My Voter File Moment at Vanderbilt

My day in Nashville has been wonderful–thanks again to John Geer and the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions for hosting me.

My lecture had one lowlight and one highlight.  I wonder if the highlight is shared by my good friends in the elections community such as Doug Chapin, Charles Stewart, Dan Smith, and others.

The lowlight is easy: I never realized that this was a course on elections, not introductory American politics!  When I answered in response to a question that the demographic profile of the early voter mirrored many of the biases in American politics that they have “read about in the interest groups chapter”–even using the  “what accent the heavenly chorus” quote from Schattschneider–I wonder if the students knew what class they were in.

To Geer’s credit, he told me afterward that the students will probably be panicked, and maybe that’s a good thing!

The highlight was so much fun that I high-fived the instructors (Geer along with Josh Clinton and Bruce Oppenheimer).

One thing I enjoy doing is showing citizens how much information is available on the internet about voter registration and voting turnout.  In this case, I decided to do a quick analysis of the North Carolina absentee voter file.  I harvested 10 addresses that appeared to be students at Vanderbilt.  I tried to anonymize them as best I could, reporting just first names and cities.  The display is shown below.

I put this up on the overhead, and up goes a hand in the back of the room.  “I’m Natalie” came a voice from the back of the room.  “I’m Brian” said another student.  It turned out that five of the ten names were students in the room.

10 Vanderbilt University addresses from the NC absentee file

A few students seemed to be nodding off to my somnolent presentation.  They all woke up after that.

Fun times in Nashville.  My daughter, Katie, and I are off to Puckett’s Grocery for dinner and some music.