Elections A to Z


Edited by: Bob Benenson

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    • Copyright

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      About the Author

      Bob Benenson has covered elections for three decades, most of that time spent reporting for Congressional Quarterly. He has been CQ’s politics editor since 1998 and is the founding editor of CQPolitics.com, a Web site launched in 2006 dedicated to tracking elections nationwide. Benenson has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel, PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, National Public Radio, and numerous other national and local television and radio programs. He is a native of New York and a graduate of Michigan State University.

      About the Book

      Elections A to Z is part of CQ Press’s five-volume American Government A to Z series, which provides essential information about the history, powers, and operations of the three branches of government, the election of members of Congress and the president, and the nation’s most important document, the Constitution. In these volumes, CQ Press’s writers and editors present engaging insight and analysis about U.S. government in a comprehensive, ready-reference encyclopedia format. The series is useful to anyone who has an interest in national government and politics.

      Elections A to Z offers accessible information about the historical foundations of U.S. elections, including the constitutional amendments that expanded the franchise to minorities, women, and youth; qualifications for office; pivotal events and ground-breaking candidates; campaign regulations and strategies; and the roles of political consultants, the media, and political parties. It also covers recent trends in House, Senate, presidential, and some state-level elections. The entries are arranged alphabetically and are extensively cross-referenced to related information. This volume includes a detailed index, useful reference materials, and a bibliography.

      The third edition of Elections A to Z has been thoroughly updated to incorporate important contemporary events, such as the 2006 midterm elections that shifted party control in the House and Senate to the Democrats for the first time in twelve years, as well as developments in primary scheduling, campaign finance reform, voting technology, and political participation. The volume contains new entries on “527” political organizations, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, mid-decade redistricting, and women in politics, among others. Presented in a new and engaging design, this edition contains a wealth of stimulating sidebar material, such as memorable quotations and numerous features inviting the reader to explore issues in further depth.


      The political atmosphere today is much different than it was when the second edition of this book was published in June 2003, just after President George W. Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier off the coast of California and declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq. At that time, a robust two-thirds of Americans polled said Bush was doing a good job, and Republican activists boasted that a Republican era, including a possible “permanent majority” in Congress, had dawned.

      Yet even as Bush won a clear but narrow reelection victory in 2004, public skepticism set in. The growing intractability of the U.S. military commitment in Iraq—a much longer, deadlier, and more expensive conflict than predicted—and the federal government’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast in 2005 undermined public support for the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. The president’s approval ratings dropped below 30 percent, and Republicans lost both the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections.

      In fall 2007, the United States appeared to be in the midst of one of its periodic episodes of public dissatisfaction with the federal government and the direction of the nation. As Bush was winding down his stormy two-term tenure, he received positive job approval ratings from roughly one-third of Americans polled. The Democratic-controlled 110th Congress faced low approval ratings as well, registering the near-record lows recently endured by the Republicans—partly because many Democratic activists were dissatisfied with the new leadership’s inability to overcome Bush’s opposition to setting timelines to end the war.

      Despite the ongoing political turmoil and uncertainty, the contests already underway for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations did not appear greatly different from those that had gone before, in good times and bad, other than the early start of campaign season. Whereas for many years the primaries and caucuses that determined each party’s nominee began in March and were spread out until June, a hectic competition among states hoping to gain more influence in the process created a logjam of nominating contests scheduled for February 5, 2008—the first allowable date for most states under the rules of both national parties—and prompted some states to try to muscle in even earlier, ignoring their own national party organizations’ threats of penalties.

      Faced with the unpredictable consequences of having to campaign for primary and caucus votes simultaneously in many states, large and small, the front-running candidates of both parties rushed to raise record amounts of money to vie for the votes of Americans nationwide.

      The new, condensed primary calendar may have created a challenge for candidates and voters, but it does not amount to a drastic overhaul of the democratic structures and practices that have served the United States for more than 230 years.

