Category Archives: Elections

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.

A Preliminary Analysis of the 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Tax Plans

Source: Tax Policy Center, June 11, 2008

From the abstract:
Tax and fiscal policy will loom large in the next president’s domestic policy agenda. Nearly all of the tax cuts enacted since 2001 expire at the end of 2010 and the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) threatens to ensnare tens of millions of Americans. While a permanent fix palatable to both political parties has proven elusive, both candidates have proposed major tax changes. This report describes how we performed our modeling and analysis, outlines the major tax proposals, and discusses the implications of their policies for the revenue raised, taxpayer economic activity, and the distribution of the tax burden.
See also:
2008 Presidential Candidate Tax Plans
Revenue and distribution tables for the tax plans put forth by Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election

Race, Immigration and America’s Changing Electorate

Source: William H. Frey, Brookings Institution, February 2008

From the summary:
One of the most profound changes in America’s demography this century will be its shifting race and ethnic makeup. The rise of immigration from Latin America and Asia, the higher fertility of some minorities and the slow growth of America’s aging white population will have profound impacts on the nation’s demographic profile, with important implications for the electorate. The significance of these changes on identity politics, new racial coalitions and reactions to immigration have already been seen in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes. Yet, these shifts are only the tip of the iceberg of what can be expected in future election cycles as Hispanic, Asian, and Black Americans make up ever larger shares of the electorate.

This chapter discusses the shifts playing out in 2008, but with an eye toward what they will mean in the future. It begins by examining the magnitude of new minority population growth, how it differs from past election cycles, and the lag that immigrant minorities experience in translating their growth into actual voting power. It then goes on to discuss how these groups differ from each other on basic social and demographic profiles and on key political issues, with special emphasis on immigration.

Tables and graphs
Full presentation

Health Care in the 2008 Presidential Primaries

Source: Robert J. Blendon, Drew E. Altman, Claudia Deane, John M. Benson, Mollyann Brodie, and Tami Buhr, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 358 no. 4, January 24, 2008

For the first time since 1928, neither the Democratic nor the Republican party has an incumbent president or vice president among the candidates in its field, so both primaries are particularly open to all challengers and very competitive. In this article, we report findings from public opinion polls that assessed how health care issues might affect voters’ choices in the 2008 presidential primaries.

This article examines the role of health care in the 2008 presidential primary elections in two ways. First, it draws on data from multiple opinion surveys to better understand how Republicans and Democrats differ in their values, beliefs, and attitudes with regard to health care and health care policy. Second, it focuses particularly on voters who say they are going to participate in the early Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses, looking at differences in their health care preferences and the extent to which the health care issue is affecting their vote.

Finally, we explore how the differences in views and desires concerning health care among Republicans and Democrats are reflected in the kinds of proposals being put forward by the major candidates, and we assess the ways in which these divisions might affect the general-election campaign.
See also:
The Amazing Noncollapsing U.S. Health Care System — Is Reform Finally at Hand?

Labor’s Political Options in the Presidential Elections

Source: New Labor Forum, Fall 2007
By David Moberg

With last year’s Democratic takeover of Congress, and growing public support for both the Democrats and for progressive ideas, the odds are looking good for a Democratic victory sweep next year. After two terms of Bush, the labor movement can at least breathe a sigh of relief at that prospect. But the labor movement needs more than such a victory. It needs to create a social movement that can turn this opportunity into a long-term campaign to give working people more power, more security, more opportunities to realize their potential, and a greater share of the nation’s prosperity.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Iowa Democratic Caucus…But Were Afraid to Ask

Source: FairVote

Iowa Democratic Caucus

Quick Facts:
• If a Democratic candidate doesn’t reach the threshold of support necessary to win delegates (typically 15 percent, but sometimes higher) at a particular caucus, the candidate’s supporters usually switch to their second choice.
• Republicans choose candidates by secret ballot, but for Iowa Democrats, there are no ballots. All caucusing is done by physically standing with fellow supporters.
• The number of delegates up for grabs depends on how many Democrats voted in each precinct in the last gubernatorial and presidential elections.
• We may never know the raw vote count in the Democratic caucuses, or how the vote count changed after second choices come into play.
• The number of voters could be very small. In 2004, only 125,000 people participated in the Iowa caucus. On January 3, 2008, some sports fans may be lured away from the caucuses by the Orange Bowl, starting at 7 pm Iowa time.

Grading State Disclosure 2007

Source: Campaign Finance Institute

From press release:
Access to state-level candidate campaign disclosure data continued to improve in states across the country, according to Grading State Disclosure 2007, a comprehensive evaluation of campaign finance disclosure laws and programs in the 50 states. The 2007 study, released today by the California Voter Foundation, found that Washington State ranks first in the nation in campaign disclosure, while Oregon ranked as the most improved state in 2007.

The assessment was conducted by the Campaign Disclosure Project, which seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability to money in state politics. The project is a collaboration of the California Voter Foundation, the Center for Governmental Studies and the UCLA School of Law and is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Executive Summary
Full Report (PDF; 943 KB)
State by State Summaries and Rankings