Evidence and Voter ID Revisited

The short summary of the Federal Appeals Court hearing on voter ID in Wisconsin had two interesting statements from the judges.

First:

Adelman found some 300,000 people in Wisconsin do not have IDs and determined requiring people to show IDs at the polls would discount far more legitimate votes than fraudulent ones. He concluded voter impersonation — the only kind of fraud the voter ID law would curb — is essentially nonexistent, noting state officials could not cite any examples of it.

But Sykes said Adelman’s findings are “hard to reconcile” with a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID law. Easterbrook also questioned how Adelman could render his ruling in light of that decision.

“He took evidence and found the Supreme Court was wrong,” Easterbrook said.

I defer to the legal experts on what the Supreme Court said in the Crawford decision (see Dan Tokaji and Chris Elmendorf), but early on in Stevens’s decision, he wrote:

Indiana also claims a particular interest in preventing voter fraud in response to the problem of voter registration rolls with a large number of names of persons who are either deceased or no longer live in Indiana. While the record contains no evidence that the fraud SEA 483 addresses—in-person voter impersonation at polling places—has actually occurred in Indiana, such fraud has occurred in other parts of the country, and Indiana’s own experience with voter fraud in a 2003 mayoral primary demonstrates a real risk that voter fraud could affect a close election’s outcome. There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of a State’s interest in counting only eligible voters’ votes. Finally, Indiana’s interest in protecting public confidence in elections, while closely related to its interest in preventing voter fraud, has independent significance, because such confidence encourages citizen participation in the democratic process. 

The objection some scholars have is that the evidence is wrong, and that calls into serious question the basis upon which the Court rendered it’s decision.

There was no evidence of in-person voter impersonation in Indiana (see page 8 here) and there is no evidence in Wisconsin, either.  The 2003 mayoral primary fraud case involved absentee ballots, a method of casting a ballot that does not require a voter ID.  Thus, the 2003 case is irrelevant for Crawford, and is irrelevant in Wisconsin.

Perhaps the evidence in the Wisconsin case was different from Indiana.  Perhaps there was not a single, irrelevant case of absentee voter fraud that could be used to justify the imposition of voter id requirements.  Perhaps proportionally more voters in Wisconsin lack a photo ID than in Indiana.

And perhaps the quotes in the story are incomplete.

But they seem to imply that the facts from a different case in a different state with a different body of evidence cannot possibly yield a different conclusion than the Crawford case.  I hope that’s not the way that evidence works in the Courts.

NC Court rules against plaintiffs in Section 2 case

Rick Hasen reports on his blog. Follow to find links to the decision and other materials.

http://electionlawblog.org/?p=64152

Reflections on Election Observation in Ukraine featured in electionline.org

My comments about my time spent as an election observer in Ukraine are featured in this week’d electionline.org newsletter:

‘Don’t go, just don’t go.’
‘You realize you just spent a week’s wages on that souvenir?’

By Paul Gronke
Reed College

Those two quotations — the first from a concerned coworker before I left and the second from my translator at the end of the mission — reflect much of my experience as an election observer for the OSCE/ODHIR mission to Ukrainian presidential election on May 25, 2014.

The mission to Ukraine was my third time as an election observer for ODIHR. Previously, I’ve served as an observer for the Albanian parliamentary election in June 2013 and the Kyrgyz presidential election in October 2011.

While many of my friends and colleagues were intrigued by the trip to Kyrgyzstan, and a bit jealous of my mid summer trip to Albania, the Ukrainian mission — for obvious reasons — prompted the most interest and concern. ….

To read the rest, go to this week’s electionline.org newsletter.

Why we should retain postmark deadlines on vote by mail ballots

… more importantly, the “postmark” rule elevates the individual interest in having their ballot count above the collective interest in determining the outcome of an election fairly and efficiently.

The individual franchise is important because it helps to assure that political leaders are responsive to the public and lends legitimacy to the actions of political leaders.

We should work to assure that every Oregonian and every American has ready access to the ballot. This is why Oregon adopted vote by mail and is why many states have moved to hybrid election systems, with election-day, vote-by-mail, and early in-person balloting. We should work to develop new technologies that may allow for Internet voting in the future.

But we should also try to make sure that elections are decided quickly, without unnecessary delay. If this requires voters to remember to mail a ballot three days before the election or deliver it by hand to one of many ballot drop-box locations, this is a reasonable compromise.

The rest is here: http://www.pamplinmedia.com/wlt/96-opinion/226666-89111-dont-extend-time-for-turning-in-oregon-ballots

NCSL Election Administration Research Database

Hat tip to Doug Chapin:

NCSL Election Administration Research Database will be an invaluable tool for scholars, advocates, and others interested in studying and improving election administration.  Here’s hoping this kicks the field forward!

 

 

Voting turnout is affected by many things; or why journalists need to learn multivariate statistics

Voting turnout is affected by many things; or why journalists need to learn multivariate statistics

downloadMy good friend Tova Wang sent me this headline from the Columbus Post Dispatch:

Early Voting Hasn’t Boosted Ohio Turnout

In support of this headline,  reporter compares turnout in only three elections, only statewide, and only in presidential contests.  This is analysis is as unrevealing–and potentially misleading–as imaginable.

