Dumb quote of the day out of Wisconsin

If the election was held today, President Barack Obama would lose the state of Wisconsin because where his base is, we have not turned out the vote early,” Mayor Michael Hancock told a Democratic rally. “The suburbs and rural parts of Wisconsin – the Republican base – are voting. President Obama’s base has yet to go vote.

So reports Alan Blinder in the Washington Examiner.

Why dumb quote of the day.  The election isn’t being held today, Mayor Hancock.  The early electorate and the Election Day electorate are very different, particularly in Wisconsin, which has come to the early voting world rather late.

This is not the first time, and won’t be the last time, we see wild inferences being drawn from the early vote.

The two stamp problem appears in Washington State

In Kitsap County, WA, heavy stock used to produce the ballot means that two stamps will be needed to return it by mail.

Dirty not very well-kept secret: USPS will deliver it anyway, and the county office had pledged to make up the difference.

Election Laws and Turnout

Somehow I missed the publication of this article by Melanie Springer, “State Electoral Institutions and Voter Turnout In Presidential Elections, 1920–2000” in State Politics and Policy Quarterly (gated).

The abstract:

Expansive and restrictive state electoral institutions have been instrumental in structuring the vote throughout American history. Studies focused on a small number of reforms, years, or states lack the scope necessary to comprehensively evaluate the effects of institutional change over time. This work, however, places recent reforms in historical context and offers a long-term perspective. Using an original data set, it identifies the institutions that have generated the most substantial effects on state turnout rates during presidential elections from 1920 to 2000. Findings demonstrate that restrictive laws (those aiming to limit the vote or make voting more costly) produced large and consistently negative effects in the Southern and non-Southern states alike, but the effects associated with expansive reforms (those making participation more convenient or less costly) vary. Although a few expansive laws have increased turnout in the non-Southern states, they have had no effect in the Southern states where turnout rates are lowest.

NY Times Article: Absentee Voting and Its Discontents

A front-page piece in the NY Times by Adam Liptak focuses on one of the more serious consequences of the rise in absentee voting.

First, absentee votes are more likely to fall prey to innocuous mistakes that lead to rejections. The article notes that “election officials reject almost 2 percent of ballots cast by mail, double the rate for in-person voting”.

Second, fraud is both theoretically easier to commit through absentee voting, and there have been more documented instances of absentee voting fraud in the last several years than in person voting fraud. Several of the most notable instances of absentee voting fraud are included in the article.

The article does not withhold the irony that those who focus on making voting more efficient and fraud less likely for in person voting may be missing the point.  The reality on the ground is that absentee voting is a growing phenomenon and is much more fertile ground for potential fraud and ballot mistakes

The article is a fine read. It touches for a moment upon the essential tension between the “elemental promises of democracy” that are questioned when voting can no longer be trusted, and the democratizing effects of a balloting system that makes voting available to so many more people. Since absentee voting appears to be a permanent fixture in US elections for the time being, this is a tension we need to continue dealing with

A 7% signal to noise ratio is successful in Florida

According to today’s news, 2625 citizens were incorrectly purged from Florida’s statewide voter registration system and were restored only after the state was sued by the Advancement Project.

Florida’s Secretary of State Rick Detzner describes the process as:

A successful process to identify illegally registered voters on Florida’s voter rolls. We want every Florida voter to be confident that their vote is protected and not hurt in any way by the illegal activity of others.

If this is success, I’d hate to see failure.  The number of non-citizens who have been found on the rolls thus far: 207.  That’s a sign to noise ratio of 7.3%  (207/(207+2625)).

“That’s really small!”
(Image courtesy of Macrumors.com)

Those 207 voters constitute .000018 or 2/1000’ths of a percent of the registered voters in the state.

To be fair, it’s unclear at this point what the state did to the 2625 citizens who were incorrectly flagged.  Reports indicate that they were sent a letter and only purged if they failed to show up or present evidence within a certain amount of time, although I suspect many citizens would resent having to go jump these hurdles given such an error-prone process.  What other draconian and costly procedures will be employed next?

No reports yet on whether any of those 207 registered voters has ever cast a ballot.

Roll Call and CQ Daily merging

The merger of Roll Call and CQ Daily is not going to register in a lot of circles, but I remember both as required reading for any aspiring scholar of American politics.  Both publications are apparently making money, but readership patterns are shifting to online publications, and the publisher thinks they can deliver the same content at one online and print publication.

What’s interesting is how the change happened–once they allowed tablets onto the House floor, their print sales took a nosedive.

(Crossposted at Politika)