      The principles of balance of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government and among the federal government, states, and localities—established in the late eighteenth century—have survived numerous calamities, including a terrible civil war over issues of slavery and states’ rights that threatened the nation’s existence less than a century after its birth. The people of the United States have eschewed the seductive certitudes of radical and totalitarian philosophies even at times of economic desperation, such as the Great Depression that spanned the 1930s. Underpinning what long has been known as the “great American experiment” has been the premise of an elected government freely chosen by the eligible voters of the United States. The nation’s history of stability seasoned by change is documented within the pages of Elections A to Z, a compact encyclopedia of political terms, concepts, and entities.

      “We the people,” begins the preamble to the Constitution of the United States, the foundation of all of the nation’s governmental institutions. Yet when it came to voting, the definition of “the people” during the nation’s earliest days included only propertied white men. Under pressure from various suffrage movements, the voting electorate was expanded enormously in the last two centuries, first to include virtually all white men, then African American men, then women, then citizens as young as age eighteen.

      For much of the nation’s first two hundred years, Congress was the province of white men; there were few women or minority members as recently as forty years ago. Today, there are dozens of women, African Americans, and Hispanics representing states and congressional districts. California Democrat Nancy Pelosi was lifted by the Democrats’ takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2006 elections to the position of Speaker, making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government to date. One of the early front-runners for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination was New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, and aspirant to become the first woman elected as president. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, seeking to become the nation’s first African American president, was a leading rival to Clinton; another serious contender, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, hoped to become the first Hispanic president.

      The history of America’s political parties is accented by the remarkable dichotomy between the Democrats—who trace their political origins to the earliest days of the Republic and their party to President Andrew Jackson—and the Republicans—the party of President Abraham Lincoln, founded in the mid-nineteenth century. The electoral system dominated by these two parties has endured, in spite of occasional drubbings that lead pundits to question whether one or the other party can survive.

      There also have been numerous third parties that have risen to brief periods of influence before disappearing from the political scene, such as the Anti-Masons, Free Soilers, Greenbacks, and Populists of the 1800s; the Progressives, States’ Rights activists, and American Independents of the early 1900s; right up to the Reform Party of the 1990s, the short-lived political vehicle of mercurial billionaire H. Ross Perot.

      The methods and technology of campaigning for public office have changed drastically over time. Some of the most rapid changes have come in recent years with the development of the Internet. Yet not much has changed in the fundamental arts of campaigning and the challenge of convincing sympathetic citizens to exercise their right to vote, citizens who often seem to take American democracy for granted.

      Not even a volume that seeks to touch as many bases as Elections A to Z can tell you everything you need to know to follow American politics. But we hope that you will find it a useful and lively resource to better understand the tapestry of substance, process, drama, and excitement that drives the elections that in turn drive the nation’s remarkably resilient democracy.

      Many people, at CQ Press and elsewhere, deserve acknowledgment for their work on Elections A to Z. I would like to thank the writer and editor of the first two editions, John L. Moore, for establishing this volume, as well as the many other writers and researchers who have contributed to it in the past. I am especially grateful to Gregory Giroux for assisting me with this new edition. Jennifer Campi copyedited the new manuscript, and Anna Schardt coordinated its development. Joan Gossett and Sarah Fell ably handled production and photo research.

      Bob Benenson

      October 2007

      List of Entries

    • Appendix


      Changes in Democrats’ Nominating Rules

      Between 1972 and 1992 Democrats tinkered with their nominating rules every four years, producing a system that, if not better than before, was always different. In 1996 the party left its rules unchanged for the first time in twenty years. The Democrats also did not make any significant rule changes in 2000 or 2004. As they prepared for the 2008 presidential nomination process, though, the Democrats adopted rule changes that addressed the primary and caucus calendar.

      Responding to longstanding complaints about the primacy of the “first in the nation” Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary and concerns about those states’ relative lack of demographic diversity, the Democrats officially moved the dates of two other events up near the start of the process.

