FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 07, 2006
U.S. voters pick candidates for November ballots
Even areas without voting this week have election coverage. Assign students to find articles, commentaries and results. Invite critical analysis of whether the reports are clear and provide helpful background for readers unfamiliar with politics or not yet of voting age.
Political coverage goes beyond telling who won and lost. Challenge students to find references to broader national and international topics – such as the president, the Iraq war, the cost of campaigns and even the Internet -- in articles about the results of primaries.
Ask the classroom full of future voters to discuss the relatively low turnout for primaries and general elections. Just over half (55 percent) of voting-age Americans cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election, for instance. Invite pupils to suggest ways to boost turnout.
Primary elections were held in four states Tuesday, continuing a series of preliminary votes around the country this month and next to nominate candidates for fall’s general election ballots. This first stage of voting is like a semi-final round to narrow the field so that each major political party – the Democrats and Republicans – winds up with one candidate for every office to be filled Nov. 7.
That means some lucky politicians can skip the primary because they’re the only one running from their party. But lots of others – including some current members of Congress – are fighting to win re-nomination for their own jobs.
Although only about one-quarter of eligible voters, or even fewer, generally cast primary ballots, these local and statewide elections are an important part of the democratic process. Candidates campaign and advertise actively. Some primary races include televised debates. Newspaper editorial pages publish endorsement recommendations.
What jobs do candidates want? This is not a presidential election year (that comes in 2008), but 33 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats and all 435 U.S. House seats will be filled in November – and some of those Congress members face primary challengers from their own party.
What was Tuesday’s most-watched race? Connecticut's veteran U.S. senator, Democrat Joseph Lieberman, lost a primary contest with fellow Democrat Ned Lamont. Lieberman was the vice-presidential nominee in 2000 on Al Gore’s ticket. His defeat is big news because Lieberman largely supports President Bush’s positions on invading Iraq and staying there, while Lamont does not.
Why participate? In districts where one party traditionally earns a solid majority, that side’s primary amounts to the “real” election, in effect. Here’s how a Connecticut newspaper editorial put it last week: “Primaries are the voters’ chance to decide who will be on the ballot in the first place, who will carry the torch for the party, who will be the voice of the people. A primary election is indeed significant.” – The Wilton Bulletin
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