Thursday, December 1, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016


Stricter campaign finance laws are necessary in order to ensure that the United States remains place where citizens have a voice no matter what their income level is. The largely unregulated Super PACs and 501c4s in politics today are corrupting the system by letting a few people with a lot of money dominate the campaign trail. Even though these nonprofits don't directly campaign for candidates, the line between issue advertisements and candidate endorsement is very hard to distinguish. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was a move in the right direction, preventing national parties from raising or spending "soft money" on federal campaigns. The Federal Election Commission website defines soft money as "money raised outside the limits and prohibitions of federal campaign finance law.” This ruling was intended to keep spending in check, but it is relatively easy to get around it - the video “Big Sky, Big Money” is an example of this. The secretive groups in the video feigned compliance with federal regulations, but the discovery of boxes full of candidate signatures and forged letters proved that they had communication with specific people campaigning for office. We need strict campaign finance laws to prevent this kind of corruption from happening.
On the other hand, the overall ruling of the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo states that campaign spending is a form of speech protected under the First Amendment despite certain unconstitutional aspects involved. The government is unable to keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. These groups are allowed to persuade public voting through other means like ads but not direct funding to candidates. Citizens United v. FEC determined that corporate speech rights are the same as an individual’s and thus, allowed companies to unlimitedly finance campaign ads. Super PACs disclose donor information, however, while nonprofits do not. More freedom in campaign fundraising would permit candidates to focus more time meeting citizens and tending to their official duties instead of fretting over collecting enough donations. Especially in a time when media advertising is expensive and competitive, candidates need more money than before to effectively communicate with voters.

Reflection (Hinh): I am partial on the matter. I think that anonymity for donor privacy should be a right if they do not wish to disclose their financial activity, and I agree with the Supreme Court’s verdict that campaign spending is a freedom of speech. My doubts about less regulation, however, stem from the problem that the wealthy will continue to dominate the election process through their unlimited donations because most working voters already cannot contribute more than the established limits, ensuing corruption. Although the legality and specifics of campaign spending is tricky, the right balance between strict and loose regulation needs to be determined to ensure that the public has fair opportunities to support the candidate of their choice through financial means should they choose to do so but also allow candidates to receive the funding they need for a successful campaign. Ultimately in an uncorrupt democracy, it is more important for candidates to address the public’s concerns over political, economic, and social issues to appeal to voters rather than “buying” their votes.

Reflection (Kwon): I’m not sure which side I support on this issue. Although allowing people to spend money on the candidates they wish seems ideal, the PACs and 501c4s are very sketchy. I think there needs to be a balance between the two arguments. There should be limitations and restrictions, but enough to end the possibilities of unfair advantages. If we go for a stricter enforcement of campaign laws, it doesn’t allow individuals to voice their opinion and support their party as they please. However, if we wish to lessen the extent of these laws, it allows the wealthy to dominate. Overall, I believe that we should find a good “middle” where both sides have equal opportunities of winning.

Reflection (Carhuamaca): I believe we should enforce stricter finance laws, such as disclosure and contribution limits. Reforms are needed to reduce the influence of moneyed interests and inhibit corrupt practices.  Without any restrictions, the wealthy are allowed to give extreme amounts of money to campaign, which casts a huge spotlight on the wealthier candidate. Campaign finance laws are necessary to give a diverse set of candidates a fair chance at winning. In conclusion, campaign finance laws are essential in protecting democracy against the pressure of large amounts of money from institutions and from wealthy individuals.

Reflection (McNamara): I think that stricter finance laws are a necessity to preserve our democracy. The anonymity and loose regulations on Super PACs and 501c4s give a small amount of citizens disproportionate power over information and campaigns. As Big Sky, Big Money showed, there is a lot of secrecy surrounding these organizations, and I think that shows that there is some shady business going on. Even though independent groups are supposed to remain separate from candidates, there are covert communications that still take place. The line between issue ads and candidate endorsements is thin, and we need to regulate this area of politics to make sure that political offices can't be bought.

You know you love us. Xoxo, Government Girls

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Screencast 1: Nonvoting in America
How is voter turnout affected by the Motor Voter Law and the Voter ID Law?
The American government passed two laws—the Motor Voter Law and the Voter ID Law. The Motor Voter Law allowed voters to register by mail when applying for a driver's license, as a result extending the number of registered voters and proliferating voter turnout. The Voter ID Law, however, did the opposite. The law required for voters show their government-made ID at the polls. This created an institutional barrier for those who did not carry an accepted form of ID.

Why do individuals neglect voting for other type of elections?
Unlike the presidential election, there is minimal media coverage on other elections such as state. Less media coverage on state elections decreases people's awareness and ends in less voters. Another reason of less voter turnout in elections is the fact that there are too many elections that an individual cannot keep track. Occasionally, voters experience ballot fatigue—when there is an excessive number of names on a political ballot and the voter feels apathetic.

