Democracy: What Does That Mean?

Posted by on May 3rd, 2016

Democracy is a form of government that gives power to the people. The United States (U.S.) operates as a representative democracy. This means that the citizens elect the government. Citizens choose representatives to make laws and decisions on their behalf. Election of the government occurs at the local, state and national level through a formal, regulated voting process. The system works with voters voting in primary and general elections. Following the general elections, the Electoral College elects the president.


The Voting Process

In the U.S. the voting process begins with an individual registering to vote. Eligibility to vote depends on citizenship, state residency and age. Each state has their own voting registration age requirements with the majority of states requiring voters to be 18 years old at the time of registration; though several states have registration options contingent upon birthdate in relation to upcoming general elections. After registering to vote, voters are eligible to vote in primary, general and special elections. Primary and general elections are held in even number years.


Primary Elections

Primary elections take place during the early part of the year. Super Tuesday refers to the day the majority of primary elections are held. The primary election was created to give citizens more power in the selection of candidates for the parties’ nominations. Like a general election, registered voters are able to vote through secret ballot on the candidate for the party’s nomination. There are two types of primary elections: open and closed. In open primary elections, voters are able to vote for a candidate from any political party. Closed primary elections limit voters to candidates belonging to their same political parties. The winners of primary elections are usually nominated or endorsed by their political party for the general election.


General Elections

General Elections are elections held to fill public offices. General elections are held to make final choice among the various candidates who have been nominated during the primary election. General election votes are collected through secret ballot. When voters cast votes in general elections, they are actually voting for electors who are part of the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a group of citizens designated by each state to cast presidential votes. Each elector casts one vote.


Other Elections

In addition to primary and general elections, there are special, midterm and Presidential elections.


Special Elections

States can call special elections at any time. Typically, special elections are called to fill unexpected vacancies.


Midterm Elections

Midterm elections are held every 2 years allowing voters to vote for their congressional representatives. Local and state government openings are also filled during midterm elections.


Presidential Primary Elections

Presidential primaries are held to determine representatives to the major presidential nominating conventions.


Election 2016

Presidential elections are held every 4 years. 2016 is an important election year as President Obama has held his post for two terms. This year’s election will determine which political party’s candidate will serve the next term of U.S. leadership. After this year’s primaries and caucuses, the parties will host a national convention to select their presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The 2016 conventions will be hosted in July in Philadelphia (Democratic) and Cleveland (Republican).


The U.S. democratic system is one that allows citizens to be engaged at various levels of the process. This process includes the citizens’ input at local, state and national levels. Through voting and representatives, an organized system that takes the interests of the people into consideration is created.

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