Category Archives: Elections

Voting In 2008: Ten Swing States

Source: Tova Wang, Samuel Oliker-Friedland, Melissa Reiss and Kristen Oshyn, Common Cause and The Century Foundation, September 2008

In 2006, Common Cause, in conjunction with The Century Foundation and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, released a report, “Voting in 2006: Have We Solved the Problems of 2004?,” in which we looked at the findings of a post-election symposium on the serious flaws revealed during the 2004 general election and ascertained the extent to which states had successfully addressed these problems in the run-up to the 2006 elections. With the 2008 election only a few months away, this follow-up report, “Voting in 2008: Ten Swing States,” assesses how much progress has been made in the past two years in improving the voting process, and identifies what still needs to be done.

Blacks and the 2008 Democratic National Convention

Source: David A. Bositis, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, August 2008

This guide discusses the range of participation by African Americans in the Democratic Party, the geographic and partisan dimensions of the black vote in recent years, and black voters’ attitudes toward many issues that may be significant in the fall campaign. Detailed statistical tables and a discussion of the 2008 Democratic National Convention’s black delegates and alternates make this guide a must-have resource for reporters, convention participants and scholars alike.

See also:
Press release
Comparing the Candidates: Improving the Health of a Diverse America
Roster of Black Democratic Convention Delegates

Votes or Money? Theory and Evidence from the US Congress

Source: Matilde Bombardini and Francesco Trebbi, Chicago Graduate School of Business, Research Paper No. 08-10, July 1, 2008

From the abstract:
This paper investigates the relationship between the size of interest groups in terms of voter representation and the interest group’s campaign contributions to politicians. We uncover a robust hump-shaped relationship between the voting share of an interest group and its contributions to a legislator. This pattern is rationalized in a simultaneous bilateral bargaining model where the larger size of an interest group affects the amount of surplus to be split with the politician (thereby increasing contributions), but is also correlated with the strength of direct voter support the group can offer instead of monetary funds (thereby decreasing contributions). The model yields simple structural equations that we estimate at the district level employing data on individual and PAC donations and local employment by sector. This procedure yields estimates of electoral uncertainty and politicians effectiveness as perceived by the interest groups. Our approach also implicitly delivers a novel method for estimating the impact of campaign spending on election outcomes: we find that an additional vote costs a politician between 100 and 400 dollars depending on the district.

Tax-Exempt Organizations: Political Activity Restrictions and Disclosure Requirements

Source: Erika Lunder, Congressional Research Service, RL33377, September 11, 2007

From a summary:
Recently, significant attention has been paid to the political activities of taxexempt organizations. In particular, the activities of IRC 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, 501(c)(5) labor unions, 501(c)(6) trade associations, and 527 political organizations have been scrutinized. This report examines the limitations that the Internal Revenue Code places on political activity, including lobbying and campaign intervention, by tax-exempt organizations. It focuses on the above organizations, but also discusses the restrictions on the other types of tax-exempt organizations. The report also looks at the administrative procedures recently unveiled by the IRS that provide for expedited review of possible tax laws violations by IRC 501(c)(3) organizations that conduct political activities. In addition, the report contains a summary of the information that tax-exempt organizations must report to the Internal Revenue Service about their political activities and whether the information must be made publicly available.

Voter Turnout up 7 Million in 2006

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press release, CB08-102, July 1, 2008

Some 96 million voted in the 2006 congressional elections, an increase of 7 million from 2002, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

About 48 percent of voting-age citizens cast a ballot in 2006, the highest since 1994 when the Census Bureau first began collecting this data.

These data come from the report Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2006, http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/voting.html and are based on responses to the November 2006 Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement. The report examines the levels of voting and registration, characteristics of citizens who either registered or voted, and the reasons why people who were registered did not vote. Voting and registration rates are historically lower in years with congressional elections than in presidential election years. This report compares 2006 election data only with data from previous congressional election years.

Among citizens of voting age, 68 percent were registered to vote in 2006, compared with 67 percent who were registered in 2002. Overall, 136 million people were registered in 2006, an increase of approximately 8 million over 2002.

Nearly three of every four registered voters went to the polls in 2006. Among registered voters, 71 percent reported voting, compared with 69 percent in 2002.

Among those who did not vote, about four out of 10 cited conflicting schedules or illness as reasons. About two in 10 were either not interested in voting or did not like the candidates. Other reasons for not voting included being out of town, forgetting to vote, registration problems, inconvenient polling locations, transportation issues and bad weather.

