Frequently Asked Questions
Does my vote really count?
YES! YES! YES! Yes it counts! It matters! It makes a difference! You are engaging in a sacred activity for which many people fought, others died and many around the world today can only imagine. Yes, your one vote counts, matters and makes a difference. It is more important than your vote on Dancing with the Stars and for Major League Baseball’s All Star Team. Your vote helps to determine who makes policies that will affect you and your children, sometimes for generations to come. Does someone you know have a bank account or receive Social Security or Medicare? Social Security and national protection of banks, benefits to millions of Americans, was born out of the chaos of the Great Depression of the 1930’s to benefit Americans – legislation passed by an elected Congress and signed into law by an elected president. Medicare – legislation of the 1960’s, went through a similar process. Maintenance of state parks and highways and a variety of licenses are some of the responsibilities of officials elected on the state level. Judges whose decisions may affect the course of your life are elected on the state and county levels. Funding for services like street paving, garbage collection and snow removal: that is the work of the men and women elected on the local level.
We will NEVER have perfect candidates from which to choose. However, the operative word is choose – meaning vote. Yes, your vote counts! Yes, your vote matters! Yes, your vote makes a difference!
How do I register to vote?
You may register in person at your county’s Board of Elections office; via voter registration drives; check for online voter registration via your county’s BOE website.
How can I know that I am registered to vote?
You can call your County Board of Elections; you may be able to check on line via your BOE’s website; you can call 1.800.OURVOTE (800.687.8673). Because states are eliminating infrequent voters and because people make mistakes, check your registration status regardless of how recently you voted.
Why is Election Day on a Tuesday in November?
The United States Congress standardized the day for the election of the President/Vice President and U.S. Congress as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, in 1845. Because the States are responsible for the implementation of the election process, States have standardized their General Election Day to coincide with that of the National Government1, with some exceptions.
November – The economy of the United States in 1845 was based largely on agriculture and farming. Harvesting was usually complete by October, freeing citizens to cast their votes in November.
Tuesday – Travel to the county seat to vote took many hours in 1845. Sunday was a day of Worship and rest; voters travelled on Monday, voted on Tuesday.
How important are Primary Elections?
Primary Elections are roughly similar to semi-finals in sports. A team cannot sit out the semi’s and expect to play in the finals. Your candidate needs your vote to win the Primary Election and compete in the General Election in order to be elected to office. Primary Elections give voters the opportunity to choose who will represent them and their Party (Democratic or Republican) for each position in the General Elections. Think of the Primary Election as your candidates Semi-Finals. S/He cannot compete in the Finals (the General Election) without your vote to win the Primary Election.
Which is better: in-person or absentee voting?
Neither method of voting is better than the other. In-person voting allows the voter to get into the “atmosphere” and “feeling” of voting, meet new friends while chatting and visiting during their wait. Absentee voting gives the voter the opportunity to vote at his/her leisure in the comfort of their home without experiencing the gauntlet of volunteers handing about candidate materials. Remember to focus on the verb: VOTING.
What does “down the ballot” mean?
“Down the ballot” refers to the candidates and issues that follow the top office for election. The highest ranking office is always placed at the top of the ballot. Some people vote for their presidential candidate only, and leave the voting booth or the absentee ballot incomplete. Voting down the ballot means that all candidates and issues are the focus of your decisions, not just the top office.
What parts of government are involved in the voting process?
The National Government is the guarantor and protector of the right to vote. The infrastructure or mechanics of voting is the responsibility of the States. Many States partner with their counties (parishes – Louisiana) to implement the voting process. Three levels of government are actively involved in the voting process.
How are the census and voting related?
The census2 is a mandated counting of the American people, who are required to respond. The primary purpose is the assignment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is based on population. The census is also used to collect a variety of data that tells us about ourselves, determines how dollars are spent on services we expect: schools, libraries, hospitals, to name a few. It is another avenue through which your voice can be heard. Your congressional, state and city legislative districts are all based on population and reflect the shifts that occur every ten years. The census helps determine how many people your legislative officials will represent.
Unlike the census, voting is not mandatory by law. Like the census, voting allows your voice to be heard. Participation in both is critical to the health of our democracy and society.
What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College3 was established in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by Congress and election of the President by U.S. voters.
Today, the Electoral College is composed of 538 Americans who cast the formal vote for the President and Vice President of the United States.
How are Electoral Votes determined?
