Here’s a Q&A, between myself, Francisco Cantu and Sebastian Saiegh, regarding the current elections in Argentina.
I spent yesterday visiting five different polling places in Boston (one of them twice), during the preliminary mayoral election. I chose the precincts randomly, though I used a method that assured me I would hit some big-registration precincts and some smaller ones.
One of the things I did was sketch the layout of each of the precincts I visited. I’ve attached cleaned up versions of those sketches to this posting (using that great drafting package, PowerPoint). As my geologist spouse would require me to say, these are not to scale; however, the sketches that look the most crammed together were the most space-constrained. I haven’t identified the precincts, because that’s not important. What is important is the variability.
Here are four quick thoughts:
(1) Local officials frequently remind us that they do not own the spaces they use, which was definitely true here. (The point was driven home when the building owner of one polling place decided to start power-washing the building, directly over its entrance, right as voting began.) These were all brightly lit, safe, pleasant spaces, but none was optimized for voting.
(2) The amount of space available for the voting equipment was loosely correlated with the amount of business or amount of equipment. As a corollary of point (1), sometimes the best available community spaces required the city to cram a bunch of equipment together.
(3) The flow of the space varied more than I expected. The two set-ups below which had a separate entrance and exit clearly worked better than the three that had a single entrance. (I didn’t choose the precincts for this reason, but notice that the best rooms for traffic flow were the ones that only had one precinct; the three polling places with a single entrance/exit also had two precincts, which only compounded the amount of jumbled traffic.)
(4) Not shown here: the gaggle of a dozen reporters/campaign workers who swarmed into “Precinct 1″ right as polls closed, looking to get the results as soon as they were printed off the scanner. As far as they were concerned, this was party time. They seemed little concerned that the poll workers were trying to do the very exacting task of checking their work and closing the precinct in an orderly fashion. I can only imagine what the campaigns would have said/done if the precinct workers had gotten something wrong in the close-up — but, it’s not like their representatives on site were really concerned about the fact that the poll workers still had a job to do.
Here are the sketches. Click on them to get a bigger view.
A piece in this morning’s NY Times asks the question, “Why Must Voting Be So Hard?” While the piece focuses on Texas, the question is one that applies nationally. For some solutions and ways to make voting easier, see the study that the VTP published after the 2012 presidential elections, “Voting: What Has Changed, What Hasn’t and What Needs Improvement.”
Here is the first issue of JETS, “The USENIX Journal of Election Technology and Systems.” A nice collection of articles representing the cutting edge of research in voting technology!
It seems that there will be recall elections in Colorado soon, according to reports in the news (“Facing a Recall After Supporting Stronger Gun Laws in Colorado”).
That reminded me of a post I wrote back in 2011, when recall elections in Wisconsin were in the news. That post was about the research that was done in the aftermath of the 2003 gubernatorial recall in California, which is quite relevant today for anyone interested in what political scientists have found when they have studied recall elections.
A new Gallup poll, just released, finds that 64% of American’s don’t want their kids to go into politics as a career.
There are two interesting patterns reported in the Gallup data. The first is a sizable order effect:
When Gallup asks about a daughter going into politics first, 37% say they would like to see their daughter go into politics. But 37% also say they would like to see their son go into politics when asked about it after being asked about a daughter going into politics.
In contrast, when Gallup asks about a son going into politics first, the percentage wanting to see their son go into politics is 12 percentage points lower, at 25%. And the percentage wanting their daughter to go into politics is lower, at 26%, when asked after the question about a son going into politics.
Also, the Gallup report notes that there hasn’t been a lot of change over time in these opinions — American parents today seem just as negative regarding a political career for their kids as parents were in past generations.
I’ve started taking a look at some survey research I did this past election into attitudes about voting technology, for a book chapter I’m writing with my graduate student, James Dunham. Something I hear a lot is that young people expect to do everything online. One implication of this (supposedly) is that one day, we will all be voting electronically, whether we like it or not.
Here’s a little peak at those attitudes. First, I estimated the probability that a respondent would answer the question, “Which type of voting method would you prefer to use?” with the response “an electronic voting machine with a touch screen.” Here is a graph of the estimated probabilities, as a function of age, broken down into respondents who voted on a DRE, compared to everyone else:
Among those who voted on a DRE, there was an overwhelming tendency to name DREs as the voting technology of choice. Among those who voted on some form of paper, young people really wanted to be using DREs instead — older people, not so much.
This is what the relationship looks like among those who say they would prefer to vote on “a paper ballot scanned and counted by a computer”:
This graph is a mirror of the first. Among current optical scan voters, younger voters would prefer to be voting some other way, while older voters like what they have. Among those who voted on something other an optical scanners (and there were a few hand-counted paper ballot users in the mix), there’s a small tendency of older voters to prefer something else.
One caveat in all of this is that the survey mode is via the Internet, so it’s not surprising that the respondents overall preferred DREs to optical scanning, 57% to 25%. Leaving aside the overall level of support, the age dynamics are interesting. Younger voters are more likely to prefer DREs than older voters, particularly in counties that use paper. This suggests an interesting future in the battles over the appropriate use of electronic technologies at the polls.
According to this story, at least two states are moving quickly in the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision in the Shelby County v. Holder case. Here are two key paragraphs from this story:
Within hours, Texas officials said that they would begin enforcing a strict photo identification requirement for voters, which had been blocked by a federal court on the ground that it would disproportionately affect black and Hispanic voters. In Mississippi and Alabama, which had passed their own voter identification laws but had not received federal approval for them, state officials said that they were moving to begin enforcing the laws.
The next flash point over voting laws will most likely be in North Carolina, where several voting bills had languished there this year as the Republicans who control the Legislature awaited the Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had covered many counties in the state. After the ruling, some Republican lawmakers said that they would move as soon as next week to pass a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. And some Republicans there are considering cutting back on the number of early voting days in the state, which were especially popular among Democrats and black voters during the 2012 presidential election.
Here is the link to the Carter Center’s preliminary report on the recent elections in Venezuela.
There’s going to be a workshop before APSA on Electoral Integrity, organized by the Electoral Integrity Project. Here’s additional information about the workshop.