Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Widespread Partisan Gerrymandering Mostly Cancels Nationally, but Reduces Electoral Competition”

This interesting new paper by Chris Kenny et al. compares the newly enacted House plans across the country to sets of randomly generated maps. The bottom line is that the House as a whole is just slightly more pro-Republican than would be expected under nonpartisan redistricting. There’s plenty of gerrymandering but it mostly cancels out.

Congressional district lines in many U.S. states are drawn by partisan actors, raising
concerns about gerrymandering. To isolate the electoral impact of gerrymandering
from the effects of other factors including geography and redistricting rules, we
compare predicted election outcomes under the enacted plan with those under a
large sample of non-partisan, simulated alternative plans for all states. We find that
partisan gerrymandering is widespread in the 2020 redistricting cycle, but most of
the bias it creates cancels at the national level, giving Republicans two additional
seats, on average. In contrast, moderate pro-Republican bias due to geography and
redistricting rules remains. Finally, we find that partisan gerrymandering reduces
electoral competition and makes the House’s partisan composition less responsive
to shifts in the national vote.

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“Round robin” versus “instant runoff”

As Rick Pildes observed a few days ago, Alaska’s at-large House seat may show the significance of using different versions of ranked-choice voting. Now that we have some preliminary returns in both the special election and the first round of the regular election, this point is even more salient. As the New York Times is showing this morning, Sarah Palin is in second place in both the special and regular election: 32% and 31% respectively. Nick Begich is in third place in both: 29% and 27%.

Continue reading “Round robin” versus “instant runoff”
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“What surviving GOP impeachment backers have in common: Alternative primaries”

Aaron Blake for The Washington Post, contemplating Lisa Murkowski’s potential survival against her Trump-backed challenger because of Alaska’s new Top Four with RCV system, observes that the only two House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment to survive did so in a “top two” primary election. From this admittedly “small sample size,” Blake entertains the possibility that these alternative electoral systems–in contrast to the conventional method of partisan primaries followed by a plurality-winner general election–may be a factor in enabling pro-democracy Republicans to withstand Trump’s attack.

Continue reading “What surviving GOP impeachment backers have in common: Alternative primaries”
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“Poll worker shortage looms ahead of Georgia election”

AJC:

Poll workers, the essential employees needed to run elections, are in short supply in Georgia as early voting is set to begin in just over two months.

“Help wanted,” say election officials who are struggling to find thousands of personnel amid a tight labor market and a contentious political environment.

They’re pushing to hire more people before a worker deficiency turns into a bigger problem, though there’s still time to meet recruitment goals and avoid the risk of short-staffed polling places in Georgia’s midterm elections.

All the largest counties in metro Atlanta are trying to find new hires between now and Election Day. Tuesday is Help America Vote Day, an effort to reach potential poll workers through in-person events and social media ads.

“This is a moving target,” said Keisha Smith, elections director for DeKalb County. “We’re looking to expand and to bring in new people until Election Day. I worry about everything … but we’re on track to meet our numbers.”

Poll worker shortages at this point before a major election aren’t unusual, but they could turn into a bigger problem, as they did when health concerns about the coronavirus led many people to abandon plans to work the 2020 election….

The temporary job comes with relatively low pay and long hours, making it difficult to hire people in Georgia with its 2.9% unemployment rate.

Workers also faced threats from those who believed the 2020 election was stolen, such as Shaye Moss, a Fulton poll worker who told a congressional committee that she received hostile Facebook messages and went into hiding.

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“Securing U.S. Elections: A Method for Prioritizing Cybersecurity Risk in Election Infrastructure”

New Rand report:

U.S. election systems are diverse in terms of governance and technology. This reflects the constitutional roles reserved for the states in administering and running elections but makes it challenging to develop a national picture of cybersecurity risk in election systems. Moreover, it requires each state and jurisdiction to evaluate and prioritize risk in the systems it oversees. With funding from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, researchers from the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center have developed a methodology for understanding and prioritizing cybersecurity risk in election infrastructure to assist state and local election officials.

Key Findings

  • Election systems consist of multiple components (voter registration, pollbooks, voting machines, tabulation equipment, and official websites) that are administered and controlled at different levels, depending on the state.

