2 Elections and Democracy Frequent elections are key to democracy and, in elections, principals (citizens) choose agents to act on their behalfBut there are two problems for principals:Adverse selection: the problem of incomplete information – of choosing alternatives without fully knowing the details of available optionsMoral hazard: the problem of not knowing all aspects of the actions taken by an agent
3 Institutions of Elections Elections rules consist of a mix of federal and state laws, court decisions, and local administrative practicesFour basic questions of election law:Electoral Composition: Who votes?Ballot Access and Form: How do we vote?Electoral Districts: Where do we vote?Criteria for Victory: What does it take to win?
4 Who Votes? Electoral Composition The electorate has expanded throughout American historyFifteenth Amendment allowed Blacks to vote but local laws restricted voting until the 1960sIn most states, women could not vote until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920Eighteen-year-olds could not vote until the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was ratified in 1971Voting is a right, it is not compulsory
6 Voter Turnout Is Lower than It Was a Century Ago Discussion:Voter turnout declined markedly between 1890 and 1910, as these were the years when states began to require that voters be registered in order to vote.
7 Voter Registration is a Key Obstacle to Voting Some voters do not vote on Election Day because they are not registered to voteThere are many reasons voters may not be registered to vote but one common reason is that they have recently movedOne reason voter registration rates are lower among young people is because they move more often and are less likely to be registered where they currently live
8 Demographic Differences in Voter Registration Rates, 20012 Discussion:While voter registration is an obstacle to higher voter turnout, it does serve some important purposes beyond avoidance of voter fraud. One important issue is that your home address determines which elections you participate in. We live in particular legislative districts at federal, state, and even county and city levels that determine which legislative race we should participate in. In addition, primary elections are sometimes closed to those registered in a particular party, and registration helps to determine electoral composition for these party activities.
9 How Americans Vote: Ballot Access and Form The rise of the secret ballot and the Australian ballot came about in the late Nineteenth centuryAustralian Ballot – An electoral format that presents the names of all the candidates for any given office on the same ballot.
10 Clicker QuestionThe rise of the Australian ballot had all of the following effects EXCEPTbanning voters under 21 from voting.encouraging ticket splitting.helping incumbent candidates.making the ballot longer.Answer: A
11 Where Americans Vote: Electoral Districts Elected officials represent people in specific placesFor the most part, the United States employs single-member districts, meaning the electorate chooses only one representative from each districtPresidential elections are a special case in which the electoral college is employed
12 Exceptions to One Person, One Vote Members of the U.S. Senate represent states with each state given the same number (2) of senatorsThis violation of the one-person, one-vote standard is authorized by Article V of the ConstitutionThe Electoral College is also an exception
13 The Effects of Single-Member Districts Single-member districts tend to exaggerate the victory of the majorityIn 2010, Republicans won 53.5% of the national two-party vote but 55.6% of the seatsIn 2008, Barack Obama won 53% of the national vote but 68% of the Electoral CollegeThis also shrinks the power of smaller groupsSingle-member districts also weaken third parties.
14 RedistrictingBecause of the one-person, one-vote standard, legislative districts are not staticThey are redrawn every 10 years and, in most states, the power to do this resides with the state legislatureDistrict boundaries may be manipulated to give one party or another an advantageThis is called gerrymandering
16 GerrymanderingThe apportionment of voters in districts in such a way as to give unfair advantage to a political partyGerrymandering is creating less of a bias than in previous decadesOne reason for this is that voters are already largely segregated into communities of like-minded voters
17 Racial Gerrymandering Redistricting can also be done to the advantage or disadvantage of groups as well as partiesBy breaking up communities of racial minorities, those drawing the maps can dilute their power and make it more difficult to elect minority legislatorsThis kind of gerrymandering is unconstitutional
18 Criteria for Victory: What it Takes to Win Most American elections require a plurality of votes to winPlurality Rule – A type of electoral system in which victory goes to the individual who gets the most votes in an election, but not necessarily a majority of the votes castThe main alternative to plurality rule is proportional representation, but this is not consistent with single-member districts
19 Duverger’s LawDuverger’s Law of politics, formalized by Maurice Duverger, states that plurality-rule electoral systems will tend to have two political parties.Voters do not want to waste their votes, so if they understand that the more extreme candidate cannot win, they will vote for the more moderate alternative.
