Ap government Study Guide Unit One: Constitutional Underpinnings

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Dealignment – when people abandon parties and become independents

  • Party activists promote certain policies, candidates, and ideologies


  • Presidents are elected by the electoral college

  • The US public does not vote directly for the president, instead they vote in statewide elections for electors. These electors then vote directly for the president and vice president

  • States have electoral votes equal to number of senators + number of representatives

  • If candidate wins the plurality of popular vote in state he gets all the electoral votes (two exceptions – Maine, Nebraska)

  • Majority of total electoral votes is needed to become president, if no candidate has a majority, the house votes

  • It is possible to win popular vote but lose electoral vote (Gore)

  • Many people suggest using a popular vote to decide president, or using the proportional system used by Maine and Nebraska

  • In senate elections, total state votes for 2 senators

  • In house elections, each district has a single representative, and the candidate with a plurality wins2 party system (its harder for 3rd parties to get represented)

  • Throughout American history there have been many changes to who can vote:

    • Elimination of race requirement (15th amendment)

    • Direct election of senators (17th amendment)

    • Women allowed to vote (19th amendment)

    • Elimination of laws that discriminated against blacks from various civil rights acts like the voting rights act (grandfather clause, literacy tests, white primaries)

    • Allowing DC residents to vote (23rd amendment)

    • Elimination of poll tax (24th amendment)

    • Lowering voting age to 18 (26th amendment)

Influencing Elections
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