Prioritizing risk across system components requires evaluating three factors

  • The first is the likelihood of a successful attack, using fault tree analysis to determine the level of sophistication needed based on security controls implemented on each system component.
  • The second is the scale of impact of an attack, based on whether a successful attack could affect a single location, a jurisdiction, or an entire state.
  • The third is the severity of an attack, as measured by the extent to which it would impede election officials’ efforts to carry out election processes.

Recommendations

  • Officials can use the ratings or scores on likelihood, scale, and severity to prioritize efforts to protect the election infrastructure in their care.
  • Armed with an understanding of potential adversaries’ tiers, the capability required to execute a particular type of attack on a particular component, and the scale and severity that such an attack would have if successful, election officials can direct protective resources toward the types of prevention and remediation that make most sense for their specific jurisdictions.
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“Blake Masters Could Become the First ‘Based’ Senator”

Politico:

Buried deep in a recent story about Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters is a particularly revealing comment from one of Masters’ supporters, posted on an exclusive Discord chat: “How can one man be so based?”

The uninitiated reader might be forgiven for asking: “Based on what?” The word, a slang term with origins in hip-hop culture, has been adopted in recent years by the extremely online far right to basically mean “anything that owns the libs” — the more openly racist, misogynistic or politically incorrect the better. (The commenter was responding to a podcast appearance in which Masters attributed America’s gun violence problem to “Black people, frankly.”)

The right has been pursuing new and exotic methods by which to rhetorically offend liberals since before the Internet existed. But Masters embodies a particularly modern, novel version of this phenomenon more than any other politician — and it’s made him the darling of the extremely-online right that embraced Donald Trump early and enthusiastically, with their masculinity-obsessed, reflexively anti-institutional, will-to-power view of politics.

The key difference between the two: Trump, a septuagenarian reality TV star with an endless arsenal of meme-able personal tics and a total unwillingness (or inability) to experience shame, was a source of fun and an ironic avatar for those young voters. Masters, a millennial message-board addict with an awkward personal affect that sharply contrasts with his macho posturingis those voters.

The New York Times reported last month on his long track record of message board posting, including a brand of incoherent, quasi-libertarian edgelord-ism (conspiracies about the Rothschilds, anyone?) that will be familiar to anyone who’s spent even a modest amount of time in the forum trenches. His campaign materials feature the new-right’s trademark aesthetic mash-up of garish neon retro-futurism and moody, backward-looking pastoral imagery. He and his mentor, Peter Thiel, are fixated on the far-right pet project of “dismantling the administrative state,” and his website adds some variety to the usual menu of promises to end “wokeness” and abortion with a pro-Bitcoin plank, which asserts “Bitcoin is the hardest money around — and hard money keeps government honest.” It’s all part of the year-zero, root-and-branch upheaval of American civic life that excites serious proponents of the movement and terrifies wary liberals.

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“Michigan plot to breach voting machines points to a national pattern”

WaPo:

In states across the country, including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Georgia, attempts to inappropriately access voting machines have spurred investigations. They have also sparked concern among election authorities that, while voting systems are broadly secure, breaches by those looking for evidence of fraud could themselves compromise the integrity of the process and undermine confidence in the vote.

In Michigan, the efforts to access the machines jumped into public view this month when the state attorney general, Dana Nessel (D), requested a special prosecutor be assigned to look into a group that includes her likely Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno.

The expected Republican nominee, Nessel’s office wrote in a petition filed Aug. 5 based on the findings of a state police investigation, was “one of the prime instigators” of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines. Others involved, according to the filing, included a state representative and Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf.

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“Ex-Trump AG Barr, others launch Republican-backed election law group”

I missed this Reuters story from a few weeks ago:

Prominent Republicans including former U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday launched a new legal group they say is aimed at defending state legislatures’ right to set election laws.

The nonprofit group, Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections, is also co-founded by longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove, hotel magnate and GOP donor Steve Wynn and attorney Bobby Burchfield, who last year resigned from the law firm King & Spalding.

Burchfield told Reuters Thursday that the group was created in response to expanding court fights over election laws. It has already filed two briefs in election law cases backing state legislatures’ ability to change voting rules.

