In the years preceding a presidential election, many candidates announce their intent to run. But by mid-September of election year, the race focuses primarily on the candidates chosen by the Republican and Democratic parties. How do the parties choose their candidates? That's the focus of this week's web quest.
CNN Student News presents a single-page explanation of how the political parties choose their candidates, and the difference between a caucus and a primary. Following the link back to the Student News front page, you'll find related election articles and activities, including the Caucuses and Primaries Learning Activity which is a set of open-ended questions for classroom discussion, and a form for students to submit videos about the election.
"Hanging Chad - a chad is a tiny bit of paper that is punched from a ballot using a punch-type mechanical voting machine. A hanging chad is a chad that did not completely detach from the ballot. When there is a hanging chad, that vote may not be counted correctly." For elementary and middle school students, this election glossary from Enchanted Learning defines seventy-five terms from "absentee ballot" to "voting machine."
Since federal law doesn't specify how states choose their delegates, each state has its own procedure. Most states hold primaries, where voters choose their favorite candidates, but a few still use the older caucus system, were the decisions are made in a series of meetings. Visit Howstuffworks to learn the ins and outs of presidential caucuses, and how the Democratic and Republican parties choose their convention delegates.
Project Vote Smart, an independent organization that gathers the political records of incumbents and candidates, hosts this one-page introduction to conventions, caucuses, primaries, and delegates. "Political parties generally hold national conventions at which a group of delegates collectively decide upon which candidate they will run for the presidency." Still have questions? In addition to a handful of links to external educational sites, the organization also posts a toll-free number for their Smart Voter's Research Hotline.
This informative page, published by the U.S. Department of State, defines sixty political terms such as "hard money/soft money", "coattails" and "lame duck." Be sure to also visit the FAQ page listed in the left-hand navigation menu. It offers more detailed explanations of conventions, caucuses, the Electoral College, why voter turnout is so low, and how, in 1874, the elephant and donkey became symbols of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.