Go Vote: Understanding and Participating In United States Elections

October 30, 2018

Whether you’re a frequent voter or you’re a newbie to the voting scene, we could all use a refresher on understanding and participating in United States elections … unless you teach U.S. Government, that is. For those of us who can hardly remember what we had for lunch yesterday, it’s probably time we try to retain at least a little bit of what we learned all those years ago.

To vote, you have to of course, first register … unless you live in North Dakota, the only state that does not require registration! You can register to vote by following the requirements for your particular state. While no two states run their elections the same, the steps to vote are the same in most states. Most states assign you a specific polling place, or voting location, that is close to the address you list on your voter registration. Every state has absentee voting, which means you can still cast your vote even if you can’t make it to your physical polling place on Election Day. In some states, you might need to provide a reason you can’t make it to the polling place. In others, you can vote absentee no matter what. Finally, if you’re busy on Election Day, in some states, you can vote early by casting your vote by mail or in person at the local election official’s office or at another location designated by the local election official. Come prepared on Election Day. Some states require voters to present identification at the polling location.

Members of the House of Representatives stand for re-election every two years. This year, 35 of the 100 Senate seats and all 435 in the House of Representative are up for grabs. Each state is divided into districts and each district votes for one representative. The number of districts depends on the population in each state. For example, California, which has a large population, has 53 representatives in the House. Alaska, on the other hand, has only three representatives since not many people live there! As for the Senate, each state is represented by two Senators, regardless of its population. Senators serve for six years, but elections for Senators are staggered. Every two years, one-third of the Senators run for re-election.

Interested in where congressional districts begin and end? Hang a map to help you remember congressional district boundaries in effect. The map, which is available at the U.S. Government Bookstore, includes county names and boundaries for each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Presidential voting years, when you vote for the President on the first Tuesday in November every four years, you’re technically not casting your vote for President, but rather an “elector” who pledges to vote for either the Republican Presidential Nominee or the Democratic Presidential nominee in what is known as the Electoral College. Fifty states and the District of Columbia are each assigned a certain number of electors in a system that mirrors Congress: one elector for each of the 435 Representatives, one for each of the 100 Senators, and three electors for the District of Columbia. Each state receives a particular number of electors based on population size. Therefore, every ten years when the Census is conducted, some states might gain or lose electoral votes. In most states, the candidate who gets the majority of the popular vote takes all of its electors. Electors cast their state’s electoral votes in mid-December. A candidate must receive 270 of the 538 electoral votes to become President or Vice President.

Continue this refresher on the Electoral College. Nomination and Election of the President and Vice President of the United States from the GPO Bookstore describes the rules and process for nominating and electing the President and Vice President of the United States. It includes information on the Electoral College and the electoral voting system, as well as the delegate nominating process in the national party conventions.

So Election Day is over. But policymaking is only just getting started! Contact your representatives about issues that matter to you. And use the United States Senate Telephone Directory to do it. Each year the GPO produces this directory. It contains addresses and telephone numbers for United States Senators, Senate committee members, and their staff. Also, it presents information on caucuses, coalitions and bicameral organizations; the House of Representatives; the executive branch; and more.

Be the life of the political party by getting to know your Congressmen and women! The GPO Bookstore also offers a Congressional Pictorial Directory. This handy guide provides a color photograph of each Member of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the 115th Congress and details each Member’s length of service, political party affiliation, and congressional district.

You’re all prepared for the polls. Happy voting!

The GPO Online Bookstore – Easy Access to Federal Publications


Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks or print publications —with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at https://bookstore.gpo.gov.

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

Find more than a million official Federal Government publications from all three branches at www.govinfo.gov.

About the author: Blogger contributor Cat Goergen is the PR Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations office.

Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-2012 Free eBook

February 5, 2015

Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-2012

Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-2012 was initially reviewed in Government Book Talk, when it was released as a print publication. It has just been made available as a free eBook through the GPO Online  Bookstore, so we are revisiting our original blog.

