True the vote continues to print untrue things

I tried to be nice the first time to True the Vote, but as Fairvote pointed out to me on Twitter, their revised report (linked here: only makes things worse.

All the evidence on turnout (debunked first by me then more devastatingly by FairVote on the Election Law listerv) have been removed, yet the claims of turnout effects remain on pg. 4 of their report:

Pg 4: “Further, voter turnout rates should have demonstrated drops in participation.In both cases, our research proves otherwise.”

 Necessary correction: The research as been removed and the previous research has been shown to be inaccurate.  

This comment about lines in Florida may have been in the first draft of the report, but is also inaccurate.  This is from pg. 5 of the report:

Pg. 5: “the combination of roll purges, early voting changes and photo ID requirements did not manifest any clear negative impacts in 2012. While some voters complained of long lines, especially during early voting, the average wait time was 50 minutes for Floridians.”

 Necessary correction: The average wait time in Florida was the longest nationwide by far.  It was nearly four times the national average of 14 minutes, and 50% higher than the next state on the list (Maryland, at 28.8 minutes).  

Data are reported here

If this is evidence of no “negative impact,” I’d hate to see what a negative impact looks like!

What makes this frustrating for an academic is that the impact of voter ID requirements on turnout and on wait time remains an open question, at least as far as I read the scholarship thus far.  The discussion isn’t helped along by badly misleading and poorly documented reports.

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.

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.

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!


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

How one story changed voting laws in Florida

From the Miami Herald:

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsored the law that included the provisional ballot changes. Despite the national criticism he’s received for supporting it, Baxley said the changes were needed.

Baxley said he pushed to have the out-of-county requirement after talking with a friend, Alachua County GOP chairman Stafford Jones. …

Jones said he has no proof to support his claim, only recollections of liberal blog posts that people were moving to vote.

Will Boyett, Alachua’s chief deputy supervisor, said his office researched the claims and found nothing to back Jones’ claims.

Read more here:

Voting in America Summit 2012

I am in DC at the Voting in America Summit. Here is the very active twitter feed:

[twitter_search query=”#via2012″ show=”5″ ]

Should pressure for a fast count determine how we vote?

The new clerk-recorder in Riverside County, CA, Kari Verjil, has apparently avoided the pothole that ended the career of her predecessor Barbara Dumore.

Riverside has the 10th fastest count among California counties, according to information just released by the Secretary of State’s office.

Verjil attributes the improvement to a dedicated effort by her office to encourage citizens to cast their ballots by mail.  Verjil did the smart thing by figuring out the best way to respond to the pressures placed on her by political actors.

It’s the political pressure that bothers me.  Buried down in the story is this revealing comment:

With paper ballots in widespread use after the state’s decision years ago to eliminate electronic computer voting, Verjil had said a shift to heavy mail voting was the best strategy for speeding the count.

Let’s be clear about this: the Secretary of State and other political leaders decided to move away from electronic voting machines.  Then these same actors criticized local officials for a slow count which was almost exclusively a known consequence of the move to paper ballots.

If you move to paper ballots, then you are obligated in my view to accept the consequences.  And in a voter intent state that also allows voters to drop absentee ballots at precincts on Election Day, the consequence is a slow count.

I made the  same point I made back in 2010 when Dunmore’s job was in jeopardy.

Apparently the response is going to be an even heavier emphasis on voting by mail, not because it is the best system for voters, not because it is cheaper or more efficient, but just because political actors can’t wait 12 or 14 hours for election results.

This is not a model for good policy making.