The judicial branch consists of federal trial and appeals judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court. These judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate — you don’t have a vote in the selection of federal judges. The judicial branch of government interprets federal laws when lawsuits are filed in federal courts. On occasion, it also decides whether state laws conform to the federal constitution.
You do elect the members of the legislative branch, called Congress. (Congress includes both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.) Congress makes the laws by passing bills.
Each state, regardless of its population, elects two senators to serve six-year terms. Every two years, one-third of the Senate is elected, so your state may or may not have a Senate contest in a given general election year, which is a year in which candidates are elected in most constituencies. General elections are held in even-numbered years (1994, 1996, 1998, and so forth).
Each state also elects Members of Congress, called representatives, who serve in the House of Representatives in the Congress. The number of representatives in Congress is limited to 435. The census, taken every ten years, determines how many of those 435 representatives each state has. States with growing populations gain congressional seats after the census, and states with shrinking populations lose congressional seats.
After the census results are in, each state’s legislature redraws the congressional districts for its state. The exact boundaries of these districts are the subject of much political fighting, turf warfare, and teeth gnashing, as incumbents try to sweet-talk their state legislatures into drawing districts that would allow them and their next of kin to maintain their current lifestyle.
A Member of Congress is elected every two years and represents roughly a half-million people in his or her district.
You also elect the heads of the executive branch: the president and the vice president. The executive branch of government plays a role in making laws by the use of the president’s veto of legislation. The executive branch also carries out the laws that Congress enacts and the courts have clarified.
The president and the vice president
The U.S. elects a president and vice president every four years. They are elected together to avoid having the president from one party and the vice president from another serve together. This happened early in our country’s history without damaging the republic, but it created enough fuss to suggest that it was not a good idea.
You don’t elect the president and vice president directly, but you do have a role to play in their election.
- Judicial: Judges in state courts interpret state laws. Some states elect their trial court and appellate court judges; some don’t. Some states permit citizens to vote to retain or remove judges but don’t permit partisan elections for judicial positions. Whether you can play a role in the selection of judges depends on your state law.
- Legislative: State legislatures enact laws that apply to their state. In each state, voters are grouped into legislative districts for the state legislature or general assembly. You are assigned to a district for the upper and lower houses of your legislature. The upper house is usually called the Senate, and the lower one, the House of Representatives. You choose an official for each house of the state legislature. The terms vary from two to four years.
- Executive: The voters of each state elect a governor for their state. When the election takes place and how long the governor’s term is depend on state law. Most states have four-year terms for their governors and elect them in general election years. Vermont and New Hampshire have two-year terms. A few states, like New Jersey, elect their governors in odd-numbered years.
Who is elected?
According to the Indiana Constitution, Article 6 Section 2, the following officers shall be elected; a Clerk of the Circuit Court, Auditor, Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, Coroner, and Surveyor. The offices of the county Council, board of the county commissioners and county assessor, however, are not constitutional offices. The General Assembly created these offices by statue.
Terms of Office?
Most county officials are elected for a four year term of office. Except for the county commissioners, council, assessor, surveyor, and judicial officers, county officers are limited to two terms or eight years of service in a period of twelve years. There is no limitation on the number of terms a statutory county officer can serve. Circuit, superior and county court judges are elected to six year terms, and the prosecutor is elected to a four year term.
The three commissioners are the custodians of the home rule powers of the county. Counties have 3 commissioners, one from each district in the county.