Section three of the book, State and Local Government 1999-2000, discusses the role of political parties, interest groups, and political action committees in state and local governments. Recently there has been evidence that political party affiliation is becoming less of a factor in voters’ decisions on Election Day. In 1956, only 28% of voters who identified themselves as either Democrats or Republicans voted for candidates of the opposing party.
In 1980, however, that number increased to 51%. In 1986, 20% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans voted for U. S. Senate candidates of the opposing party. One possible reason for this trend may be the increasing popularity of direct primaries. Direct primaries allow the voters to have a direct influence in the nomination process rather than having party leaders choose for them.
Other experts say that independent political consultants and mass media have kept voters better informed through the use of polls and other techniques. Another possible contributing factor could be the rise of independent and self-starting candidates with economic and political resources of their own. Despite evidence that political parties are weakening, some experts believe that they still play an important role in the political process, although that role has evolved over the years. They cite that control of state legislature is still determined by party majority, and appointments to state government positions usually go to members of the same political party. They also argue that political parties’ ability to raise funds for candidates and the services they provide continue to make them a driving force in today’s politics.
Beyle’s book also discusses the role of special interest groups in state politics. Some feel that special interests groups are a necessary part of politics, while others feel that they serve only themselves with no regard for what is best for the state as a whole. The article, “North Carolina: In Search of Clarity” by Ferrel Guillory, discusses how the problem of rearranging the Voting Essay districts in North Carolina were affected by special interests groups. The question at hand was whether or not the state’s black population would be better served to have to have as many majority black districts as possible or to have more votes in each district, with no district having a black majority.
The 12th voting district, which runs through the middle of the state, was originally set up to be a black majority district. However, after several court rulings the state legislature revised the district twice, cutting it’s black population to 37%. As a result of unclear rulings by the Supreme Court on the voting districts in the past, the state is undecided on what it should do. The court is now reviewing the matter for the third time this decade. Another article, “Power Politics” by Christopher Swope, discusses the topic of electricity deregulation.
This prospect has some local officials worried about competing with private electrical utility companies. The article discusses how local officials in Tallahassee weighed their options, as Florida considered deregulation of its electricity services. Tallahassee would be especially affected because 32% of its budget comes from utility revenues. The question city officials were debating was whether it would be more economical to sell its electrical utility and collect interest on the profit, or to keep the utility and try to compete with private organizations. The city had to act quickly on the matter, because at the end of the month production on a new power plant was to begin.
If a sale were to occur, it had to be before any tax-exempt municipal bonds were approved to fund the new plant. The city eventually voted not to sell despite the mayor’s belief that selling was the better option. The mayor believed that public interest helped to sway the voting. Tallahassee’s residents were happy with their current electrical service and feared that a private organization would not be as reliable. As a result, elected officials felt the heat to keep the utility, and may have cost the city potential revenues when they voted not to sell.
Now more than ever, special interest groups are playing a significant role in the legislation process. These groups use several methods to influence politicians, mainly by contributing money to campaigns .