, the only era to consistently achieve the 66% quorum, hoping to influence the system and be rewarded by philanthropic parties.

 

Shortly after the end of the Civil War Congress enacted the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867, which allowed former Confederate States to be readmitted to the Union if they adopted new state constitutions that permitted universal male suffrage, and militarily occupied the Southern States. The 14th Amendment, which conferred citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, was ratified in 1868.  The Fifteenth Amendment to the constitution, ratified in 1870, provided specifically that the “right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude”.  This superseded state laws that had directly prohibited black voting. Congress then enacted the Enforcement Act of 1870, which contained criminal penalties for interference with the right to vote, and the Force Act of 1871, which provided for federal election oversight.  As a result, in the former Confederate States, where new black citizens in some cases comprised outright or near majorities of the eligible voting population, hundreds of thousands -- perhaps one million -- recently-freed slaves registered to vote. Black candidates began for the first time to be elected to state, local and federal offices and to play a meaningful role in their governments (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 70). By 1877 about 2,000 black men had won local, state, and federal offices in the former Confederate states. As many as a million blacks registered to vote and voter age participation remained above 66% from 1860-1896 (Morton & Barabbas ’70: 1071-1072).

Electoral success changed when Reconstruction ended in 1877 and federal troops withdrew from the old Confederacy. The extension of the franchise to black citizens was strongly resisted and the prisons never reviewed. With federal troops no longer present to protect the rights of black citizens, white supremacy quickly returned to the old Confederate states.  Among others, the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, and other terrorist organizations attempted to prevent the 15th Amendment from being enforced by violence and intimidation. Two decisions in 1876 by the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of enforcement under the Enforcement Act and the Force Act, and, together with the end of Reconstruction marked by the removal of federal troops after the Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877, resulted in a climate in which violence could be used to depress black voter turnout and fraud could be used to undo the effect of lawfully cast votes.  Once whites regained control of the state legislatures using these tactics, a process known as "Redemption," they used gerrymandering of election districts to further reduce black voting strength and minimize the number of black elected officials. In the 1890s, these states began to amend their constitutions and to enact a series of laws intended to re-establish and entrench white political supremacy.  Such disfranchising laws included poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of "good character," and disqualification for "crimes of moral turpitude." These laws were "color-blind" on their face, but were designed to exclude black citizens disproportionately by allowing white election officials to apply the procedures selectively. Other laws and practices, such as the "white primary," attempted to evade the 15th Amendment by allowing "private" political parties to conduct elections and establish qualifications for their members (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 70).  

 

The Southern states experimented with numerous additional restrictions to limit black participation in politics, many of which were struck down by federal courts over the next decades.  As a result of these efforts, in the former Confederate states nearly all black citizens were disenfranchised by 1910. The problem of racial discrimination in voting, by white Southern legislators legally limiting blacks from voting with Jim Crow laws, including literacy tests, tests on interpreting the Constitution, whites only primaries, poll taxes and residency requirements.  By 1960 fewer than 10 percent of the African American citizens in Mississippi were registered to vote.  The process of restoring the rights taken stolen by these tactics would take many decades.  In Guinn v. United States, 238 U.S. 347 (1915), the Supreme Court held that voter registration requirements containing "grandfather clauses," which made voter registration in part dependent upon whether the applicant was descended from men enfranchised before enactment of the 15th Amendment violated that amendment.  In Smith v. Allright 321 U.S. 649 (1944) the Supreme Court ruled that primaries that the Texas whites only primary was unconstitutional. By the 1960s all but five states had eliminated even nominal poll taxes (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 73-74).  In Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964), the Supreme Court established the one-person, one-vote principle (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 71).  In Richardson v. Ramirez 418 U.S. 24, 41-55 (1974) the Court rejected the argument that the disenfranchisement of felons violates the Equal Protection Clause, ruling felon disenfranchisement is a matter of state policy (Blackwell ’09:113).

 

Black Voter Registration in Southern States 1960-2000

 

State

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

Alabama

13.7

66.0

55.8

71.8

72.0

Arkansas

38.0

82.3

57.2

62.4

60.0

Florida

39.4

55.3

58.3

54.7

52.7

Georgia

29.3

57.2

48.6

53.9

66.3

Louisiana

31.1

57.4

60.7

82.3

73.5

Mississippi

5.2

71.0

62.3

78.5

73.7

North Carolina

39.1

51.3

51.3

64.0

62.9

South Carolina

13.7

56.1

53.7

62.0

68.6

Tennessee

59.1

71.6

64.0

77.4

64.9

Texas

35.5

72.6

56.0

63.5

69.5

Virginia

23.1

57.0

53.2

64.5

58.0

Average

29.7

63.4

56.5

66.8

65.66

Source: Table 3.1 pg. 76 Maisel & Buckley ‘05

 