      They also attempted to persuade states not to join in the “front-loading,” or early scheduling of nominating events, but it quickly became clear that this effort would not be successful. Many states, including such major population centers as California, New York, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey, moved their primaries up so that they would be held much earlier than in the past.

      The following chart shows the ebb and flow of the Democratic Party’s rules changes, with a “✓” indicating the years these major rules were in effect.


      Democratic Party’s Reform Commissions on Presidential Selection


      Republican Party's Reform Committees on Presidential Selection


      Election-Related Web Sites

      Thousands of Internet sites provide information about elections and politics. They are operated by candidates, political parties, interest groups, think tanks, trade associations, labor unions, businesses, government agencies, news organizations, polling firms, universities, and individuals.

      Election-oriented sites can have very short lives. Many spring up just before a particular election and then go dark once the ballots are counted. The sites listed below, however, have proven themselves to be stable sources of ongoing election information— at least as of October 2007, when this was written.

      American National Election Studies

      ANES conducts questionnaires and public opinion polls to determine why Americans vote as they do on election day. This Web site offers a rich collection of data on voting, public opinion, and political participation.

      Ballot Access News

      The full text of the newsletter Ballot Access News from early 1994 to the present is available at this site. The newsletter publishes news about efforts around the country to overturn laws that restrict ballot access by candidates.

      Ballot Watch

      A database at Ballot Watch has details about initiatives and referendums that are moving toward qualification on state ballots or that have already qualified in states around the country. You can search the database by subject, status, state, and type of measure.

      Census: Voting and Registration Data

      The U.S. Census Bureau operates this site, which has data about registration and voting by various demographic and socioeconomic groups. Data are available from 1964 to the present.

      Center for Public Integrity

      Investigative reports and databases on lobbying firms and political spending are among the features on this site. CPI emphasizes government transparency and investigative journalism.


      This Web site from Congressional Quarterly offers a comprehensive view of upcoming elections, including election timelines and candidate lists and ratings. It contains a section on the current Congress that shows mapped results from the last election and a breakdown of representative demographics.

      CQ MoneyLine

      This site, also from Congressional Quarterly, presents data on campaign finance and lobbying from the 1979–1980 election cycle to the present. It also includes quick links to information on contribution limits and filings calendars. Most information is free, although some sections of the site are limited to subscribers.

      Electoral College Home Page

      Background information about how the electoral college operates is available at this site. It also has results for popular votes and electoral college votes in presidential elections from 1789 to the present and provisions of the U.S. Constitution and federal law pertaining to presidential elections.

      Federal Election Commission

      This site’s main feature is a database of campaign finance reports filed from May 1996 to the present by House and presidential candidates, political action committees, and political party committees. The site also includes Senate reports, which are first filed with the Senate public records office. Another valuable resource is the Combined Federal/State Disclosure and Election Directory, which provides detailed information about every federal and state office that collects campaign finance data or regulates election spending. For each office, the publication lists the types of data that are available and complete contact information, including a link to the office’s Web site.

      Federal Election Reform Network

      This site is the home of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, organized in the wake of the 2000 presidential election by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and the Century Foundation. Available on the site is the full text of the bipartisan commission’s 114-page final report, issued July 31, 2001. Many of the commission’s recommendations were incorporated in the Help America Vote Act signed by President George W. Bush on October 29, 2002.

      International Foundation for Election Systems

      One of this site’s highlights is its collection of links to Web sites operated by election commissions and other election-related organizations in countries around the world. It also provides a worldwide election calendar, links to news about current elections, and a newsletter titled Elections Today.

      The New York Times: Politics

      Political stories from the current day’s issue of the New York Times are available through this site. It also offers breaking Washington news stories from the Associated Press, archived Times stories about specific political topics, results from political polls, and political cartoons by a variety of artists.