The United States celebrates its history through monuments, parks, statues and more comprehensively through books. The latest book from the House of Representatives Office of the Historian Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-2012 profiles Hispanic members of Congress, incorporating their government service with the history of United States expansion. This book joins existing publications Women in Congress and Black Americans in Congress in honoring minorities and their role in government. This hefty coffee table book does not make for light reading with more than 700 pages weighing seven pounds, but it is rich in content with history spanning nearly 200 years and three centuries.

Since 1899 at least one Hispanic American has served in each Congress. For much of the 19th century, Hispanic Americans served as Territorial Delegates whose native lands had been acquired by war or diplomacy from Spain or Mexico as a result of U.S. continental expansion. Territorial delegates had limited power and served more as lobbyists for their interests like infrastructure projects for roads and railways than as legislators. Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, the inclusion of Puerto Rico as a territory marked another increase in representation of Hispanic Americans in government. Since the first Territorial Delegate from Florida joined Congress in 1822, 91 Hispanic Americans have served in Congress and more than half, or 54, served after 1977.

The publication dedicates more pages to the past giving a detailed history of United States expansion and the inclusion of Hispanic Americans in Congress as Texas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Puerto Rico and other territories gained representation in government. Each member’s profile includes a picture, full-page pictures for former members, and standard biographical information with a greater focus on what they did while in Congress – the committees they served on, legislation they fought for and select anecdotes. The early history is more interesting as representatives overcame language barriers and fought for statehood for their territories. The appendices at the end of the book are a great resource organizing members by every imaginable category like the number of Hispanic Americans in Congress from each state, the committees they served on, the committees they chaired, the representatives in each Congress, and so on.

This book is a great read or scan because it takes vaguely familiar history and expands on it from the Hispanic American perspective, a unique viewpoint that those not from the Southwest may not be as familiar with. Regardless of perspective, the publication honors Hispanic Americans and the impact they have had on history and the growth and development of Congress.


Shop Online Anytime: You can buy this and other publications (with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide) from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore website at http://bookstore.gpo.gov:

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal Depository Library: Search for these in a nearby Federal depository library.

About the author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs.


The Constitution: Pocket and Otherwise

May 28, 2010

Last week a Capitol Hill paper did a piece on the popularity of the United States Constitution as a publication and one of the news services picked it up. Although those of us who work at the Government Printing Office think of the “Pocket Constitution” authorized by Congress as the classic printed version, many other organizations also print and distribute copies, as the article points out. At least one other Federal Government agency does its own edition of the Pocket Constitution: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), as part of its effort to encourage immigrants to become citizens. Like the congressional edition, this little booklet throws in the Declaration of Independence as well.

All of this made me curious about how many editions of the Constitution currently appear in Federal documents of various sorts. It turns out there are quite a few.

Note: This is a totally unscientific and partial survey based on what I found in our online bookstore.

For those who can’t get enough of the Constitution and its interpretation, there’s the Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, published every 10 years or so and weighing in at an imposing 9 pounds, six ounces, not counting the supplements issued to keep it up to date.  If you can’t wait to start reading, you can find it here.

For those of us who like to contemplate history’s “might have beens,” you can’t do better than The Constitution of the United States of America as Amended; Unratified Amendments; Analytical Index, which, in addition to the text of the Constitution, details about the ratification of each amendment to the Constitution, and an exhaustive index, discusses six other amendments that were submitted to the states for ratification but not adopted. You can read them here and find out which unratified amendment was the only one actually signed by the President.

Naturally, the Constitution is also included in the procedural manuals of the Senate and the House of Representatives. And don’t forget Interpreting Old Ironsides: An Illustrated Guide to the USS Constitution – oh, wait, that’s a different kind of vessel of democracy.

I think I’ve made my point, and I haven’t even touched on everything in our online bookstore, let alone what you could find through the vast resources of the Federal Depository Library Program. Maybe someone can put a list together before the Fourth of July…

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