The Constitution requires a national census to be conducted once per decade, and this mandate serves as the basis for apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. For each state, the number of people in each constituent congressional district must be precisely equal (Blackwell & Klukowski ’09).  Congress passed legislation in 1957, 1960, and 1964 that contained voting-related provisions. The 1957 Act created the Civil Rights Division within the Department of Justice and the Commission on Civil Rights; the Attorney General was given authority to intervene in and institute lawsuits seeking injunctive relief against violations of the 15th Amendment. The 1960 Act permitted federal courts to appoint voting referees to conduct voter registration following a judicial finding of voting discrimination.  In the early 1960s, the Supreme Court also overcame its reluctance to apply the Constitution to unfair redistricting practices. In Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), the Supreme Court recognized that grossly mal-apportioned state legislative districts could seriously undervalue -- or dilute -- the voting strength of the residents of overpopulated districts while overvaluing the voting strength of residents of under-populated districts. The 1964 Act also contained several relatively minor voting-related provisions. In 1971, 13 individuals created the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).  Between 1970 and 1992, the number of African Americans serving in state legislatures increased 274 percent (from 168 to 463). According to 2003 figures from the National Conference of State Legislators, 595 African Americans held seats in the upper or lower house in state legislatures, accounting for 8.1 percent of all.  in 1970 there were only 15 black women state legislators—accounting for less than 10 percent of all African-American state legislators. By 1992, the number of black women state legislators had increased to 131, or roughly 28 percent of all black state legislators. As with other women in Congress, legislative experience at the state level provided a vehicle for election to the U.S. Congress. In 1971, there was only one African-American woman in Congress—Shirley Chisholm of New York—among a total of 14 blacks in Congress. By late 2007, African-American women accounted for nearly one-third of all the sitting black Members of Congress.

 

Apportionment of Representatives among the States 1790-1970

 

Year

Congress

Population Base (1,000)

Number of States

Number of Repre-sentatives

Date of Act

Apportionment Population per Representative

1970

93rd

203,053

50

435

 

469,088

1960

88th -92nd

178,559

50

435

 

410,5481

1950

83rd -87th 

149,895

48

435

 

334,587

1940

78th – 82nd

131,006

48

435

November 15, 1941

301,164

1930

73rd – 77th

122,093

48

435

June 18, 1929

280,675

1920

No re-app.

 

48

435

 

 

1910

63rd – 72nd

91,604

48

435

August 8, 1911

210,583

1900

58th  – 62nd 

74,568

45

386

January 16, 1901

193,167

1890

53rd – 57th

61,909

44

356

February 7, 1891

173,901

1880

48th – 52nd  

49,371

38

325

February 25, 1882

151,912

1870

43rd – 47th

38,116

37

292

February 2, 1872

130,538

1860

38th – 42nd

29,550

34

241

March 4, 1862

122,614

1850

33rd – 37th

21,767

31

234

July 30, 1852

93,020

1840

28th -32nd

15,908

25

223

June 25, 1842

71,338

1830

23rd – 27th

11,981

24

240

May 22, 1832

49,712

1820

18th -22nd

8,972

24

213

March 7, 1822

42,124

1810

13th – 17th

6,584

17

181

December 21, 1811

36,377

1800

8th -12th

4,880

16

141

January 14, 1802

34,609

1790

3rd – 7th

1st – 2nd

3,616

----

15

13

105

65

April 14, 1792

Constitution 1789

34,436

30,000

Source: Series Y 215-219 Morton, Rogers C.B. Secretary of Commerce; Barabba, Vincent P. Director of the Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970. Bicentennial Edition pg. 1084

 

Women first came together in the famous conference at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 to asset their own rights.  From that point until the successful adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, women suffragists waged a valiant, prolonged, often brilliant and frequently frustrating battle to win the right to vote.  Women were first given the right to vote on school issues in the frontier states in the 1890s.  Wyoming had granted women the right to vote on all matters in 1869 and in applying for admission to the Union, Wyoming included women’s suffrage in its constitution, Congress however did not admit Wyoming until 1890 as the first state with universal female suffrage.  Other Western states followed Wyoming’s lead, in at least partial recognition of the important and equal role women played in the settlement of the frontier, but the progress was slow and often frustrating.  By 1916 women’s suffrage was included in both party platforms, though the suffragists still wanted state action.  In 1917 women turned to more militant actions, picketing the White House and delivering petitions to the president.  Some were jailed, others replaced them.  When female prisoners were force fed, the press had a field day.  More women came to Washington and the jails became more crowded.  The women’s suffrage amendment passed the House in the second session of the Sixty-fifth Congress, but it failed to achieve the two-thirds vote necessary in the Senate.  More women came to Washington, more picketed, more were jailed, and more hunger strikes ensued.  Finally President Wilson was won over to the cause.  Then the Republican controlled House passed the measure in 1919, Wilson pressured his fellow Democrats in the Senate to enact women’s suffrage.  At long last, in August 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified by three-quarters of the states, and women won the right to vote in all elections.  No further legal barrier could be used to prevent women from voting (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 78-79). 

