Category Archives: Elections

Rational Choice and Voter Turnout: Evidence from Union Representation Elections

Source: Henry S. Farber, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w16160, July 2010
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From the abstract:
The standard theoretical solution to the observation of substantial turnout in large elections is that individuals receive utility from the act of voting. However, this leaves open the question of whether or not there is a significant margin on which individuals consider the effect of their vote on the outcome in deciding whether or not to vote. In order to address this issue, I study turnout in union representation elections in the U.S. (government supervised secret ballot elections, generally held at the workplace, on the question of whether the workers would like to be represented by a union). These elections provide a particularly good laboratory to study voter behavior because many of the elections have sufficiently few eligible voters that individuals can have a substantial probability of being pivotal. I develop a rational choice model of turnout in these elections, and I implement this model empirically using data on over 75,000 of these elections held from 1972-2009. The results suggest that most individuals (over 80 percent) vote in these elections independent of consideration of the likelihood that they will be pivotal. Among the remainder, the probability of voting is related to variables that influence the probability of a vote being pivotal (election size and expected closeness of the election). These findings are consistent with the standard rational choice model.

Get-Out-The-Vote Phone Calls: Does Quality Matter?

Source: Shang E. Ha, Dean S. Karlan, American Politics Research, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2009
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From the abstract:
This article reports the results of a field experiment testing the effectiveness of different quality get-out-the-vote (GOTV) nonpartisan phone calls. During the week preceding the November 2004 election, we randomly assigned registered voters in North Carolina and Missouri to one of three live phone calls with varying length and content. The scripts are (1) standard GOTV, (2) interactive GOTV, and (3) interactive GOTV with a request for mobilizing neighbors. We find that people assigned to the interactive GOTV treatment are more likely to turn out, whereas the effect of the “get your neighbors to vote” script is relatively as weak as that of the standard script. The findings suggest that interactive calls generally tend to increase voter turnout, but for a phone call to be effective, the message needs to be focused. The borderline statistical significance of the script that encourages neighbors’ participation invites replication of this experiment.
Canvasser Affect and Voter Response: Results From National Focus Groups
Source: Andra Gillespie, American Politics Research, July 2010

Changes in the World Economy and the Effect on Labor Unions and Related Voter Turnout and Representation

Source: Chris Finn, Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper

From the abstract:
The changes in the world economy over the last several decades have substantially altered the landscape for organized labor. This paper examines the role of unions in turnout and vote choice for the most marginalized communities. It also contributes to the dialogues on whether voters are representative of non-voters and whether turnout matters. Gray and Caul demonstrated that decreasing labor union density and the distancing of labor parties from organized labor has played a significant part in producing the drop in turnout across western industrialized democracies. The effect is greatest for those that traditional models would least expect to vote – those with the lowest education and income levels. In the last several decades, the demographics of union membership have shifted toward those with less education and income, and have included a higher proportion of immigrants and marginalized populations. Hajnal and Trounstine report that, at least in city elections, “lower turnout leads to substantial reductions in the representation of Latinos and Asian Americans.” Initial results from the present study confirm that union membership has a significant effect on vote choice, controlling for both ideology and party identification. The recent demographic shifts in union composition and density, therefore, combined with the increased turnout among union households, should have a countervailing effect on turnout, vote choice, and representation.

Union Influence on Voter Turnout: Results from Three Los Angeles County Elections

Source: J. Ryan Lamare, Industrial & Labor Relations Review, Vol. 63, No. 3, April 2010
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From the abstract:
This paper quantitatively examines the effects of political mobilization contacts by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor on voter turnout, using voting records of several thousands of individuals in South Los Angeles over three local elections in 2003 and 2004. Many view Los Angeles as a key example of U.S. labor movement revitalization, with the County Federation’s political acumen considered paramount to the local labor movement’s success. This paper looks at union mobilization efforts across multiple years and highlights the strong ties between the Federation and Latinos. Using logistic regressions, the paper measures the change in voting odds accorded to union contact in each election. The results indicate that all types of union contacts (including personal visits and live phone calls) play a significant and positive role in affecting turnout levels of voters and are particularly influential amongst Latinos, though the finding that personal contacts do not uniformly increase turnout odds more substantially than phone calls runs contrary to recent political science studies.

Campaign Finance Policy After Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: Issues and Options for Congress

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, R41054, February 1, 2010

From the summary:
Following the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, questions have emerged about which policy options could be available to Congress. This report provides an overview of selected campaign finance policy options that may be relevant. It also briefly comments on how Citizens United might affect political advertising. A complete understanding of how Citizens United will affect the campaign and policy environments is likely to be unavailable until at least the conclusion of the 2010 election cycle.

If Congress pursues additional legislation, at least two broad choices could be relevant. First, Congress could provide candidates or parties with additional access to funds to combat corporate influence in elections. Second, Congress could restrict spending under certain conditions or require those making expenditures post-Citizens United to provide additional information to voters or regulators. Options within both approaches could generate substantial debate. Some may contend that the only way to provide Congress with the power to directly affect the content of the ruling would be to amend the Constitution.

