Did non citizen votes deliver NC to Obama and assure Democrats a filibuster proof majority in the Senate in 2008? A new study argues that they did.

Partisan breakdown of the non-citizen vote, from Richman, Chattha, and Earnest (2014), courtesy of Elsevier Publications

A new paper by Jesse Richman, Gulsham Chattha, and David Earnest, available on first release in Electoral Studies, makes the controversial claim that:

We find that there is reason to believe non-citizen voting changed one state’s Electoral College votes in 2008, delivering North Carolina to Obama, and that non-citizen votes have also led to Democratic victories in congressional races including a critical 2008 Senate race that delivered for Democrats a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority in the Senate…

The authors follow a creative strategy by leveraging the large sample sizes in the Cooperative Congressional Election Study  in 2008 and 2010, and vote validation that occurred in 2008, to show that somewhere between 3.3%-25.1% of non-citizens were registered, and 1.5%-11.3% of non-citizens turned out to vote.

Extrapolated to the general population, they estimate anywhere from 38,000 to 2.8 million ballots were cast by non-citizens, and the bulk of these were Democratic votes (see figure above, reproduced from the paper).

The study is the first careful look at non-citizen voting that takes advantage of vote validation, and is almost certainly going to enter into the debate over photo ID.

 

Hasen’s take on the “new” voting wars

Great article by Rick Hasen in Slate: The Voting Wars Heat Up.

Rick does a wonderful job highlighting how law and politics intersect in this arena

For a nice illustration of the conflict, see these articles by two dear friends, Ned Foley and Dan Tokaji.  Ned and Dan are right down the hall from one another.  Both are smart and reasonable, but on the issue of early voting in Ohio and undue burdens, they come down on different sides.

One thing is for sure–classes and seminars on election law at the Moritz College of Law must be interesting affairs!

EVIC's 2014 Early Voting Calendar and Spreadsheet

EVIC’s 2014 Early Voting Calendar and Spreadsheet

If you follow EVIC you already know that early and absentee voting laws and policies are complex and vary widely across the fifty states. That’s why EVIC publishes an early and absentee voting calendar and spreadsheet for every general election.

This year, we’ve updated our products and hope the additional information encourages further dialogue about how these rules affect voters. So, make sure to try out all the new bells and whistles. Below, we explain what our information means and provide some basic context. If you’re worried that we misrepresent any state’s election law or policy, do not hesitate to let us know and post below.

Finally, EVIC wants to thank Jonathan Harvey and Tony Moreno, from Reed College CIS, who helped program and design the new calendar. I also want to thank Alex Arpaia, who helped gather the early and absentee voting data.

More information below the split.

Continue reading

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.

New Voter Information App

The Voting Information Project just released a new app that should make life easier for voters in all states. New technology already helps voters, poll workers, election administrators deal with the mayhem of elections, and it seems inevitable that the role of handheld devices will only increase in the coming years.

The app works only on Apple products now, but should be ready for Android devices by Election Day. Check out a post about the app from PEW’s news page here. If you happen to use the device, let us know in the comments how it works!

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

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.

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.

MonkeyCage: “Election integrity” is not “election fraud”

The MonkeyCage features a nice by Pippa Norris, Richard Frank, and Ferran Martinez I Coma on new research coming out of the Electoral Integrity Project.  The post reports on a recent international survey of election experts ranking 66 countries on a variety of measures of election conduct and administration.

Unfortunately, someone made an ill-advised choice to tag the post “election fraud.”

It may be the Pippa and her colleagues indirectly invited this provocative tag.  The first line of their posting reads:

In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption and flawed registers.

Followed in the next paragraph by:

Where there are disputes, however, which claims are accurate? And which are false complaints from sore losers?

The report does not really evaluate the validity of election disputes, nor does it provide a measure of election fraud, however.  What is being reported by the EIP is innovative and valuable: evaluations by expert observers of the perceptions of electoral integrity (this is the accurate title of the dataset available from Harvard’s Dataverse) by 855 election experts.

This is not the same thing as “election fraud,” and the report at the EIP website says this (emphasis added):

To address this issue, new evidence gathered by the Electoral Integrity Project compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards.

EIP shows that there is a strong correlation between expert assessments and liberal democracy (measured by Freedom House and Polity V indicators), thus validating the measure.  But it’s important to be clear what the measure is, and is not.  For instance, the US ranks relatively low because international experts (and the ODIHR) don’t like the way we draw our district lines or our system of campaign finance.

Neither do many American observers, but I’ve never seen any claims that our no-holds-barred campaign finance system translates into election fraud.  Our highly politicized redistricting system distorts the translation of public preferences into legislative seats, but it similarly does not, to my mind, have any relationship to fraud.

This is not a criticism of the EIP or of MonkeyCage. It simply brings to mind Rick Hasen’s description of the ongoing disputes over election fraud and voter suppression in The Voting Wars.

Both grab the headlines and fire up activists, but there is little empirical evidence of either occurring much in the United States.

The recent EIP report says a lot about “election integrity,” “election administration,” and simply “elections” (the appropriate tags), but “election fraud”?  The answer to that lies in the future.

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