Category Archives: Elections

Empirically Measuring the Impact of Photo ID Over Time and Its Impact on Women

Source: Michael J. Pitts, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Research Paper No. 2014-29, August 12, 2014

From the abstract:
This article is part of a series of studies related to the impact of Indiana’s photo identification law during the two presidential election cycles at which it has been implemented — 2008 and 2012. This article tracks the number of provisional ballots cast and not counted because of a lack of voter identification at Indiana’s 2012 general election. Importantly, this article also addresses an argument against photo identification laws that has became more prominent in recent years — the idea that photo identification laws disparately disfranchise female voters. This article addresses that argument by tracking the gender of those persons who cast provisional ballots due to a lack of valid photo identification — something that does not seem to have been previously done anywhere in the literature. While the research presented here allows for several conclusions, the most important of those conclusions are as follows. First, Indiana’s photo identification law has a relatively small (in relation to the total number of ballots cast) overall actual disfranchising impact on the electorate. Second, Indiana’s photo identification law’s actual disfranchising impact seems to be headed in a downward direction when one compares data from the 2012 general election to the 2008 general election. Third, Indiana’s photo identification law appears to have a disparate impact on women.

How Student Activists are Sparking Efforts to Take Big Private Money out of American Politics

Source: Joan D. Mandle and Jay R. Mandle, Scholars Strategy Network, Civic Engagement, November 2014

The huge amounts of private and often secret money flooding into the U.S. political system undermine trust and broad participation in American democracy. When a tiny fraction of the population provides the lion’s share of funding for election campaigns, as is now the case in the United States, public policymaking becomes heavily biased toward wealthy contributors and repeatedly falls short of serving the common good.

A number of national reform organizations have emerged to address this problem – some founded decades ago – but they have made insufficient headway. Two difficulties plague their efforts. These organizations have not done much grassroots organizing and they have neglected young people. To address these shortcomings, we joined forces in 2001 with Adonal Foyle, a thirteen-year veteran of the National Basketball Association, to launch a national organization called Democracy Matters that stresses campus-based organizing.

Close elections push voters to extremes

Source: Mark Burd, Futurity, October 30, 2014

When political races are competitive, both Democrat and Republican voters favor candidates who are more strongly conservative or liberal, new research shows. The findings contradict conventional thinking that holds close elections swing appeal to the center toward candidates with a moderate or centrist ideology and may explain why voters in the United States have elected so many polarizing candidates in recent elections.

For a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers conducted a series of three experiments.

The first presented subjects with a hypothetical primary election in the United States and observed whether the participant’s preference for an extreme leader was altered by their perception of how competitive the election would be.

When an electoral district was described as “hotly contested” between Republicans and Democrats, Democrat participants were more likely to choose an extreme liberal from a lineup of primary candidates than when the district was described as being “safe.”

A second study, which was conducted shortly before the 2012 Presidential election, found that both Democrat and Republican participants were more supportive of a more ideologically extreme version of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, respectively, when they were told that the presidential election was likely to be competitive than when they thought the election was not close.

The final experiment tested the reasoning behind people’s choice of extreme candidates in competitive elections….

A desire for deviance: The influence of leader normativeness and inter-group competition on group member support
Source: Jin Wook Changa, Nazlı Turanb, Rosalind M. Chowa, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 56, January 2015
(subscription required)

• We examine when and why extreme leaders are preferred to normative leaders.
• Groups preferred extreme leaders in highly competitive inter-group contexts.
• Preference for extreme leaders is driven by need for inter-group differentiation.
• We show that pro-normative deviance is sometimes more appealing than normativeness.

Group members typically prefer leaders who have characteristics or attitudes that are in line with group norms (i.e., are normative). In this paper, we explore the possibility that in highly competitive inter-group contexts, group members prefer leaders who can more effectively differentiate the in-group from out-groups, leading to a preference for leaders with more extreme attitudes that are in line with group norms (i.e., pro-normative). In three experiments conducted in an election context in the United States, we find that both Democrats’ and Republicans’ preference for an extreme leader increases under conditions of high inter-group competition. Results indicate that participants’ heightened need to differentiate their political party from the competing party drives this effect, and that this effect is stronger for those who identify strongly with their political party. Implications for group members’ responses to in-group deviance and leadership support are discussed.

