Category Archives: 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 www.nejm.org.

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.
Related:
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.”

Voter Purges

Source: Myrna Pérez, Brennan Center for Justice, September 2008

From the introduction:
Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting. A citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless her name appears on the voter registration rolls. Yet state and local officials regularly remove–or “purge”–citizens from voter rolls. In fact, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006. Purges, if done properly, are an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate, and up-to-date. Precise and carefully conducted purges can remove duplicate names, and people who have moved, died, or are otherwise ineligible.

Far too frequently, however, eligible, registered citizens show up to vote and discover their names have been removed from the voter lists. States maintain voter rolls in an inconsistent and unaccountable manner. Officials strike voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.

After a systematic examination of the purging activities of 12 states, the authors found four practices undermining voter roll maintenance:
• Purges rely on error-ridden lists
• Voters are purged secretly and without notice
• Bad “matching” criteria leaves voters vulnerable to manipulated purges
• Insufficient oversight leaves voters vulnerable to manipulated purges

See also:
Executive Summary
Appendices

Health Care, Immigration, and Other HR-Related Issues Dominate 2008 U.S. Presidential Election Campaigns

Source: Hewitt Associates, Press Release, September 23, 2008

Hewitt Associates is closely tracking developments in the 2008 U.S. presidential election that may ultimately have an impact on employers. A number of proposals already included in candidates’ campaigns have the potential to affect employer-provided health benefits, hiring practices, leave of absence policies, payroll, and employer-sponsored retirement plans.

•2008 Presidential Election: Candidates’ Health Care Proposals (updated 09/22/08)
•2008 Presidential Election: Candidates’ Retirement and Related Policies (updated 09/22/08)
•2008 Presidential Election: Candidates’ Employment Proposals (updated 09/22/08)