      Both raw data about money in politics and reports that analyze all the numbers are available at this site. It is operated by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group. Numerous databases provide detailed campaign finance data for federal candidates and information about contributions by political action committees. The site also has lists of the top federal contributors by industry, profiles of every political action committee registered with the Federal Election Commission, data about soft money contributions, links to sources of state campaign finance data, reports with titles such as Influence Inc.: The Bottom Line on Washington Lobbyists and The Politics of Sugar, and much more.

      The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

      The Pew site presents the results of polls regarding the press, politics, and public policy issues conducted from 1995 to the present. The polls measure public attitudes about topics such as China policy, Congress, the economy, elections, and the Internet’s impact in elections.

      Political Resources on the Net

      Links to more than 24,000 election and politics-related Web sites around the world are presented at this site. The links lead to sites operated by political parties, organizations, governments, media outlets, and others. You can browse the links by region or country, and you also can search the whole site.

      Political Science Resources: United States Politics

      This site of the University of Michigan Documents Center offers links to hundreds of Web sites about politics and elections. The listings are divided into more than two dozen categories, including campaign finance, cybercitizenry, elections, foreign policy, lobbying groups, news sources, political parties, primaries, public opinion, public policy issues, statistics, and think tanks, among others.


      Politics1 provides a huge set of annotated links to Web sites operated by candidates, political parties, election offices, and election news sources in states across the country. It also has links to sites for presidential candidates, the two major parties, third parties, and political news sources.


      This site’s highlight is its large collection of links to news stories about how the Internet is being used in elections and politics around the world.

      Project Vote Smart

      The Project Vote Smart site provides biographies of thousands of candidates and elected officials in offices ranging from state legislator to president, voting records for members of Congress, detailed campaign finance data for members of Congress, the texts of ballot initiatives from states around the country, links to thousands of other political Web sites, and lots more.

      U.S. Election Atlas

      This site features maps detailing the results of recent presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections by state. It also includes polling information and predictions for upcoming elections.

      Voter Information

      This League of Women Voters site has links to information about state and local candidates around the country, details about how to register to vote, voter registration contact numbers for every state, and links to other election sites.

      Washingtonpost.com: Politics

      The latest political news from the Washington Post and the Associated Press highlights this page. It also has archived stories about dozens of political issues, such as gun control and health care, election coverage, and more.

      Yahoo! News: Politics

      Hundreds of news stories about politics and elections are available through this Yahoo! page. Sources include the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Reuters.


      National Party Chairs, 1848–2007


      Major Platform Fights

      1860 Democratic. A minority report on the slavery plank, stating that the decision on allowing slavery in the territories should be left to the Supreme Court, was approved, 165 to 138. The majority report (favored by the South) declared that no government—local, state or federal—could outlaw slavery in the territories. The acceptance of the minority report precipitated a walkout by several dozen Southern delegates and the eventual sectional split in the party.

      1896 Democratic. The monetary plank of the platform committee, favoring free and unlimited coinage of silver at a ratio of 16 to 1 with gold, was accepted by the convention, which defeated a proposed gold plank, 626 to 303. During debate William Jennings Bryan made his famous “Cross of Gold” speech supporting the platform committee plank, bringing him to the attention of the convention and resulting in his nomination for president.

      1908 Republican. A minority report, proposing a substitute platform, was presented by Sen. Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin. Minority proposals included increased antitrust activities, enactment of a law requiring publication of campaign expenditures and popular election of senators. All the proposed planks were defeated by wide margins; the closest vote, on direct election of senators, was 114 for, 866 against.

      1924 Democratic. A minority plank was presented that condemned the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, then enjoying a resurgence in the South and some states in the Midwest. The plank was defeated 5427/20 to 5433/20, the closest vote in Democratic convention history.

      1932 Republican. A minority plank favoring repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) in favor of a state-option arrangement was defeated, 4602/9 to 69019/36.