Screencast 2: Rise of the American Electorate
Explain the "gender gap" thoroughly.
The gender gap is a term referred to the political patterns of women and men. The gender gap in voting for presidential candidates has been apparent in every election since 1980. Women tend to be more liberal and democratic while men are more conservative and republican, regardless of age. This is mostly because of women's strong support of Social Security services such as healthcare spending, childcare spending, education, and poverty programs.

Screencast 3: Who Participates in American Politics?
What ways can you participate in American Politics besides voting?
Other ways to involve yourself in politics are to run for office, campaign for candidates, give money to candidates, partake in protests/rallies, and join an interest group. If you want to run for office, there are only age and residency requirements. Campaigning for candidates involves making phone calls, knocking on doors, and other snazzy techniques in hope to boost the support of your favored candidate. Another easy way to help is through donating to your candidate's campaign fund. This donation would allow the candidate and his/her team buy advertisements. Participating in a rally/protest magnifies your voice and political stance. Joining an interest group is typically to target specific issues such as gun rights (NRA). Interest groups are closer to decision makers and is deemed optimal for direct connections. In conclusion, there are numerous ways to participate in politics other than voting!

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do young people tend to not vote—even though the 26th amendment expands suffrage to individuals over the age of 18?
  • What are other ways we can ease the registration process to increase voter turnout?
  • How can the American government slowly diminish distrust in government?
You know you love us.
Xoxo, Government Girls


Non-voting In America:
1. Why do you think there is a lower voter turnout in the United States compared to other industrialized nations? Explain.
At most, the United States gets a 50-60% voter turnout; this is significantly lower than every other industrialized nation in the West. There are many possible reasons as to why this happens. For example, we do not impose penalties to those that don’t vote. Some places fine people that don’t show up/vote, thus forcing their citizens to participate.

2. What are some barriers that cause the lower voter turnout in the U.S.? Explain.
Barriers such as registration, long ballots, and ballot fatigue are the main causes of this low voter turnout. If registration were to be eased or eliminated, the turnout would increase by about 9%. More people are registered to vote, but they don’t, thus causing the percent of people voting to decrease. Long ballots are a mixture of candidates, offices, and propositions; people are not interested in knowing all the issues, which allows for the decrease in turnout. Lastly, another reason is ballot fatigue. Too many ballots at once can push people into not voting because it’s too much work.

Rise Of The American Electorate:
1. What historical changes have impacted our voter turnout? Explain.
The addition of the 19th, 15th, and the 26th amendments called for the rise of the American electorate. It allowed African Americans, women, and 18-21 year olds to vote. Although this increased the population of those allowed to vote, it didn’t necessarily increase voter turnout. For example, most of the 18-21 year olds did not vote at all.

2. What are some factors that affect voting behavior? Explain.
Factors such as geography, the coattail effect, realigning elections, party affiliation, and the media affect voting behavior. For example, the solid south was a Democratic stronghold, until it shifted to a Republican stronghold. The region in which they live in greatly affect whose side they are on and who they vote for. In addition to geography, the media also affects voting behavior. The way elections and candidates are portrayed on the news or social media can change people’s votes as well as thoughts on the elections.

Who Participates In American Politics:
1. What are some characteristics of likely voters in American Politics? Explain.
Many factors such as as education level, income, and age play a large role in who participates in politics. The higher the education level or income a person has, the more likely they will be to vote in general. In addition, the older you are increases the probability of you voting.

Reflection Questions:
1. The media covers both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as "horrible" candidates. Does this explain why so many people are undecided this close to election day?

You know you love us. Xoxo, Government Girls.
(Sharon Kwon)

Friday, October 7, 2016


Why do other industrialized nations in the West have a significantly higher voter turnout rate?
Most industrialized nations get up to 90% voter turnout compared to America’s 50-60% during a good year. Their secret to their success lies in fines or punishments of non-voters, more political parties for better representation of a diverse population, and automatic or same day registration.

What are some reasons for such a low voter turnout for America?
Institutional barriers like registration, long ballots, types of elections, and too many elections deter many eligible people from voting. In addition, many young people do not vote, defeating the purpose of the 26th Amendment. Many Americans believe that they lack political efficacy, are dissatisfied with candidates, or are disinterested in politics in general, so they choose to not participate in the political process.

How has voting changed since the founding of our country?
At the start of America, voting was a privilege only available to white property-owning males, but our country has come a long way in representation since then. With the addition of the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments, our voting population has expanded to include African Americans, women, and 18 to 21-year-olds.

