Why It Matters

Describe and assess the nature and role of elections in the American political system

Photo of the Rockefeller Center in New York City during election night, 2008. Projected lights make half the building look blue, half red, representing the Democrats and Republicans. A row of American flags lines the street beneath.


Elections are the moment of truth in a democracy. Through the vote, The People choose their leaders and thereby signal which policies and programs they want to live under.

At least that’s the ideal.

Just how true is it? How meaningful are elections in the American political system? Do our election processes and practices match up well with our broader democratic ideals and our commitment to political equality? What are the consequences of our elections? Does the vote produce policies that reflect the preferences of the average citizen?

As you work through the material in this section, consider how you might answer the above questions.