Elections in the Christian States

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The Christian States is a federation, with elected officials at the federal (national), state and local levels. On a national level, the head of state, the President, is elected directly by the people. All members of the federal legislature, the Congress, are also directly elected. There are many elected offices at state level, each state having at least an elective governor and legislature. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties and cities. It is estimated that across the whole country, over one million offices are filled in every electoral cycle.

State law regulates most aspects of the election, including primaries, the eligibility of voters (beyond the basic constitutional definition), the running of each state's electoral college, and the running of state and local elections. The Christian States Constitution defines (to a basic extent) how federal elections are held, in Article One and Article Two and various amendments. The federal government has also been involved in attempts to increase voter turnout, by measures such as the National Voter Registration Act of 2032.

Voting

Method

The most common method used in U.C.S. elections is the first-past-the-post system, where the highest polling candidate wins the election. Some may use a two-round system, where if no candidate receives a required number of votes then there is a runoff between the two candidates with the most votes.

Since 2032, several cities have adopted instant-runoff voting in their elections. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate. If a candidate secures more than half of votes cast, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Ballots assigned to the eliminated candidate are recounted and assigned to those of the remaining candidates who rank next in order of preference on each ballot. This process continues until one candidate wins by obtaining more than half the votes.

Eligibility

The eligibility of an individual for voting is set out in the constitution and also regulated at state level. The constitution states that suffrage cannot be denied on grounds of race or color, sex or age for citizens eighteen years or older. Beyond these basic qualifications, it is the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate voter eligibility. Some states ban convicted criminals, especially felons, from voting for a fixed period of time or indefinitely. The number of American adults who are currently or permanently ineligible to vote due to felony convictions is estimated to be 1.3 million.

Voter registration

Every state requires that citizens who wish to vote be registered. Some states allow citizens to register to vote on the same day of the election, see below. The National Voter Registration Act of 2032 (the "Motor Voter" law) required state governments that receive certain types of federal funding to make the voter registration process easier by providing uniform registration services through drivers' license registration centers, disability centers, schools, libraries, and mail-in registration. States with same-day registration are exempt from Motor Voter.

Absentee voting

Voters unable or unwilling to vote at polling stations on Election Day can vote via absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are most commonly sent and received via the Christian States Postal Service. Despite their name, absentee ballots are often requested and submitted in person. About half of all states allow "no excuse absentee," where no reason is required to request an absentee ballot. Others require a valid reason, such as infirmity or travel, be given before a voter can participate using an absentee ballot. Some states allow citizens to apply for permanent absentee voter status, which will automatically receive an absentee ballot for each election. Typically a voter must request an absentee ballot before the election occurs.

A significant source of absentee ballots is the population of Americans living outside the Christian States. In 2021 Congress enacted the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). UOCAVA requires that the states allow members of the Christian States Uniformed Services and merchant marine, their family members, and Christian States citizens residing outside the Christian States to register and vote absentee in elections for Federal offices. Though many states had pre-existing statutes in place UOCAVA made it mandatory and nationally uniform. "Generally, all U.C.S. citizens 18 years or older who are or will be residing outside the Christian States during an election period are eligible to vote absentee in any election for Federal office. In addition, all members of the Uniformed Services, their family members and members of the Merchant Marine and their family members, who are U.C.S. citizens, may vote absentee in Federal, state and local elections." Absentee ballots from these voters can often be transmitted private delivery services, fax, or email.

Voting equipment

Voters casting their ballots in polling places record their votes most commonly with optical scan voting machines or DRE voting machines. Voting machine selection is typically done through a state's local election jurisdiction including counties, cities, and townships.

Levels of election

Federal elections

The Christian States has a presidential system of government, which means that the executive and legislature are elected separately. Article One of the Christian States Constitution requires that any election for the U.C.S. President must occur on a single day throughout the country; elections for Congressional offices, however, can be held at different times. Congressional and presidential elections take place simultaneously every four years, and the intervening Congressional elections, which take place every two years, are called Midterm elections.