Lack of Voter Access to Basic Information Impedes Elections

Source: Reform Institute, Press release, April 9, 2008

The lack of reliable access to information on poll locations and registration status is the principal barrier to voting across the nation,” according to Cecilia Martinez, executive director of the Reform Institute. Ms. Martinez is testifying today on these issues before the U.S. House Committee on House Administration, drawing upon data collected by the national voter assistance hotline, 866-MyVote1, which is co-managed by the Reform Institute.

Data and analysis from the hotline can be accessed here.

Candidate Views Index 2008

Source: Brookings Institution, 2008

Compiled by Brookings Institution experts, this chart is part of a series of issue indices to be published during the 2008 Presidential election cycle. The policy issues included in this series were chosen by Brookings staff and represent the most critical topics facing America’s next President.

Available vote records and statements vary based on time in office.

The index displays the presumptive candidate from both major parties.

Fiscal Responsibility
Children
Iraq
Health Care

Gerrymandering the Vote How a “Dirty Dozen” States Suppress as Many as 9 Million Voters

Source: Marc Dunkelman, Democratic Leadership Council, Policy Report, June 2008

From the summary:
Voters are frustrated by the gridlock in Washington. Surf by C-SPAN on the dial and it is not hard to find members talking past one another from the political extremes.

In large measure, today’s stalemate is the result of partisan gerrymandering. The boundaries that separate districts hew to the partisan advantage of one party or the other, encouraging members of Congress to play to their party’s base, rather than the broad center of the electorate.

When members can’t lose, voters do — because it takes pressure off Congress to get the job done. But gerrymandering has another nefarious effect: pre-determined election results suppress the vote. This study explores just how dramatically partisan redistricting hampers the ability of voters to affect policy in Washington, D.C.

Key Findings:
• Low Voter Turnout. The United States ranks 139th in the world in terms of voter participation, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
• 30,000 Additional Voters Cast Ballots in Competitive Elections. On average, 30,000 additional voters cast ballots when elections are competitive. That’s the equivalent of expanding the voting pool by one-sixth.
• 11 Million Votes Suppressed. As many as 11 million voters fail to cast ballots because of gerrymandering.
• 86 percent of Members Coast into Office. During 2002, 91 percent of House members won their seat by 10 percent or more. And in 2006, all but 60 of the 435 voting members of the House won by as large a spread.
• 28 Percent More Voters in Most Vs. Least Competitive Districts. On average, 214,000 voters cast ballots in each of the 60 most competitive House races run in 2006. In 60 of the least competitive elections (where members won by between 50 and 90 percentage points), only 153,000 voters came out to have their choices counted — 28 percent fewer.
• “Dirty Dozen” States. Of the almost 11 million suppressed votes, as many as 9 million might be cast in 12 particular states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Pushing the Envelope

Source: Josh Goodman, Governing, May 2008

Every year, more people vote by mail. Could the hallowed American polling place be a dinosaur?

When his state holds its primaries later this month, Bill Bradbury will be in charge of the details. That’s part of his role as secretary of state, a job that’s become a source of high anxiety for election officials almost everywhere. But Bradbury isn’t expecting a stressful time. He’s not fretting over the security of voting machines. He isn’t concerned about hiring poll workers. In fact, he doesn’t even care who votes on Election Day.

It’s not because he’s neglecting his duties. It’s because Bradbury is running an election in Oregon, the only state in the country where all voting is by mail. Bradbury helped design the system, and he may be its biggest cheerleader. “It’s really marvelous,” he says. “We basically have avoided a lot of the controversy that has swirled around elections for the last eight years.”

Oregon’s experience has other states wondering whether they should try postal voting. But the truth is, many of them already are. While Oregon’s system of voting exclusively by mail remains unique, obstacles to absentee voting are disappearing throughout the country. In many states, all you have to do is ask for an absentee ballot to get one. You don’t need a reason. The result is that citizens are casting more of their ballots through the mailbox every year. Not too many people seem to have noticed, but the traditional precinct election, where everyone shows up on the appointed day, is in the process of decline.

The question now is whether the hybrid system most states use — part mail-in, part face to face — is a final destination or just an intermediate step. Increasing numbers of election officials are wondering whether their jobs would be simpler and their elections smoother if they just did what Oregon has done.