Local Politics the Political System Term Paper

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Therefore, one state could register a higher turnout at primary elections, while at local ones, a smaller figure could appear. Thus, it can be said that the issue of voter turnout does not rely necessarily on the technical aspects of the law in application, but rather on the political implication of the citizens and their interest in influencing the outcome of the elections by casting their vote.

In 2002 another initiative to facilitate the voting procedure was introduced through the Help America Vote Act passed by the Congress. According to its provisions, this act would help state and local authorities with the electoral process by providing technical assistance and financial support in organizing the vote. More precisely, "the federal government offered payments to states and localities to replace outdated punch-card and lever voting machines. Second, it established an Election Assistance Commission to provide technical assistance to local election administration officials and establish standards for voting devices." (Traugott, 2004) This was considered an adequate response to the continuous allegations of fraud and irregularities that had been brought throughout the years to local and state authorities concerning the conduct of elections. Nonetheless, it can be argued on the other hand that the electronic system is always subject to failure and mishandling, seeing that it relies on computer software. Even so, it has been seen as an improvement of the electoral process.

There are various opinions concerning the evolution of the turnout to elections, which focus however on abstract issues such as the political behavior of the electorate. In this sense, Richard Boyd argues that the main reasons for a low turnout are, on the one hand, the frequency of the elections, and on the other, the "attractiveness of the presidential year ballot in terms of other statewide races." (1989, 731) Also, Professor Michael Traugott underlines this fact by stating that "Some Americans may have five or six opportunities a year to vote, with each ballot filled with different choices for different offices at various levels of government. Because of its federal system, in which both the national government and the state governments have distinct powers, Election Day in the United States is actually the occasion for a series of simultaneous state and local elections, each held under separate administrative procedures." (2004) Indeed, a big frequency of voter activity creates a certain behavior that in time comes to reject the idea of exercise of the right to vote and to choose one representative in local councils.

In this sense, the 2001 city council elections in Atlanta had been plagued by this fear of the low turnout. According to commentaries prior to the elections, "If history is any guide, voter turnout will be low (it)'s an indictment on citizens. We don't want a select few controlling the city." (Lee, 2001) However, the expected figure for turnout was around 40%. Therefore, the general feel about elections at a local level appeared to be a negative one, with people less interested in elections, despite attempts to improve the system.

In recent years however, more precisely during the midterm elections in 2006, surveys have shown that there has been an increase in the participation of young people in the election in Atlanta. Thus, according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, young people aged 18 to 29 have been more eager to express their political choice than in recent past. Thus, the interpretation of the data gathered points out that "between 2002 and 2006, the percentage of eligible young people who voted increased by 3 percentage points to 25%, the single largest increase among all age groups nationally." (Marcelo, 2007) Therefore, it is important to notice the increased interest among the young generation for public affairs and for the involvement in the future of the political scene.

This evolution may be motivated by a new distribution of the political responsibilities in the city. Currently, more and more young people are engaged in public administration and there have been made serious efforts to further include the young generation into the administrative structures of the city seeing that their fresh input on matter that are essential to the future of the city could prove important. In this sense, there is a stronger motivation to express their vote and to be actively involved in the decision making process because young people may see the benefits of their engagement and would have a higher level of trust in both the local administration and the political forces governing the state.

New York City has always had a particular place on the political map of the U.S. Most importantly, this is due to the large circumscription area it represents. According to statistics, in 2006, there were around 12 million eligible voters. However, the turnout rate traditional for New York is relatively small, taking into account the fact that for the 2002 midterm elections only 50% of the adult population eligible to cast their vote actually exercised their right. In terms of the young population, in the same year, the percentage was less than 25%, more precisely 21. (Lopez et al., 2006) This comes to prove that even though New York is an important part of the electoral puzzle its population is less interested in the political life.

An interesting and rather surprising evolution in the New York turnout percentage was registered in late 2001 when the primary elections were conducted. Thus, traditionally, during the Democratic primaries the percentage falls at around 18 to 23%, in 1997, 1993 respectively. (Levy, 2001) However, taking into account the special conditions the 9/11 attacks had created in New York and the rescheduling of the elections, a 30 percentage turnout to the polls suggests a rather increased interest for the political outcome of those elections.

The state of Ohio appears to have some of the most positive figures from the analyzed areas. In this sense, the official statistics presented by the Secretary of State of Ohio showed that for the November 2, 2004 elections there was a 71,77 percentage of turnout. (Ohio Secretary of State, 2007) Indeed, in subsequent elections the percentage is around mid 50s; still, there seems to be a higher interest in voting practices than in other states.

The electorate and current political life

The profile of the electorate differs from city to city and from one state to another. This is largely due to the historical segregation and experience of the United States, an element that plays a major part in establishing the trends for the electoral behavior of the respective area.

In this sense, Atlanta, Georgia is widely known for its sensitive issue related to the black community that weighs heavily on the definition of the electorate. Thus, the Civil Rights Movement and the Emancipation Movement gained ground in the late 60s and early 70 and its effects could soon be seen in the electoral participation of the black community in the city. Accordingly, studies have shown that in the 1973 municipal elections, representative for the future of the city, "expanded political participation among Blacks was perhaps the distinguishing characteristic (...). In this new setting, Blacks were candidates in the mayor's race, the council president's race, and were also candidates in a majority of both at-large and district council races." (Collins, 1980, 122)

In cities such as Atlanta, the issue of voting in blocks or along racial lines has been throughout the years a rather intensely debated subject. It also represented an argument against the proportional representation vote system because it was considered that such a system would encourage racial and ethnic groups to massively vote in one direction and therefore change the political balance in the elections. However, analysis made in this sense has proven that the black community vote is not necessarily a matter of racial solidarity, but rather "a subset of ethnic voting rather than as a unique phenomenon. Inasmuch as Atlanta has a more established and older indigenous Black elite, competition among this elite would tend to obscure the general significance of race as the crucial variable in less important races." (Collins, 1980, 132) Therefore, there is also an issue of confrontation between the most important African-American leaders, aside from any racial choice.

The results from the 2001 elections for mayor have declared Shirley Franklin the winner, a fact that also meant a premiere in the political life of the city. Thus, she became the first female mayor of Atlanta and the first African-American woman to hold this office in a major southern city. Atlanta has been well-known for its essential role in politics related to black issue especially form the perspective of the regional position inside the U.S., Georgia being one the U.S.'s former slave states. Therefore, from this perspective, it can be said that, despite the motivation of the voters, the result came only to make the issue of the domination of the black population official.…[continue]

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