Category Archives: Politics

The Great Poll Closure

Source: Leadership Conference Education Fund, November 2016

From ProPubilca’s Electionland blog post:
Freed From Federal Oversight, Southern States Slash Number of Polling Places

Voters in states formerly covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act will have at least 868 fewer polling locations at which to cast ballots on Nov. 8, according to a new study by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a civil rights group that supports protections for minority voters. The report found a “widespread effort to close polling places” in some of the states previously covered under Section 5, which was invalidated by a 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The decision allowed states to change voting laws without approval by the federal government. The report looked at the number of polling places for the 2016 general election in states including Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, compared to general elections in either 2012 or 2014. Almost every county in Arizona reduced the number of polling places. Pima County, the state’s second-largest, reported 62 fewer locations than the 280 it had four year ago. Cochise County, which had 50 polling places for its 12,466 voters in 2012, will have 18 on Nov. 8. In Arizona’s presidential primary, Maricopa County, the state’s largest, had one polling place for every 21,000 voters.

Recent State Election Law Challenges: In Brief

Source: L. Paige Whitaker, Congressional Research Service, CRS report, R44675, November 2, 2016

During the final months and weeks leading up to the November 8, 2016, presidential election, courts across the country have ruled in numerous challenges to state election laws. For example, there have been recent court rulings affecting the laws regulating early voting, voter photo identification (ID) requirements, registration procedures, straight-party voting, and voter rolls. Accordingly, many such laws have been recently invalidated, enjoined, or altered. Others continue to be subject to litigation….

Why the Supreme Court matters for workers

Source: Michele Gilman, The Conversation, October 31, 2016

…..Almost five decades of a conservative Court majority have sharply limited the rights of workers to unionize, form class actions and fight discrimination. The results have been profound and help explain the deterioration of the working class and the rise of economic inequality in recent decades.

The court is now in a 4-4 split between liberal and conservative justices. The Senate’s refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia means it’s likely the next occupant of the Oval Office will get to pick who fills that seat – and possibly several more. That will determine the kind of court Americans have for years or even decades to come.

Conservative appointments by a President Trump would likely continue the decimation of workplace justice, particularly collective efforts to improve working conditions and pay. As I have documented, a look back at some of the court’s recent rulings shows how…..
Workers, the Courts, and the Election
Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, November 3, 2016

….When it comes to the courts, the media has a tendency to focus on gun control, abortion rights, and to a lesser extent, LGBTQ rights. While these issues are important to many voters including workers, the media pays far less attention to a set of issues of major relevance to all workers; namely, worker protection laws. And when it comes to worker protection, it matters enormously which party controls judicial appointments. While there are, of course, plenty of cases where judges appointed by Republican Presidents rule in favor of workers, there are also many close (and sometimes not so close) cases where judges make value judgments, and in doing so, they can either view a case from the perspective of a worker or an employer……

The Determinants of State Legislator Support for Restrictive Voter ID Laws

Source: William D. Hicks, Seth C. McKee, Daniel A. Smith, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, vol. 16 no. 4, December 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We examine state legislator behavior on restrictive voter identification (ID) bills from 2005 to 2013. Partisan polarization of state lawmakers on voter ID laws is well known, but we know very little with respect to other determinants driving this political division. A major shortcoming of extant research evaluating the passage of voter ID bills stems from using the state legislature as the unit of analysis. We depart from existing scholarship by using the state legislator as our unit of analysis, and we cover the entirety of the period when restrictive voter ID laws became a frequent agenda item in state legislatures. Beyond the obviously significant effect of party affiliation, we find a notable relationship between the racial composition of a member’s district, region, and electoral competition and the likelihood that a state lawmaker supports a voter ID bill. Democratic lawmakers representing substantial black district populations are more opposed to restrictive voter ID laws, whereas Republican legislators with substantial black district populations are more supportive. We also find Southern lawmakers (particularly Democrats) are more opposed to restrictive voter ID legislation. In particular, we find black legislators in the South are the least supportive of restrictive voter ID bills, which is likely tied to the historical context associated with state laws restricting electoral participation. Finally, in those state legislatures where electoral competition is not intense, polarization over voter ID laws is less stark, which likely reflects the expectation that the reform will have little bearing on the outcome of state legislative contests.

The Electoral Determinants of State Welfare Effort in the U.S. South, 1960–2008

Source: William C. Terry, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, vol. 16 no. 4, December 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the impact of electoral politics on state welfare policy in the post-civil rights era South. In contrast to an emerging consensus concluding that southern African Americans materially benefited from rejoining the electorate, this study suggests that higher black registration rates actually reduced states’ poverty relief efforts. In the years immediately following the Voting Rights Act (VRA), when Democrats controlled state government, the significant negative relationship between the size of the black electorate and state welfare generosity was moderated to some extent by high levels of partisan competition. In such cases, Democrats ostensibly chose a “core” targeting strategy of pursuing lower-income votes and had the institutional wherewithal to purchase these votes with policy concessions. Overall, however, the liberal “Downsian” policy response to African American mobilization was dominated by an antiredistributive response. In the South, welfare policies were relatively conservative vis-à-vis the other states during Jim Crow and became more so in response to black voting.

Blacklisted Businesses: Social Activists’ Challenges and the Disruption of Corporate Political Activity

Source: Mary-Hunter McDonnell, Timothy Werner, Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 61 no. 4, December 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper explores whether and how social activists’ challenges affect politicians’ willingness to associate with targeted firms. We study the effect of public protest on corporate political activity using a unique database that allows us to analyze empirically the impact of social movement boycotts on three proxies for associations with political stakeholders: the proportion of campaign contributions that are rejected, the number of times a firm is invited to give testimony in congressional hearings, and the number of government procurement contracts awarded to a firm. We show that boycotts lead to significant increases in the proportion of refunded contributions, as well as decreases in invited congressional appearances and awarded government contracts. These results highlight the importance of considering how a firm’s sociopolitical environment shapes the receptivity of critical non-market stakeholders. We supplement this analysis by drawing from social movement theory to extrapolate and test three key mechanisms that moderate the extent to which activists’ challenges effectively disrupt corporate political activity: the media attention a boycott attracts, the political salience of the contested issue, and the status of the targeted firm.

Three reasons the US doesn’t have universal health coverage

Source: Timothy Callaghan, The Conversation, October 25, 2016

….Given these facts, it is important to ask: Why isn’t universal coverage through a national health insurance system even being considered in America? Research in health policy points to three explanations.

No. 1: We don’t want it
….In other words, Americans, and conservatives in particular, have a strong belief in classical liberalism and the idea that the government should play a limited role in society……

No. 2: Interest groups don’t want it
….The insurance industry was a key player in this process, spending over $100 million to help shape the ACA and keep private insurers, as opposed to the government, as the key cog in American health care……

No. 3: Entitlement programs are hard in general to enact
….The political system is prone to inertia and any attempt at comprehensive reform must pass through the obstacle course of congressional committees, budget estimates, conference committees, amendments and a potential veto while opponents of reform publicly bash the bill……

Partisan Political Activities and Federal Workers: Questions in the 2016 Election

Source: Congressional Research Service, CRS Reports & Analysis, Legal Sidebar, October 20, 2016

As Election Day nears, interest in the Hatch Act’s regulation of government employees’ political activities peaks, with a number of issues raising congressional interest. Are federal officials permitted to appear with candidates for partisan political election at public events? Can federal entities endorse a candidate for partisan political election? The following Q&A addresses the issues implicated by these questions….