 

Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections, by Gender, 1964-2008

 

 

Source: Center for American Women and Politics. Gender Differences in Voter Turnout. Eagleton Institute of Politics. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. November 2009

 

The women and children of the 20th century were not as well received as the freed blacks of the Gilded Age.  Voter turnout for women remained low in the years immediately after enfranchisement.  Voter participation in 1920 and 1924 was the lowest voter participation in history at 49.2% and 48.9% respectively, probably as the result of the restrictions on freedom imposed by the XVIII Amendment prohibition of alcohol one year from 1919.  Despite the adversity, the number of female voters steadily increased, exceeding the male number by 1964, and leveled off in 1972, at a turnout level only slightly below that of men.  Since 1980 turnout rates of women voters have exceeded the rates for men in every national election. Today, women still constitute only 19 per cent of the members of parliaments around the world.  In the United States House of Representatives 73 of 435 seats, only 16.8% were filled by women.  In the Senate only 15 seats, 15% were occupied by women.  This is below international mean.  No woman has ever been elected President or Vice President although many unsuccessful challengers have nominated women as their Vice-Presidential candidate.  Female candidates suffer no electoral or fund-raising disadvantage compared to male candidates. A gender related fund-raising disadvantage may have existed in Congressional elections prior to the mid-eighties, but this seems to have disappeared or even reversed in recent years.  Since 1984, female candidates for the House have been slightly more successful than males at raising funds and at least as successful in raising PAC contributions, large contributions and even early contributions.  At the state level, female candidates also raise more money than their male counterparts.  Consequently, the current dearth of female office holders is thought to be primarily the result of prior barriers to women entering politics, the effects of which are still realized today because of the generic incumbency advantage.  Older and more male-dominated cohorts are being replaced by younger and less male-dominated cohorts (Milyo & Schosberg ’00: 2).

 

2004 Voter Turnout by Age

 

Age Group

Turnout

18 – 24

47%

25 - 34

56%

35 - 44

64%

45 - 54

69%

55 - 64

73%

65 and older

71%

Source: Old Enough to Fight but Not Old Enough to Vote: The 26th Amendment. The Free Library. Scholastic Inc. 2008

 

During World War II, when eighteen year olds were conscripted into military service, many people believed that the voting age should be lowered to eighteen.  In 1943 Georgia lowered its voting age to eighteen, but no other state followed suit.  President Eisenhower expressed support for eighteen-year-old voters during his first term (1953-1957), but only Kentucky amended its constitution to effect that change.  When Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union in the late 1950s, their constitutions called for voting ages of nineteen and twenty, respectively.  No further changes ensued until the United States became embroiled in the Vietnam War.  The cries were heard, “old enough to die but not old enough to vote.”  In response Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1970, one provision of which made eighteen year olds eligible to vote in all national, state, and local elections.  In Oregon v. Mitchell 400 U.S. 112 (1970) the Supreme Court struck down this provision, asserting that Congress could not constitutionally take such actions for state and local elections.  In response Congress passed and the requisite 37 states ratified, the Twenty-sixth Amendment, making eighteen the minimum voting age for all elections (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 85).  In 1974 the US abolished the draft and became a volunteer military. 11 million 18 – 20 year olds gained the right to vote and between 1970 and 1972 the voter age population increased by 16.3 million from 124.5 million to 140.8 million, 13.1% growth.  Between 1972 and 1974 growth in VAP was 3.9% and between 1968 and 1970 3.5% close to the birth rate.  The 26th Amendment set voter age participation back ten percentage points from the 60-70% in the 1960s presidential elections and 40-50% in midterm elections to the 50-60% in all subsequent presidential elections and the 30-40% in congressional elections (IDEA ’09).  Young voters are easy to register but least likely to show up to the polls, of any age group.

 

