Congressional Elections

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  • Congressional Elections
    • When
      • Senate
        • Each state has 2 Senators who's terms are 6 years and elections are held every 2 years where 1/3 of the Senate is up for re election
      • House of Representatives
        • There are 435 members and each state in split into congressional districts where each one elects a member and their terms are 2 years long and elections are every 2 years
    • How elections coincide
      • The day of the Presidential election the president is elected, the HoR are elected and 1/3 of the Senate are elected
      • Mid term elections are half way through the president's term where the HoR are elected and 1/3 of the Senate are elected
    • Requirements for congress
      • Senate
        • Must be 30 years old, live in USA for 9 years and live in the state they represent
      • House of Representatives
        • Must be 25 years old, live in USA for 7 years and live in the state they represent and in some states the district too
          • Must be selected as a candidate for one of the main parties to have any real chance
            • Must be 30 years old, live in USA for 9 years and live in the state they represent
    • Congressional primaries
      • Can be a real contest if the candidates are all new but if they are incumbent then they normally expect to be selected again
        • Between 1982 and 2012 only 8 incumbent Senators were beaten in primaries
    • What factors might affect congressional elections
      • Straight ticket voting
        • There will be a variety of office up for election on any Election Day so some voters will just vote for the same party for all of these
      • Split ticket voting
        • When people vote for candidates of different parties for different offices in an election
          • Quality of character may persuade voters to choose them regardless of party
          • Voters may vote for someone because of their policies
      • The 'coattails effect'
        • When the candidate at the top of the ballot paper for an important post can influence voters to choose other candidates from the same party but this is rare
      • Voting for incumbents
        • There are very high rates of re election by incumbents
          • In 2012 91% of of those who ran for re election to Congress won
          • In the Senate 80% are regularly re elected
    • Why are incumbents re-elected?
      • Money and resources
        • Incumbents have more help from businesses and organisations so can raise money more easily
          • The incumbent for the Senate Dianne Feinstein outspent Elizabeth Emken by $9.7 million to $900,000
      • Name recognition
        • Voters may choose a name and face they recognise and an incumbent will already have a public face
          • However, nearly 1/2 of Americans cannot name their member of the HoR and only 27% remember both their Senators
      • The incumbent record in office
        • America will judge their local Representative or Senator on what they have done for them so they need to bring home the bacon
          • In 2008 Senator for North Carolina Elizabeth Dole was voted out because she was accused of spending too much time supporting President Bush and not looking after the stater
      • Party loyalty
        • 2/3 of Americans are still partisan so where one party has a dominance they will remain safe seats could be around 370 out of 435 seats
      • Redistricting
        • Congressional Districts are based on population and every 10 years the USA has a census
          • This means the boundaries are redrawn by the party that controls the state itself
            • Called gerrymandering and is a subtle form of cheating but is one reason why so many seats in the HoR are safe
      • Conclusion
        • Most controversial is gerrymandering and so fewer and fewer elections for Congress are real contests because of safe seats
          • The people who represent those seats don't have to worry about pleasing the voters
            • Means they are much more partisan and extreme in their views so was one of the causes of the standstill in 2013


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