Voter Turnout and Voter ID

True the Vote provides a nice report with information on voter ID laws and the politics surrounding these laws.  They do a service by aggregating the number of voter suppression reports by states and county.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that their conclusions about the relationship between voter ID and turnout are wrong, or more generously, unsupported by the evidence.

The report compares turnout in states in 2008 and 2012 and attributes EVERY CHANGE to the existence (or not) of a voter ID law.

Nothing else is considered, including those things that every observer knows are the primary drivers of voter turnout: the battleground status of the state, the competitiveness of other campaigns in the state, and overall campaign spending and election activity.

Compare two of the states they highlight: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio.   In every state, total campaign spending was substantially higher.  In every state save one (Nevada) the ratio of campaign spending was much closer, in some cases dramatically so.

Campaign spending in 2012: and in 2008:

I don’t know what the impact of voter ID laws were on turnout, but I am confident that the True the Vote report doesn’t shed much light on the question.

Long odds for election reform?

Hat tip to Rick Hasen for this story, Rep. Candice Miller, chair of Government Operations, who says the Federal government has no role in fixing problems with our voting system:

Why both parties may prefer the sequestration

Nice piece by Scott Adler and John Wilkerson, showing how the “reversion point” (sequestration) may be the preferred outcome for both congressional parties at this point.

Jeff Mapes on the end of Saturday delivery and Oregon’s Vote by Mail system

Jeff Mapes, the dean of political reporters in Oregon (Jeff–“dean” in this context refers to your influence not your age!), has an interesting column on how ending Saturday mail delivery could impact Oregon’s vote by mail system.

Director of State Election Steve Trout rightly notes that Oregonians are not supposed to try to mail their ballots on Saturday anyway–the state urges voters to put them into the mail no later than Friday.

The problem arises not only among those voters who don’t realize this, but among others who don’t realize the last time for pickup at mailboxes and for those voters who live in rural counties and who don’t have easy access to drop boxes at libraries, other locations, and the county elections office.

But the problem could not just turn on urban/rural.  Compare, for example, the number of drop boxes in Multnomah County, which provides more than two dozen drop boxes distributed throughout the county for their 367,992 voters ( a Google Map of drop box locations in Multnomah County) to the  two locations provided by Clackamas County for their 190785 voters (perhaps Clackamas County provided more outdoor drop boxes for the 2012 election, but I can’t find any reference to this on their website).

I have been fielding a lot of inquiries about early voting after the 2012 election, and one of my pieces of advice is to make sure, as much as feasible, that all voters have equal access to the polling place, whether that be the early in-person satellite location or election day polling place.  I realize that Oregonians can just mail their ballot in, but data from the past has shown that as many as 25% of the voters choose to drop off their ballots.  The kind of discrepancy shown above is a point of concern.

Oregon will need to think long and hard about this one, and the legislature may need to pony up resources allowing Steve and Secretary Brown to install many more drop boxes around the state and may need to mandate some number of drop boxes based on population size and geography.

64,000 Florida voters did not vote for President

Image courtesy of Channel 13 News, Orlando FL

This report came across my news feed, courtesy of Channel 13 news in Orlando. I have looked but cannot find the referenced report at the Division of Elections.

One point of interest in the report is the longstanding concern of many political scientists with the way turnout is reported in this country.  When 64,000 voters choose not to vote the top of the ticket in battleground state during a highly contested presidential contest, it’s pretty obvious that turnout should include all voters who showed up and cast (or attempted to cast) a ballot.

“Top of the ticket” totals are inaccurate.

I hope that that the report includes a breakdown by mode of balloting.  There is reference in the report to higher undervote and overvote rates among absentee voters, something Charles Stewart and I found in a 2010 report.  More coming soon!

Pew’s Election Performance Index released

Congratulations to Zach Markovits, Charles Stewart, and the Pew team that has been working on the Election Performance Index for a number of years.  It’s been a long road, and there will inevitably be complaints from states who think they are ranked unfairly, and from advocates who think the rankings are insufficiently detailed or use the wrong measures.

From my perch inside this machine, it has been educational–and frustrating–to discover how difficult it still remains to collect comparable, consistent, and relatively complete measures of election performance for 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Many of the rankings are driven upwards and downwards not by performance but by simple reporting.  That will remain the case until states feel some pressure to collect and report a relatively complete set of indicators after each election.  (This kind of pressure is one of the rationales behind the index first proposed by Heather Gerken.)

If anyone wants a sense of how much forward progress has been made in a few short years, compare this report to the first exploratory effort, the Data for Democracy report that I assembled along with Dan Seligson in late 2008.  It is encouraging to see how much progress has been made between the two presidential election cycles.

Ballots from around the world (and the Florida 2012 “Monster” ballot)

A slideshow from Slate (hat tip to Rick Hasen).

Another source for sample ballots (albeit not as attractively presented as Slate) is the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network.  The cool thing about the ACE archive is that it contains materials from the past 20 years and from many countries.

Andrew Reynolds at UNC has a nice selection of ballot papers (the Mongolian one on the right is from his site).

And to close, an example of the “monster” paper ballot in Florida 2012 that caused voters to wait in six hour lines.  Turn the color intensity down on your monitor!


Nice Election Law course website at Swarthmore Nice Election Law course website at Swarthmore

Screen shot 2013-01-15 at 3.29.58 PMI stumbled across this cool map that displays election law changes in the United States since 2006, put together as part of a class project by Professor Carol Nackenoff at Swarthmore.

I think it relies a bit too heavily on commentary from Brennan Center reports to describe election law changes (scroll over Tennessee for instance), and in the area of early voting, there are definitely some missing entries.  It’s still a really nice pilot that could be built on by other scholars.

Webcast from EAC Post Election Panel

I appeared along with a number of poll workers, local election officials, advocates, and academics at a full day post-election meeting organized by the Election Assistance Commission.

You can watch the full day webcast here.  Each segment is 90 minutes long and it’s pretty easy to pick and choose according to your interest.

MOOCs and Poll Worker Training

(Crossposted from

Chiming in on Michael’s post, credit for sparking the idea in my head was a comment by a poll worker. I apologize for not writing down his name, but it was either Clyde David (Prince George’s County MD) or Stephen Graham (District of Columbia).

He discussed the need for ongoing poll worker training, which got me to think of the poll worker training studies at the the Pew Center on the States (including an online component) that never really got off the ground.

This led me to reflect about how online learning has changed in the last five years, and how ongoing training might be revived, and even how young people could be encouraged to be poll workers… and all this led to MOOCs (massive open online courses).

As Michael notes, there has been a lot written about MOOCs, from breathless commentary that compares them to the disruptive impact of the Internet on newspapers to a recent story that claims real profits from MOOCs are a decade off. We in higher education really don’t know how online learning will affect our lives, but nearly everyone is paying attention. (This link takes you to a wholesection at the NY Times website on MOOCs.) Continue reading