The easing of voting restrictions has a checkered history.  Property requirement were eased and during Reconstruction former Confederate states were obligated to enfranchise black voters in their constitutions, the XV amendments guaranteed blacks the right to vote and participated in politics.  Voter participation was never higher between 1860 and 1900 voter participation did not fall below 71.3%.  However when Union occupying forces left southern states legislated a Redemption and by 1890 few blacks were registered to vote.   Segregation cast a pall over the elections and since 1900 no national election has achieved a 66% turnout.  By 1900 the voting franchise had been tainted by apartheid and to assure a fear for one’s health the U.S. Census Bureau began keeping accurate epidemiologic statistics.  Women’s suffrage, the XIX amendment of 1920, was falsely associated with the cruel prohibition of alcohol of the XVIII amendment of 1919-20, and 1920 and 1924 had the lowest voter participation rates of the 20th century.  The U.S. Census Bureau uniquely did not even bother to re-apportion the districts in 1920.  The admission of an estimated 33.9 million women doubled the size of the voting age population from 27 million males in 1910 to 60.9 million men and women in 1920 a 226% increase (U.S. Census ’48 : 1).  It took a while for voter turnout to pick back up as a percentage but by 1964 there were numerically more women registered to vote than men, by the 1972 women had equal turnout rates and since 1980 more women have turned out to vote than men.  The XVI amendment of 1971 allowed 11 million people ages 18-20 to vote at the polls, but these youths have the lowest participation rates of any age group, and subsequently voter participation has dropped 10 percentage points.  The enfranchisement of convicted felons offers to expand the electorate by 3.1 million votes.  Extending the right to vote to people under 18 would increase the voting age population by 74.6 million, 32%.  These captive populations would be particularly easy to motivate to go to the polls.  The penal system would stay out of the electoral process.  Third parties could appeal for prison votes.  Probation officers could give out election material.  Parents could vote for their infants so long as they had identification and were registered to vote.  Only genuine third party option would be as likely to foster voter turnout. 

 

Part Three: Incumbent Democratic-Republican Two Party Electoral System

 

We elect one president of the United States, fifty governors, one hundred senators, 435 members of Congress, 1,984 state senators, 5,440 state representatives, thousands of mayors, city council members, county commissioners, judges of probate, clerks of court, water district commissioners and other public officeholders.   In 2005 ninety-nine of the one hundred U.S. senators are either republicans or Democrats, 434 of the 435 representatives in the House of Representatives are affiliated with one of the two major parties, all fifty of the state governors and more than 7,350 of the approximately 7,400 state legislators elected in partisan elections ran under major party labels (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 267).  Although federal officials get most of the attention, state and local officials often make decisions that have more direct impact on our daily lives.  State and local officials holding some elective office are also qualified candidates for higher office (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 200-201).  The States have the constitutional responsibility for delivering the vast array of governmental programs and services that characterize life in the United States.  There are about 85,000 local governments in the United States.  One of the usual responsibilities of nearly every county government is the conducting of elections.  Sometimes, local governments supplement their finances with federal aid (Dover ’03: 67).  The distribution of power within the American federal system places extensive responsibilities at the local level, yet the structure of public finance leaves those local governments with only limited funding to carry out their numerous responsibilities.  The federal government dominates the most lucrative types of taxation, while the states rely upon the ones that follow in their ability to produce revenue.  Local governments, such as counties, are often left with the least-productive types of taxation to finance their myriad activities (Dover ’03: 68).

 

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. cities with a population of over five thousand hold nonpartisan elections to determine who will hold local offices.  The movement toward nonpartisan government was part of Progressive era reforms, advocates of nonpartisan local government feel that running a local government should be more like administering a business than playing partisan politics.  Frequently they cited the corruption and the inefficiency of partisan politics as, “There is no Democratic or Republican way to clean a street”.  Critics contend that nonpartisan elections tend to draw fewer voters because citizens do not care who wins these elections and because elections without the cue of party often confuse voters (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 473). States have also delegated considerable power to the people in regards to initiatives and referendums.  The California recall process begins with an official “Notice of Intention to Recall”, signed by at least sixty-five voters, filed with the California secretary of state’s office, whereby the lieutenant governors will set the date of the recall election within sixty to eighty days (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 262).  In Maine organized parties rarely have enough strength to help state legislative candidates significantly, however, in states such as Minnesota, party organizations practically run the campaign for candidates.  In Massachusetts in 1998 eighteen of the forty seats in the state senate were won without any major party opposition, 45 percent, 68 out of 160 house members won reelection with no opponent, 42.5 percent.  In Florida in the 1998 elections for representative to the state house of representatives, Democratic candidates ran unopposed by Republican opponents in 37 of 120 races.  Republican candidates faced no major party opposition in twenty races (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 25). 

 