20 Direct Democracy: The Referendum and the Recall 24 states allow for referenda – A measure proposed or passed by a legislature that is referred to the electorate for approval24 states also allow for the initiative – A process by which citizens may petition to put a proposal on the ballot for public vote18 states allow for the recall – The removal of a public official by popular vote
21 How Voters Decide: Whether to Vote Correlated strongly with demographics, electoral choices, and contextOlder people voteHighly educated people votePeople who have not moved recently voteWeakening registration requirements would increase voting
22 How Voters Decide: How to Vote Partisan loyalty is the single strongest predictor of a person’s voteThere is a psychological attachmentThere is an ideological attachmentThere is an attachment to past experience with a partyThe vast majority of voters consistently vote for one party or the other
23 Party Identification and the 2012 Presidential Election
24 Party Identification and the 2008 Presidential Election
25 How Voters Decide: Issues Voters also consider specific issuesLooking forward and backProspective – Based on future performanceRetrospective – Based on past performanceMeans and EndsSpatial issues – Voters care about how something is doneValence issues – Voters want a particular outcome
26 Voters are distributed evenly in Groups 1-5. Which position should a candidate take on the issue?X1X2X3X4X5
27 Median-Voter TheoremWhen voters engage in issue voting, competition pushes candidates’ positions toward the middle of the distribution of voter preferencesThis is because the candidate whose position is closest to the median voter’s position is likely to win
28 Consumer Confidence as a Valence Measure Discussion:Economic conditions are an important kind of valence issue and received a great deal of attention in the 2012 election, as it was the most important issue in the election. Consumer confidence is one key measure of whether voters think the economy is heading in the right direction. Generally speaking, a consumer confidence score of 100 is probably a key threshold for the president’s party in a given election. If consumer confidence is above 100, the president’s party will have a much better chance of holding the White House. As you can see, consumer confidence was well below 100 in 2012, but President Obama was reelected anyway. The reason is probably that consumer confidence was very low when President Obama took office and was rising quickly in In other words, even though economic conditions were not yet good, voters generally believed that things were getting better and were therefore not interested (at least not a majority of them) in changing course.
29 How Voters Decide: Candidate Characteristics Voters tend to prefer candidates more like themselves because they presume such candidates are likely to have views close to their ownVoters also value particular characteristics like “honesty” and “vigor”Incumbency can be thought of as another characteristic and, most of the time, this is an advantage
30 Clicker QuestionWhich of the following plays the most important role in voters’ decisions?candidates’ characteristicspartisan identificationissuesposition on the ballotAnswer: B
31 What It Takes to Win All campaigns face similar challenges: How to bring people inHow to raise moneyHow to coordinate activitiesWhat message to runHow to communicate with the publicThere is no single best way to run for office.Campaigns are long and costly.
32 Campaign Organizations Most campaign organizations are temporary, created by a candidate to run for a particular office and they disband shortly after Election DayParties have multiple permanent political organizations and so do powerful interest groups
33 Campaign TacticsCampaigns today are longer than ever before and they employTelevision, radio, direct mail, and Internet adsGet-out-the-vote activitiesCampaign events like rallies and debatesAll of this is very expensive so there is a complex web of laws surrounding campaign finance
35 Can corporations spend money on political campaigns? YesNoAnswer: A … pretty muchCorporations cannot give money to a candidate campaign nor can they spend money in coordination with a candidate campaign. But in Citizens’ United v. FEC (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that corporations may spend unlimited amounts to engage in political speech during a campaign so long as the message is not coordinated with a candidate. In effect, the “non-coordination” requirement is easy to skirt as coordination would be exceedingly difficult to prove. In addition, because they are not constructing candidate campaigns, the contributions and expenditures from these so-called “Super PACs” are not subject to as much and as frequent disclosure to the public as candidate campaigns are.Stephen Colbert has both poked fun at the idea of SuperPACs and has been busy educating the public about SuperPACs by forming his own SuperPAC. Colbert’s SuperPAC has raised over $1 million including $13 from two children, Charlie and Grace. Colbert discusses the donation from Charlie and Grace here:
36 Congressional Campaigns The incumbent advantage is significant in congressional campaignsThis is because of:Greater name recognitionFundraising advantagesCasework and voting recordDiscussion:It is worth pointing out to students that, even in years that are tough for incumbents like 2010, more than 90 percent of House members who seek reelection get reelected.
37 The 2008 and 2010 ElectionsDemocrat President Obama and Democrats in Congress won big victories in 2008, partly because of the weak economyBut Republicans had massive gains in the congressional midterm elections in 2010 – a result President Obama referred to as a “shellacking.”
39 The 2012 ElectionMore than 128 million Americans voted for president, members of Congress, governors, and numerous other officials.President Obama was reelected and Democrats retained majority control of the U.S. Senate, but Republicans also held on to majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
40 The Electoral College in 2012 Discussion:Despite what could be viewed as a narrow victory (51 percent to 47 percent) over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, President Obama is the first president to have won a majority of the national vote twice since Ronald Reagan and the first Democrat to do so since FDR. Democrats have now won the national popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
41 Political Parties in 2012: Unity and Division There is a growing ideological split between the parties, but the parties are not ideologically uniform in themselves.The split within the Democratic Party was largely masked by the fact that the Democratic nominee was a given.The split within the Republican Party was exposed during the presidential primaries.