What factors affect and help predict voting behavior?
Various geographical areas of the United States tend to lean towards a political party when voting, but several swing states are also the focuses of attention and resources of political candidates in order to gain valuable electoral votes. Media coverage of the election can also influence people’s votes by benefiting or harming a candidate’s likelihood of obtaining the majority of electoral votes, and demographics always play a role in predicting voting behavior due to consistent trends.

How do characteristics of likely voters influence their voting turnout?
Trends demonstrate that higher education levels, income levels, and age increase Americans’ chances of voting and are thus often indicators of voting behavior. It is also seen that white Americans vote at a higher rate than African Americans, but African Americans with the same education and income level as white voters actually have a higher voting rate.

Why do some people choose other methods of political participation instead of voting?
Because some people feel that their votes aren’t significant to the political process, they partake in other activities in which their actions would closer affect elected officials than voting would. Running for office is an option for those who want to take matters into their own hands while campaigning for or giving money to are ways to directly support a candidate. To magnify their voices, people can participate in protests or rallies or join an interest group focused on a specific type of issue. In other words, there are various ways to be active in the political scheme other than just voting.

Other questions:
- Why does America not implement similar policies like those of other industrialized nations to increase voter turnout rate?
- Do more people participate in politics through the previously mentioned various ways than voting?

You know you love us. Xoxo, Government Girls.
(Amanda Hinh)


How does the United States' voting turnout compare to the rest of the industrialized world?
The United States has significantly lower voting turnout than other industrialized nations in the west. This is partly because we have no repercussions for those who choose not to vote; they are free to stay out of politics if they choose. In other countries, there are fines and other penalties for not voting, so they get around 90% turnout, whereas even in presidential elections the United States only sees 50-60%.

What are some institutional barriers to voting?
In the past, institutional barriers to voting were linked to gender and race separation. Until the 15th and 19th amendments were passed, only white males could vote. Even after that, literacy tests prevented the whole eligible population from voting in certain states. Nowadays, the barriers are more class related. Lower class citizens who can't afford a car may not bother to get a drivers license, and are therefore prevented from voting because they lack photo identification. Additionally, some people are burned out by the constant barrage of campaigns and elections and choose to ignore them completely.

How can elections alter the voting patterns of the electorate?
The coattail effect is one way voting patterns can change due to a certain election. If an extremely popular candidate from one party wins the presidential office, lower office candidates can "ride their coattails" into a victory. An example of this is Ronald Reagan. Realigning elections can also bring people from one party to another, such as when FDR introduced the New Deal during the Great Depression and many people who hadn't previously voted Democrat stood behind his plan.

Give a historical example of a demographic switching party affiliation
African Americans historically supported the Republican party because Abe Lincoln was a Republican. However, that trend changed during the Civil Rights Movement. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many African Americans switched to the Democratic party because it supported them in their fight for equality.

Why are educated white people the most likely to vote?
Educated people are the ones who understand the political process and issues on the table during elections, so they are more likely to participate than others. Additionally, white people have had the right to vote from the start, and they most likely feel the most at ease with it because they've never had that right denied to them. Our candidates are also primarily white so I feel like white people might relate to them more and support them more because of that.

What are the most hands-on, direct ways someone can participate in politics?
Campaigning for a candidate and donating money are the most direct ways a person can be involved. For example, a Republican in California does not have a chance of affecting the presidential election with their vote, because the state is overwhelmingly Democratic. However, they could donate money to a candidate of their choice, and still make their voice heard by helping that candidate campaign in places where they could actually win votes.

Other questions -
Is Donald Trump's involvement in this election causing many Republicans to switch parties?
Does the amount of money a candidate spends on campaigning have a consistent positive correlation winning? (aka if you spend more money/have more money donated do you win)

Sunday, October 2, 2016


As I expected, my result from the two political typology tests was a solid liberal. I always knew I was liberal when I found myself to support views like same-sex marriage. First, I suspect my hispanic ethnicity is a prime element of my political view due to Democrats' view on immigration and welfare policies. Second, I grew up in a Catholic family though I never confirmed my faith nor participated in the weekly outings to church. It is rest assured that Catholics tend to vote Democratic rather than Republican. I would not say my family's beliefs extremely impacted mine, since I oppose Catholic views on abortion and contraceptives. Therefore, I concluded that Catholicism did not influence my political stance.

When it comes to gun control, I possess a liberal outlook. DeFilippis and Hughes in "The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership" report fatal stories of gun use and research bias simultaneously revealing the danger behind gun ownership. I don't vehemently oppose gun ownership yet I believe there should be stricter gun control lawssuch as precise background checks on each individual purchasing a firearm. In conclusion, I stand by the reasoning that more gun control would lessen the chance of civilian gun violence.