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Voter Turnout POLS 125: Political Parties & Elections “A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won't cross the street to.

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Presentation on theme: "Voter Turnout POLS 125: Political Parties & Elections “A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won't cross the street to."— Presentation transcript:

1 Voter Turnout POLS 125: Political Parties & Elections “A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won't cross the street to vote in a national election.” — Bill Vaughan

2 The Vanishing Voter Generational replacement Lack of competitive elections Weakening party loyalty Unsavory campaigns Negative news Patterson calls declining voter turnout “the longest sustained downturn in American history.” What factors have caused it?

3 This is all the more disturbing because turnout should have increased… Increasing educational attainment Removal of poll taxes and literacy tests Simplified registration procedures

4 Voter Turnout in 2008 In November 2008, 131 million votes were cast for president. Is that number high or low Is that number high or low? It depends on how turnout is measured…

5 How Should We Measure Turnout? The voting-age population (VAP) includes non-citizens and felons who are ineligible to vote, and excludes expatriate citizens who could legally vote overseas. VAP estimates provide the lowest turnout levels because they underestimate actual turnout. The voting-eligible population (VEP) starts with the voting-age population, then subtracts disenfranchised felons and non-citizens, and adds citizens from overseas. VEP estimates of voting turnout are higher than VAP estimates. The number of registered voters includes only those legally registered to vote. This provides the highest rate of voter turnout. Turnout statistics can use any of three denominators:

6 131 million votes cast 231 million voting age citizens =57% voter turnout VAP VEP 131 million votes cast 213 million voting eligible citizens =62% voter turnout How Should We Measure Turnout? REG 131 million votes cast 172 million registered voters =76% voter turnout Fraud?

7 Turnout and the Census Bureau The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 64% of U.S. citizens voted in the 2004 presidential election (up from 60% in 2000). Also according to the Census Bureau, among those registered to vote, 89% (126 million) said they did. Both figures come from the Current Population Survey (CPS), and are therefore subject to both sampling and non-sampling error. For instance, the CPS estimate of overall turnout (125.7 million) differs from the “official” turnout, as reported by the Clerk of the House (122.3 million). Why? Because people lie and exaggerate in surveys, especially on something as socially desirable as voting behavior…

8 If voter turnout is low, compared to what? Compared to other countries Compared to historic rates of voter turnout in the United States

9 Voter Turnout in the United States Compared to Other Countries Source: International IDEA,

10 Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections,

11 Why American’s Don’t Vote Changing definitions of the eligible electorate Registration requirements Poll taxes Literacy tests Psychological barriers to voting Legal barriers to voting Rational abstention Political efficacy and civic duty Political influences on turnout

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13 Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections, The 26 th Amendment grants year olds the right to vote The 19 th Amendment grants women the right to vote

14 Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections,

15 How Should We Measure Turnout?

16 Increasing Voter Turnout OPTION #1: Do nothing. Once we use the appropriate measure (e.g., VEP), there is no problem. OPTION #2: Do nothing. Turnout may be low, but we don’t want uneducated, uninformed people voting anyway. OPTION #3: Do nothing. Voter and non-voters have similar policy preferences, so it makes little difference OPTION #4: Do something! Voting by mail Voting early Internet voting Election day registration

17 Does Low Voter Turnout Matter? Smaller, more highly educated, less representative electorate? Larger, less well educated, more representative electorate? Should we prefer a:

18 Making It Too Easy to Vote? Jeff Jacoby, a staff writer for the Boston Globe, wrote the following essay in July, 1996— Universal suffrage? I’m for that. Voting is right, not a privilege? Absolutely. No unreasonable barriers to voter registration? I agree. Government workers should go out of their way to sign up welfare recipients to vote? Hold it. Welfare recipients are people who don’t work, don’t pay taxes and don’t support themselves. Of course there are exceptions, but as a group—let’s face it—they are among the least educated, least productive, least responsible adults in America. They’re also among the least likely to be interested in elections or to follow public debates. If in addition they don’t bother to vote, we ought to be grateful. Why would anyone want to coax them into registering? …No one is disenfranchised in this country. Unlike the days of old, there are no poll taxes, literacy tests, gender barriers or property requirements to come between any citizen and the voting booth. If U.S. elections are marked by chronically low turnout, it is not because voters are kept away. They stay away. Some are apathetic, some are ignorant, some are simply self- centered. Why badger people to register? What would they bring to an election?… No welfare caseworker—no state employee, period—should have to spoonfeed voting rights to anyone, least of all people on the dole. If they can figure out how to get food stamps, they can figure out how to get registered. They choose not to? So be it. American democracy won’t suffer.