Stacked Deck: How the Racial Bias in Our Big Money Political System Undermines Our Democracy and Our Economy

Source: Adam Lioz, Dēmos, Executive Summary, December 2014

[editor’s note: The full report will be available in December 2014]

…Race intersects with our big money system in two important ways. First, because donor and corporate interests often diverge significantly from those of working families on economic policies such as the minimum wage and paid sick leave, people of color are disproportionately harmed because a larger percentage are poor or working class. Second, and more profound, our nation’s legacy of racism and persistently racialized politics depresses the political power of people of color, creating opportunities for exploitation and targeting—exemplified by the subprime lending crisis, mass incarceration, and voter suppression laws. The dominance of big money in our politics makes it far harder for people of color to exert political power and effectively advocate for their interests as both wealth and power is consolidated by a small, very white, share of the population.

Summarized below are this study’s findings on (1) the racial bias inherent in our big-money political system; (2) our policy recommendations on how to make government more responsive to all people; and (3) five case studies detailing the real-world impact of money in politics on people of color and examples of how to shift power from wealthy interests to all voters….

As Local News Goes, So Goes Citizen Engagement: Media, Knowledge, and Participation in U.S. House Elections

Source: Danny Hayes, Jennifer L. Lawless, American Political Science Association 2014 Annual Meeting 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, 2014

From the abstract:
We propose a two-stage process to explain the relationship between the local news environment and citizen engagement. Our original content analysis of newspaper coverage in every U.S. House district during the 2010 midterms reveals that districts with uncompetitive races and those served by large-circulation outlets see significantly less, and less substantive, coverage than hotly contested districts and those served by smaller outlets. We then merge the news data with survey data from the 2010 CCES and find that a diminished news environment depresses citizen engagement. Citizens exposed to a lower volume of coverage are less able to evaluate their member of Congress, less likely to express opinions about the House candidates in their districts, and less likely to vote. This is true for people regardless of levels of political awareness, indicating that the deleterious consequences of a decline in local coverage are widespread, not restricted to the least attentive citizens.

The Uncertain Future of the Corporate Contribution Ban

Source: Richard Briffault, Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-405, July 25, 2014

From the abstract:
Concern about the role of corporate money has been a longstanding theme in American politics. The first permanent federal campaign finance law – the Tillman Act of 1907 – prohibited federally-chartered corporations from making contributions in any election and prohibited all corporations from making contributions in federal elections. Subsequently amended, continued, and strengthened over a century the federal corporate contribution ban is still on the books. Twenty-one states also prohibit corporate contributions to candidates in state elections.

The Supreme Court sustained the federal corporate contribution ban as recently as 2003 in FEC v. Beaumont, but that decision and the corporate contribution ban today rest on shaky ground. The Roberts Court has demonstrated little respect for either legislated campaign finance restrictions or the Court’s own campaign finance precedents. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Court struck down a ban on corporate campaign spending. In so doing, it disavowed one of the justifications Beaumont relied on and called into question another. To be sure, Citizens United stressed that the case concerned only spending not contributions and invoked the Court’s longstanding practice of applying more stringent review of spending rules than contribution limits. But Citizens United’s assertion of the First Amendment rights of corporations surely casts a shadow on the contribution bans. This year’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC – which ratcheted up the Court’s review of contribution restrictions – darkens that shadow still.

This paper argues that, assuming the Court continues to recognize the constitutional validity of contribution limits and to apply a less strict standard of review of contribution restrictions – admittedly a big “if,” a corporate donation ban ought to pass constitutional muster. The ban advances two long-recognized public interests that justify contribution restrictions: the protection of the rights of politically dissenting shareholders, and the prevention of the evasion of constitutionally valid limits on individual donations to candidates. Although Citizens United dismissed the shareholder-protection concern in the expenditure context, shareholder protection is an important interest previously acknowledged by the Court in cases dealing with contribution restrictions, and a contribution ban is closely drawn to protect that interest. So, too, the Court has long accepted the prevention of the circumvention of individual-to-candidate contribution limits as a constitutionally sufficient justification for other contribution restrictions. The use of corporations to evade disclosure requirements has become a regular occurrence since Citizens United freed corporations to engage in independent spending. If corporations could also make contributions, they could easily become a means to avoid the donation limits on the people who are closely associated with a corporation. Although McCutcheon tightened the “fit” required between the important public interest a campaign finance law is intended to sustain and the restrictions imposed by that law, the corporate contribution ban is narrowly tailored, and leaves room for other forms of campaign finance activity for the individuals affiliated with the corporation.

In Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Court emphasized that campaign finance restrictions cannot be justified by the goal of reducing the political power of the wealthy. Although much of the impetus for the corporate contribution ban is public anxiety over corporate wealth and power, the shareholder-protection and anti-circumvention justifications are not triggered by concern about corporate wealth but, rather, reflect other key features of the corporate form – its artificial existence as a legal to achieve ends desired by the individuals who have created it, and the potential for those who control the corporation to exploit shareholders. These two interests work in tandem, with shareholder-protection having greater purchase for multi-shareholder publicly-held entities, and anti-circumvention more relevant for single-shareholder, closely-held or nonprofit corporations. Together, they make the case for the corporate contribution ban for reasons other than the equality-promoting goal that Citizens United and McCutcheon so vehemently rejected.

The Problem of Voter Fraud

Source: Michael D. Gilbert, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2014-56, September 5, 2014

From the abstract:
Voter ID laws have provoked a fierce controversy in politics and public law. Supporters claim that such laws deter fraudulent votes and protect the integrity of American elections. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that such laws, like poll taxes and literacy tests before them, intentionally depress turnout by lawful voters. A vast literature, including legal scholarship and opinions of the Supreme Court, accept these two narratives. But these narratives are wrong, or at least incomplete. Voter ID laws can have many effects, including surprising ones like this: they can exacerbate fraud. To illustrate, suppose that without a voter ID law candidates A and B would receive 13 and 10 lawful votes, respectively, and B would receive two fraudulent votes. Candidate A wins non-fraudulently, 13 to 12. Now suppose that with a voter ID law, candidates A and B would get nine and nine lawful votes, respectively (less than before because of depressed turnout), and B would get one fraudulent vote (less than before because of fraud deterrence). Candidate B wins fraudulently, 10-9. The conditions necessary for ID laws to have this effect are simple and may be common. The paper captures this risk with a formula, the Election Integrity Ratio, which judges and scholars could use to determine when ID laws protect elections — and when they cause the very problem they purport to solve. The paper has implications for constitutional law and public policy. It also has broad reach. Any law that deters fraudulent votes, depresses lawful votes, or does both — citizenship and residency requirements, for example, which are used throughout the United States and around the world — are subject to the analysis herein.

Elections: Observations on Wait Times for Voters on Election Day 2012

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-14-850, September 30, 2014

From the summary:
On the basis of GAO’s nationwide generalizable survey of local election jurisdictions, GAO estimates that 78 percent (from 74 to 83 percent) of jurisdictions did not collect data that would allow them to calculate wait times, primarily because wait times have not been an issue, and most jurisdictions did not have long wait times on Election Day 2012. Specifically, GAO estimates that 78 percent (from 73 to 83 percent) of local jurisdictions nationwide had no polling places with wait times officials considered to be too long and 22 percent (from 17 to 27 percent) had wait times that officials considered too long at a few or more polling places on Election Day 2012. Jurisdiction officials had varying views on the length of time that would be considered too long—for example, some officials considered 10 minutes too long, while others considered 30 minutes too long. Because there is no comprehensive set of data on wait times across jurisdictions nationwide, GAO relied on election officials in the jurisdictions it surveyed to estimate wait times based on their perspectives and any data or information they collected on voter wait times.

Multiple factors affected voter wait times on Election Day 2012, and their impacts varied across jurisdictions. Specifically, GAO’s survey of local election jurisdictions, review of wait time literature, and interviews with election officials and researchers identified nine common factors that affected wait times….

Who’s trying to influence your vote? A guide to our political TV ad trackers

Source: Chris Zubak-Skees, Kytja Weir, Dave Levinthal, Center for Public Integrity, September 24, 2014

The Center for Public Integrity is investigating who is trying to influence the 2014 elections through television advertising, part of a broader effort to consider the sources behind political power in this country.

What is the Center tracking?
The Center created two apps to track spending on political advertising on television throughout the U.S.:
The State Influence Hub is tracking TV ad spending in all state-level races around the country. Over the next two years it will also track political donors, ballot initiatives and lobbying.
At the national level, we’re also tracking TV ad spending on U.S. Senate races in a pivotal election that will determine the balance of power at the Capitol.