Each state’s Electoral Votes are based on its congressional representation. Each state has 2 U.S. Senators. Each state’s representation in the U.S. House is based on population. 2 + Number of U.S. Representatives = Electoral Vote for each state.
Total Electoral Votes: 538
U.S. Senators = 100 + U.S. Representatives = 435 + District of Columbia = 3 (Amendment 23)
How can a presidential candidate win the popular vote and not become president?
There are two votes for the president. The popular vote is the number of votes cast by U.S. voters. The electoral vote is cast by the electoral voters. Most states have a “winner take all” rule for the electoral vote. If a candidate wins the state by one popular vote, he receives all of that state’s electoral votes. Thus, it is mathematically possible for more Americans to vote for Candidate A than Candidate B, but Candidate B wins because of the combination of “winner take all” electoral votes. Although unusual, this has happened in:
Year Popular Vote Winner Electoral Vote Winner/President
1824 Andrew Jackson John Quincy Adams
1876 Samuel Tilden Rutherford B. Hayes
1888 Grover Cleveland Benjamin Harrison
2000 Albert Gore George W. Bush
2016 Hillary R. Clinton Donald J. Trump
Can the Electoral College be abolished?
Theoretically, yes. Because it is part of the Constitution, an amendment would be required to nullify the Electoral College. Realistically, this is highly unlikely because of the political realities of our nation. States with small populations are the ones whose congressional members would probably fight against such a change. There may be the perception that they will be ignored during the campaign process. Additionally, there may be members of Congress and state legislators who take a dim view of amending the Constitution for any reason. For a proposed amendment to nullify the Electoral College today, only 13 U.S. Senators need to vote against the proposal, and the process ends. Twenty nine states have less than 10 electoral votes.
What are the parts of the U.S. Constitution?
The Preamble – Introduction
Articles I-VII – The Body of the Constitution which creates the apparatus of government
Amendments 1-27 – Additions to the Constitution
Amendments 1-10 compose the Bill of Rights
What are the 3 branches of government?
Legislative Branch – Makes the law
Executive Branch – Enforces the law
Judicial Branch – Interprets the law
How can the U.S. Constitution be changed?
The U.S. Constitution is changed only through the amendment process, as prescribed in Article V. The process has two steps and both steps have two options. The easier options of both steps are:
Step 1 – Proposal
An amendment is proposed when 2/3 of the U.S. Representatives and 2/3 of the U.S. Senators vote in favor of the suggested addition.
Step 2 – Ratification
Once the proposal process is complete, the second step is ratification. Once ¾ of the state legislatures approve the proposal, the amendment is added to the U.S. Constitution.
If a state opposes a proposed amendment, does it apply to that state when it is added to the U.S. Constitution?
Once an amendment is added to the Constitution, it is binding on all states immediately.
What constitutional amendments address issues around voting?
Amendment 15 – Right to vote extended to formerly enslaved persons
Amendment 19 – Right to vote extended to women
Amendment 23 – Right to three Electoral votes extended to citizens of the District of Columbia
Amendment 24 – Voting tax in National Elections abolished
Amendment 26 – Right to vote lowered to age 18
What is impeachment?
Impeachment is the constitutional process of accusing a high ranking U.S. official of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.4 The responsibility for this process belongs to the U.S. House of Representatives5.
Once the official has been formally impeached (read: accused), s/he is tried by the members of the U.S. Senate.
The Chief Justice of the United States becomes the Senate’s presiding officer if the impeached person is the President. The impeached person must be convicted by a 2/3 vote of the Senate. A conviction leads to the immediate removal from office and prohibition from holding any public office in the future. Although that is the end of punishment on the national level, civil and state charges can be brought against the now impeached and convicted person.6
Andrew Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868; William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton was impeached on October 8, 1998. Neither man was convicted in the Senate; both men completed their terms as president.
1“Federal” Government is a misnomer. “Federalism” is the political concept of shared government responsibilities between the National Government and the State Governments. There are powers that belong solely to the National Government; powers that belong solely to the State governments; powers that are shared by both; powers that are denied to both. The power to govern is shared to keep it from becoming concentrated in the hands of a few people. Technically, there is no “Federal” government and the correct term is “National” government. However, after more than 200 years of use, good luck trying to correct this misnomer.
2Article I – Section 2 – Paragraph 3: U.S. Constitution
3Article II – Section 1: U.S. Constitution
4Article II – Section 4: U.S. Constitution
5Article I – Section 2 – Last Paragraph: U.S. Constitution
6Article I – Section 3 – Last Paragraph: U.S. Constitution