19 Increasing Voter Turnout OPTION #1: Do nothing. Once we use the appropriate measure (e.g., VEP), there is no problem. OPTION #2: Do nothing. Turnout may be low, but we don’t want uneducated, uninformed people voting anyway. OPTION #3: Do nothing. Voter and non-voters have similar policy preferences, so it makes little difference OPTION #4: Do something! Voting by mail Voting early Internet voting Election day registration

20 Why Don’t People Vote? Institutional context Motor-Voter Compulsory voting Election Day registration Voting by mail Internet voting Motivational strategies Personal canvassing Social pressure Enduring personal traits and psychological orientations Socialization through programs such as Kids Voting USA

21 How Does Motor-Voter Work? 1.Simultaneous application for driver’s license and voter registration 2.Mail application for voter registration 3.Application in person at certain government agencies, including public assistance offices and agencies that provided services to people with disabilities Widely known as Motor-Voter, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 is designed to encourage voter registration and to remove discriminatory and unfair obstacles to voter registration. As of January 1, 1995, the law requires states to register voters for federal elections in three specific ways, in addition to any other procedures they use currently for registering voters:

22 The Problem with Motor-Voter Voter Registration Voter Turnout Motivation and/or interest in politics

23 Increasing Voter Turnout Voting by Mail: Some countries extend the opportunity to vote by mail to those who are not away from their election district. Canada, Spain, The United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark will all send ballots to any interested citizen. Use of voting by mail services varies widely — almost 40 percent use it in Finland, only four percent in the United Kingdom. In 1998, Oregon passed a ballot initiative that replaced typical polling-place voting with a statewide vote by mail program. Other states — including Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington State — allow mail-in voting at one level or another. Voting Early: Some countries increase turnout by extending the period of elections. In Sweden any voter may vote early at their local post office. In 2004, the state of Texas is experimenting with early voting — polls in selected areas are open between seventeen days and four days prior to election day. Internet Voting: Many people believe that internet voting will greatly increase voter participation. However, it might also offer greater ease of voting to wealthier households. Many countries are testing pilot projects. The state of California recently commissioned a study on the feasibility of internet voting. The panel, comprised of more than two dozen experts in the field of data security, elections and voter participation concluded that "the implementation of Internet voting would allow increased access to the voting process for millions of potential voters who do not regularly participate in our elections." But the commission also expressed serious concerns about "technological threats to the security, integrity and secrecy of Internet ballots" and did not recommend a wholesale move to Internet voting. Election Day Registration: Election Day Registration (EDR), also known as "same-day voter registration," permits eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day. In the 2000 election, six states — Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming — permitted voters to register and vote on Election Day. These states had considerably higher voter participation and registration rates than the national average — 68 percent voter turnout for the EDR states as opposed to 59 percent nationwide. Critics contend that same-day registration will lead to greater voter fraud. Source: “America Votes” at pbs.org

24 Why Don’t People Vote? Institutional context Motor-Voter Compulsory voting Election Day registration Voting by mail Internet voting Motivational strategies Personal canvassing Social pressure Enduring personal traits and psychological orientations Socialization through programs such as Kids Voting USA

25 future-for-non-voters/

26 Increasing Voter Turnout Voting by mail Voting early Internet voting Election day registration

27 Vote Mobilization Efforts to increase voter turnout are often called “Get-Out-the-Vote” drives, or GOTV.

28 Obama goes door-to-door in Iowa DES MOINES, Iowa - Democrat knocked on doors in the Iowa capital Saturday talking up his opposition to the war in Iraq. At one stop, Obama got a warm welcome from a woman who said the visit might persuade her to attend the Democratic presidential caucus in January, "I'm flabbergasted that he's here knocking on my neighborhood door," Jody Degard told reporters after the visit from the Illinois senator.

