Category Archives: Elections

Learning from Fannie Lou Hamer

Source: Matthew Miles Goodrich, Dissent, October 6, 2017

…. October 6th marks the centennial of Hamer’s birth. She is remembered for her outspoken moral courage (“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” has traveled from epitaph on her gravestone to epigraph of working-class exasperation), her magnanimity, and, whenever morale waned, her impassioned renditions of the spirituals “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “This Little Light of Mine.” But her own charisma might overshadow her deeper contributions to the movement. Her commitment to voter registration and her personal philanthropy as an anti-poverty worker in Mississippi later in life are well known. But by taking advantage of the crumbling political order to win enfranchisement of African-Americans within the Democratic Party, Hamer proved to be one of the most brilliant strategists of the civil rights movement. On the 100th anniversary of her birth, it’s worth examining how today’s left can learn from this overlooked part of her legacy. ….

…. Bayard Rustin described the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party as the civil rights movement’s most innovative arm. Hamer and her delegates made “a conscious bid for political power” (emphasis his), jockeying for influence within the broad tent of the Democratic coalition. A strategic left today would continue the effort Hamer started. We need fewer nonprofits and more insurrections that beat down the doors of the Democratic coalition, while maintaining Hamer’s unflinching commitment to racial justice.

Though the Republican Party in 2017 holds more legislative seats than ever, its coalition is too broad and too weak to sustain. Realignment is inevitable. A left that profits from it is not. …

The Geeks Who Put a Stop to Pennsylvania’s Partisan Gerrymandering

Source: Issie Lapowsky, Wired, February 20, 2018

…..Districts like Pennsylvania’s seventh don’t get drawn that way by accident. They’re designed by dint of the centuries-old practice of gerrymandering, in which the party in power carves up the electoral map to their favor. The playbook is simple: Concentrate as many of your opponents’ votes into a handful of districts as you can, a tactic known as “packing.” Then spread the remainder of those votes thinly across a whole lot of districts, known as “cracking.” If it works as intended, the opposition will win a few districts by a landslide, but never have enough votes in the rest to win the majority of seats. The age of computer-generated data splicing has made this strategy easier than ever.

Until recently, courts have only moved to stop gerrymandering based on race. But now, the law is taking a closer look at partisan gerrymandering, too. On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a brand new congressional map to replace the one Kennedy testified about. The new map follows a landmark decision last month, in which the three Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices overruled a lower-court decision and found that Pennsylvania’s 2011 map did in fact violate the state constitution’s guarantee of “free and equal elections.” ….

…. According to Jacobson, given the Supreme Court of the United States already declined to stay the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision, it’s unlikely they’ll take up the case. It’s already agreed to hear four other gerrymandering cases this term, which may well re-write the rules on this twisted system nationwide. ….

Expanding Voting Rights Through Local Law

Source: Joshua A. Douglas, Advance: The Journal of ACS Issue Briefs, Vol. 11 no. 1, Fall 2017
(scroll down)

….This Issue Brief—a condensed version of a scholarly article that appeared in the George Washington Law Review—completes the picture of what it means to enjoy the right to vote in America. The right to vote is a constitutional right inherent in the U.S. Constitution and all state constitutions. But it is also a locally conferred right, at least in some cities and towns. This expansion of voting rights at the local level will constitute a significant part of the debate on the right to vote for years to come…..

How protests can affect elections

Source: C.K., The Economist, Democracy in America blog, January 26, 2018

America is seeing a new era of female political activism.

….. Research suggests that protest movements can have a significant impact on elections. Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute and colleagues made a striking discovery when they studied the effect of rallies held by the Tea Party movement on April 15th 2009 against high taxes and government spending. …. Overall they estimated that a 0.1% increase in the share of the population protesting at a rally corresponded to a 1.9 percentage point increase in the share of Republican votes. From these results, they reckoned that the protests as a whole mobilised between 2.7m and 5.5m additional votes for the Republican Party in the 2010 House elections –or between 3% and 6% of all House votes cast that year.

…. Ms Chenoweth’s most conservative estimate of participants in the 2017 Women’s Marches (the biggest such rally that year) is five times Mr Veuger’s midpoint estimate of participants in the Tea Party rallies of 2009. If a similar relationship applied nationwide to Democratic Party vote share in the mid-terms after the women’s marches as to the Republican mid-term vote share after the Tea Party rally it would imply a Democratic landslide.  The impact is unlikely to be so dramatic, however. …..

