Category Archives: Elections

Partisanship and Voter Confidence, 2000-2012

Source: Michael Sances, Charles Stewart III, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Department of Political Science, MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2014-8, June 1, 2014

From the abstract:
To what degree is voter confidence in election procedures driven by satisfaction with the outcome of an election, as opposed to trust in government or objective features of the polling place, such as voting technology? Using approximately 30 national surveys over the past decade, we find a consistent relationship between voting for the winner and confidence in election administration. This confidence varies as a function of question wording and electoral context. Respondents are more confident in the quality of the vote count locally than nationally. They are responsive to electoral results at the state and national levels in forming their judgments. And, rather than being influenced by different types of voting technology, respondents lose confidence by virtue of change itself.

Wall Street Money in Washington

Source: Americans for Financial Reform, July 25, 2014

From the press release:
During the current election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests have, so far, spent more than $800 million to influence decision-making in Washington, according to a new report released today by Americans for Financial Reform.

big-money-300x271That total, combining campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, works out to about $1.5 million a day. The study’s findings show that the financial industry is on track to exceed its rate of spending in the 2010 election cycle, when the industry was working to stop or weaken the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as it was making its way through Congress. The industry’s continued high level of spending reflects the ongoing battle to reshape the financial system, and the industry’s persistent efforts to repeal or win exemptions from parts of the law, to weaken implementing regulations, and to forestall further proposals for change.

“Wall Street Money in Washington,” a 40-page examination of various forms of political spending, draws on data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), including data produced specifically for AFR in order to provide a more precise look at financial industry spending than has been possible in the past. The special data is based on the standard FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) category but removes amounts otherwise included in this category spent by health insurers.

The Constitutional Structure of Voting Rights Enforcement

Source: Franita Tolson, Florida State University – College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 690, September 18, 2013, Last revised: July 9, 2014

From the abstract:
Scholars and courts have hotly debated whether the preclearance regime of the Voting Rights Act is constitutional under the Reconstruction Amendments. In answering this question, this Article is the first to consider the effect of section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment on the scope of Congress’s enforcement authority. Section 2 allows Congress to reduce the size of a state’s delegation in the House of Representatives for abridging the right to vote in state and federal elections for “any reason except for participation in rebellion, or other crime.” This Article contends that section 2 influences the scope of congressional authority under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which gives Congress the “power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” Section 2, with its low threshold for violations (i.e., abridgment on almost any grounds) that trigger a relatively extreme penalty (reduced representation), illustrates the proper means/ends fit for congressional legislation passed pursuant to section 5 to address voting rights violations. Renewed focus on section 2 also sheds light on the textual and historical links between the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, links that provide a broad basis for Congress to regulate state and federal elections. Contrary to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Shelby County v. Holder, this Article concludes that requiring preclearance of all electoral changes instituted by select jurisdictions under the Voting Rights Act is actually a lesser penalty than reduced representation under section 2, and thus is consistent with Congress’s broad authority to regulate voting and elections under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

How to Increase Voter Turnout in Communities Where People Have Not Usually Participated in Elections

Source: Melissa R. Source: Michelson, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, July 2014

Voter turnout among members of different groups of Americans varies widely, with Latinos and Asians generally lagging behind other groups. Blacks usually fall in between, with turnout usually ahead of other minorities but behind whites – although black participation surged in 2008 and 2012 in response to the historic candidacy of Barack Obama. Additional segments of the American public also vote less than they might, including lower-income citizens and youth. Low levels of voting matter, because election results are supposed to reflect the preferences of all Americans. In addition, recent trends indicate that Latinos, if they vote at their full potential, have considerable capacity to influence election outcomes, increasingly at the national as well as state and local level. Getting out the Latino vote was a crucial part of the Obama 2012 reelection strategy, and activists striving to boost Democratic Party prospects in Texas are spending tens of millions of dollars registering eligible Latinos. Understanding how to motivate voting by Latinos and other under-engaged citizens is thus of concern to candidates and parties as well as scholars….

