Category Archives: Elections

How Did Absentee Voting Affect the 2020 U.S. Election?

Source: Jesse Yoder, Cassandra Handan-Nader, Andrew Myers,Tobias Nowacki, Daniel M. Thompson, Jennifer A. Wu,Chenoa Yorgason, and Andrew B. Hall, Stanford University, Democracy & Polarization Lab, Working Paper No. 21 -01 March 2021

The 2020 U.S. election saw high turnout, a huge increase in absentee voting, and brought unified Democratic control at the federal level—yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, these facts do not imply that vote-by-mail increased turnout or had partisan effects. Using nationwide data, we find that states newly implementing no-excuse absentee voting for 2020 did not see larger increases in turnout than states that did not. Focusing on a natural experiment in Texas, we find that 65-year-olds turned out at nearly the same rate as 64-year-olds, even though 65-year-olds voted absentee at much higher rates than 64-year-olds because they could do so without having to provide an excuse. Being old enough to vote no-excuse absentee did not substantially increase Democratic turnout relative to Republican turnout, as the increase in Democratic absentee voting was offset by decreases in Democratic in-person voting. Together, the results suggest that no-excuse absentee voting mobilized relatively few voters and had at most a muted partisan effect despite the historic pandemic. Voter interest appears to be far more important in driving turnout.

Symposium on the upcoming argument in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee

Source: SCOTUSblog, February 2021

Articles include:
Supreme Court needs to set clear standards for vote-denial claims
By Ilya Shapiro and Stacy Hanson, SCOTUSblog, February 19, 2021

….After the contentious election we just had, this case presents an opportunity to make future elections cleaner and less litigious, with results that inspire greater public confidence. Those salutary outcomes turn not on whether the court upholds the two specific electoral regulations at issue, in Arizona or elsewhere, but on whether it provides a clear framework by which lower courts are to evaluate VRA Section 2 claims….

Voting discrimination is getting worse, not better
By LaShawn Warren, SCOTUSblog, February 18, 2021

Six weeks after the close of an election cycle marred by Republican efforts to exclude Black and Brown voters, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a significant voting rights case. For generations, the court has recognized that the heart of America’s vibrant democracy is the right to vote free from discrimination. In Brnovich v. DNC, the court must once more affirm that there is no place for racism in our elections by striking down Arizona’s racially discriminatory voting laws.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: Equal opportunity vs. disparate impact
By Christopher Kieser, SCOTUSblog, February 17, 2021

In the aftermath of the chaos that was the 2020 election-related litigation, it is easy to forget that the Supreme Court is now set to decide the most consequential election law dispute in nearly a decade. At issue in Brnovich v. DNC and Arizona Republican Party v. DNC is nothing less than the future of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the nationwide prohibition of any election regulation that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” The court will likely resolve a significant circuit split over whether a disparate racial effect alone renders unlawful an otherwise legitimate state election regulation. In doing so, the court will set the boundaries for future state election laws, and it may even comment on the continuing vitality of disparate-impact liability.

Disenfranchisement: An American Tradition

Source: Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Dissent, Winter 2021

Invoking the specter of voter fraud to undermine democratic participation is a tactic as old as the United States itself. …. Fair elections require clear regulations and standards, but bureaucratic hurdles inevitably depress participation by disadvantaged groups. And they have often been deliberately constructed—as an appeals court found in 2016—to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” ….

Related:
Dozens of states see new voter suppression proposals
Source: Russell Contreras, Stef W. Kight, Axios, February 10, 2021

There are at least 165 proposals under consideration in 33 states so far this year to restrict future voting access by limiting mail-in ballots, implementing new voter ID requirements and slashing registration options.

National data release sheds light on past polling place changes

Source: Carrie Levine, Pratheek Rebala, Matt Vasilogambros, Center for Public Integrity and Stateline, September 29, 2020

The first installment of a new national data release that will help journalists and researchers analyze polling place accessibility was released Tuesday as part of an investigative series, Barriers to the Ballot Box, from The Center for Public Integrity and Stateline. The data, posted to Github, includes polling place locations and addresses for 30 states for the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 general elections, and is aimed at aiding reporting and research on the impact that polling place closures and changes could have on the 2020 election. Data for additional states will be added in the coming weeks.

