Category Archives: Elections

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.

Bringing Elections into the 21st Century: Voter Registration Modernization

Source: Pew Center on the States, Issue Brief, August 2009

From the summary:
America’s current voter registration system is outdated, costly and inaccurate. A recent study estimates that more than two million voters were unable to cast a ballot in the 2008 general election due to registration problems.

The Bringing Elections into the 21st Century: Voter Registration Modernization brief reviews the underperformance of the current voter registration system and recommends a 21st century, data-driven registration system that would:

– Utilize multiple official data sources to put eligible voters on the rolls and ensure the accuracy of lists;
– Make voter registration more portable for voters who move or change status;
– Establish a fail-safe method for eligible voters who are omitted from the rolls or whose records contain an error to cast a ballot; and
– Ensure states maintain control of their voter rolls, while allowing for common standards and data exchanges across state lines.America’s current voter registration system is outdated, costly and inaccurate.

A New Era Beckons: Labor and the Turning Point Election of 2008

Source: Bob Master, New Labor Forum, Vol. 18 no. 1, Winter 2009
(subscription required)

In two key ways, strong parallels seem to exist between 1936 and 2008. The first is the emergence of demographic building blocks that will likely provide the foundation for a new, Democratic, and possibly progressive, electoral majority for a generation to come. The second is the way in which a profound economic crisis has utterly discredited the dominant ideology of the preceding electoral alignment.

Voting and Registration in the Election of 2008

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, July 2009

From the press release:
About 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, an increase of 5 million from 2004, according to a new table package released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase included about 2 million more black voters, 2 million more Hispanic voters and about 600,000 more Asian voters, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained statistically unchanged.

Additionally, voters 18 to 24 were the only age group to show a statistically significant increase in turnout, reaching 49 percent in 2008 compared with 47 percent in 2004. Blacks had the highest turnout rate among 18- to 24-year-old voters — 55 percent, an 8 percent increase from 2004. The increased turnout among certain demographic groups was offset by stagnant or decreased turnout among other groups, causing overall 2008 voter turnout to remain statistically unchanged — at 64 percent — from 2004.

The NVRA at Fifteen: A Report to Congress

Source: Estelle H. Rogers, Project Vote, 2009

From the press release:
Signed into law by President Clinton in May of 1993, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was hailed by some as “the final achievement of the 1960’s voting rights revolution,” and proponents estimated that it would add 50 million Americans to the voting rolls. However, in a comprehensive new report released today by Project Vote, The NVRA at Fifteen: A Report to Congress, voting rights attorney Estelle Rogers finds that lack of enforcement, failures of state and federal leadership, and restrictive court decisions have left the full potential of the NVRA unrealized, and have left millions of disenfranchised Americans still awaiting the promise of a truly inclusive democracy.

Victory And The Promise Of Reform: Labor And The 2008 Election

Source: Donald W. Beachler, WorkingUSA, Volume 12 Issue 2, June 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Unions worked very hard to elect Barack Obama in 2008. Labor leaders made a concerted effort to counter defections to Republican John McCain among white workers, who some commentators predicted would be reluctant to vote for an African-American candidate. Obama received 59 percent of the vote from those residing in union households. This was precisely the share of the labor vote won by the Democratic presidential nominee in 1996, 2000, and 2004. The Obama victory and expanded Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate enhanced the prospects for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). This legislation would facilitate union organizing in the U.S. Despite Democratic control of the executive and legislative branches, the ferocious opposition to EFCA by business interests made it difficult to predict the fate of EFCA in early 2009.

Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History

Source: Mark Hugo Lopez, Paul Taylor, PEW Research Center Report, April 30, 2009

The electorate in last year’s presidential election was the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, with nearly one-in-four votes cast by non-whites, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center.1 The nation’s three biggest minority groups–blacks, Hispanics and Asians–each accounted for unprecedented shares of the presidential vote in 2008.

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.