access to government

- It may be surprising, but it is difficult for government to limit the public to access information.
However, the major instruments used by state and local governments to protect public access
include the following:
- Open Meeting Laws – Passed first in Florida in 1967 that required state government meetings to
be open to the public. This only applies to Legislative and Executive branches of government. The
courts remain closed, for the most part, to the public. All other 49 states followed Florida’s lead.
- Open Record Laws – 1848, Wisconsin passed a law that established the right of individuals to see
the written records of government. Now all states have some sort of “freedom of information act”
- Hearings – state legislatures, school boards, city councils, or county boards is to hold hearings on
proposal. All states require that their administrative agencies hold a hearing and allow for written
comments on any proposed rule or regulation before it is adopted.
Despite laws that are in place to help the public have more access to government affairs, very few
take advantage of them.
So who participates? (lack of efficacy)
- Those who participate in government can vary. A study done by Verba and Nie which polled 3,000
people found the following participation trends:
- less than 4% contacted politicians with concerns
- 20% of the people were involved in in some way or another to help improve their community.
- 15% participated in political campaigns
- Engaging in the electoral process
- Testifying at Hearings and Meetings
- Being on a Advisory Committee
- Contacting Public Officials
- Using the Media and the Internet
- Civic Journalism and Focus Group
- Protesting
Political Party
- an organization that recruits, nominates, and elects party members to office in order to
influence government.
- Political Party Distinctions:
1) Run candidates under their own affiliation.
2) Political parties seek to govern
3) Political parties have broad concerns and multiple platforms
4) Quasi-public organizations that have a special relationship with the government.
5) Political parties are one of the main channels in which citizens make their voices heard.
6) They promote citizen participation
7) Bring together various groups to achieve a common goal.
8) Promote civic responsibility.
Differences in Republicans and Democrats:
R- Upper-middle class, Caucasian
D- Lower-middle class, varied ethnicities
R- Small government
D- Large government
Reapportionment and Redistricting
- Reapportionment: Reallocation of seats in the House of Reps. to each state based on
changes in the state’s population since the last census.
- Redistricting: redrawing of congressional district boundaries within each state, based
on the reapportionment from the census.
- Gerrymandering: The drawing of legislative district boundaries to benefit an
incumbent, a political party, or another group (Mass. Governor Elbridge Gerry, 1811).
Models Of Representation
Trustee Model:
- a model of representation in which a member of the House or Senate should articulate
and vote for the positions that best represents the view so the constituent .
(Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, 1993).
Instruct Delegate Model
- a model of representation in which legislators, as representatives of their constituents,
should vote in keeping with the constituents’ views, even if those views contradict the
legislator’s views.
 Interest Groups: Organizations that seek to achieve
stated goals by influencing government decision
 Social Capital (Putman: “Bowling Alone”): the ways in
which our lives are improved in many ways by social
 Pluralists and Elite Theory
 Functions of Interest Groups:
- Educate the public about policy issues
- Provide average citizens with an avenue of access to
- Mobilize citizens to to participate in politics
- Perform electoral functions
- Provide information to policy makers
- Protect the common good
- Creates a checks and balance system.
 Why Participate in IG’s?
- Occupation, Social Reasons, Solidarity Incentives,
Purposive Incentives, Economic Incentives
Types of IG:
- Economic, Corporate, Labor, Agriculture, Trade,
Ideological, Environment, Religious, Foreign.
Lobby: to communicate directly with policy makers on
the interest group’s behalf.
Iron Triangle: IG->Congress->Bureaucracy
PAC: Political Action Committees: a branch of the IG’s
that can raise money and give money to candidates.