The modern two party system evolved in six distinct party systems in American political history, Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican, Jachsonian Democrats, Progressive Republican Era, Republican Populist, New Deal Democrats and the modern age of split ticket voting whereupon informed voters divide their vote so that the President’s party does not also hold a majority in Congress  (Maisel & Buckley ’05: Xxiii).  The Founder envisioned directly elected Representatives connected to their populace and two Senators selected by the state parties.   The other elected officials of the federal government were chosen through a filtering process.  The elaborate mechanism for choosing the president has given the office a great deal of independence from the ruling party (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 10-11).  The Electoral College was created in 1787 as part of the original writing of the national constitution.  Some convention delegates wanted the president chosen by a direct popular vote of the people, while others preferred a more indirect method, choice by Congress, the electoral college was a compromise.  The House of Representatives would choose the president if the Electoral College failed in its designated task.  One unusual feature of the Electoral College was the method designated for choosing the vice president, now deferring to the Presidential candidate’s counsel.  Originally the vice president would be the second highest vote getter in the Electoral College and would have the responsibility of presiding over the Senate.  Electors were each given two votes for someone not of their state (Dover ’03: 23-25). The Electoral College helped to produce a clear winner in three elections.  In the elections of 1860, 1912 and 1992, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton, respectively, finished first in the popular vote in campaigns in which there were more than two major candidates.  Lincoln attained 39.8 percent of the popular vote, Wilson 41.8 percent and Clinton 43.4 percent.  None of these are convincing victories.  The distributions of electoral votes in these elections provided more convincing evidence for claims of victory.  Lincoln attained 180 votes of the 303 that were cast in 1860; Wilson garnered 435 out of 531 while Clinton won 370 votes from the grand total of 538 that comprised the electoral college of 1992.  The size of these electoral vote triumphs allowed these presidents to claim popular mandates when their actual votes may have suggested otherwise (Dover ’03: 33). 

 

The ability of the president to lead his own party in Congress, to win support in the other party, or to coalesce opposition measured by presidential support scores and presidential opposition scores changes.  Poor showing in public opinion polls certainly works against the president’s credibility as a leader to his fellow partisans in Congress.  But increased popularity does not necessarily equate legislative success.  American is not a parliamentary democracy.  Congress is a separate branch of government, representatives and senators have separate electoral bases from the president.  Therefore, the ability of the president to lead his party in Congress will depend on two criteria, first, institutional constraints, where his agenda falls relative to the preferences of his party’s majority, second external factors from scandal to war to the economy, all of which affect the ability of a president to persuade even members of his own party to follow his lead (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 465).  Vice presidential running mates for major-party candidates are officially nominated by the two parties’ conventions.  But the choices are made by the presidential candidate.  The vice presidential nominee can help or hurt the ticket.  Certainly the nominee is evaluated in party on this choice, the first important decision he has to make after confirmation as his party’s standard bearer. The process for choosing vice presidential candidates is not a formal one, but it has been a careful and organized one (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 325 & 326).  The party leadership roles of majority leader and minority leader and majority whip and minority whip developed out of the intense partisan conflict at the turn of the 20th century.  Although Speakers are officially elected by the entire House, the vote to elect them is essentially party line.  Each party’s caucus, a meeting of all party members, nominates a candidate for Speaker.  The Speaker’s right hand is the majority leader.  Elected by members of his or her own party to handle the day-to-day leadership of the party, the majority leader schedules legislation, coordinates committee work, and negotiates with the president, the House minority leader, and the Senate leadership.  The goal of a majority leader is to build and maintain voting coalitions and essentially to keep peace in the family.  Next in line in the party hierarchy are the whips, their job is to link the rank and file to the party leadership.  They are the information disseminators, in house pollsters, and vote counters.  They make the party position known to all members of the caucus, assess who is for, against, or on the fence on any given piece of legislation and try to persuade reluctant members to follow the party line and report back to the Speaker and the majority and minority leaders with the expected vote tallies (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 438). Nancy Pelosi is a generous fund raiser, she gave $1 million in 2002 to her colleagues for their reelection bids, more than any other House Democrat (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 447).

 

The incumbent has a distinct advantage.  In only six elections since World War II have fewer than 90 percent of those seeking reelection been reelected.  Over 90 percent of House incumbents seeking to return are successful in election after election.  The average reelection rate for incumbents seeking reelection in the last three elections was over 97 percent.  Senators too are rarely defeated (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 471). 

State legislators seeking reelection also win virtually all of the time (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 258).  Incumbent presidents do not have to prove that they are capable of handling the office or that they have the requisite background and experience, they have held the job for four years.  What is better experience for being president than having been president?  Incumbent presidents have a political organization in place (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 369).  Incumbents are winning because challengers are poor campaigners.  When challengers run good campaigns, incumbents can lost.  But good challengers appear too infrequently for too many important offices.  The lack of good challengers and good campaigns insulate incumbents in congressional races, the same factors insulate those incumbents seeking reelection to less visible and less attractive offices as well (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 260). Early in the twentieth century, Presidents Taft, Hoover and Bush I lost bids for reelection, but these defeats are easily explained.  Taft lost because former president Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate, as the candidate of his famous Bull Moose Party splitting the Republican vote, allowing Woodrow Wilson to win with less than a majority.  Hoover lost because the voting public blamed him for the Great Depression.  Bush lost votes on the economy to Perot.  Each loss took place before the electronic media multiplied the advantages of incumbency (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 369).  Nearly 90 percent of respondents report having had some contact with their congressional leaders, almost a quarter had personally met their representatives, and almost three quarters had received mail from their representative in Washington.  Challengers are not known at all, voters do not choose between two candidates on equal footing but between one who is well known and positively viewed and another who has to fight to be viewed at all (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 80 & 89).

