Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Election, Part I

The Nuts and Bolts of Getting Elected to the Office of The President of the United States of America

   Leadership choice has roots in the long ago past. Perhaps the earliest people acceded to the person with the loudest voice or strongest arm; later groups may have followed the leader whose food finding abilities outshone others in the group; fertile females proved their worth by increasing the size of the clan, and so may have provided the foundation of matriarchic influences. As groups, tribes, and clan affiliations expanded into more organized gatherings of peoples, the basics of civilizations came into being. Leaders or absolute rulers often passed their authority down to their own offspring or named their successors, choosing from the next generation. Sometimes after the death of a leader, a group would hold contests of skill or individual-combat among possible candidates; with the winner becoming the new leader. As civilizations advanced, certain people were granted the ability to help determine the direction their people/government would take. Advisors, counselors, and others were drawn from the populace to support and provide information to the established ruler. Not everyone was allowed to participate: often only the most wealthy or influential families were considered worthy to have a voice with the leader. Of course, the poor, the enslaved, the uneducated (the majority of ordinary people), and most often women were excluded as incapable of making important decisions. Time and advances in thinking led to the idea of democratic processes for selecting leaders. Not until the twentieth century did the idea of the general population voting for a leader come into common practice in democratic countries. Needless to say many countries still do not have the option to vote for their leadership.

   Archeologists have found records that reveal a variety of methods of voting in ancient times: from stones placed in different containers, to marks made in clay tablets, to a selection of specially colored or shaped pieces of wood to indicate specific choices. One can also imagine votes made by calling out one's opinion, a show of hands, volume of crowd approval, or sheer noise. The idea of a secret ballot evolved as reprisals against those who publically disagreed with a popular choice entailed violence or shunning. In modern times here in the U. S., ballot boxes for individualized voting became more standardized and morphed into "electronic" voting machines that could tabulate votes much faster than counting individual votes by hand. Many communities have purchased voting machines from a variety of manufacturers.(See: Voting Technology: The Not-so-simple Act of Casting a Ballot by Paul S. Herrnson, Brookings Inst. Press) Some have proved more reliable than others, resulting in challenges to the final outcomes based on malfunctions, improper instructions, or misuse of the machines themselves.

   But the physical process of voting for the Office of President of the U. S. of A. is only a part of the journey to the White House. Candidates go through a long, complicated process to see their names on the final ballot. Most politicians begin in their youth with an interest in the governmental process, often running for offices in high school and college settings. Later they may become active in local politics and start their careers at the county or city level. After working on campaigns for others and helping shape the ideas of their particular parties on a local or state level, they may seek office themselves. Learning about the process of campaigning, writing speeches, speaking at rallies and to the media all help to prepare a candidate for the long, concentrated effort to run for the White House.

   These titles are concentrated on the process of elections and the efforts of candidates to get elected to the highest office in the U. S., the Presidency. Next month the titles selected will cover the history and humor of presidential campaigns and the presidents themselves. In November, we will feature "Living in the White House," selections that deal with pets, chefs, children, and others (along with presidents) who have called the White House home.

   Make your own voice count-be sure to vote!

Sheilah Egan, Literature Consultant

Getting Elected: A Look at Running for Office
Robin Nelson and Sandy Donovan
   This title in the "How Government Does Work" series is a real winner. It is easy enough for a second grader to understand the concepts, but complete enough for a fourth grader to learn a lot from the text. Each page has a captioned photograph or illustration highlighting the concept. Each book covers a different part of the government including the different branches, along with important documents and campaigning. The book on the presidency has current photos of Obama, but it also has historic photos and paintings of past presidents. The books could be used for a read-aloud since the information is short and the photos and captions will keep the reader interested. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Recommended. 2012, Searchlight Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 7 to 11, $27.93. Reviewer: Maureen Mooney (Library Media Connection, May/June 2012). 
ISBN: 9780761365198