Category Archives: Elections

Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote

Source: Leadership Conference Education Fund, 2019

From the summary:
The surge in voting changes at the state and local level after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision catalyzed a systemic examination of poll closures and other seemingly innocuous changes that could have negatively impacted voters of color. In 2016, The Leadership Conference Education Fund identified 868 polling place closures in formerly Section 5 jurisdictions in our initial report, The Great Poll Closure. This report, Democracy Diverted: Polling Place Closures and the Right to Vote, is both an update to — and a major expansion of — our original publication.

Our first report drew on a sample of fewer than half of the approximately 860 counties or county-equivalents that were once covered by Section 5. This report covers an expanded data set of 757 counties. What’s more, the 2016 report relied on voluntary reports of aggregate numbers of polling places that state election officials gave to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. This report relies largely on independent counts of polling places from public records requests and publicly available polling place lists.

In this report, we found 1,688 polling place closures between 2012 and 2018, almost double the 868 closures found in our 2016 report. Additionally, Democracy Diverted analyzes the reduction of polling places in the formerly covered Section 5 jurisdictions in the years between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. We found 1,173 fewer polling places in 2018 — despite a significant increase in voter turnout. To understand the discriminatory impact of these closures, we analyzed how voters of color were impacted at the precinct level. This analysis — precisely the kind that the U.S. Department of Justice conducted under preclearance — takes time and resources. Our hope is that journalists, advocates, and voters will use this county-level polling place data to scrutinize the impact of poll closures in their communities, to understand their impact on voters of color, and to create a fairer and more just electoral system for all.

Data Note: A Look At Swing Voters Leading Up To The 2020 Election

Source: Ashley Kirzinger, Audrey Kearney, Mollyann Brodie, Charlie Cook, and Amy Walter, Kasier Family Foundation, Issue Brief, September 5, 2019

Findings:
More than one year out from the general election, there are many factors that could influence voters’ decisions to either vote for President Trump or the Democratic nominee or even stay home on November 3, 2020. These factors include the characteristics of the eventual Democratic nominee, views of President Trump, and how motivated voters are feeling about the election. The latest analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in collaboration with the Cook Political Report, finds that while a large share of voters are already firm about how they plan to vote in the 2020 presidential election (63%), there is a still a substantial share (30%) who say they have not made their minds up. With three in ten votes still up for grabs, this data note examines the demographics of swing voters: those who either report that they are undecided about their vote in 2020 or are leaning towards a candidate but haven’t made up their minds yet. It also explores the policy issues that could swing these voters to vote for either President Trump or the Democratic nominee.

Why the Right Hates Voting Rights: An Interview With Ari Berman

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, September 6, 2019

Conservatives in the United States know they can’t win on a level playing field — so they’ve started rigging the electoral rules in their favor, democracy be damned.

When the Republican Party recaptured the House in the 2010 midterm elections, it marked not only the end of a relatively brief period of Democratic control but also the beginning of a wider offensive against voting rights that has been underway ever since. By capturing key statehouses in 2010 and in the years that followed, Republicans have been increasingly able to tilt the electoral process in their favor — a strategy that has profoundly affected the results of recent elections and was one of the major backdrops to Donald Trump’s surprise Electoral College victory in 2016.

Jacobin’s Luke Savage sat down with Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman to discuss the history of gerrymandering and voter suppression — and the considerable impact both continue to have on the course of US politics.

A Constitutional Standard to End Gerrymandering

Source: Alton Frye, PA Times, Vol. 5 no. 1, Spring 2019
(subscription required)

To cure the corruption of gerrymandering, take the profit out of it. The Constitution provides the standard for doing so by specifiying that representatives are to be chosen “by the People of the several States.” That provision followed debate in the convention of 1787 that, according to James Madison’s notes, explicitly rejected the option of empowering state legislatures to choose members of the federal house of representatives. In practice, by asserting authority to draw congressional district lines on a partisan basis, state legislatures have usurped the power vested by the Constitution in the people of the states.

Analysis demonstrates that allocating seats in the House according to the statewide vote of the people would produce a national legislature comparable in partisan balance to the current House, but with much greater equity among the parties at the state level. Applying that constitutional mechanism would rob parties of the advantage sought from gerrymandering and create incentives for the fair redistricting procedures that courts and citizens have long sought. This study illustrates the outcomes that would result, increasing competitiveness in 39 states…..

Spending at Trump Properties

Source: ProPublica, 2019

2020 cycle
Top three spenders (as of July 31, 2019):
Trump Victory – $449,715
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $287,740
Republican National Committee – $154,873

2018 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $3,442,383
Republican National Committee – $1,391,855
America First Action, Inc. – $415,578

2016 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $9,812,319
Trump Victory – $650,715
Republican National Committee – $16,412

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..

Voter Purge Rates Remain High, Analysis Finds

Source: Kevin Morris, Brennan Center for Justice, August 1, 2019

Using data released by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in June, a new Brennan Center analysis has found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.

This phenomenon began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Brennan Center first identified this troubling voter purge trend in a major report released in July 2018.

Before the Shelby County decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit proposed changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for approval, a process known as “preclearance.”

After analyzing the 2019 EAC data, we found:
– At least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018, similar to the number we saw between 2014 and 2016, but considerably higher than we saw between 2006 and 2008;
– The median purge rate over the 2016–2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act;
– If purge rates in the counties that were covered by Section 5 were the same as the rates in non-Section 5 counties, as many as 1.1 million fewer individuals would have been removed from voter rolls between 2016 and 2018.

The Courts Won’t End Gerrymandering. Eric Holder Has a Plan to Fix It Without Them.

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, July/August 2019

While Democrats are fixated on 2020, Holder is fighting for fairer maps in 2021 and beyond. ….

….So Holder is pursuing a new strategy, trying to elect down-ballot candidates who can deliver fairer maps and voting laws. The NDRC invested $350,000 in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, hoping that a liberal majority on the seven-­member court might strike down any egregious gerrymanders in the next round of redistricting in 2021. “I don’t think that 10 years or so ago, you would have a former attorney general campaigning for a state Supreme Court justice,” Holder told me. “This is a recognition on the part of the Democratic Party, on the part of progressives, that we need to focus on state and local elections to a much greater degree than we have in the past.”

But if Democrats are belatedly recognizing this need, few besides Holder are acting on it. He is playing a long game in a party driven by instant gratification and consumed by the mess in the White House. While the party’s presidential contenders are attracting big crowds, donors, and volunteers determined to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, Holder is focused on 2021…..

Local Elections and Representation in the United States

Source: Christopher Warshaw, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a surge in the study of representation and elections in local politics. Scholars have made progress on many of the empirical barriers that stymied earlier researchers. As a result, the study of representation and elections in local politics has moved squarely into the center of American politics. The findings of recent research show that local politics in the modern, polarized era is much more similar to other areas of American politics than previously believed. Scholars have shown that partisanship and ideology play important roles in local politics. Due to the growing ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans, Democratic elected officials increasingly take more liberal positions, and enact more liberal policies, than Republican ones. As a result, despite the multitude of constraints on local governments, local policies in the modern era tend to largely reflect the partisan and ideological composition of their electorates.