- How can I register to vote in Townsend?
To register to vote in Townsend, a person must be
- at least 18 years of age
- a citizen of the United States, by birth or naturalization
- a resident of Townsend
- never convicted of a felony
Many people in Massachusetts register to vote while obtaining a driver's
license. Otherwise, you can
register at the office of the town clerk (in
or you can register by mailing in a paper form, which you can pick up
at the town library.
The deadline for registering to vote usually is 20 days prior to election day.
- Why should I declare a political party when I register
By choosing a political party, you are demonstrating your support for
a set of people and a set of ideas. Politics is a team sport.
If you want to really be in the game, you've got to choose a side.
- What is a political party, anyway?
In the general sense, a political party is an organized group
that seeks to attain and maintain political power within government,
usually by participating in electoral campaigns. The party may also
engage in other activities, but elections are normally the focus.
Most parties come together around some set of ideas or concerns, or
may form as a coalition of smaller groups which share similar ideas.
Today's modern Republican Party began in 1854 as a coalition, when
various members of the
Whig party and
Free Soil Party, plus some disenchanted Democrats,
came together to form a new party which would oppose slavery in
the United States. In 1860, the new party succeeded in electing
Abraham Lincoln as the
first Republican president.
- What if I don't want to be either a Republican or a Democrat?
Can I join some other party?
At the present time, about half of all voters in Massachusetts are
registered without declaring association with any political party.
Such voters are formally known as unenrolled voters.
Since the Civil War, various so-called "third parties" have had varying
levels of success, although none has been consistently competitive.
During the past decade, the
Green-Rainbow Party and the
Constitution Party have become active in some communities
in Massachusetts, while, down in Cambridge, you can still find outright
Eugene V. Debs.
Libertarian Party has attracted a following.
(Should "unenrolled" voters be called "independent"? Using that word in formal
communication can be something of a problem, since there are several
organized political groups which call themselves "independent parties".
In some states there is the
"American Independent" Party.
Scattered through New England, the
"American Independence" Party has some adherents.
In 2014, candidate Evan Falchuk formed the
"United Independent" Party.
Between talking about members of one of the several "independent" parties
or talking about voters who are truly independent of any party, confusion can
easily arise, so Massachusetts election officials prefer to use the term
- Why bother with political parties? Why can't each candidate
run for office on his or her own individual merits?
The idea of simply not having political parties in government always seems
attractive. Over the years, many methods of avoiding parties have been attempted,
even laws which make party affiliation illegal. However, in real life and
in real governments, different interests always arise, which leads to groups of
people congealing into factions of one kind or another. Over time, in
the natural course of events, the factions solidify into organized parties.
Also, being an effective public leader requires cooperation with other officials
to get things done, and an office-holder who belongs to a party
has a ready-made set of allies with whom to work.
(The most successful non-party candidate for high office in recent years was
Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler who
was elected governor
of Minnesota in 1998 as an "Independent/Reform" candidate.
Despite the enthusiastic support with which he began his term, Governor
Ventura had no natural allies in the state legislature. So, when an
economic slowdown squeezed the state's budget, the governor's plans were
squeezed out. As he served out his term in increasing frustration and
disarray, public approval of the independent governor plummeted. Thus,
in the 2002 election, Minnesotans turned to Republican
as their next governor.)
- Who makes the rules about how political parties operate?
Many of the rules of how political parties work in Massachusetts are
part of state law, enacted by the state legislature and signed by the
Governor. The party committees at the state and local levels are run
in accordance with these laws. Other rules are taken from various
authorities on parliamentary procedure. And, from its
as a former colony of Great Britain, Massachusetts inherited many
forms and customs from the long tradition of government in
the mother country.
- What exactly is a "republic"?
Does that have something to do with the "Republican" party's name?
The English word "republic" comes from the Latin phrase res publica,
which means "the people's thing". In the image here of an ancient coin from the
a citizen is shown voting for L. Cassius Longinus Ravilla in the plebiscite election
of 113 B.C. (Although its institutions stayed in place for nearly 500 years, the
Roman Republic suffered a long decay, and it effectively ceased to exist following the
assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 B.C.)
As typically used, the word "republic" refers to a
form of government in which citizens elect representatives to perform the
activities of governing. This differs from pure "democracy", in which
the citizens themselves all vote directly.
(Many small towns in New England still conduct an annual exercise in
nearly pure democracy: the traditional
"open town meeting".)
At the national level, all parties work within the structure defined by the
U.S. Constitution, which is a form of representative, or "republican",
When it organized in 1854, the new anti-slavery coalition took for itself
the name "Republican Party"—a historic moniker which, ironically, had
once been used for the party we now know as the "Democratic Party".
(Sad to say, some political writers today
seem to invite confusion on this point, as when
this Boston Globe article
accused "Republicans" of starting the War of 1812—which
happened 42 years before today's Party of Lincoln was founded!)
