Size matters. And so do a lot of other things.

I appreciated Doug Chapin’s posting about David Kimball (FULL professor now, folks) and Brady Baybeck’s paper titled “Size Matters in Election Administration“, presented at OSU Moritz School of Law’s “HAVA at 10” conference.

I’ll leave you to Doug’s posting for the nitty gritty, but I wanted to add an important thought for anyone who does comparative election study in the United States: because “size matters” so much in the U.S., a lot of other things matter as well, and it’s vital to take them all into account. It may be the case that large jurisdictions face different problems than small jurisdictions.

But it’s not enough to just show that large jurisdictions process, for example, 89% of the provisional ballots cast in the U.S., because large jurisdictions also 63% of the voters.  It’s the difference between the two–89%-63%–that is the quantity of interest. Furthermore, it may not be “size” that matters, but other things that covary with size: number of lower income voters, number of Latino voters, or the number of mobile voters.

My first takeaway from Kimball and Baybeck was: excellent first take at the disparate situation faced by jurisdictions in the U.S.

And my second takeaway was:  someone out there needs to connect the characteristics of LEO’s, jurisdictions, states, and citizens to really help disentangle these effects.  This is a great next project for some enterprising graduate student at CalTech, MIT, University of Maryland, Ohio State, University of Minnesota, University of Utah, or University of Missouri-St Louis (to name a few of the usual suspects!).

Candidates for MT Sec’y of State oppose same day registration, voting by mail

As reported in today’ Helena Record.

I’m not clear whether or not this race is competitive for the GOP, but if any have a good chance to be the next SoS of Montana, I hope they will look closely at the empirical evidence on SDR/EDR, vote by mail, voter turnout and vote fraud.

There are good reasons to oppose voting my mail–it removes ballots from the hands of government officials, it lengthens the voting period, it increases voter error (overvotes and undervotes).  While the amount of voter fraud is miniscule, it’s also the case that most notable cases of fraud are associated with absentee ballots.  However, states with VBM have experienced almost no fraud, have very high voter turnout, and lots of citizen engagement in elections.

I can see no reason for the candidates to oppose same day registration, which has been consistently shown to be cost effective and consistently shows a substantial positive impact on voter turnout.  There is no evidence of a partisan advantage to same day registration.  All this information comes from the Nat’l Conference on State Legislatures, as about a non-partisan source on these matters as one would want: http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/same-day-registration.aspx

NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy dedicated to elections and election law

Volume 15, Issue 2 of the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy has some interesting articles on Citizens United and election law.  You can peruse the volume here: http://www.law.nyu.edu/journals/legislation/issues/Volume15Number2/index.htm

Making Electoral Democracy Work Project

I just attended a panel with Laura Stephenson and Andre Blais, two of the primary investigators for the “Making Electoral Democracy Work” project on comparative campaigns, voting,and elections.  There is an election administration component to their project, although the depth of research in that area is not yet clear.

This is a website and project to monitor for the future.

Minnesota discovers the dangers of complexity Minnesota discovers the dangers of complexity

I’ve been reading a lot more about public policy in the past few years, undoubtedly the result of the insidious influence of Doug Chapin and Thad Hall. The field has made great strides since I was in graduate school two decades ago. I cut my teeth on John Kingdon’s Alternative, Agendas, and Public Policies (now a Longman “classic”–what does that say about me!). Now the field is replete with “punctuated equilibria,” “policy narratives,” and “advocacy coalition frameworks” (all describe in Paul Sabatier’s classic text).

While these complex models of unpredictable systems may frustrate a quantitative generalist like myself, they are obviously necessary. And Minnesota’s recently passed election law demonstrates this fact as well as anything.

As Mark Fischenich writes so effectively in the Mankato Post, the law seems straightforward to legislators, but election officials realize that the “devil is in the details.” And a lot of devilishness there is!

Among the potential legal and administrative conflicts that were apparently not considered by legislators:

  • UOCAVA problems: if the law is read strictly, overseas (and other absentee) voters will be unable to cast a ballot because they cannot show an ID.
  • Same day registration problems: identity has to be verified “prior to casting a ballot”, but what does that imply for someone who shows up to register and vote at the same time?
  • Provisional avalanche: If all these same-day registration voters and voters without sufficiently validated IDs are given provisional ballots, will this result in an unanticipated avalanche?

I have written about the interdependencies of various aspects of election laws in the past, and I’m trying to finish a project on early voting that lays many of these out. But the examples and anecdotes keep changing. Voter ID adds a new layer of complexity!

Maybe Doug and Thad can sort this one out.

* Image courtesy of http://www.mindmapinspiration.com/

Romney success in banking the early votes

Recent stories on the uber-hip SXSW have mentioned the Obama campaign’s use of “big data” analytics and how other campaigns are setting up similar operations for 2012.

The GOP has also learned from Obama’s successful effort to recruit early voters. A nice story in the National Review focuses on Mitt Romney’s success in “banking” the early voters, mainly absentee by mail voters. Romney will surely continue this effort in the general election, assuming he’s the nominee.

Our new look!

Thanks to James Hicks, my longtime programmer and soon to be successful litigator out of Boalt Hall, for updating earlyvoting.net!

Early and Absentee Votes in Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Rob Richie and I have been arguing for the use of ranked choice ballots for overseas voters, and potentially all absentee voters, in the presidential primary process. Our concern is that candidates who have withdrawn from the race remain on those absentee ballots, and overseas voters in particular have to mail their ballots back without realizing that some candidates have withdrawn.

The recent Ohio primary provides only mixed support. While we don’t have information on when the absentee ballot were returned, it does appear that Perry and Huntsman received a larger percentage of their votes on absentee ballots. Still, there are obviously a lot of election day voters who cast a ballot for one of these two candidates.

It might be interesting to observe “non running” candidates as a measure of voter dissatisfaction with the current crop of candidates. Nice dissertation topic? I’ve never seen anyone do this analysis before.

Cuyahoga Co., OH, 2012 PPP

Early voting updates

Apologies to our regular readers for my absence for a few weeks. I’m back to update you on all things early voting.

Some of you may have seen an editorial in Roll Call that Rob Richie and I authored, arguing for ranked-choice voting in presidential primaries for overseas absentee ballots. If anyone has reactions, I’d love to hear them. I think this is a great idea, and I’m pondering whether I should work with Rich to push this more systematically in a few states for 2016.

Voting reform is pushing ahead in Connecticut. It looks like online voting registration–an initiative of the Pew Center on the States--will be put in place. The legislature may also relax no-excuse absentee voting requirements. This means my standing comment in powerpoint presentations about the Northeast may need to be amended!

Early voting rates in Ohio seem to be lagging behind 2008. Some local officials speculate that it may because of a fear that candidates will drop out, but I don’t find that particularly convincing. None of the leading four candidates is showing any signs of withdrawing at this point. As Mike Alvarez has argued in his book, it is probably because voters remain uncertain and candidate support is fluid in the Buckeye State.

Another Ohio controversy is brewing over changes to the period for early voting.

Miami-Dade by mode of balloting

Another county’s results are plotted below, and while it’s too soon to assume a lot from just two counties, there is still a lot of election day votes cast for Cain, as a proportion of his total. Perry, Bachmann, and Huntsman look more like I’d have expected.

Miami-Dade, by mode of balloting