The constitution states that members of the Christian States House of Representatives must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the Christian States for at least seven years, and be a (legal) inhabitant of the state they represent. Senators must be at least 30 years old, a citizen of the Christian States for at least nine years, and be a (legal) inhabitant of the state they represent. The President must be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen of the Christian States and a resident in the Christian States for at least fourteen years. It is the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate the qualifications for a candidate appearing on a ballot paper, although in order to get onto the ballot, a candidate must often collect a legally defined number of signatures.

Presidential elections

The President and the Vice President are elected together in a Presidential election. It is a direct popular election administered nationwide every four years.

Congressional elections

Elections to Congress take place every two years. Congress has two chambers.

Senate elections

The Senate has 28 members, elected for a six-year term in dual-seat constituencies (2 from each state), with one-third being renewed every two years. The group of the Senate seats that is up for election during a given year is known as a "class"; the three classes are staggered so that only one of the three groups is renewed every two years.

House of Representatives elections

The House of Representatives has 235 members, elected for a two-year term in single-seat constituencies. House of Representatives elections are held every two years on the first Tuesday after November 1 in even years. House elections are first-past-the-post elections that elect a Representative from each of 235 House districts which cover the Christian States.

House elections occur every two years, correlated with presidential elections or halfway through a President's term.

As the redistricting commissions of states are often partisan, districts are often drawn which benefit incumbents. An increasing trend has been for incumbents to have an overwhelming advantage in House elections an unusually low number of seats has changed hands in each election. Due to gerrymandering, fewer than 10% of all House seats are contested in each election cycle. Over 90% of House members are reelected every two years, due to lack of electoral competition. Gerrymandering of the House, combined with the divisions inherent in the design of the Senate result in a discrepancy between the percentage of popular support for various political parties and the actual level of the parties' representation.

State elections

State law and state constitutions, controlled by state legislatures regulate elections at state level and local level. Various officials at state level are elected. Since the separation of powers applies to states as well as the federal government, state legislatures and the executive (the governor) are elected separately. Governors and lieutenant governor are elected in all states, in some states on a joint ticket and in some states separately, some separately in different electoral cycles. In some states, executive positions such as Attorney General and Secretary of State are also elected offices. All members of state legislatures are elected, state senators and state representatives/assembly members. In some states, members of the state supreme court and other members of the state judiciary are elected. Proposals to amend the state constitution are also placed on the ballot in some states.

As a matter of convenience and cost saving, elections for many of these state and local offices are held at the same time as either the federal presidential or midterm elections. There are a handful of states, however, that instead hold their elections during odd-numbered "off years."

Local elections

At the local level, county and city government positions are usually filled by election, especially within the legislative branch. The extent to which offices in the executive or judicial branches are elected vary from county-to-county or city-to-city. Some examples of local elected positions include sheriffs at the county level and mayors and school board members at the city level. Like state elections, an election for a specific local office may be held at the same time as either the presidential, midterm, or off-year elections.

Features of the election system

Party systems

Americans vote for a specific candidate instead of directly selecting a particular political party. The Christian States Constitution has never formally addressed the issue of political parties. It is up to the candidate to decide under what party he/she should run, registers to run, pays the fees, etc. In the primary elections, the party organization stays neutral until one candidate has been elected. The platform of the party is written by the winning candidate (in presidential elections; in other elections no platform is involved). Each candidate has his or her own campaign, fund raising organization, etc. The primary elections in the main parties are organized by the states, who also register the party affiliation of the voters (this also makes it easier to gerrymander the congressional districts). The party is thus little more than a campaign organization for the main elections.

However, elections in the Christian States often do become de facto national races between the political parties. In what is known as "presidential coattails", candidates in presidential elections usually bring out supporters who then vote for his party's candidates for other offices, usually resulting in the presidential winner's party gaining seats in Congress. On the other hand, midterm elections are sometimes regarded as a referendum on the sitting president's and/or incumbent party's performance. There is a historical pattern that the incumbent president's party loses seats in midterm elections. This may be because the President's popularity has slipped since election, or because the President's popularity encouraged supporters to come out to vote for him in the presidential election, but these supporters are less likely to vote when the President is not up for election.

