The 2016 Democratic National Convention will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 25 to July 28. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is expected to accept her party’s nomination to run for president this November.
Also at the convention, the Democratic Party will adopt the official Democratic Party Platform that will form the basis for the presidential campaign. So far, the political campaign process has generated more calls for election reform. The changing face of elections could be the focus of your next research paper.
How political conventions work
Originally the purpose of the political convention was to nominate the party’s candidate for president. Candidates were nominated and voted for in secret caucuses by members of Congress. Often the process took several rounds of voting before party members could reach a consensus.
Ed Grabianowski explained the history and details of “How Political Conventions Work,” for HowStuffWorks.com.
Gradually people demanded more participation in the process and the current system of primaries (and some caucuses) came to be. Now, by the time of the convention, the party’s nominee is certain.
But the convention was also a place for political debate and deciding on the party’s platform or stance on the issues of the day. For example, in 1860, the Democratic Party framed its position on the government’s right to outlaw slavery.
According to Grabianowski, these functions of conventions have disappeared behind the scenes and today the conventions are little more than infomercials.
“While the conventions serve to unify the party and generate party pride, the ‘advertisement for the party’ has become the primary function of political conventions today,” Grabianowski stated.
Calls for campaign reform
During the primaries, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders complained that the current election system worked against them. Despite their popularity, it was often their opponent who won the delegates in a state’s primary. And it’s the delegates who get to vote for the party’s nominee at the convention.
On his website, FeeltheBern.org, writers outlined what Sanders sees as the reforms that are needed in the U.S. election system.
His list included:
- Overturn Citizens United which allow unlimited sums of money to fuel electoral politics
- Disclose Act requiring disclosure of sources of election funds
- Public financing of elections instead of special interest money
- Democracy Day declaring voting day as a national holiday
- Curb redistricting and reinforce the Voting Rights Act by making it easy for anyone to cast a vote
Because of rules that allow wealthy individuals and corporations to funnel millions into campaigns, many fear that this means the selling of democracy. Generally speaking, calls for election reform center on campaign financing rules and voting rights.
According to FeeltheBern.org, “Former President Jimmy Carter stated during an interview in July 2015 that ‘the billionaire class now owns the economy, and they are working day and night to make certain that they own the United States government.’”
A handbook on election reform
To learn more about the changing election system, check out the book, Campaign and Election Reform: A Reference Handbook, by Glenn H. Utter and Ruth Ann Strickland.
This handbook provides a sweeping overview of U.S. campaign and election reform efforts, past and present, from the introduction of the secret ballot to touch-screen voting.
The authors also discussed issues about the registration of so-called nontraditional voters, including college students living away from home. They found that voter registration for these citizens is a major concern.
By all accounts, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 wielded considerable force in the 2012 presidential election. This voting bloc must continue to participate in elections in order for politicians to take their concerns to heart.
“However, concerns have been raised about potential election fraud or the prospect that students may outvote residents, especially in small college towns. In many states, due to reforms in election laws and litigation, students increasingly have been able to register and vote in the locations they prefer,” the authors said.
Learn more about politics and political conventions at Questia.
Do you think that we need election reform in the U.S.? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.