- Why is the Republican Party called the "GOP"?
This abbreviation, which newspaper-headline writers find so useful,
is usually taken to mean "Grand Old Party", a nickname which
was first published in 1876.
- What's the deal with elephants?
The elephant was first used as a symbol of the Republican Party
by political cartoonist
in 1874. There are various theories concerning the
source of Nast's inspiration, but Republicans appreciate the
fact that elephants are strong, highly intelligent, and loyal
- Why is the Republican Party called a "right wing" party?
The terms "right wing" and "left wing" came from revolutionary
in 18th century France: back in 1789, when the
French National Assembly was first convened, the nobles and
barons got to sit on the right (and were called the côté
droit), whereas the partisans demanding change sat on the left, and
became the côté gauche.
(When the French Revolution came, the left wing made sure that the right wing
lost, not only their seats,
but their heads, too.)
In modern parlance, and generally speaking (which is all we have
room to do in a
page), people on the "right" side of politics
take some set of "conservative" views on a variety of issues.
The unique history of the United States means that political
beliefs called "conservative" in America are rather different from
"conservative" political positions in other nations.
However, trying to evaluate all views and ideas along a single line
from left to right will always over-simplify matters, because
public issues in the real world are always complex and multi-dimensional.
This is one reason that, among conservatives, there are many differences
in opinions on specific issues. Thus not all Republicans are
obviously "right wing" on all issues, although most adherents of the
GOP empathize with at least some conservative positions.
- Why are Republicans red and Democrats blue?
This widely recognized color code is of relatively recent origin. It was not
until the 2000 presidential campaign that permanent associations of red
and blue were made. During October 2000, on a TV broadcast of NBC's
show, Matt Lauer and the late Tim Russert were discussing an on-screen
graphic map depicting some electoral-vote projections. Speaking of
the states where voter polls were trending Republican, Russert and
Lauer repeatedly used the phrase "Red State", and a lexical meme was born.
(The image here shows Tim Russert discussing the map with
NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.)
- I saw a TV show where some loud-talking guy said, "All Republicans
reptilian henchmen for greedy tycoons." Is that true?
Many celebrities on TV say outrageous things loudly because it attracts a lot
of people to watch their shows. You should keep in mind the following fact: from
the point of view of a TV network (which is a big corporation), the chief purpose
of any TV program is merely to hold your attention for the commercials!
Better to meet some actual Republicans and find out for yourself what they are
really saying and doing!
- What is the real Republican record on race relations?
The first point to keep in mind was mentioned above: the Republican Party
was founded to bring freedom to slaves in America.
For a discussion of issues which arose later, and of certain frequently
misunderstood points, see
The Myth of the Racist Republicans from the Claremont Institute
The Party of Civil Rights by Kevin Williamson.
Another source of information on this topic is the
National Black Republican Association.
The photo shows Martin Luther King holding a friendly conversation with two women;
the one on the right was Lenore Romney. At the time, 1963, her Republican husband
George was serving as governor of Michigan. Years later, her Republican son Mitt Romney
became Governor of Massachusetts and then a candidate for President of the United States.
During the 2008 campaign, eyewitness accounts
(reported here by
confirmed that George Romney (Mitt's father)
had marched in a civil-rights demonstration together with Martin Luther King in 1963.
- My Democrat friend tells me that the Republican Party
started out good, but today supports evil policies because it
This claim of “switching sides” may get trotted out after an
informed observer has pointed out the many awkward incidents in the history of
the Democratic Party. If examined carefully, the claim produces a
multitude of contradictions. One
was performed by Matthew Bowman, in a
guest posting in the
blog of science-fiction/fantasy writer
Sarah A. Hoyt.
- I'm still wondering what happened in the 2000 presidential election.
The events of 2000 ignited a hot controversy which still inflames passions
to such a degree that reasoned discussion can be difficult. However, any
discussion should take into account the
findings of the election study sponsored by USA Today,
the Miami Herald and the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain,
which came to the following conclusion:
George W. Bush would have won a hand count
of Florida's disputed ballots if the standard
advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first
full study of the ballots reveals. Bush would
have won by 1,665 votes — more than triple
his official 537-vote margin — if every dimple,
hanging chad, and mark on the ballot had
been counted as votes.
- Why did I never hear about that USA Today study?
The article cited above appeared in
and other outlets on May 5, 2001, but the subsequent media silence concerning
the report's publication is curious.
Another point of media silence concerning Election Day 2000 in Florida is that
an action by the three major TV networks had the effect of suppressing
the vote in the state's 10 western “panhandle” counties
(where support for Bush was strong); they announced at 7:00 p.m Eastern time that all
polling places in Florida had closed. However, those panhandle counties are in the
Central time zone, thus polls in those counties were scheduled to be open for