Political Primers: Voting + Elections

A quick breakdown of a politically complex idea, historical event, hot topic, government process - you get it.

Campaign Finance

Presidential candidates raise campaign funds from 2 main sources: 1) Personal donations and 2) PACs

Corporations have some rights of people (Supreme Court 1886: Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.) but can't donate to candidates directly. So they donate to PACs (Political Action Committees). PACs promote political platforms, work to elect and oust political candidates, support cultural movements.

For each election cycle, $5K is the maximum donation a PAC can make to a candidate or to another PAC. Individuals can donate up to $2,900 to each candidate per election.

Super PACs emerged in 2010. Instead of donating to candidates, they spend without limits to influence elections.

A deeper explanation from VOX

What is a PAC? - OpenSecrets

FEC Donation Limits '21-'22

John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Also known as H.R.4, this would restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

1) Reforms voting rights for Indigenous communities dramatically, 

2) extends federal jurisdiction to monitor and bring litigation against states/cities that commit voting rights violations, 

3) provides greater rights to individuals seeking "the fundamental right to cast an effective ballot", 

4) requires the AG to meet with Tribal leaders annually, 

and more.

Rep. Terri Sewell on H.R.4

Read the text of H.R.4


From Asian American Advancing Justice (AAAJ): 

"Redistricting is the redrawing of political district lines by governments. 

Census data are collected every 10 years and are used to draw new maps to account for the ways that populations have changed and moved across states and districts."

Visit the Redistricting section for more.

Super Tuesday

Essentially, Super Tuesday is the election day when the most Presidential Primary elections are held to determine the Presidential nominee for each political party.

More from NPR.

The Two-Party System

Our winner-take-all system is a major reason for why we only have 2 dominant political parties in the US.  In 48/50 states, when a Presidential candidate wins a state, they get ALL of those electoral votes.  Not just the % of votes they won in that state.  

This makes it harder for smaller political parties to gain representation in Congress and nearly impossible for them to win the Presidency.

A great scientific journal explainer

Vote By Mail Q&A

Q: What is a common mistake to be aware of with absentee/mail in votes?

A: Remember to sign your ballot - using the signature that matches your Driver's License / ID

Q: What is the best way to make sure my ballot is delivered safely?

A: Ideally, drop off your absentee ballot at a secure ballot drop-box, polling place, or with your county/election officials.

Q: Is voting by mail safe?

A: Historically, yes - instances of vote by mail fraud have been anomalies and no fraud trends have been uncovered in prior elections.

It is best to be current with USPS changes and how those changes will impact voting by mail for you.

Brookings Institute post on this