Elections, Parties, and Pressure Groups
Standard(s) of Learning
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of the political process at the local, state, and national levels of government by
||describing the functions of political parties;
||comparing the similarities and differences of political parties;
|| analyzing campaigns for elective office, with emphasis on the role of the media;
||examining the role of campaign contributions and costs;
||describing voter registration and participation;
||describing the role of the Electoral College in the election of the President and Vice President;
||participating in simulated local, state and/or national elections.
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of how public policy is made at the local, state, and national levels of government by
||examining the impact of the media on public opinion and public policy;
||describing how individuals and interest groups influence public policy;
Explain how the political parties play a key role in government and provide opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process.
Describe the functions of political parties:
• Recruiting and nominating candidates
• Educating the electorate about campaign issues
• Helping candidates win elections
• Monitoring actions of officeholder
Explain that a two-party system characterizes the American political process.
Explain that, although third parties rarely win elections, they play an important role in public politics.
• Introduce new ideas or press for a particular issue
• Often revolve around a political personality (e.g., Theodore Roosevelt)
Compare the similarities and differences between parties.
- Similarities between parties
- Organize to win elections
- Influence public policies
- Reflect both liberal and conservative views
- Define themselves in a way that wins majority support by appealing to the political center
- Differences between parties:
- Stated in a party's platform and reflected in campaigning
Explain how voters evaluate information presented in political campaigns to make reasoned choices among candidates.
Explain the following strategies for evaluating campaign speeches, literature, and advertisements for accuracy:
• Separating fact from opinion
• Detecting bias
• Evaluating sources
• Identifying propaganda
Explain how the media plays an important role in the political process:
Mass media roles in elections:
• Identifying candidates
• Emphasizing selected issues
• Writing editorials, creating political cartoons, publishing op-ed pieces
• Broadcasting different points of view
Use the following information to explain that running for political office is expensive.
Rising campaign costs:
• Require candidates to conduct extensive fund-raising activities
• Limit opportunities to run for public office
• Give an advantage to wealthy individuals who run for office
• Encourage the development of political action committees (PACs)
• Give issue-oriented special interest groups increased influence
Explain how the high cost of getting elected changes campaigning for public office.
Campaign finance reform:
• Rising campaign costs have led to efforts to reform campaign finance laws
• Limits exist on the amount individuals may contribute to political candidates and campaigns
Explain that voting is a basic responsibility of citizenship.
Describe why the number of citizens who register and vote is related to how important election issues are to citizens.
Explain that only citizens who register can participate in primary and general elections.
Identify the qualifications to register to vote in Virginia:
• Citizen of the United States
• Resident of Virginia and precinct
• 18 years of age by day of general election
Explain how to register in Virginia:
• In person at the registrar's office, at the Division of Motor Vehicles, or at other designated sites
• By mail application
• Registration is closed 29 days before elections.
Explain the following factors in predicting which citizens will vote:
Explain why citizens fail to vote:
• Lack of interest
• Failure to register
Explain that the percentage of voters who participate in presidential elections is usually greater than the percentage of voters who participate in state and local elections.
Demonstrate why every vote is important.
Using the following information, explain that the electoral college process is used to select the President and Vice President of the United States.
- The slate of electors for each state is chosen by popular vote.
- The electors meet to vote for President and Vice President.
- The winner-take-all system leads to the targeting of large states for campaigning, although candidates must pay attention to small states whose electoral votes may make the difference in tight elections.
- The number of electors of each state is based on the state’s Congressional representation.
- The requirements for a majority vote to win in the electoral college favors a two-party system.
Explain that the media informs policymakers and influences public policy by:
• Focusing public attention on selected issues
• Offering a forum in which opposing viewpoints are communicated
• Holding government officials accountable to the public
Explain that government officials use the media to communicate with the public.
Explain the ways individuals influence public policy.
Identify the term “Lobbying” - seeking to influence legislators to introduce or vote for or against a bill.
Using the following information, explain the ways interest groups influence public policy:
• Identifying issues
• Making political contributions
• Lobbying government officials
Using the following information, explain the ways individuals influence public policy:
• Participating in politics (voting, campaigning)
• Expressing opinions (lobbying, demonstrating, writing letters)
• Joining interest groups
Below is an annotated list of Internet resources recommended for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.
“America Votes. Presidential Campaign Memorabilia.” Duke University Special Collections Library. <http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/americavotes/>. This site offers excellent information, pictures, and ephemera.
Daryl Cagle’s Pro Cartoonists Index with Lesson Plans. <http://www.cagle.com/teacher/>. This site provides links to most of the well known political cartoonists. It includes five lesson plans. The site gives teachers permission to print the cartoons for instructional purposes.
“Documents Analysis Worksheets.” National Archives. <http://www.archives.gov/education/written_document_analysis_worksheet.pdf>. This site offers worksheets for analysis of all types of documents, including printed materials and sound recordings.
“Elections . . .The American Way.” Library of Congress American Memory Collection. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/features/election/home.html>. This site is an interactive tool for students and teachers on candidates, voters, the election process, issues, and party system.
Federal Election Commission. <http://www.fec.gov/>. This site contains information on campaign finance and PACs. It also supplies statistics on voter registration and turnout for recent elections.
League of Women Voters. <http://www.lwv.org/>. This site contains information on their efforts toward election finance reform. The League of Women Voters carries nonpartisan information during the elections.
Public Agenda Online. <http://www.publicagenda.org/>. This site features a nonpartisan, nonprofit public opinion research and citizen education organization. It provides information on most issues of interest to students and contains backgrounds and opposing points of view.
Project Vote Smart. <http://www.vote-smart.org/>. This site features a nonpartisan organization begun by many elected leaders, including former presidents Ford and Carter. It contains information on all the major political issues.
Rock the Vote. <http://www.rockthevote.com/>. This site was very active in the last presidential election. It provides information about government policy and resources on issues of interest, including violence, free expression, the economy, education, and the environment.
Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments for the 2008 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. Civics and Economics. Test Blueprint. Virginia Department of Education, 2009.
<http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/.../2008/blueprints_civics_economics.pdf>. This site provides assessment information for Civics and Economics.