From the Bargaining Table to the Ballot Box: Political Effects of Right to Work Laws

Source: James Feigenbaum, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, and Vanessa Williamson, National Bureau of Economic Research, January 20, 2018 (draft)

Labor unions play a central role in the Democratic party coalition, providing candidates with voters, volunteers, and contributions, as well as lobbying policymakers. Has the sustained decline of organized labor hurt Democrats in elections and shifted public policy? We use the enactment of right-to-work laws—which weaken unions by removing agency shop protections — to estimate the effect of unions on politics from 1980 to 2016. Comparing counties on either side of a state and right-to-work border to causally identify the effects of the state laws, we find that right-to-work laws reduce Democratic Presidential vote shares by 3.5 percentage points. We find similar effects in US Senate, US House, and Gubernatorial races, as well as on state legislative control. Turnout is also 2 to 3 percentage points lower in right-to-work counties after those laws pass. We next explore the mechanisms behind these effects, finding that right-to-work laws dampen organized labor campaign contributions to Democrats and that potential Democratic voters are less likely to be contacted to vote in right-to-work states. The weakening of unions also has large downstream effects both on who runs for office and on state legislative policy. Fewer working class candidates serve in state legislatures and Congress, and state policy moves in a more conservative direction following the passage of right-to-work laws.


Source: Flippable, 2018

We’re aiming to flip 100 seats across the country.

We can’t flip Congress without the states.
State governments often draw the district maps for national elections—and controlling that process has given the GOP an unfair advantage. States control voting methods and set voting requirements. When the GOP suppresses votes, Dems lose.

From healthcare to racial justice, the laws that impact our lives the most are often passed by states—not by the federal government.
States chip away at access to reproductive health care and LGBTQIA rights.
– From 2010 to 2016, states passed 338 laws restricting the right to choose.
– In 2016 alone, GOP state politicians introduced 200+ anti-LGBTQIA bills.

States are leading—or standing in the way—of efforts to fight climate change.
– Scientists have found that air pollution is a whole lot worse in states with GOP governors.
– In 2008, nine northeastern states pledged to cut their emissions by 40%—and they followed through. Now they’re working to cut another 30%.

Serving at the state level gets inspiring progressive Dems ready to run for national office.
– Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and Maxine Waters all made their way to the national stage via state governments. 
– State offices are a great way for young people, women and people of color, and non-wealthy people to get involved.

Compared to national races, state races are cheap.
Investing in these races is an extremely effective use of our dollars—that’s one big reason the GOP has been doing it for years.

What we’ll do:

Tip the Balance:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where winning just a few seats can flip a whole chamber of the state legislature.

Why We’ll Do It
By investing where we can flip a state house, we can enact progressive policies across the country.

Potential 2018 States

Change the Game:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states with histories of gerrymandering or voter suppression.

Why We’ll Do It
States write the rules of our national elections and control voting requirements. By flipping seats in these states, we can start to restore democracy at both the state and national levels.

Potential 2018 States
North Carolina

Turn The Tide:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where we can reverse Republican gains and lay the groundwork for future progressive victories.

Why We’ll Do It
We see opportunities in traditionally deep-red states where we can flip seats, make Democratic inroads, and break veto-proof majorities.

Potential 2018 States

Defend Our Progress:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where the state legislatures or governors’ seats are blue, but are at risk of flipping red in 2018.

Why We’ll Do It
Democrats will face threats from GOP challengers in 2018, and we are prepared to help hold on to blue seats.

Potential 2018 States

Electoral College Reform: Contemporary Issues for Congress

Source: Thomas H. Neale, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43824, October 6, 2017

The electoral college method of electing the President and Vice President was established in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and revised by the Twelfth Amendment. It provides for election of the President and Vice President by electors, commonly referred to as the electoral college. A majority of 270 of the 538 electoral votes is necessary to win. For further information on the modern-day operation of the college system, see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, by Thomas H. Neale ….

MapLight – Data

Source:, 2017

MapLight tracks several data sets that you can search for evidence of money’s influence on politics.

Top contributions from major donors to congressional politicians.

Bills paired with contributions, positions taken by special interests, and vote results.

Profiles of elected officials with campaign finance statistics.

See how much money companies and interest groups spend trying to influence lawmakers.

Use MapLight’s data for your own research or software project.