Category Archives: Elections

Why the 2018 Midterms Matter for the U.S. Economy

Source: Bernard Yaros, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 2, October 2018
(subscription required)

Though midterms do not have much of an economic impact via policy uncertainty, they can still affect the economy by altering the course of federal fiscal policy. This is exactly what we expect to happen after the 2018 midterms. This article discusses how tax legislation, annual appropriations, and other areas of fiscal policy could change depending on the composition of the next Congress.

When Political Mega-Donors Join Forces: How the Koch Network and the Democracy Alliance Influence Organized U.S. Politics on the Right and Left

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol and Jason Sclar, Studies in American Political Development, Advance Access, Published online: October 22, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
As economic inequalities have skyrocketed in the United States, scholars have started paying more attention to the individual political activities of billionaires and multimillionaires. Useful as such work may be, it misses an important aspect of plutocratic influence: the sustained efforts of organized groups and networks of political mega-donors, who work together over many years between as well as during elections to reshape politics. Our work contributes to this new direction by focusing on two formally organized consortia of wealthy donors that have recently evolved into highly consequential forces in U.S. politics. We develop this concept and illustrate the importance of organized donor consortia by presenting original data and analyses of the right-wing Koch seminars (from 2003 to the present) and the progressive left-leaning Democracy Alliance (from 2005 to the present). We describe the evolution, memberships, and organizational routines of these two wealthy donor collectives, and explore the ways in which each has sought to reconfigure and bolster kindred arrays of think tanks, advocacy groups, and constituency efforts operating at the edges of America’s two major political parties in a period of intensifying ideological polarization and growing conflict over the role of government in addressing rising economic inequality. Our analysis argues that the rules and organizational characteristics of donor consortia shape their resource allocations and impact, above and beyond the individual characteristics of their wealthy members.

Voter Suppression During the 2018 Midterm Elections: A Comprehensive Survey of Voter Suppression and Other Election Day Problems

Source: Danielle Root and Aadam Barclay, Center for American Progress, November 20, 2018

During the 2018 midterm elections, voter participation was more than 10 percentage points higher than it was in the 2014 midterm elections, demonstrating Americans’ demand for change and increased enthusiasm for exercising their civic duty to vote. That said, nearly 120 million eligible Americans did not participate in the November elections.

Widespread voter suppression—particularly against historically marginalized groups—is a reoccurring problem in the United States. Each election cycle, untold numbers of eligible Americans are prevented from voting due to barriers in the voter registration process, restrictions on casting ballots, and discriminatory and partisan-rigged district maps. Voter suppression measures can differ by state and even by individual county. And while some voter suppression measures actively seek to discriminate against certain groups, others result from innocent administrative errors and glitches. Regardless of its form or intent, however, voter suppression is relentlessly effective in preventing voting-eligible Americans from contributing to the electoral process.

This year—perhaps uncoincidentally—severe voter suppression occurred in states with highly competitive political races, including Georgia, Texas, Florida, and North Dakota. Policies and practices that limit participation by even a few thousand votes can mean the difference between victory and defeat in competitive elections. When voters cast a ballot, they expect their votes to matter in choosing representatives who are responsive to, reflective of, and accountable to the communities they represent. Yet when voter suppression occurs, election results may be less reflective of constituents’ actual will.

This report describes some of the voter suppression measures and other Election Day problems that potentially kept millions of eligible Americans from participating in the 2018 midterm elections. These include:
1. Voter registration problems
2. Voter purges
3. Strict voter ID and ballot requirements
4. Voter confusion
5. Voter intimidation and harassment
6. Poll closures and long lines
7. Malfunctioning voting equipment
8. Disenfranchisement of justice-involved individuals
9. Gerrymandering

This report also offers recommendations for combating voter suppression and making voting more convenient for all eligible Americans.

The United States Is Becoming a Two-Tiered Country With Separate and Unequal Voting Laws

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, January/February 2019

But the midterms showed that voting rights may finally be a political winner.

…..Voters in Georgia and other states faced onerous barriers to performing their civic duty this year. As these voters were running into obstacles, residents of other states were passing ballot measures to strike down voting restrictions and make voting easier for many more people. These parallel worlds mean voting in America today looks a lot like it did more than half a century ago. We’re becoming two Americas again: one where casting a ballot is a breeze, and another where it’s a pitched battle…..

Enlisting the Public in Facilitating Election Administration: A Field Experiment

Source: Andrew Menger, Robert M. Stein, Public Administration Review, Volume 78 Issue 6, November/December 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The proliferation of election reforms poses a challenge for local election officials (LEOs) charged with conducting elections. To meet this challenge, LEOs attempt to communicate, inform, and persuade voters how to cast their ballots in a manner that is efficient and effective for both the voter and the administrator. This article examines the effects of efforts by LEOs to persuade voters to return mailed ballots before Election Day and in person in order to facilitate the efficient administration of vote‐by‐mail elections in Colorado. Field experiments testing the efficacy of alternative messages find that many messages have no effect on the timing or method of ballot return. Messaging that focuses on LEOs’ responsiveness to voters’ demands is most effective at steering voters to return their mailed ballots in person but results in later ballot returns.

The Voting Behavior of Labor Union Members in the 2016 Presidential Election

Source: Daniel J. Gillis, All College Thesis Program, 2016-present, Spring 5-7-2018

From the abstract:
The conventional wisdom surrounding the 2016 United States presidential election suggests that Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, received significant support from labor union members. This has drawn attention, as labor union members have long been considered a crucial Democratic voting bloc. Previous studies have shown that Democratic support from organized labor groups has been declining over time. The stereotypical labor union member has long been a white working class male with a high school level of education in a private sector union, and recent work has primarily focused solely on these individuals. However, those traditional labor union members have been found to make up a declining share of labor union members. Therefore, there is a considerable gap in the understanding of who labor union members in the United States are. This paper will consider the changing demographics of labor union members, and analyze ANES data to consider their behavior in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

4 ways to defend democracy and protect every voter’s ballot

Source: Douglas W. Jones, The Conversation, September 6, 2018

As voters prepare to cast their ballots in the November midterm elections, it’s clear that U.S. voting is under electronic attack. Russian government hackers probed some states’ computer systems in the runup to the 2016 presidential election and are likely to do so again – as might hackers from other countries or nongovernmental groups interested in sowing discord in American politics.

Fortunately, there are ways to defend elections. Some of them will be new in some places, but these defenses are not particularly difficult nor expensive, especially when judged against the value of public confidence in democracy. I served on the Iowa board that examines voting machines from 1995 to 2004 and on the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the United States Election Assistance Commission from 2009 to 2012, and Barbara Simons and I coauthored the 2012 book “Broken Ballots.”

Election officials have an important role to play in protecting election integrity. Citizens, too, need to ensure their local voting processes are safe. There are two parts to any voting system: the computerized systems tracking voters’ registrations and the actual process of voting – from preparing ballots through results tallying and reporting…..