 

The most prevalent rules call for candidates to run in their party’s primary if they meet certain fairly simple criteria.  First, the prospective candidate must be a registered member of the political party whose nomination he or she seeks.  Second, candidates must meet some sort of test to gain access to the ballot.  Often this test involves gathering a certain number of signatures on a petition.  The number of signatures necessary and who is eligible to sign are important factors.  In Tennessee, only 25 signatures are required for most offices.  In Maine a percentage of those voting in the last election are needed, only registered party members may sign petitions, and they must sign a petition that contains only the names of party members from their home town (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 208).  Despite the lip service given to the basic principle of majority rule, majority rule is an exception in American politics.  Most elections in America, and certainly most primaries are determined by plurality rule.  That is, the person with the most votes, not necessarily 50 percent plus at least one, in the primary wins the nomination (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 217).  Politicians generally like to avoid hotly contested primaries.  However, under certain circumstances, such as when a candidate is not well known and/or a candidates organization has not tested, a little primary can be a good thing (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 230). Credential disputes are the most easily understood.  In party rules and in the call to the convention, each party establishes the procedures through which delegates are to be chose.  In most cases no one challenges the delegates presenting themselves as representing a certain state.  Each party appoints a Credentials Committee that hears challenges to proposed delegations and rules on the disputes.  The report of the Credentials Committee is the first order of official business before the nominating convention.  Credentials, and rules disputes which can determine who wins and who loses, are seen as critical matters. The whips inform the delegates and the delegates fall into line (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 321 &324).

 

After the national conventions, party members sometimes even reject the top candidate of their party and cross over to split their ballots at election time.  Only party regulars can more or less be counted on to vote the straight ticket. Many people find choosing between the parties a hard decision, or may reject both.  Many don’t bother to register, or frustrated, they leave a blank or register Independent.  Unwillingness to join one side disregards the fact that the membership of a major party includes a surprising diversity of conservatives, moderates, liberals, pro and anti-government, pro-regulation and deregulation, internationalist and isolationist and other attributes that divide people.  Both the rise of blind allegiance to Party and rejection of Party have gotten out of hand.  Asked about their orientation in 2002, Americans replied that they were Moderate (40%), Conservative (36%) and Liberal (19%).  Liberal is the meaning of recent years, not the 19th century one which was rooted in freedom from government authority.  Being Independent takes one out of the party arena and may seem to reduce stress and strain, but it excludes one from party primaries in many, but not all states.  It facilitates tuning out of the kinds of meaningful disputes over issues that perennially occupy those who affiliate with a Party.  It also diminishes the percentage of the electorate who participate in our primary elections.  While Independents tend to revel in their freedom form the controls of Party, they actually prevent themselves from having much to do with the orientation of the American System of Government, whose power is rooted in political parties and those who work effectively within the party machinery. After all, a political party is at its core an organization that consists of individuals, leaders and followers alike, at national, state, and local levels (Bornet ’04: 10-11).

 

A party system is a pattern of interaction in which two or more political parties compete for office or power in government and for the support of the electorate, and must therefore take one another into account in their behavior in government and in election contests.  The American national party system is generally classified as a competitive two party-system.  The Democratic and Republican parties compete with each other for national offices; each has a chance of winning.  Minor parties may be on the ballot from time to time, but they neither persist nor have they had much of a chance of winning.  In the 1992 presidential election, and to a lesser extent in the 1996 campaign, Ross Perot’s third party threatened the hegemony of the Democratic and Republican (DR) parties.  But in the final analysis his effort to undermine the two-party system fell short.  Thus our national system remains the competitive two party-system.  It is decentralized in the sense that local and state politics are not generally disciplined (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 15 & 17).  Theoretically the Democrat and Republican parties are organized in each of the roughly 190,000 precincts in the United States.  Oftentimes, only one party has a precinct.  In the 1980s and 1990s the Christian right motivated their members to show up for local precinct committee meetings in their areas and to attend the nominating caucuses to promote conservative candidates.  This grassroots strategy eventually led to conservative control of local Republican party organizations in states such as Texas and Minnesota and has continued to provide a critical base of electoral support for GOP candidates (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 59). Today, state party central committees operate for both parties in each of the fifty states, and the means of choosing committee members is set by state law.  Those who favor strong party organization believe that the state should interfere as little as possible with the internal working of political parties.  Effective state party chairs not only lead the state committee, they define its tasks and setting its goals, they also act as the linchpin between grassroots party and the national party.  The average budget for state parties rose nearly five times, to nearly $300,000 annually, between 1961 and 1979.  By 1984 the average had risen to nearly $350,000 with the largest state budgets reaching $2.5 million and with only a quarter of the party committees operating with budgets of less than $100,000.  State parties recruit and de-cruit candidates for local and state offices.  State parties are continually at work to increase turnout in both primary and general elections.  At the national level there are the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 61-63).

