Category Archives: Elections

2008 Survey of the Performance of American Elections

Source: R. Michael Alvarez, Stephen Ansolabehere, Adam Berinsky, Gabriel Lenz, Charles Stewart III, Thad Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, February 2009

From the press release:
As many as three million registered voters did not cast a ballot in the 2008 General Election due to voter registration problems, suggests a survey cited today by Doug Chapin, director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center on the States in testimony before the Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on House Administration. The problem was most acute for younger voters and registered voters who moved less than a year ago, one in four of whom said that a problem with their registration was a major reason why they did not cast a ballot.
See also:
No Time To Vote: Challenges Facing America’s Overseas Military Voters

Source:, 2009, a groundbreaking public database, illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws.

This common practice is contrary to the public interest, yet legal. makes money/vote connections transparent, to help citizens hold their legislators accountable.

The Database combines three data sets:

* Bill texts and legislative voting records
* Supporting and opposing interests for each bill
* Campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics

Combining this data makes visible key information that could never before be determined easily. For example:

* Contributions given by interests supporting and opposing each bill
* Average donations given to legislators voting Yes and No on each bill
* Timeline of contributions and votes for each bill, graphically identifying when legislators received large donations before or after their vote.

Voters Win with Election Day Registration

Source: Stuart Comstock-Gay Steven Carbo Regina M. Eaton, Dēmos, January 28, 2009

Election Day Registration States Outpaced Others In Turnout By 7 %

Election Day Registration (EDR), sometimes called “same day registration,” allows eligible voters to register and cast a ballot on Election Day. By counteracting arbitrary voter registration deadlines, EDR greatly enhances the opportunity for Americans to participate in the electoral process and cast a ballot that will be properly counted.

States with EDR have consistently boasted turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states that do not offer Election Day Registration.

This report shows that EDR was widely successful in the 2008 Presidential Election. Voter turnout in the nine states that allow people to register and vote on the same day was, on average, seven percentage points higher than states without EDR.

Do Community-Based Voter Mobilization Campaigns Work Even in Battleground States? Evaluating the Effectiveness Of MoveOn’s 2004 Outreach Campaign

Source: Joel A. Middleton and Donald P. Green, Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 3, 2008

From the abstract:
One of the hallmarks of the 2004 presidential election was the unusual emphasis on face-to-face voter mobilization, particularly face-to-face mobilization conducted within neighborhoods or social networks. Unlike previous studies of face-to-face voter mobilization, which have focused largely on nonpartisan campaigns conducted during midterm or local elections, this study assesses the effects of a campaign organized by, an organization that allied itself with the Democratic Party in 2004 to aid presidential candidate John Kerry. A regression discontinuity analysis of 46,277 voters from 13 swing states demonstrates that neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization substantially increased turnout among target voters during the 2004 presidential election. Contact with MoveOn volunteers increased turnout by approximately nine percentage-points. This finding corroborates experimental findings showing the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing but contradicts results suggesting that such mobilization is ineffective in the context of high-salience elections.

To “Re-Hatch” Public Employees or Not? An Ethical Analysis of the Relaxation of Restrictions on Political Activities in Civil Service

Source: James S. Bowman and Jonathan P. West, Public Administration Review, Vol. 69 no. 1, January/February 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examines the ethical content of legislation regulating the political activities of civil servants. The analysis is done using the “ethics triangle,” a tool that encompasses the interdependence of results-based utilitarian ethics, rule-based duty ethics, and virtue-based character ethics. The discussion begins with the importance of the problem, followed by its evolution and current status. After describing the methodology, the central section investigates the values at stake. The conclusion provides a synthesis of the findings, explores the implications of the study, and attempts to answer the question posed in the title of the paper.

Union Membership and Political Inclusion

Source: Roland Zullo, Industrial and Labor Relations, Vol. 62, No. 1, October 2008
(subscription required)

Using county-level data, the author evaluates how labor affected the general population’s political behavior during the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Voter turnout increased with unionization, but at declining rates with higher levels of unionization. The unionization/voter turnout link was stronger in counties with lower median incomes, higher income inequality, and lower levels of education, suggesting that unions partially closed the political participation gap between low- and high-SES (socioeconomic status) populations. State right-to-work laws, and the absence of collective bargaining rights for public employees, reduced labor’s ability to increase voter turnout. The union effect on candidate preference had a positive, curvilinear association with union membership, but this effect was stronger in high-SES regions than in low-SES regions. Overall, these results imply a paradox for organized labor: unions can effectively increase working-class voter turnout, but they have difficulty persuading the working class to vote for pro-labor political candidates.

