Thursday, July 28, 2005

News from The Roanoke Times -Special grand jury will examine voting

Another absentee ballot fraud story. Thing is, folks assume absentee balloting is more open to fraud, but we don't have a good baseline for comparison. Regardless, for your consumption ...

News from The Roanoke Times -Special grand jury will examine voting

Early Voting: Does it save money?

Many claim that early voting, whether relaxed absentee balloting or in-person, saves money. (All of these are "mixed" systems that involve significant levels of day-of-election voting, so are not really comparable to a system like Oregon's where everyone votes by mail.)

I've seen few precise cost estimates, however, and can think of reasons that maintaining polling stations for a few weeks may end up costing more money.

There is a brief reference in today's story, from the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal, that early voting may be more expensive than traditional precinct balloting. They also provide a per-vote cost estimate.

Referenced story:
The New Bern Sun Journal

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Early Voting in Israel: Update

Legislation allowing absentee voting by Israeli expatriates failed, 25-23. Mark Levinson speculates that the Left defeated the bill because they thought it would dilute the Arab vote. Levinson believes this belief is unwarranted, and that high-tech expatriates in particular would be likely to vote for the Left.

Interesting note in the story: 49 countries allow their expatriates to vote in absentia.

Story referenced in this posting:
Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish

Early Voting, Get out the Vote, and "Super" precincts

Today's story in the Charlotte Observer is just the first of many we'll see in the coming years, as early voting extends across the United States.

Traditionally, it was relatively straightforward, if labor and cost intensive, to mobilize voters. You could blanket a geographic location with advertisements, pamphlets, phone calls, and face to face contacts. While the lack of clean overlap between various political, institutional, and commercial boundaries (e.g. census blocks and tracts, state and federal legislative districts, zip codes, and television markets) could complicate the situation, the task of getting voters to the polls has not changed in a fundamental way for decades.

This will all change if many states follow the NC example and create "super precincts." These are instituted as a way to make voting more convenient for early voters, by allowing them to cast their ballot in locations other than their precinct. Presumably these 'super precincts' are contiguous geographically with a number of smaller precincts, although technically that is not necessary. Under HAVA requirements for statewide registration rolls, there is no reason that a voter in, say, Durham NC could not cast a ballot while on vacation in Charlotte, NC, and have it counted correctly. All that would have to happen is that the (presumably computerized) vote counting system has to match up the individual's voter ID with the proper ballot, provide this ballot to the individual, and count the vote.

In this story, Republicans charge that "super precincts" benefit Democrats, although there is little evidence to back this up. It is probably true that the majority of voting errors occur in urban areas, but this has as much to do with density, the complexity of drawing lines, and lack of funding in urban areas (that tend to vote Democratic) than it does with any organized pro-Democratic bias in the system.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to monitor how super precincts change GOTV efforts and campaigning in the future. Along with other voting reforms, these changes may break the traditional American linkage between geographic location and voting.

Charlotte Observer | 07/25/2005 | Imagine voting at local mall, uptown hotel

Monday, July 25, 2005

Will Mexican Absentee voting hurt Latinos and fuel anti-immigrant sentiments?

Tom Elias, writing in the Pasadena Star-News, speculates that the spectre of millions of Mexican immigrants waving Mexican flags at rallies for PAN and PRI could end up fueling anti-immigrant sentiments by American citizens.

I raised the intriguing possibility a few days ago, where foreign parties will be organizing large campaign rallies in American cities. I find it an interesting sociological and political phenomenon, but this is the first time I've seen a suggestion that it may be harmful to Latino interests in the US.

Absentee Voting by Ghana Diaspora

Another article about diaspora voting, this time by Ghanians in the US:

Feature Article of Sunday, 24 July 2005

Friday, July 22, 2005

Does "one stop" registration and voting increase turnout?

Making valid turnout comparisons between states with different citizenries, political cultures, and electoral rules and machinery is hard to do. But that doesn't people from making them, and making them poorly.

The story below is a typical example. The analysis was provided by "Democracy North Carolina" in this report report. As described in the story:

In other states, it has been shown to improve turnout.

During the 2004 election, voter turnout was 41.9 percent nationwide for residents aged 18-24. It North Carolina, it was 38.4 percent.