 

In Federalist 10 (1787) Madison warns of the mischief of faction, reasoning that many groups must be allowed to flourish so that no one group becomes too powerful.  Such was the concept of party at the time the Constitution was drafted to the tune of “taxation without representation is tyranny!”  The major American political parties exist, as do other political organizations, to organize large numbers of individuals behind attempts to influence the selection of public officials and the decisions these officials subsequently make in office.  The differences between parties and other political organizations are often slender.   We may define “political party” generally as the articulate organization of society’s active political agents, those who are concerned with the control of governmental power and who compete for popular support with another group or groups holding divergent views (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 14). The Democratic Party traces its origins back to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party that murdered the Federalist Party.  President Andrew Jackson split with the party retaining only the name Democrat.  By the 1830s hundreds of delegates from state party affiliates would convene to nominate the candidates (Dover ’03: 27).  The Republican Party emerged as the foe of the expansion of slavery into the territories and won the Presidency in 1860 with Abraham Lincoln, who served as president and commander in chief during the four years of the Civil War.  It was the Republicans who pushed for the adoption of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments during Reconstruction but they took their Union pensions and ran from the racial discrimination that swept the nation until the middle of the 20th century.  Modern political parties were in their infancy at the dawn of the nineteenth century.  The Republican Party, reliant upon the military occupation of the former Confederate states, was dominating the American political landscape at the dawn of the twentieth century (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 468).  In the beginning of the 20th century Republicans vacillated between Progressivism, trust busting, government regulation of business and Conservatism, pro-business and protective tariffs.  Republicans held office for the entire post-Civil War era with the exception of Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms, and Woodrow Wilson’s two terms.  The New Deal Democrats elected FDR by a landslide for four consecutive terms, and usually held the presidency and majority until the 70s  (Bornet ’04: 1 & 4).

 

FDRs party identifies with the New Deal’s public works programs and federal help for the unemployed of the Great Depression and with the Social Security act of 1935, civil rights and trade union legislation, and Medicare.  The Democrats are at one with use of the national government regulate the private sector of the economy and increasing the federal power.  Republicans advocate the well-being of business and entrepreneurship, and minimum taxes and governmental regulations espoused by Reagan.  The Democratic Party remains the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In contrast the Republican Party has become the party of Reagan. Scratch an orthodox Republican and you will quickly find someone who professes distrust of Government.  Yet at the same time that individual will happily use Government to crate and operate the Nation’s military establishment, and FBI.  Scratch and orthodox Democrat, and you will uncover an expressed belief in a form of government that uses its power to regulate and to collect income taxes from the affluent, with the money supposed to be spent on improving the circumstances of mankind at home and abroad.  Tax policies commonly divide the parties, with some Republican conservatives eager to cut taxes in upper brackets to help the economy, not of course themselves.  Democratic liberals, meanwhile, seem sometimes to desire using taxes not just to balance the budget or pay for programs, but to level the playing field of income distribution and property ownership.  Democrats say they are champions of individual security and of protection of free speech.  Republicans, meanwhile, tend to observe that they try to keep the good of the whole Nation in the forefront of their thinking.  They assert that they believe fervently in the right to earn a living free of most government intervention, and that the right to own property certainly ought to include most aspects of the right to its use as the owner sees fit (Bornet ‘4: 5, 7, 8 & 13). In basic political matter we are more alike than we may think. Fundamentally, paraphrasing Jefferson’s first Inaugural Address, “we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats”.  We are democrats in that we insist on one person, one vote, and majority decision-making.  We are republican in relying on representative government, a necessity where large populations, widely scattered, are involved.  We are Democratic-Republican in our belief System, which is solidly federalist yet also nationalist, solidly rooted in democratic principles yet clearly republican in electoral activities (Bornet ’04: 6). 

 

This is an enormous country, with sections and regions.  There are variations in economic conditions and recourse, and differing landscapes.  Some blame for the rejection of party affiliation by young people should be placed on those who routinely besmirch party heroes.  College professors as a whole are sharply divided in politics.  In the social sciences and humanities they are overwhelmingly Democratic liberals.  Some remember the old Socialist Party, still hoping for government ownership and regulation of the means of production and distribution.  The science and physical education departments are by no means Democrats, while the business division faculty is probably Republican up and down the corridors.  Judges vary in party affiliation.  When they are appointed to the highest court, justices often change their ideology appreciably during their years of service, emerging in old age with beliefs foreign to their early careers (Bornet ’04: 9-10). Terrorism is defined as the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature, through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear (Chomsky ’04: 79).  Presidents from the Democratic Party led the Nation’s military establishment as commander in chief in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia.  Presidents from the Republican Party accepted the burden of leading the Union in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and inherited the Vietnam War, they sought wars in Grenada and Panama and led the Nation during both the Gulf War and the Iraq War.  Criticism of the United Nations is normally Republican, for it was President Wilson, a Democrat, who pioneers international organization with his ungratified League of Nations, while Roosevelt and Truman helped create the United Nations.  Presidents from both parties have relied on NATO.  They were both aggressive during the Cold War in confronting the Soviet Union (Bornet ’04: 7).  