New Data Show Dramatic Voter Registration Increases in Public Assistance Agencies

Source: Scott Novakowski, Demos, 2008

Five states have reported dramatic voter registration increases among low-income citizens seen at public assistance agencies, according to a new report by Demos. Agency-based voter registration jumped between 22 percent and over 2,600 percent in North Carolina, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri after these states worked with Demos and its partners to re-implement the National Voter Registration Act.

Toward an Equal Electorate: Five States’ Gains Under the National Voter Registration Act also reports that an additional 125,000 low-income voters were added to the rolls in the five states in time for the November election. Most were registered in the past several months.

Demos attributes the registration increases to a number of agency reforms, including revised voter registration policies and procedures, staff training, and comprehensive data collection. All except Missouri were accomplished in cooperation with Demos and its partners. Missouri enacted its changes pursuant to court order.

The successes seen in the five states are testament to what can be accomplished when states take seriously their responsibilities under the law. NVRA compliance models developed in North Carolina, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri can produce similar results elsewhere.

Health Care Reform and the Presidential Candidates

Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 2008

The editors asked Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, and Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, to describe their plans for reforming the U.S. health care system. Their statements follow. In order to explore their positions in greater depth, the Journal and the Harvard School of Public Health cosponsored a Perspective Roundtable on September 12, 2008, entitled “Health Care in the Next Administration” and featuring senior health policy advisors David Cutler for Senator Obama and Gail Wilensky for Senator McCain. A video of the symposium can be seen at

Access to Quality and Affordable Health Care for Every American (John McCain)
Americans deserve leadership for real health care reform that provides access to high-quality medical care and ends spiraling costs. But the road to reform does not lead through Washington and a hugely expensive, bureaucratic, government-controlled system. We have all tangled with the existing bureaucracy enough to know that such an approach would diminish, not improve, quality. Our challenge is to protect and improve the care that doctors, nurses, and hospitals deliver, while increasing the availability and affordability of health insurance for Americans. I believe we can do this in a simple but powerful way: restoring doctors and patients to the center of health care decisions.

Modern Health Care for All Americans (Barack Obama)
Doctors and other health care providers work in extraordinary times and have unrivaled abilities, but increasingly our health care system gets in the way of their sound medical judgment. Increasing uncompensated care loads, administrative rules, and insurers’ coverage decisions inappropriately influence the practice of medicine. Washington sends dictates but no help.

We need health care reform now. All Americans should have high-quality, affordable medical care that improves health and reduces the burdens on providers and families. Reform must emphasize prevention, not just treatment of the sick; reduce medical errors and malpractice claims; and make the practice of medicine rewarding again. I believe that by working together we can make these goals a reality.
Special Issue: Health Care
Source: Campaigns & Elections, October 2008
New Joint Center Report Examines 2008 President Candidates’ Health Care Platforms
Source: The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, 2008

Ballot Measures Database

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2008

From press release:
The November election is roughly five weeks away. While ballots are taking their final form across the country, the total number of ballot questions is expected to be just shy of 160. 63 of these are citizen initiatives. In 2006, the number of initiatives totaled 76, the second-highest total. (The record of 87 ballot initiatives occurred in both 1914 and 1996.)

This year, some of the most controversial issues include abortion (California, Colorado and South Dakota), anti-affirmative action (Colorado and Nebraska), immigration (Arizona, California, Missouri and Oregon), and same-sex marriage (Arizona, California and Florida, and a ban on adoption by gay couples in Arkansas). Other issues on the ballot in more than one state include environmental protection and land/water conservation (Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio), criminal justice (multiple measures in both California and Oregon), elections (Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon), campaign finance reform (Colorado, Oregon and South Dakota), and legislatures (Colorado and South Dakota).

Major tax limitation initiatives are on the ballot in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Oregon. The measures before voters in Massachusetts and Oregon this year will look familiar — voters rejected virtually the same measures in those states in 2002 and 2000, respectively. The Massachusetts proposal would eliminate more than a third of the state’s budget. Estimates are that Oregon’s would cut state revenues by about 10 percent, and North Dakota’s by about 15 percent.

Voters in Colorado, Oregon and California have the most measures on the ballot this year. 18 measures will be before voters in Colorado and 12 each in Oregon and California.

2008 Ballot Guide: The Taxpayer’s Perspective

Source: National Taxpayers Union, 2008

From the press release:
All eyes may be on the Presidential candidates in the final weeks before Election Day, but a comprehensive guide from the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) shows that further down the ticket, voters will decide on more than 100 fiscal policy-related ballot measures — including efforts to eliminate or significantly reduce state income taxes, limit property taxes, and impose “good government” reforms.

“From abolishing the state income tax in Massachusetts to putting in place strong majority vote requirements for tax or spending increases in Arizona, voters across the country have a chance to pass numerous pro-taxpayer measures,” NTU Director of Government Affairs Kristina Rasmussen said. “Simply put, 2008 has the potential to be a banner year for taxpayers.”