Category Archives: political equality

“The Real Power of Bloomberg’s Money”

A piece in the Atlantic on the governance options available to billionaires:

When people think about the political relevance of Michael Bloomberg’s money, they tend to think about how his massive spending helps his campaigns: the record $261 million he spent on his three successful mayoral runs, the billions he could end up spending on his quest for the presidency. What people often miss is that Bloomberg actually spent more of his own money boosting his policy efforts in city hall than he did to get there.

Part of Bloomberg’s presidential sales pitch is that his personal wealth—he’s worth an estimated $56 billion—makes him incorruptible. Not only is he unbribeable; being rich enough to never take political contributions, he can assume office unbeholden to donors. But Bloomberg is so rich that he shifts the direction of potential influence: Donors may not be able to buy influence, but he can use his wealth to push things in the directions he wants.

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Census hearing on hard-to-count communities at same time as voting systems security hearing

At the same time as the Thursday hearing on voting system security that I’d mentioned, House Oversight will be holding a hearing on “Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities in the 2020 Census.”  The witness list is still TBD, as far as I know.

[UPDATE: Here’s the witness list. And it’s a doozy. They’re not fooling around.]

While I’m at it, there’s a magnificent map of hard-to-count communities here, laying out the Census Bureau’s contact strategies in each location.  The Census Bureau also has an interactive map for hard-to-count communities with a lot of demographic and socioeconomic information here; California’s complete count committee has distilled the info in California to show the top-three reasons why any particular census block makes it harder to count.

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“Where do inmates fall in Census count? NJ moves to end ‘prison gerrymandering'”

A bill has passed the state Senate, and is working its way through the state Assembly.  If it gets signed into law, that would make New Jersey the seventh state to change where incarcerated individuals are counted for representational purposes.

And in related news, the Orlando Sentinel digs into the local impact of the status quo in Florida.

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Informational Incentives for Campaign Mobilization

Bertrall Ross and Doug Spencer have a new paper out in the Northwestern Law Review: “Passive Voter Suppression: Campaign Mobilization and the Effective Disfranchisement of the Poor.”  The abstract:

A recent spate of election laws tightened registration rules, reduced convenient voting opportunities, and required voters to show specific types of identification in order to vote. Because these laws make voting more difficult, critics have analogized them to Jim Crow Era voter suppression laws.

We challenge the analogy that current restrictive voting laws are a reincarnation of Jim Crow Era voter suppression. While there are some notable similarities, the analogy obscures a more apt comparison to a different form of voter suppression — one that operates to effectively disfranchise an entire class of people, just as the old form did for African Americans. This form of suppression excludes the poor.

To account for the effective disfranchisement of the poor, we develop a more robust theory of voting than currently exists in the legal literature. Drawing on rational choice and sociological theories of voting, we show how information, affiliation with formal organizations, and integration into social networks of politically active individuals are far more important to the decision to vote than the tangible costs of voting associated with the new voter suppression.

Using this expanded account of voting, we identify the role of political parties and their mobilization activities in the effective disfranchisement of the poor. Relying on the same proprietary data as the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012 (and hundreds of campaigns since), along with other public sources of data, we show how campaigns employ a “calculus of contact” to decide whom to mobilize. That calculus leads campaigns to disproportionately neglect the poor when canvassing, calling, and sending political mailers to potential voters — mobilization activities that have a sizeable turnout effect. In our view, the most significant voter suppression tactics of the twenty-first century are therefore not what legislatures are doing, but what campaigns are not doing.

We argue that a first step in combating this passive voter suppression should involve changing the information environment of campaigns: the amount and type of information about potential voters that the state makes available to campaigns. Such a change could force campaigns to adjust their calculus of contact and contact more low-income people during election season. Including the poor as targets of campaign mobilization would be an important first step toward a more egalitarian democracy.

I learn something every time I read work by either Bertrall or Doug – and so I’m really looking forward to checking out the product of the collaboration.

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“Lowering the Voting Age to 16: Learning from Real Experiences Worldwide”

The new year brings another new book on electoral mechanics, edited by Jan Eichhorn and Johannes Bergh.  The abstract:

This book explores the consequences of lowering the voting age to 16 from a global perspective, bringing together empirical research from countries where at least some 16-year-olds are able to vote. With the aim to show what really happens when younger people can take part in elections, the authors engage with the key debates on earlier enfranchisement and examine the lead-up to and impact of changes to the voting age in countries across the globe. The book provides the most comprehensive synthesis on this topic, including detailed case studies and broad comparative analyses. It summarizes what can be said about youth political participation and attitudes, and highlights where further research is needed. The findings will be of great interest to researchers working in youth political socialization and engagement, as well as to policymakers, youth workers and activists.

Should be an interesting read.

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“A Century of Votes for Women”

Christina Wolbrecht and J. Kevin Corder with a new book on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.  The abstract:

How have American women voted in the first 100 years since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment? How have popular understandings of women as voters both persisted and changed over time? In A Century of Votes for Women, Christina Wolbrecht and J. Kevin Corder offer an unprecedented account of women voters in American politics over the last ten decades. Bringing together new and existing data, the book provides unique insight into women’s (and men’s) voting behavior, and traces how women’s turnout and vote choice evolved across a century of enormous transformation overall and for women in particular. Wolbrecht and Corder show that there is no such thing as ‘the woman voter’; instead they reveal considerable variation in how different groups of women voted in response to changing political, social, and economic realities. The book also demonstrates how assumptions about women as voters influenced politicians, the press, and scholars.

Should be an interesting read.

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Quantitative election administration studies: early voting and polling place location

Two studies newly published in the latest issue of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics series:

Ethan Kaplan and Haishan Yuan, Early Voting Laws, Voter Turnout, and Partisan Vote Composition: Evidence from Ohio

We estimate effects of early voting on voter turnout using a 2010 homogenization law from Ohio that forced some counties to expand and others to contract early voting. Using voter registration data, we compare individuals who live within the same 2×2 mile squareblock but in different counties. We find substantial positive impacts of early voting on turnout equal to 0.22 percentage points of additional turnout per additional early voting day. We also find greater impacts on women, Democrats, independents, and those of child-bearing and working age. We simulate impacts of national early day laws on recent election outcomes.

Enrico Cantoni, A Precinct Too Far: Turnout and Voting Costs

I study the effects of voting costs—specifically, distance to polling location—using geographic discontinuities. Opposite sides of boundaries between voting precincts are observationally identical, except for their assigned polling locations. This discontinuous assignment produces sharp changes in voters’ travel distance to cast their ballots. In nine municipalities in Massachusetts and Minnesota, a 1 standard deviation (0.245 mile) increase in distance reduces ballots cast by 2 to 5 percent across four elections. During non-presidential elections, effects are three times larger in high-minority areas than in low-minority areas. Finally, I simulate the impact of various counterfactual assignments of voters to polling places.

I look forward to reading these.

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“Surge In Voters With Disabilities May Influence 2020 Election”

A reminder of a significant population often overlooked when summary stats are compiled.

In 2018, 14.3 million people with disabilities cast ballots, more than the 11.7 million Latino voters that year and nearly as many as the 15.2 million African-American voters.

What’s more, the report found that an additional 10.2 million voters last year were people who live with someone who has a disability. When these voters are added to those with disabilities, that means that 20 percent of all voters in the 2018 midterms came from what the researchers called “disability households.”

Also — hey, look, it’s National Disability Voter Registration Week!

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New volume of the Harvard Law & Policy Review is out

Chock full of election-law goodies.  Among other pieces:

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