42 Congressional Election Results Discussion:The swing back toward Republicans in the 2010 elections was decisive and stunning. While most incumbents from both parties were still reelected, Democrats fared much, much worse than Republicans. Just 78.8 percent of Democrats were reelected, a figure significantly lower than any previous election cycle in recent decades. Democrats made only modest inroads into the Republican House majority in 2012.
44 The General Election for President The 2012 presidential election was largely waged in 8 to 10 swing states.The Obama campaign and allied groups spent about $400 million on advertisements, while the Romney campaign and allied groups spent about $500 million.The Obama campaign was widely viewed as better organized on the ground.Discussion:The text discusses the president’s subdued and listless performance in the first debate and his recovery in the subsequent debates. Of course, Jon Stewart offers a more humorous analysis of the President’s bounce-back performance in the second debate:
45 Vote Shifts between 2008 and 2012 Discussion:President Obama generally saw his support erode very slightly among most groups between 2008 and 2012, but he did improve his performance among two of the fastest-growing groups of voters—Latino voters and Asian voters.
48 Elections and Accountability The last two elections demonstrate the link between elections and accountabilityVoters angry with President Bush and a weak economy punished Republicans in 2008Voters angry with President Obama, congressional Democrats, and a still weak economy punished Democrats in 2010It is clear voters are using elections to hold elected officials accountable
49 District boundaries can have subtle but significant effects on the partisan division of a legislature. If a party can control the districting process, it may be able to craft the lines in such a way that the party wins more seats for the same number of Republican and Democratic votes.49
50 Consider a hypothetical state where Republicans represent 60 percent of voters and Democrats represent the remaining 40 percent of voters. As a result of population changes during the preceding decade, this state now has five congressional districts. A state legislature controlled by a Republican majority could draw congressional districts in such a way that Republicans are 60 percent of voters in each seat and expected to win every seat.Now suppose that the Democrats are in control of the state legislature. With the same distribution of voters in the state, they could draw the districts to favor the Democrats as much as possible (with Democratic voters dominating three of the districts).50
51 Consider a real-world example Consider a real-world example. Reapportionment following the 2010 census allotted Texas four new districts, and the shifting demographics of the state required considerable redrawing of the congressional district lines. The Democrats and Republicans in the Texas state legislature each proposed new district plans. The Republican-controlled legislature passed the Republican plan (Plan C185), and Republican governor Rick Perry signed that plan into law.51
52 In a state of 25 million people, comparing different districting plans is more complicated than in our simple models, but comparing the Republican plan (C185) and the main Democratic plan (C166) in Texas revealed a significant difference. Political scientists started by calculating each party’s share of the two-party vote in statewide and federal elections over the decade from 2002 to 2010: the average was 42.3 percent Democratic and 57.7 percent Republican. This average is called the normal vote. Using the normal vote as the measure of the Democratic and Republican strength in each area, Democrats comprise 42.3 percent of the electorate, and they are the majority in 27.8 percent of districts (10 seats) and Republicans the majority 72.2 percent of districts (26 seats).Political scientists analyzing this case also estimated the bias toward one party or the other. Imagine a hypothetical election in which the two parties divide the votes in the entire state 50–50. To calculate the bias of the new Texas districting plan, we add 7.7 percentage points (the difference between 50 percent and the Democratic normal vote of 42.3 percent) to the Democractic vote share in each congressional district under the plan. This will give us the expected outcome for each district in an election where each party wins 50 percent of the vote statewide. Then, calculate the percentage of districts where the Democrats’ share of the vote exceeded the Republicans’ share of the votes and the percentage where the Republicans’ share of the votes exceeded the Democrats’ share. The difference between the seat share in this hypothetical election and 50 percent is the partisan bias of the plan.The graph shows the expected Democratic share of Texas U.S. House seats won at 42.3 percent and for percentages of the statewide vote above and below that average, including at the 50 percent point. We can see the partisan biases of each plan in the graph by looking at the expected Democratic seat share at 50 percent of the vote. The plan passed into law (the red line) has a 13-point bias: Under Texas’s new districts, Democrats are expected to win 37 percent of seats if they win half of the vote statewide (the difference between 37 and 50 is the partisan bias). Under the Democrats’ own plan (the blue line), the bias is just 5 points.SOURCE: Texas Legislative Council, (accessed 10/31/11) and author’s calculations.52
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