Labor Lessons from Mississippi Freedom Summer

Source: Larry Rubin, Labor Notes, July 22, 2014

It’s the 50th anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer: the 1964 campaign, led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to register large numbers of African Americans to vote. Not only hundreds of Black and white college students and other out-of-state volunteers but also thousands of Mississippians bravely joined the effort. Many endured arrests, beatings, bombings. Some were murdered. But in the process they embarrassed the U.S. on the world stage and moved the country to end Jim Crow. While that summer’s campaign focused on political rights, the organizing holds plenty of lessons for unionists. Some, like Larry Rubin, carried those lessons into the labor movement themselves.—eds.

Do Corporations & Unions Face the Same Rules for Political Spending?

Source: Liz Kennedy, Sean McElwee, Dēmos, July 23, 2014

From the summary:
Corporations and unions face very different rules and requirements for their political spending. Labor unions must publicly disclose their political spending and, in some instances, face restrictions about seeking consent from their stakeholders before using political funds. Corporations do not face the same requirements. After Citizens United, there are many avenues through which corporations can spend money in politics without disclosing their financial support for particular candidates or causes. And corporations are not required to seek approval from their stakeholders—in fact, shareholders don’t even have the right under federal law to know if and how a company is spending money in politics. This paper highlights the differences and broad implications of rules governing political spending by corporations and unions. It recommends Congress adopt a comprehensive disclosure regime like the DISCLOSE Act and the SEC meet its responsibility to update disclosure laws for corporate political spending in the wake of Citizens United….

Union Member Recruitment by Vermont Progressives

Source: Steve Early, Social Policy, Summer 2014

…In 2012–14, deepening labor disillusionment with the performance of Democratic office holders led “intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists” around the country to enter the political arena themselves, as candidates for municipal office. Rather than being ignored as the work of marginal “spoilers,” some of these insurgent campaigns by shop stewards, local union officers, and rank-and-file activists actually won substantial union backing, while generating valuable publicity for key labor causes….As labor-backed independent electoral efforts proliferate, more activists in other state are looking to the example of the Vermont Progressive Party (VPP). More than any other third-party formation in the country, the VPP has campaigned successfully for state legislative seats and municipal office, “while building support for reform and nudging the Democrats left….What distinguishes the VPP from almost all state and local Democratic Party organizations, backed by labor elsewhere, is its year-round engagement with grassroots labor causes and campaigns, as well as legislative/ political issues like single-payer health insurance…

Why the White Working Class Matters

Source: Stanley Greenberg, Washington Monthly, Vol. 46 nos. 6/7/8, June/July/August 2014

The bad news: Dems can’t govern without them. The good news: Blue-collar whites are far more diverse than during the era of the Reagan Democrats.
Beyond Identity Politics
Source: Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, Washington Monthly, Vol. 46 nos. 6/7/8, June/July/August 2014

To reach the white working class, promise an economy that “works for everyone.”

Party Polarization and Campaign Finance

Source: Thomas E. Mann and Anthony Corrado, Brookings Institution, July 2014

From the summary:
There is a lively debate today over whether or not campaign finance reforms have weakened the role of political parties in campaigns. This seems an odd argument in an era of historically high levels of party loyalty — on roll calls in Congress and voting in the electorate. Are parties too strong and unified or too weak and fragmented? Have they been marginalized in the financing of elections or is their role at least as strong as it has ever been? Does the party role in campaign finance (weak or strong) materially shape the capacity to govern?

In addition, the increasing involvement in presidential and congressional campaigns of large donors – especially through Super PACs and politically-active nonprofit organizations – has raised serious concerns about whether the super-wealthy are buying American democracy. Ideologically-based outside groups financed by wealthy donors appear to be sharpening partisan differences and resisting efforts to forge agreement across parties. Many reformers have advocated steps to increase the number of small donors to balance the influence of the wealthy. But some scholars have found evidence suggesting that small donors are more polarizing than large donors. Can that be true? If so, are there channels other than the ideological positioning of the parties through which small donors might play a more constructive role in our democracy?

In this paper, Thomas Mann and Anthony Corrado attempt to shed light on both of these disputed features of our campaign finance system and then assess whether campaign finance reform offers promise for reducing polarization and strengthening American democracy. They conclude that not only is campaign finance reform a weak tool for depolarizing American political parties, but some break in the party wars is probably a prerequisite to any serious pushback to the broader deregulation of campaign finance now underway.