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United States Government

How Voting Works

An important part of the United States government is the right of every person over the age of 18 to vote. Voting is not only a right, but a privilege and a responsibility.

Who can Vote?

When the US government was first formed only white men over the age of 21 were allowed to vote. This was changed over the years to include everyone regardless of race or gender. Today anyone who is a citizen and is over the age of 18 can vote.

Is Voting Important?

Yes. It's important that each person vote and get their voice to be heard. Even though it may seem to not make a difference as your vote is one in millions, it's important that each citizen cast their vote. This is important for democracy and for our country that people get to have their say and place their votes.

Glass ballot box
A Glass Ballot Box
This represented the self-government
of the United States in the late 1800s.
From the Smithsonian. Photo by Ducksters.
Why do we have political parties?

At first it may seem strange that we have different political parties. The two main ones in the United States are the Republican and Democratic Parties. They seem to be fighting and arguing a lot over issues. This may seem like a bad thing, but is really a good thing. Having different parties allows for different sides of issues to get discussed and voted on. If we only had a single party, then the party leaders would decide everything and other ideas would not get presented and voted for.

What do we vote on?

In elections in the United States we mostly vote for people who are going to represent us in the government. This could be in a wide variety of positions, but usually we vote for someone who we think is going to vote and work for issues we find important. People who think like us. This way our opinion and viewpoint is represented in the government.

How Elections Work

Elections can be complicated things, especially when you are talking about a nationwide election like the president. Candidates have large teams of people working for them who try to convince voters to vote for them. They use statistics and polls to determine what people like and try to say and do the right things to get elected. Candidates run ads on TV, hand out buttons, give speeches, and have debates to let people know why they will be the best person for the job.

Automatic voting machine from 1898
An Automatic Voting Machine
It was invented in 1898.
From the Smithsonian.
Photo by Ducksters.
How the President is Elected

You may think that the President of the United States is just voted on by all the people in the country and then the person with the most votes wins. But it's not that simple. The president is actually elected by something called the Electoral College.

The Electoral College

Each state has a certain number of delegates in the Electoral College based on the population of the state. During the election, when one person wins the popular vote in a state, then they win all the electoral votes for that state (the exception being Nebraska and Maine who apply electoral votes per each Congressional District). Once all the votes are in, if one candidate has a majority of electoral votes, then they win the election and become president.

In the case where one person does not have a majority of Electoral College votes, then the House of Representatives votes on who will be president.

Activities To learn more about the United States government:

Branches of Government
Executive Branch
President's Cabinet
US Presidents

Legislative Branch
House of Representatives
Senate
How Laws are Made

Judicial Branch
Landmark Cases
Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
John Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
United States Constitution
The Constitution
Bill of Rights
Other Constitutional Amendments
First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Overview
Democracy
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights
Taxes
Glossary
Timeline

Elections
Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office


Works Cited

History >> US Government





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