Bills introduced as of this writing that may be relevant for legislative responses to Citizens United include, but are not necessarily limited to H.J.Res. 13, H.J.Res. 68, H.R. 158, H.R. 1826, H.R. 2056, H.R. 3859, H.R. 4487,H.R. 4511, H.R. 4517, H.R. 4522, H.R. 4523, H.R. 4527, H.R. 4537, H.R. 4540, S. 752, S. 2954, and S. 2959. Given the pace of developments since the ruling, this report is not intended to be exhaustive. Relevant legislation that has been introduced thus far is reflected through selected examples. Additional legislation will be included in future updates. This report is not intended to provide a legal analysis of Citizens United or of legal issues that might affect the policy options discussed here. CRS Report R41045, The Constitutionality of Regulating Corporate Expenditures: A Brief Analysis of the Supreme Court Ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, by L. Paige Whitaker discusses legal aspects of the decision.
See also:
Life After Citizens United
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, February 18, 2010

Addressing Political Captive Audience Workplace Meetings in the Post-Citizens United Environment

Source: Paul M. Secunda, Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 10-03, February 19, 2010

From the abstract:
Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known impact of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: It may permit employers to hold political mandatory captive audience meetings with their employees.

To eliminate this danger, and consistent with the First Amendment framework for election law issues post-Citizen United, this Article urges Congress to consider language similar to that enacted by the Oregon Worker Freedom Act Law, SB 519 (effective Jan. 1, 2010). SB 519 prohibits termination of employees for refusing to attend mandatory political, labor, or religious meetings held by their employers.

Such a federal law would constitute permissible employment standards legislation and also would not run afoul of the First Amendment speech rights of employers under Citizens United. Employers would still able to communicate their views about political candidates and parties with their employees as the First Amendment now contemplates, but they will not be able to force them to listen to such speeches at the risk of losing their jobs or other benefits of employment.

Elderly Voters: Information on Promising Practices Could Strengthen the Integrity of the Voting Process in Long-term Care Facilities

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-10-6, November 30, 2009

Voting is fundamental to the U.S. democratic system and federal law provides broad protections for people with disabilities, including older voters. Many long-term care facility residents, who often have physical or cognitive impairments, vote by absentee or early ballot. Concerns have been raised about the extent to which states and localities are helping the increasing number of facility residents exercise their right to vote, especially those requiring voting assistance, who may be subject to undue influence or unauthorized completion of their ballot by facility staff or relatives. Given these concerns, GAO was asked to identify the actions taken to facilitate and protect voting for long-term care facility residents at (1) the state level and (2) the local level. To address these objectives, GAO interviewed federal officials, national organizations, and researchers; reviewed Election Assistance Commission (EAC) guidance on voting in long-term care facilities; surveyed state and local election officials; and visited seven localities in the weeks prior to the November 2008 federal election to observe the voting process in long-term care facilities. Most states have requirements or guidance to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, and some states also provide training and conduct oversight of localities’ adherence to state requirements or guidance. States reported that they most commonly provided requirements or guidance for accommodations for absentee voting for residents of long-term care facilities, followed by accommodations for voter registration and voter identification procedures. Almost one-half of the states reported providing training to local election officials specifically on state requirements or guidance to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents. Additionally, 17 states reported that they conducted one or more oversight activities to ensure that localities were adhering to state long-term care voting requirements or guidance. According to researchers, some of these state requirements or guidance for voting in long-term care facilities may help to protect against voter fraud and undue influence. Localities also used a variety of actions to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, including some that may decrease the likelihood of fraud and undue influence. In our survey, 78 of the 92 localities reported taking actions to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents. The most common actions included supporting facility staff in assisting residents with the absentee or early voting process, including providing staff with early and absentee voting information or guidance. Localities also reported providing services directly to residents. For example, close to one-half of localities we surveyed brought election officials to facilities to assist with the voting process. The seven localities we visited prior to the November 2008 federal election used a range of strategies to facilitate voting for long-term care facility residents, including coordination with facility staff and other stakeholders; the deployment of election teams to facilities; and implementation of procedures to protect and ensure voting integrity, such as requiring bipartisan voting assistance and signed affidavits to document voting assistance. Some local officials reported challenges to implementing these strategies, such as difficulty providing voting assistance to residents with cognitive impairments.

Redistricting the Nation

Source: Avencia Incorporated, 2009

Legislators have long used redistricting as an opportunity to select their constituents, rather than empowering voters to elect their representatives. The redistricting following the 2010 Census is an opportunity to change how the process is conducted. Armed with knowledge and the right tools, the public can redraw the map on redistricting.
See also:
Redraw the Map on Redistricting 2010
Source: Avencia, White Paper, 2009

Political Orientations and Behavior of Public Employees: A Cross-National Comparison

Source: Jason L. Jensen, Paul E. Sum, and David T. Flynn, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 19, Issue 4, October 2009
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From the abstract:
Using data from 18 countries, we study the attitudes, behavior, and characteristics of government employees. Researchers have found mixed support when attempting to determine whether public employees differ from the general population, and they have speculated about the ramifications of any differences, including growth in the size of government and budget maximization. We assess whether government employees are comparatively more left leaning in their political ideology, vote at a higher rate, and vote for candidates on the left. In many countries, we find support for the prediction that public employees are more left leaning but we find much less support for the two behavioral predictions related to voting.

Constraining Public Employee Speech: Government’s Control of Its Workers’ Speech to Protect Its Own Expression

Source: Helen Norton, Duke Law Journal, Volume 59 Number 1, October 2009

This Article identifies a key doctrinal shift in courts’ treatment of public employees’ First Amendment claims–a shift that imperils the public’s interest in transparent government as well as the free speech rights of more than twenty million government workers. In the past, courts interpreted the First Amendment to permit governmental discipline of public employee speech on matters of public interest only when such speech undermined the government employer’s interest in efficiently providing public services. In contrast, courts now increasingly focus on–and defer to–government’s claim to control its workers’ expression to protect its own speech.