The key to understanding a complex process like voter turnout is to try to maximize, to the degree feasible, variation and covariation among all the important causes (variables).  Political scientists often consider dozens or more different influences on turnout and estimate highly sophisticated multivariate models.

But even a relatively simple exploration can be done far better than the one conducted by the Dispatch.

Let’s start with the presidency.  There are obvious reasons that the nation, and the world, focuses on the American presidential election.  It is almost always the most consequential election held in this country for the most powerful and influential political leader in the world.

But all these reasons are why the presidential contest may be the worst election in order to discern the turnout effects of something like early voting.  In the face of a billion or more dollars in campaign spending, blanket media coverage, and organizational mobilization, the impact of early voting is going to be small.  We may be able to uncover turnout effects, but the context makes it difficult.

At a bare minimum, compare midterm and presidential contests, and if at all possible, include off-cycle elections.

Next, even if limited to a study within one state, there is no good reason not to compare trends across counties.  In a large, heterogeneous state like Ohio, not only do the conditions for voting change across the state, but the voters change as well.

The reporter seems to recognize that African Americans in 2008 responded differently to the Obama/McCain contest in 2008 than they did to the Kerry/Bush campaign in 2004.   And the reporter notes that, due to legal uncertainties, the hours and days of early voting varied across counties in 2012.

So why not compare turnout effects across counties?  By not doing so, the reporter–whether realizing it or not–assumes that the all voting rules and procedures in the state of Ohio are identical and more importantly, that all Ohioans are identical insofar as they responded in different years to different candidates and to different election laws and procedures.

Two esteemed political scientists are quoted in the article and seemed to try to educate the reporter on these points.

Paul Beck’s quote starts with a general point which I think does not accurately reflect the state of the literature on early voting at this stage, but more important is the end of Beck’s quote, where he highlights the most consequential reasons that turnout may be higher or lower:

“People who vote early are people who are typically going to vote anyway,” said Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University. “So, early voting hasn’t really succeeded in turning out more people to vote. We’ve made it a lot easier to vote, but on the other hand, some people are very discouraged about politics and might not care how easy it is to vote.”

John Green’s quote, on the other hand, is exactly on point in my view:

“If all things are equal, early voting would increase voter turnout, but all things aren’t equal,” said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron. “But there are many factors in each election: the closeness of the race, the excitement to vote for a candidate or the degree of anger in the electorate.”

I could not have put it better.  Early voting may not have increased turnout in Ohio, but without at least considering these other factors, the title and thrust of the story are not accurate.

Election Day Deadline Avoids Postmark Hassles

Doug Chapin notes that postmarks are not consistently applied. Shocking!

I think the policy solution here is pretty simple:i f you have an election day deadline for all ballots, then the postmark is not important.

 

Does a postmark deadline really help vote by mail voters? Study says no

Apropos of Doug Chapin’s recent posting on the proposed change to a “postmark” deadline in California, this study by the Washington Policy Center may be apropos.

The Center looked at the five largest counties in Washington and Oregon, both of which have full vote by mail with drop boxes, but Washington allows ballots to arrive if postmarked by Election Day, while Oregon requires ballots to arrive by 8 pm on Election Day.

The results are reproduced below, and show higher late ballot rates in Washington.

I will have more to say about this later, but at first glance, it appears that an Election Day deadline may serve voters better, prompting more to return their ballots on time.

Election Day in Ukraine: First Impressions

Election Day in Ukraine: First Impressions

Untitled 2It has been a peaceful morning of balloting in Kherson, Ukraine.  I am here monitoring elections as part of an international mission.  I’ve met hundreds of other observers from the United States, Canada, Germany, and many other countries.  All are hard working and dedicated individuals who are interested in helping to cement democratic development in the country.

Kherson is in the south of the country, and is best known as the dying place of John Howard, famous British prison reformer. (I haven’t visited the pub named after Howard just yet.)

 

 

 

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Because Kherson is located just west of Crimea and has more than 50% of the population who report Russian as their native language, you’d think that this region would be tense.  We had to sit through extra security briefings before we were deployed to the area.

But the two words that would describe the election thus far are busy and calm.  The election is busy because the lines are long and voter interest is high.  These lines aren’t helped by the economic crisis in the country which has resulted in understaffed polling places and too few voting booths. Things aren’t so different in the United States!

Nonetheless, voters seem to be in good spirits, perhaps helped by the beautiful, warm, sunny summer Sunday, and generally calm–except when they’ve had to wait for an hour to vote!

I hope for a free and fair outcome, one that may help the country move forward.  I’m sure everyone here hopes for the same.

Who gets to review elections in Louisiana?

A piece of legislation in the state of Louisiana came across the transom, courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation’s Scout service, that “provides for a “study of voting technology, processes, and procedures.”

It’s fairly standard stuff, but what I found interesting is this part of the list of proposed committee members:

(11) One member appointed by the governor from a list of nominees submitted by the presidents of Centenary College of Louisiana, Dillard University, Louisiana College, Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane University, and Xavier University of Louisiana,each of whom shall submit one nominee who shall not be an elected or appointed public official.

My friend and colleague Chris Mann is now at LSU and is nationally known expert on voting technology, and I bet there are a few other Tigers well-positioned to help such a committee.

Geaux Tigers?

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