      1948 Democratic. An amendment to the platform, strengthening the civil rights plank by guaranteeing full and equal political participation, equal employment opportunity, personal security and equal treatment in the military service, was accepted, 6511/2 to 5821/2.

      1964 Republican. An amendment offered by Sen. Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania to strengthen the civil rights plank by including voting guarantees in state as well as in federal elections and by eliminating job bias was defeated, 409 to 897.

      1968 Democratic. A minority report on Vietnam called for cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam, halting of offensive and search-and-destroy missions by American combat units, a negotiated withdrawal of American troops and establishment of a coalition government in South Vietnam. It was defeated, 1,0411/4 to 1,5673/4.

      1972 Democratic. By a vote of 1,852.86 to 999.34, the convention rejected a minority report proposing a government guaranteed annual income of $6,500 for a family of four. By a vote of 1,101.37 to 1,572.80, a women’s rights plank supporting abortion rights was defeated.

      1980 Democratic. The platform battle, one of the longest in party history, pitted President Jimmy Carter against his persistent rival, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Stretching over seventeen hours, the debate focused on Kennedy’s economics plank, which finally was defeated by a voice vote. Yet Carter was forced to concede on so many specific points, including Kennedy’s $12 billion anti-recession jobs programs, that the final document bore little resemblance to the draft initially drawn up by Carter’s operatives.

      1992 Democratic. A tax fairness plank offered by former senator Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts was defeated by a vote of 953 to 2,287. The plank called for a delay in any middle-class tax cut and tax credit for families with children until the deficit was under control.


      Democratic Conventions, 1832–2004


      Republican Conventions, 1856–2004


      Chief Officers and Keynote Speakers at Democratic National Conventions, 1832–2004


      Chief Officers and Keynote Speakers at Republican National Conventions, 1856–2004


      General Election Debates, 1960–2004


      U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents


      Summary of Presidential Elections, 1789– 2004


      2004 Popular Vote Summary, Presidential


      Distribution of House Seats and Electoral Votes, 1952–2008


      Law for Counting Electoral Votes in Congress

      Following is the complete text of Title3,section15,of the U.S. Code, enacted originally in1887, governing the counting of electoral votes in Congress:

      Congress shall be in session on the sixth day of January succeeding every meeting of the electors. The Senate and House of Representatives shall meet in the Hall of the House of Representatives at the hour of 1 o’clock in the afternoon on that day, and the President of the Senate shall be their presiding officer. Two tellers shall be previously appointed on the part of the Senate and two on the part of the House of Representatives, to whom shall be handed, as they are opened by the President of the Senate, all the certificates and papers purporting to be certificates of the electoral votes, which certificates and papers shall be opened, presented, and acted upon in the alphabetical order of the States, beginning with the letter A; and said tellers, having then read the same in the presence and hearing of the two Houses, shall make a list of the votes as they shall appear from the said certificates; and the votes having been ascertained and counted according to the rules in this subchapter provided, the result of the same shall be delivered to the President of the Senate, who shall thereupon announce the state of the vote, which announcement shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons, if any, elected President and Vice President of the United States, and, together with a list of votes, be entered on the Journals of the two Houses. Upon such reading of any such certificate or paper, the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any. Every objection shall be made in writing, and shall state clearly and concisely, and without argument, the ground thereof, and shall be signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives before the same shall be received. When all objections so made to any vote or paper from a State shall have been received and read, the Senate shall thereupon withdraw, and such objections shall be submitted to the Senate for its decision; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, in like manner, submit such objections to the House of Representatives for its decision; and no electoral vote or votes from any State which shall have been regularly given by electors whose appointment has been lawfully certified to according to section 61 of this title from which but one return has been received shall be rejected, but the two Houses concurrently may reject the vote or votes when they agree that such vote or votes have not been so regularly given by electors whose appointment has been so certified. If more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State shall have been received by the President of the Senate, those votes, and those only, shall be counted which shall have been regularly given by the electors who are shown by the determination mentioned in section 51 of this title to have been appointed, if the determination in said section provided for shall have been made, or by such successors or substitutes, in case of a vacancy in the board of electors so ascertained, as have been appointed to fill such vacancy in the mode provided by the laws of the State; but in case there shall arise the question which of two or more of such State authorities determining what electors have been appointed, as mentioned in section 5 of this title, is the lawful tribunal of such State, the votes regularly given of those electors, and those only, of such State shall be counted whose title as electors the two Houses, acting separately, shall concurrently decide is supported by the decision of such State so authorized by its law; and in such case of more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State, if there shall have been no such determination of the question in the State aforesaid, then those votes, and those only, shall be counted which the two Houses shall concurrently decide were cast by lawful electors appointed in accordance with the laws of the State, unless the two Houses, acting separately, shall concurrently decide such votes not to be the lawful votes of the legally appointed electors of such State. But if the two Houses shall disagree in respect of the counting of such votes, then, and in that case, the votes of the electors whose appointment shall have been certified by the executive of the State, under the seal thereof, shall be counted. When the two Houses have voted, they shall immediately again meet, and the presiding officer shall then announce the decision of the questions submitted. No votes or papers from any other State shall be acted upon until the objections previously made to the votes or papers from any State shall have been finally disposed of.