“We do not think the courts should be setting the rules for elections. We believe that’s the province of state legislatures,” Burchfield said.

He said the nonprofit is not a “foil” to Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias, who left law firm Perkins Coie last year to start his own practice regularly litigating over election laws.Advertisement · Scroll to continueReport an ad

The group is not affiliated with former President Donald Trump and does not support particular candidates, Burchfield said. He said the groups’ members reject claims made by some other conservatives that the 2020 election is illegitimate due to mass voter fraud.

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Trump, Palin, and Alaska’s RCV Special Election Aug. 16th

Alaska’s ranked-choice voting special election on Aug. 16th to fill its vacant, single seat in the US House is generating two issues I want to flag.

First, in recently campaigning in a tele-rally for Sarah Palin, Donald Trump reportedly told Palin voters “to pick only one” candidate.  Palin is competing against a Democrat, Mary Petola, and another Republican backed by the state GOP, Nicholas Begich III.  For Palin voters who care whether a Democrat or Republican represents Alaska in the House if Palin does not win, Trump’s advice is obviously bad.  Palin supporters would be giving up their power to influence the outcome if Palin does not prevail – and Palin is no better off, of course, if voters vote only for her and throw away their power to rank their second choice.

That Trump is giving Palin voters this advice is important to recognize when we evaluate RCV in this election:  voters take their cues from political leaders, especially with a new voting system.  If a lot of Palin voters do not provide a second preference, it could well be because this is the message they got from Trump (I do not know if Palin is campaigning on a similar message).  It would not necessarily mean voters lack the ability to rank more than one candidate.  Particularly with a new voting system, if voters get bad advice from political leaders, they will not use the system as effectively as they can. 

Indeed, the failure of Palin voters to rank a second choice, if they prefer a Republican to a Democrat, could mean that the Democrat will win this statewide race.  In essence, by ranking only one candidate, the RCV system gets converted back into a plurality-system, in which a candidate lacking majority support can still win.

Second, and of more significance:  this race might turn out to demonstrate the large stakes in the choice between two different versions of RCV.  One argument for RCV is that it can help identify the true majority winner in a three or more candidate field.  But whether RCV does that can depend on the rule used to eliminate the first candidate.  In this race, polls suggest Begich would win if pitted head to head with the Democrat.  Let’s assume Begich would also beat Palin one on one.  That would make him the true majority winner.  But if Begich comes in third on the first-round votes, he would be eliminated and never go head to head with either candidate under the current system of RCV used in Alaska and the rest of the US. 

The alternative is the Bottom-Two system of RCV.  Ned Foley has done tremendous work explaining this and other alternative forms of RCV.  Instead of automatically eliminating the candidate who comes in last in the first round, this version compares the votes on all the ballots among the bottom two candidates.  As between these two, the candidate who is ranked higher on all the ballots moves on to the next round.  The point of this system is it never eliminates a candidate who would win a majority when pitted head to head against any other candidate. 

To be concrete, let’s assume in the first round Pelota wins 40% of the vote, Palin 32%, and Begich 28%.  Let’s also assume that all of Pelota’s voters rank Begich second.  Because Begich, paired head to head with Palin, would then defeat her, he would move on to the final round.

Thus, in Tuesday’s election, a great deal will turn on whether Begich or Palin comes in last in first-place votes (the polling assumption is that Pelota will win a plurality of the first-place votes).  If Begich comes in last, he would be eliminated – even though it is possible he would defeat both Palin and Pelota head to head.  The true majority winner will then have been eliminated in the first round.  Under Bottom-Two, with the assumptions above, if Palin comes in last, Begich would win the election (assuming enough Palin voters rank him second).

There are practical issues to consider with any voting system.  But the theoretical case for Bottom-Two is that it does a better job than current versions of RCV in identifying the true majority winner, when one exists in a field with three or more candidates.

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“Robin Vos fires Michael Gableman, ending a 2020 election review that’s cost taxpayers more than $1 million and produced no evidence of fraud”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos fired Michael Gableman on Friday, more than a year after he hired the former Supreme Court justice to probe the 2020 election and three days after Vos barely survived a primary challenge Gableman supported. 