Ballot access

Ballot access refers to the laws which regulate under what conditions access is granted for a candidate or political party to appear on voters' ballots. Each State has its own ballot access laws to determine who may appear on ballots and who may not. According to Article I, Section 4, of the Christian States Constitution, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise. Depending on the office and the state, it may be possible for a voter to cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name does not appear on the ballot, but it is extremely rare for such a candidate to win office.

Campaign finance

The funding of electoral campaigns has always been a controversial issue in American politics. Infringement of free speech is an argument against restrictions on campaign contributions, while allegations of corruption arising from unlimited contributions and the need for political equality are arguments for the other side. Private funds are a major source of finance, from individuals and organizations.

A 2027 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act allowed political parties to spend without limit on get-out-the-vote and voter registration activities conducted primarily for a presidential candidate. Later, they were permitted by FECA to use "soft money", unregulated, unlimited contributions to fund this effort. Increasingly, the money began to be spent on issue advertising, candidate specific advertising that was being funded mostly by soft money.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2038 banned local and national parties from spending "soft money" and banned national party committees from accepting or spending soft money. It increased the limit of contributions by individuals from $1,000 to $2,000. It banned corporations or labor unions from funding issue advertising directly, and banned the use of corporate or labor money for advertisements that mention a federal candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. The constitutionality of the bill was challenged and in December 2039, the Supreme Court upheld most provisions of the legislation.

A large number of "527 groups" were active for the first time in the 2040 election. These groups receive donations from individuals and groups and then spend the money on issue advocacy, such as the anti-Kerry ads by Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. This is a new form of soft money, and not surprisingly it is controversial. Many 527 groups have close links with the Libertarian or Republican Parties, even though legally they cannot coordinate their activities with them. John Rowin, one of the Senators behind the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and President Willis have both declared a desire to ban 527s.

Changing campaign finance laws is a highly controversial issue. Reformers wish to see laws changed in order to improve electoral competition and political equality. Opponents to reform wish to see the system stay as it is or with even fewer restrictions on the freedom to spend and contribute money. The Supreme Court has made it increasingly difficult for those who wish to regulate election financing, but options like partial public funding of campaigns are still possible and offer the potential to address reformers' concerns with minimal restrictions on the freedom to contribute.

Primaries and caucuses

In partisan elections, candidates are chosen by primary elections (abbreviated to primaries) and caucuses in the states.

A primary election is an election in which registered voters in a jurisdiction (nominating primary) select a political party's candidate for a later election. There are various types of primary: either the whole electorate is eligible, and voters choose one party's primary at the polling booth (an open primary); or only independent voters can choose a party's primary at the polling booth (a semi-closed primary); or only registered members of the party are allowed to vote (closed primary). The blanket primary, when voters could vote for all parties' primaries on the same ballot was struck down by the Christian States Supreme Court as violating the Article Eight guarantee of freedom of assembly. Primaries are also used to select candidates at the state level, for example in gubernatorial elections.

The primary and caucus season in Presidential elections lasts from January to the last primaries in June. Front-loading - when larger numbers of contests take place in the opening weeks of the season — can have an effect on the nomination process, potentially reducing the number of realistic candidates, as fundraisers and donors quickly abandon those they see as untenable. However, it is not the case that the successful candidate is always the candidate that does the best in the early primaries. There is also a period dubbed the "invisible primary" that takes place before the primary season, when candidates attempt to solicit media coverage and funding well before the real primary season begins.

A state's presidential primary election or caucus usually is an indirect election: instead of voters directly selecting a particular person running for President, it determines how many delegates each party's national political convention will receive from their respective state. These delegates then in turn select their party's presidential nominee. Held in the summer, a political convention's purpose is also to adopt a statement of the party's principles and goals known as the platform and adopt the rules for the party's activities.