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Presidential Elections - Reading Comprehension

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This reading comprehension focuses on Presidential elections. It's followed by key vocabulary relating to the US elections system and a follow-up quiz to test understanding.

Presidential Elections

This year Americans elect on a new president on November 6th. It's an important event that happens once every four years. Currently, the president is always elected from one of the two main parties in the United States: the Republicans and the Democrats. There are other presidential candidates. However, it is unlikely that any of these "third party" candidates will win. It certainly hasn't happened in the last one hundred years.

In order to become the presidential nominee of a party, the candidate must win the primary election. Primary elections are held throughout each state in the United States in the first half of any election year. Then, the delegates attend their party convention in order to nominate their chosen candidate. Usually, as in this election, it's clear who will be the nominee. However, in the past parties have been divided and choosing a nominee has been a difficult process.

Once the nominees have been selected, they campaign throughout the country. A number of debates are usually held in order to better understand the candidates' points of view. These points of view often reflect their party's platform. A party platform is best described as the general beliefs and policies a party holds. Candidates cross the country by plane, bus, train or by car giving speeches. These speeches are often called 'stump speeches'. In the 19th century candidates would stand on tree stumps to deliver their speeches. These stump speeches repeat the candidates basic views and aspirations for the country. They are repeated many hundred of times by each candidate.

Many people believe that campaigns in the United States have become too negative. Each night you can see many attack ads on the television. These short ads contain sound bites which often distort the truth, or something the other candidate has said or done. Another recent problem has been voter turnout. There is often less than 60% turnout for national elections. Some people don't register to vote, and some registered voters don't show up at the voting booths. This angers many citizens who feel that voting is the most important responsibility of any citizen. Others point out that not voting is expressing an opinion that the system is broken.

the United States maintains an extremely old, and some say inefficient, voting system. This system is called the Electoral College. Each state is assigned electoral votes based on the number of senators and representatives that state has in Congress. Each state has two Senators. The number of representatives is determined by the states population but is never less then 1. The electoral votes are decided by the popular vote in each state. One candidate wins all of the electoral votes in a state. In other words, Oregon has 8 electoral votes. If 1 million people vote for the Republican candidate and one million and ten people vote for the Democratic candidate ALL 8 electoral votes go to the democratic candidate. Many people feel that this system should be abandoned.

Key Vocabulary

to elect
political party
Republican
Democrat
third party
candidate
presidential nominee
primary election
delegate
to attend
party convention
to nominate
debate
party platform
stump speech
attack ads
sound bite
to distort the truth
voter turnout
registered voter
voting booth
Electoral College
Congress
senator
representative
electoral vote
popular vote

Check your understanding with this multiple choice comprehension quiz.

Continue learning about the presidential elecitions with this presidential election dialogue.

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