Vos ended Gableman’s contract with the state that has provided a national platform and more than $100,000 in salary to Gableman over the last 14 months but has produced a review of former President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss that has promoted election conspiracy theories and revealed no evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

The review has cost state taxpayers more than $1 million through costs for salaries and legal fees related to lawsuits filed against Gableman and Vos over ignored requests for public records. 

Vos’ decision to fire Gableman comes a week after Trump announced to a Waukesha crowd that Gableman had turned on Vos and that Gableman, like Trump, had endorsed Vos’ primary opponent Adam Steen. Vos won the primary Tuesday but only barely — defeating Steen by just 260 votes. 

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“Robin Vos looking for ‘natural conclusion’ to Michael Gableman’s election review”

Wisconsin State Journal:

The more than $1.1 million taxpayer-funded, GOP-ordered review of the 2020 election appears to be on its last legs, but the wheels began coming off five months ago when lead investigator Michael Gableman recommended the Legislature take the legally impossible step of decertifying the results.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman last year to lead the probe, in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday said that recommendation in a March interim report soured his opinion of the former state Supreme Court justice.

“I think there’s a pretty broad consensus that the tack that we were on needs to come to a natural conclusion, so we need to figure that out,” Vos told the State Journal.

Vos, R-Rochester, said he offered Gableman clear parameters to follow before the investigation officially launched in July 2021: The review needed to be nonpartisan and Gableman should avoid both the limelight and political events

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“Conservative push to alter Constitution focuses on primaries”

AP:

The fliers piled up in mailboxes in central South Dakota like snow during a high-plains blizzard: “Transgender Sex Education in Schools?” one asked. “Vote Against Sex Ed Radical Mary Duvall for State Senate.”

The mailers were part of a $58,000 campaign against the five-term Republican lawmaker, an enormous sum of money in a place where the cost of running for a statehouse seat is typically in the low five figures. Despite the subject of the attack ads, Duvall was targeted not for her stance on sex education but for her opposition to a longshot bid by some conservatives to force a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.

“I knew they were angry at me, but I had no idea this was going to be coming during my primary campaign,” said Duvall, who ended up losing her race by 176 votes.

Duvall opposed legislation that would have added South Dakota to 19 other states calling for a gathering known as a convention of states, following a plan mapped out by a conservative group that wants to change parts of the United States’ foundational document. When that number hits two-thirds of the states — or 34 — under the procedure laid out in the Constitution, a convention would meet with the power to amend the 235-year-old document.

The campaign against Duvall was part of a more than $600,000 push in at least five states earlier this year by the group, Convention of States Action, and its affiliates in Republican primaries to elect sympathetic lawmakers who could add more states to its column. Much of the money comes from groups that do not have to disclose their donors, masking the identity of who is funding the push to change the Constitution.

Mark Meckler, the group’s president and former head of Tea Party Patriots, issued a brief statement saying the group was committed to being active in the midterms “in a big way.”

For years, Convention of States Action has been a staple of the conservative political scene. But its engagement in primary campaigns marks an escalation at a time when parts of the conservative movement are testing the limits of the nation’s political rulebook, pushing aggressive tactics from gerrymandering to voting restrictions.

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“This conservative group helped push a disputed election theory”

Hansi Lo Wang for NPR:

A controversial legal theory that could radically reshape presidential and congressional elections has had a vocal supporter in filings to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 2020, a conservative group advocating for more restrictive voting laws has filed multiple friend-of-the-court briefs to try to influence the justices, including with the claim that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the power to determine how federal elections are run without limits from state constitutions or state courts.

The group calls itself the Honest Elections Project, which since 2020, according to corporate records filed in Virginia, has been a registered business alias for The 85 Fund. That organization has federal tax-exempt status, millions of dollars in donations and spending that are hard to trace, and ties to Leonard Leo — the Federalist Society’s co-chairman and former executive vice president who helped build the Supreme Court’s majority of conservative justices.

Three of those justices have signaled they are likely to side with Republican state lawmakers in an upcoming North Carolina redistricting case that could result in a Supreme Court endorsement of what’s known as the independent state legislature theory. The lawmakers would need the support of at least two other justices on the court, where conservatives enjoy a 6-3 supermajority.

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