Social Studies - 2019-20

GOVT.6a - Local, State, and National Elections

The student will apply social science skills to understand local, state, and national elections by 

a) describing the nomination and election process, including the organization and evolving role of political parties;

Adopted: 2015


Big Themes/Concepts: Democracy, Politics, Political Systems

The strength of a democracy is equal to the strength of its citizens.

Political parties are designed to connect people to the government and preserve the sovereignty of citizens in a democracy.

Why do voters act as they do?

In what ways should people participate in public affairs?

Does the two-party system help or harm democracy?


Political parties are organized to win elections. 

Party factions can control the election process by controlling candidate selection. 

At each level of government, candidates for elective office are chosen using a variety of nominating methods.


Political parties have national, state, and local organizations. 

Roles of political parties 

• Select candidates 

• Raise funds 

• Conduct campaigns 

• Identify important issues 

• Monitor the party in power 

Each major political party seeks to define itself in ways that wins majority support while remaining committed to core principles. 

The two major parties are coalitions of several factions and interest groups and recognize the importance of conducting campaigns that appeal to voters in the middle of the political spectrum, veering neither too far left nor too far right of the political center. 

Third parties could form to highlight single issues in a given election or provide a long-term forum for minority views. 

Methods used by political parties to select candidates for national, state, and local offices include 

 direct primary 

 caucus 

 nominating convention 

 petition. 

The two major political parties use a national nominating convention to select presidential and vice-presidential candidates. 

In Virginia, state and local party organizations determine which method of nomination will be used to select candidates. Once nominated, candidates campaign and go before the voters for election to office. 

In Virginia, 17-year-olds can register and vote in special elections or participate in the nominating process if their 18th birthday is on or before the general election.


Updated: Aug 14, 2017