But in the six states that had one-stop voting, an average of 56.1 percent voted.

These six states are: Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, Idaho, New Hampshire and Wyoming.

Is there anything else about these states that might lead them to have higher than average turnout? I'm not sure, and I'll do some research on the topic.

What surprises me is how widespread these claims are. A quick Google search on "same day registration turnout" leads to the same claim made by Demos USA, The Alliance for Better Campaigns, and The Centrist Coalition. Many seem to rely on a report from Curtis Gans issued after the 2000 election.

Never is it made clear whether "Same Day Registration" was entered into a full, multivariate model of turnout to see if it makes a difference above and beyond demographics and other rules and procedures, or whether it is the case that these states already had a participative political culture and adopted same-day registration as a consequence.

As a final aside, Democracy NC says they found out the "less than 2%" of young North Carolinians knew that they had to register 25 days before election, and that less than 10% were "close" (within 4 days).

Their press release claims that this shows that "even the young people who were registered and voted struggled with the questions about registration, such as the registration deadline..."

Do we have any evidence at all that this is true? How many registered voters (of any age) do you think know how many days, exactly, before an election they need to register? Don't most folks just register once during a registration drive or when they register their motor vehicle? Why is this something that we think people should know and why do we think it has any bearing at all on turnout.

The major barriers to turnout are voter interest and motivation. Election reforms are fine as far as they go, but if anyone thinks that minor tweaking around the edges, like same day registration, will do anything but help turnout a few percentage points, they are sadly mistaken.

Referenced Story: News 14 Carolina | 24 Hour Local News | LOCAL NEWS | One-stop voting might be approved

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More on Israel and Absentee Voting

Haaretz has a better story. The bill is more sweeping that I first reported; Likud wants to extend voting rights to Israelis living permanently abroad (with such odd provisions as ones dealing with backpackers, workers for high tech companies and other "publicly traded companies").

I'm not sure why these distinctions matter--either you are a citizen abroad or not, but apparently this has not previously been the case in Israel. An interesting pattern for a state of immigrants.

Haaretz's story is here:
Haaretz - Israel News - Likud faction to support overseas voting bill

Monday, July 18, 2005

Possible money for early votes scheme, other fraud, in McAllen, Texas

A grand jury is investigating reports that someone illegally diverted early ballots, as well as offered money for votes, in a recent mayoral election in McAllen.

The Monitor - McAllen, Texas

Will early voting change the dynamics of an election?

Typically, early voting reforms are defended on the grounds of voter convenience and (relatedly) heightened turnout. Seldom do legislators consider how elections may change (for better or for worse) when a significant proportion of the electorate may have cast their ballot well before election day.

Utah legislators seem to have gotten this point, at least initially. Early voting reforms have been delayed in Utah so they can more extensively debate the issue. We'll see where this goes down the line.

Salt Lake Tribune - Utah

Early Voting continues to expand worldwide

I have posted recent stories regarding absentee balloting by Mexicans living in the United States. The most recent story (AP Wire, July 14, 2005 ) shows the sort of hurdles that these efforts will encounter.

The number of potential absentee Mexican citizens living in the US would total in the millions (the LA Times estimates 11 million). This is easily enough voters to sway the 2006 Presidential election. Given the history of electoral fraud in Mexico, combined with problems with the Mexican postal service, Mexican officials recently announced that they are considering absentee drop off stations located in the US! Imagine the prospect of millions of Mexican citizens casting their ballots in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, and other large American cities! (See also this story in the Chicago Tribune. )

On the heels of the developments in Mexico, news out of Israel is that this government is also considering proposals which would make it far easier for Israeli citizens living in the US to vote in Israeli elections.
This initiative has a more partisan flavor than the Mexican initiative--it seems to be a move by the right to shore up their support by gaining the votes of conservative Jewish voters who are temporarily living or visiting in the US. Are US visitors that skewed on a partisan basis?

Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World

Perhaps not surprisingly, legislators in Taiwan have moved in the opposite direction. While they are relaxing absentee balloting requirements in the country (allowing those who are not in their electoral district at the time of the election to cast an absentee ballot), they are considering whether to explicitly exclude Taiwanese nationals living abroad (e.g PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC!) to not be able to cast a ballot.