Polling place reductions and changes can lower turnout by creating confusion and barriers for voters, potentially disenfranchising them. There is no national public dataset of polling place locations and addresses for past federal elections.

…The polling place location information, now in a usable data format, standardized and available to the public, can be used to track the movement and consolidation of polling places. Combined with other data, such as voter file data, it can shed new light on which voters were affected by the changes. …

…U.S. elections are administered by thousands of separate jurisdictions. Every state has different laws and deadlines governing voting, which can include unique requirements for polling places. Local authorities typically choose them based on a variety of factors.

Public Integrity and Stateline filed and tracked roughly 1,200 records requests to assemble the polling place location data.

In 12 states — Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming — data had to be obtained county by county for at least one of those elections….

Black Women Best: The Framework We Need for an Equitable Economy

Source: Kendra Bozarth, Grace Western, and Janelle Jones, Roosevelt Institute, Issue Brief, September 2020

From the summary:
This brief explains how centering Black women in US politics and policymaking in the short and long term will bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.

How to Defeat Trump and Heal America: Deep Canvassing and Political Persuasion in the 2020 Presidential Election

Source: People’s Action, September 2020

From the executive summary:
People’s Action has completed the first-ever deep canvassing political persuasion experiment this month and the results are groundbreaking.

The independent analysis of our deep canvass phone program found that it had a substantial impact on decreasing Trump’s vote margin, estimated to be 102 times more effective per person than the average presidential persuasion program.

Related:
The Best Way to Beat Trumpism? Talk Less, Listen More
Source: Andy Kroll, Rolling Stone, September 15, 2020

This summer, with Americans hunkered down at home as the Covid-19 pandemic raged, teams of organizers located in a half-dozen battleground states made thousands of phone calls and put a theory to the test: Can an empathetic, heartfelt conversation persuade a complete stranger to change their mind about how to vote in 2020?

The experiment was led by People’s Action, a liberal nonprofit that focuses on mobilizing rural and low-income Americans, and it utilized a tactic known as deep canvassing, a form of grassroots organizing that puts more emphasis on listening and finding human connection than the traditional check-a-box door-to-door canvassing done by political campaigns.

The results of that experiment — shared with Rolling Stone ahead of their release on Tuesday — are striking: Even when done by phone, deep canvassing can indeed have a measurable effect on an individual’s voting preference. According to a study conducted by political-science professors David Broockman and Josh Kalla in partnership with People’s Action, this summer’s deep canvassing by phone led to a 3.1-point swing on average in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden. In other words, for every 100 completed phone calls, three votes were added to Biden’s vote margin after they received a deep canvassing call. That number was even higher for independents (5 points) and independent women (8.5 points), according to the study.

Manage Political Messaging Through Dress Codes

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 37 no. 18, September 1, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
During every presidential election, employers contend with employees who want to express support for their candidate through hats, buttons, t-shirts, and other apparel emblazoned with candidates’ names or slogans. Add in a new option for expression this year—face masks meant to protect workers and customers from COVID-19—and employers will need to decide what they are willing to permit.

Learning from Campaign Finance Disclosures

Source: Abby K. Wood, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, USC CLASS Research Papers Series No. CLASS20-10, Date Written: June 10, 2020

From the abstract:
In an age of dark money – the anonymous political spending facilitated by gaps in our campaign finance disclosure laws after Citizens United – the Supreme Court’s campaign finance disclosure jurisprudence may be on a collision course with campaign finance disclosure laws. The collision can be avoided if the court right-sizes its assumptions around the informational benefits of campaign finance disclosure. It is therefore urgent to help the court understand what we learn from campaign finance transparency.

Campaign finance transparency teaches us more than one-dimensional information about how progressive or conservative a candidate is. It also helps us learn about candidate type. As I explain in this Article, social scientists, including myself, have run several studies examining voter learning from campaign finance information. When voters learn about a candidate’s position with regards to dark money, they learn and vote differently than if they did not have that information. And, as I show using experimental methods and using data from the FEC audits in the 1970s, where campaign finance compliance information is available to voters, voters reward over compliance and punish failure to comply. In other words, transparency about campaign finance disclosure and compliance informs voters.

These findings point to useful policy innovations for states and cities while the federal government is unable or unwilling to regulate, such as “disclosure disclaimers” and campaign finance audits. I explain implications for the courts, campaigns, and policymakers, as well as limitations on the argument.