The President of the United States is the head of the executive branch of government. The President serves a four-year term and has the duty to carry out the laws the Congress pass and the ability to veto those laws before they pass. The United States Congress is the legislative branch and is responsible for creating the laws and the budget. It consists of two houses, an upper and a lower. The upper house, the Senate, is made up of two senators per state each of whom represents the whole state and serve for six years. The lower house, the House of Representatives, is made of a number of representatives based on the population of a state with each representative representing a specific district. Representatives serve two-year terms.
Federal elections are held every two years. Elections held in years where the President's office is not on the ballot are called "midterm" elections. Senators' terms are staggered such that only one-third of the Senate is on the ballot per election.
Indiana has a Governor and a Lieutenant-Governor who are elected every four years on the same ticket. The state congress is known as the General Assembly. Like the federal congress, the General Assembly consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. All fifty Senators and one hundred Representatives serve specific districts. Senators serve four-year terms and Representatives two-year terms.
Unlike the federal government, states are also permitted to include their residents in legislation directly through referendum. In Indiana, these are on the ballot as "Public Questions."
Local elections are often the least noticed of all elections, but local officials have the most impact on an individual's life. Local officials are in charge of streets, schools, parks, libraries, public transportation, zoning and building permits, property and vital records, among other everyday needs. Every local area is different, but wherever you end up living, take some time to familiarize yourself with local politics.
A resident of Monroe County may find themself under the governance of as many as three bodies, depending on where they live: county, township, and city. In Indiana, the structure of all three kinds of government are dictated by state law.
There are a lot more candidates on a local ballot than you might anticipate. Some are running for offices you might not have expected to be elected positions. Because of the way the terms of the offices are staggered, an election happens nearly every year even if the entire area doesn't always get to participate.
The executive officer of the City of Bloomington is the Mayor, who is elected by all city residents and serves four years. The legislative body is the Common Council (also known as the City Council). There are nine council members: six members who represent specific districts and three at-large members. Bloomington's City Clerk is also an elected position with a four year term.
The executive body of Monroe County is the three-member County Board of Commissioners. Each commissioner represents one district in the county. The County Council is the fiscal body. It approves budgets, controls county taxes, and may borrow funds. Four of the members represent specific districts and three are at-large members who are elected by all the county's residents. Commissioners and Councilors all serve four year terms.
School board members are also elected positions, but Monroe County has two school boards. Most of the county is served by the Monroe County Community School Corporation (seven members from seven districts), but the northwest corner that includes the city of Ellettsville is served by the Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation (five members, two from Richland township, two from Bean-Blossom township, and one at-large).
Monroe county is divided into eleven civil townships. Indiana townships are legislated by the state government. Not all townships in the state serve the same function, however. In Monroe county, townships are mainly responsible for fire protection and for emergency help for low-income residents. Each township elects one Trustee who is the executive. Additionally, the residents elect three members to serve on the Township Board. All four individuals serve four year terms.
Here are some resources to start with if you are interested in the study of American democracy.
What does your district look like? How does it compare to others around the country? Find out!
The goal of Indiana University Bloomington's (IUB) Big Ten Voting Challenge is to increase student voter registration, non-partisan education, and voter turnout in November 2020 and beyond.
IUB's efforts to enhance student-citizens is part of the nationwide Big Ten Voting Challenge (BTVC) through which Big 10 schools are engaging in a friendly competition to see which campus rises above the rest in two areas: First, there is an award for the greatest percentage voter turnout among eligible voters on campus. Second, there is an award for the biggest improvement in voter turnout.
If you have questions about the BTVC or PACE, contact the office at 812-856-1747 or email@example.com.
Be An Informed Voter! Virtual Democracy Gatherings
Hosted by IU Libraries, this virtual series will feature both internal and external speakers sharing further library resources and discussing a range of topics important to all voters. Be on the lookout for exact dates and times.
Registration Assistance Drop-in Hours
Virtual drop-in hours for those needing assistance navigating the voter registration process and a chance to ask questions on identifying poll locations and hours, mail-in voting processes, and out-of-state voting.
8/26 - 10/5
Mondays through Fridays from 12:00PM to 5:00PM
Voting Literacy Drop-in Hours
Virtual drop-in hours for those wanting to discover and discuss valuable resources to help make informed ballot decisions.
10/6 - 11/3
Mondays through Fridays from 12:00PM to 5:00PM