e d g e - education for disability and gender equity

Government
CONTENTS

1 Introduction
2 Why Enact the ADA?
3 What Does the ADA Do?
4 The U.S. Constitution
5 How Voters Influence Elected Officials
6 The Disability Vote
7 Setting the Stage for the ADA
8 Campaigning for the ADA
   
9 Activity
 
10 Resources
   
HOW VOTERS INFLUENCE ELECTED OFFICIALS

The people represented by a particular politician are called his or her "constituency." Generally the voters in a particular state or congressional district expect that their U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative will work in favor of their interests, by sponsoring and supporting legislation that will benefit them socially or economically. If the constituency is satisfied, the politician will be reelected. In this way, voters influence the decisions made in Washington D.C.

This is not so simple, however, when you consider that each state and district is made up of a great number of people, with many diverse concerns and interests. For example, one district might have both a large number of environmentalists, and many people employed by the logging industry. When it comes to legislation to protect forests, these two groups will have very different points of view. In order to decide how to vote on particular issues, elected officials must think about who their constituencies are. In addition to following their own beliefs, politicians have to figure out what kinds of people they represent, and what those people want.

Although every American citizen has one vote, politicians often think about their constituencies in terms of groups. If an elected official can make a whole group happy, she will get many votes the next time she runs for office. A group of people, whose concerns politicians consider and try to satisfy, is called a "voting bloc." A group of people might be considered a voting bloc if:

  • They are numerous, either nationally or within a particular voting district.
  • They have similar circumstances, which significantly influence their political beliefs.
  • They share a common interest in one or more political issues.
  • Their circumstances are often or occasionally the subject of legislation.
  • They vote. (Very important!)
Examples of voting blocs include:
  • Older people. They are a high percentage of the U.S. population, and of most voting districts, and they consistently vote at a higher rate than most other groups. Their age puts them in a similar situation with each other. Older people generally share a common interest in several political issues, including high-quality affordable health care and the preservation of Social Security.
  • Farmers. People who make their living in agriculture have a very strong interest in national policy concerning food prices, food exports, farm subsidies, and related issues. Because their livelihood depends on these issues, they are well-organized and they vote. Farmers are not a major voting bloc in every part of the U.S., but only in states with large rural areas and a great deal of agricultural activity. A senator from Iowa has to be very aware of, and responsive to, farmers' concerns. A senator from New Jersey (a more urban state) may not be as responsive to farmers.
Not every group in society could be called a voting bloc. People who like country western music are not a voting bloc, because musical tastes and political beliefs do not usually correspond. High school students would not be considered a voting bloc, because most are too young to vote.

(next section - The Disability Vote)


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