The most common form of political participation by citizens is voting in elections for their representatives in government. By voting for or against particular candidates or political parties, citizens signify their approval or rejection of their representatives’ performances. Thus, participation in elections is one way citizens can make their government responsive and accountable to the people.
In this documentary, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer and other experts discuss how the principle of one person, one vote emerged from a series of landmark decisions in the 1960s, including Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims.
We cannot imagine a modern democracy without adult citizens having the right to vote freely. It is a basic right of citizenship in a democratic society. Yet nowhere in the Constitution is the right to vote granted explicitly.
Project Vote Smart is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that gathers and organizes information on candidates for political office. Vote Smart seeks to discover where candidates stand on any number of issues by scouring public voting records, public statements and biographical information, by monitoring ratings of candidates given by more than 100 competing special-interest groups, and by sending its own detailed questionnaires to candidates through its National Political Awareness Test.
The Federal Election Commission is an independent government agency was created in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandals to regulate campaign spending and police requirements for disclosing federal campaign money.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the organization, founded in 1920, is the “nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”
The Alliance for Justice describes itself as “a national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women’s, children’s and consumer advocacy organizations” that works to “advance the cause of justice for all Americans, strengthen the public interest community’s ability to influence public policy, and foster the next generation of advocates.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights says it is “the nation’s premier civil rights coalition,” and it has “coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957.” It was founded in 1950 by A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP and Arnold Aronson of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. Today, the LCCR has more than 180 member organizations, including People for the American Way, AARP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the AFL-CIO and constituent unions, the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Organization for Women.
Given the centrality of the electoral process in a representative democracy, the right to vote is the citizen’s most precious political possession. Citizens can contribute significantly to the achievement of good government.
According to its website, FactCheck.org is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” Its staff monitors factual accuracy in American politics, looking at what’s being said in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and the like.
A bipartisan organization for state, commonwealth and territorial legislators and their staffs, the National Conference of State Legislatures “provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.” The organization advocates the interests of state governments.