      Section 6 provides for certification of votes by electors by state governors.

      Section 5 provides that if state law specifies a method for resolving disputes concerning the vote for presidential electors, Congress must respect any determination so made by a state.


      Election Results: Congress and the Presidency, 1860.2006


      Incumbents Reelected, Defeated, or Retired, 1946–2006


      Blacks in Congress, 41st–110th Congresses, 1869–2007


      Hispanic Americans in Congress, 45th–110th Congresses, 1877–2007


      Women in Congress, 65th–110th Congresses, 1917–2007


      Senate Votes Cast by Vice Presidents

      Following is a list of the number of votes cast by each vice president through December 21, 2005.


      State Government


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      Finkelman, Paul, and Peter Wallenstein, eds. Encyclopedia of American Political History. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2001.

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      Fritz, Jean. Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987.

      Garment, Suzanne. Scandal: The Crisis of Mistrust in American Politics. New York: Times Books, 1991.

      Garraty, John A. 1,001 Things Everyone Should Know about American History. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

      Gillespie, J. David. Politics at the Periphery: Third Parties in Two-Party America. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

      Graber, Doris A. Mass Media and American Politics, 7th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006.

      Graber, Doris A., Denis McQuail, and Pippa Norris, eds. The Politics of News, The News of Politics, 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2007.

      Graham, Gene. One Man, One Vote: Baker v. Carr and the American Levellers. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1972.

      Guber, Susan. How to Win Your 1st Election. Boca Raton, Fla.: St. Lucie Press, 1997.

      Guide to U.S. Elections, 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2005.

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      Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. Packaging the Presidency, 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

      Kernell, Samuel, and Gary C. Jacobson. The Logic of American Politics, 3d ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006.

      King, Anthony Stephen. Running Scared: Why America’s Politicians Campaign Too Much and Govern Too Little. New York: Free Press, 1997.

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      Kurian, George T. World Encyclopedia of Parliaments and Legislatures. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1997.

      Lewis, Charles, and the Center for Public Integrity. The Buying of the President 2004. New York: Perennial, 2004.

      Lipset, Seymour Martin. Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics, expanded ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.

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      ———. Constitutions of the World, 3d ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2007.

      Maxwell, Bruce. How to Access the Federal Government on the Internet, 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1999.

      ———. How to Track Politics on the Internet, 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2000.

      McGillivray, Alice V., Richard M. Scammon, and Rhodes Cook. America at the Polls, 1920–1956 and 1960–2004: A Handbook of American Presidential Election Statistics, 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2005.

      Mintz, Morton, and Jerry S. Cohen. America, Inc.: Who Owns and Operates the United States. New York: Dial Press, 1971.

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