 

A representative democracy rests no just on the consent of the governed but on the informed consent of the governed.  One conception of democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their affairs and the means of information are open and free.  If you look up democracy in the dictionary you’ll get a definition something like that.  An alternative conception of democracy is that the elections bar the public from managing their own affairs and the means of information must be kept rigidly and narrowly controlled, the democratic official is a popularly elected despot, not necessarily an aristocrat, but despot nonetheless (Chomsky ’02).  The question of how responsible men get into the positions where they have the authority to make decisions is by serving people with real power.  The people with real power are the ones who own the society, and have instilled in them the beliefs and doctrines that will serve the interests of private power.  Unless they can master that skill, they’re not part of the political class. So we have one kind of educational system directed to the responsible men, the political class.  They have to be deeply indoctrinated in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate nexus that represents it.  As society becomes more free and democratic, propaganda is needed to control the masses.  The business community controls the media and has massive resources.  The political system trains the political class to work in the service of the masters the people who own the society.  The rest of the population ought to be deprived of any form of organization, they ought to be working. If they can achieve that, then they can be part of the political class, who create and perpetuate the “necessary illusions” and emotionally potent “oversimplifications” to keep the naïve simpletons more or less on course (Chomsky ’02: 19-20).  Parties have essentially become one of a class of participants in modern elections.  Parties have become little more than super PACs. Candidates view parties as a source of money (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 479). The most interesting debate about the role of political parties in the twenty-first century is how the two parties define themselves (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 480).  When parties are weak, the linkage role of the electoral process is not played well.  When parties are strong, a possibility exists that representation and accountability will follow.  Other institutions, the media, interest groups, have tried to pick up the slack, but they have done so without notable success.  And thus we are drawn back to the conclusion that if political parties did not exist, someone would have to invent them.  Since ours already exist, we should get on with the work of making them function more productively (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 486).  A progressive theory of liberal democratic thought argues that a revolution in the art of democracy could be used to manufacture consent and bring about agreement on the part of the public for the election of third party candidates (Chomsky ’02: 9-17). 

 

Stage One: Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans

 

George Washington won the election in 1788 and reelection in the nation’s second presidential election of 1792.  Under the original rules electors were selected in November, they voted in December and Congress counted the votes in January.  He deigned to run for a third term.  In 1788 all 69 electors voted for Washington but with their second vote 34 voted for John Adams and the remaining 35 were split with John Jay receiving 9 votes.  In the election of 1792 each of the 135 electors from fifteen states voted for Washington and with their second vote indicated Adams as their pick for vice president over New York Governor George Clinton (Dover ’03: 28)  The first American party was the Federalist party, it was shaped largely by Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s treasury secretary.  James Madison, author of famous Federalist Paper Number 10 regarding the need for faction, pressured a reluctant Thomas Jefferson to join him in organizing an opposition party to Hamilton’s Federalists.  Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans formed as a reaction to the rising tide of Federalist policies gaining support in Congress, favoring New England merchants and manufacturers at the expense of southern and western farmers and tradesmen (Maisel & Buckley ’05: 33).  The classical Greek philosophy of the Democratic-Republican (DR) was superb.  By Washington’s retirement the nation had developed two active political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.  Jefferson stood against Hamilton’s statist ideas for good administration and an expansive executive, for an empowered federal government, with a capacity for managing finance, taking control of debt and banking, and encouraging manufacture.  Hamilton had wanted to unite the interest and credit of rich individuals with those of the state in order to foster economic growth.  The Jeffersonians, in heated contrast, proposed to limit the intrusiveness of the federal government in the market.  In 1804 Treasury Secretary Hamilton was killed in a duel by Burr, the Anti-Federalist candidate, who returned to finish his term as Vice President before being acquitted for murder. Instinctively the Jeffersonians aligned themselves with the likes of the Whiskey Rebellion and thus with popular rule over federal authority.  Jefferson set out his party’s core principle as “equal rights for all, special privileges for none” (Greenberg ’04: 9). 

 

Electoral College Count in Presidential Elections 1789-1820

 

Year

# States

Candidates

Party Affiliation

Votes

1820

24

James Monroe

Republican

231

 

 

John Q. Adams,

Independent-Republican

1

 

 

Not Voted

 

3

1816

19

James Monroe

Republican

183

 

 

Rufus King

Federalist

34

 

 

Not Voted

 

4

1812

18

James Madison

Democratic-Republican

128

 

 

De Witt Clinton

Fusion

89

 

 

Not Voted