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30 Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections, The 26 th Amendment grants year olds the right to vote The 19 th Amendment grants women the right to vote

31 Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections,

32 How Should We Measure Turnout?

33 Voter Turnout as a Political Strategy With narrow margins of victory, and an electorate split evenly down the middle, political parties increasingly battle over voter turnout.

34 Fraud vs. Suppression “The conflicting values of voter integrity and voter access increasingly frame today’s debates about democracy. Often, measures that prevent fraud in elections—such as photo-ID requirements—make voting more difficult and reduce access for legitimate voters.” --Spencer Overton

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36 Vote Mobilization In recent years, political parties have neglected traditional get- out-the-vote efforts (e.g., door- to-door canvassing) in favor of appeals to narrow and precise market segments. Still, in a recent experiment conducted by two Yale professors, voter turnout increased substantially (7- 12%) through personal canvassing, only slightly using direct mail, and not at all following s and automated telephone calls.

37 GOTV Tactics In part, the Republican strategy in 2004 was based on mobilizing the 4 million Christian evangelicals that (according to Karl Rove) stayed home in Rather than appealing to moderate “swing voters,” Bush focused on increasing turnout from the party’s conservative base. Effort also focused on key states. In Ohio alone, the GOP’s grassroots campaign included 3.5 million phone calls, knocking on 1.1 million doors, sending out 3.5 million pieces of literature, and the labor of 85,612 volunteers.

38 Add stuff about ACORN

39 Vote Suppression Ballot and machine shortages on Election Day in selected precincts. Delays in sending absentee ballots. Vote challenges. Disqualification of provisional ballots. Purges of voter registration lists (e.g., voter caging). Misdirection of voters to polling places. Negative advertising designed to undermine morale.

40 Vote Suppression Ballot and machine shortages on Election Day in selected precincts. Delays in sending absentee ballots. Vote challenges. Disqualification of provisional ballots. Purges of voter registration lists (e.g., voter caging). Misdirection of voters to polling places. Negative advertising designed to undermine morale. The following are some ways in which voter turnout can be selectively “suppressed” to the advantage of one party over the other: Of the 1,509 incidents reported to the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS), 548 occurred in Ohio—a state Bush won by just over 100,000 votes.

41 Has Motor-Voter Increased Ballot Fraud? Nashawna Prude, 9, with a family photo that includes her grandmother, Kimberly, second from left, jailed for more than a year for voter fraud. Kimberly Prude was convicted of voting while on probation, an offense that she attributes to confusion over eligibility.

42 Has Motor-Voter Increased Ballot Fraud? "Operation Big Vote" in the St. Louis area was used by Democrats to register more African-American voters and get them to the voting booth on Election Day. They delivered 3,800 voter registration cards to the St. Louis Elections Board on the February 7, 2001, nearly all of them fraudulent. Many of the applications sought to register prominent people, dead or alive - as well as at least three deceased aldermen and a dog. In 2000, the state of Florida hired a private firm named ChoicePoint to “cleanse” its voter rolls of felons who were ineligible to vote. The company produced a list of 8,000 names to remove from the registration rolls, only to find later that none had committed felonies, only misdemeanors. Critics argued the process unfairly targeted African-American voters. We spend quite a lot of time and money trying to increasing voter turnout. Why not devote equal effort to ensuring that election procedures and eligibility requirements are upheld? But how do we know when we’ve go too far?

43 The Debate over Photo IDs “It's outrageous to hear my colleagues sit there and say that the Republican Party is embarking on a move to suppress the vote of ethnic minorities throughout the country. That is blatantly false. I am not going to sit here and by my silence give any credence to that assertion. That's ridiculous." —Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA)


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