Types of Systems

Districts and Decision Rule

Nature of Winning Parties

Small Parties

U.S. two party (p.166-7)

Single member districts- plurality rule= winner take all

Middle of the road, broad

Little power, but influential; garners great publicity

European Multi-party (p.167)

Multi member districts- proportional representation (Pr) rule


Frequently Win

U.S. Two Party:            D=6/R=4 then R(eform), G(reen), L(ibertarian), AIP and NL = 0

European Multi Party:            D=3/R=2/Ref=1/G=1/L=1/AIP=1/NL=1





Ethnicity (p.141, 156-7)

Religion (p.141, 156-7)

Income (p.156-7)

Sex (p.139, 156, 201)

Age (p.156)

Likely Republicans





Younger than 50


Cuban Hispanics


Likely Democrats


Jews, Catholics, Muslims



Older than 50


Non-Cuban Hispanics




Nominations (Selection Process)



Ambition, public service, policy goals lead to↓↓

Opportunity Structure-            the political ladder of local, state, and national offices that end with the presidency at the top


Methods of Nominations (p.180-1)


Caucus (convention) -            Today’s caucuses are local party meetings that are open to those who live in the precinct.  Citizens discuss and then vote for delegates who will vote in the district and state conventions.  Before the Progressive Era, caucuses dominated the party nomination process in most states.  Caucuses were closed to the public, and the nominees were chosen by the party leader. 

Primary-                                 This is an election system in which party members select candidates to run for office under the party banner.  80% of states use this system. 

Open primary-                        A primary election in which any qualified voter may

participate, regardless of party affiliation.  The voter chooses one party ballot at the polling place.

Closed primary-                        A primary election that allows a voter to obtain only a

ballot of the party in which he or she is registered; this form of the primary is used in most of the states and in Washington, D.C.

Partisan primary-                        A primary in which candidates run for their own party’s


Nonpartisan primary-            A primary in which candidates are listed on a ballot with no party identification

Run-off primary-                        An electoral contest between the top two primary vote

getter that determines the party’s candidate in a general election.  Such primaries are held in the then southern states, where a majority of the vote is needed to win the primary. 


Political Nomination Phenomena


Front loading-                         The move of presidential primaries to the beginning of the

primary season.  This leads to 70% of the delegates to both Democratic and Republican conventions being selected by March.  States move the primaries forward in order to have an early influence on the nomination process.  Because of the shorter primary season, underdog candidates lose the ability to build momentum through the primary system. 

Nomination Conventions-            Candidates are no longer selected here.  The nominating conventions are just a large media event with the delegates just ratifying the presidential choices that have already been made in the statewide primaries and caucuses.  Convention delegates are usually well educated and predominantly white. 

Who’s Nominated? -            WASP- White Anglo-Saxon Protestant; occasionally, minorities get elected


Campaign Finance


The Federal Election Campaign Act-            Created by Congress in 1971; amended in 1974 and at later dates

1.      Set up the Federal Election Commission, a bipartisan, six-member commission which administers and enforces federal regulations regarding the contribution and expenditure of campaign funds for congressional and presidential candidates

2.      Individual contributions are limited to $1000 per candidate per election; $5000 per year to a political action committee (PAC), and $20,000 per year to a national party committee.  Total contributions made per year by an individual are limited to $25000.  PACs can contribute an unlimited amount of money. 

3.      Major parties’ presidential election costs are publicly funded, including the national conventions.

4.      Controls are set up on the amount of money that can be spent in presidential primaries and general elections.  All contributions greater than 50 dollars must be recorded.  The federal government matches any individual contributions up to $250.


Sources of Campaign Funding


Self financing- unlimited amount allowed

Solicitation of gifts and loans from individuals

PACs-             unlimited spending allowed only if the spending efforts are not

            coordinated with the candidate’s campaign

Party contributions


Does Money Buy Victory?


No, but money is the candidate’s passport to visibility.  Money is not the only factor in           

determining the outcome of elections.  For example, incumbents do not always need

much money to win because incumbents are already well known to the voters.  However,

money plays an important role in providing recognition for a candidate, and in running a



Campaign Reform?


Many people believe that the appearance of wrongdoing by candidates in raising

campaign funds is a reason for reforming the system.  Many voters feel uneasy about

“soft money.”  Some suggestions for campaign reform include restricting PAC funds and

eliminating “soft money.” 


Other Important Political Terms


Soft Money-                           unrestricted contributions to political parties by individuals, corporations, and unions that can be spent on party building activities like registrationget out the vote efforts drives

Incumbent-                             a person who holds political office

Open race-                              an election in which there is not incumbent in the race

Winner-take-all rule-            an election in which no majority is needed- the candidate with the greatest percentage of the vote wins           

Turnout-                                  the number of eligible voters who decide to vote on election day

General election-            

Decline of partisanship-            Many individuals have stopped supporting party politics. 

Rise of independents-            Political observers are predicting that there will be a rise of a large third party.