JETS — Journal of Election Technology and Systems call for papers

Just a reminder (and note to self!), submissions for JETS Volume 2, Number 3 are due on April 8, 2014! Here’s a link for additional information.

Leighley and Nagler, Who Votes Now?

Right before the holidays, a new book came out by Jan E. Leighley and Jonathan Nagler, Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States. The book is published by Princeton University Press, and I strongly encourage everyone who is interested in voter participation in the United States to read this new book. Jan and Jonathan have studied voter participation in the U.S. for a considerable period, and their book presents a variety of new analyses that examine the effects of various election reform efforts on voter participation.

Vote buying allegations in Texas

There is a story this morning in the NY Times, “Texas Vote-Buying Case Casts Glare on Tradition of Election Day Goads” that details recent vote buying allegations in Texas. One of the interesting details in the story concerns what the alleged fraudsters were willing to pay for votes:

Three women working as politiqueras in the 2012 elections in Donna were arrested by F.B.I. agents in December and accused of giving residents cash, drugs, beer and cigarettes in exchange for their votes.

According to court documents, the typical payment to a voter was $10, a sign of the extreme poverty in the Rio Grande Valley, which is home to some of the poorest counties in America. Two of the three women — Rebecca Gonzalez and Guadalupe Escamilla — are accused of paying some voters as little as $3 for each of their votes. One voter was given a pack of cigarettes. Others were taken to buy drugs after they received cash for voting for a politiquera’s candidate.

IFES 2014 Elections to Watch

IFES has put out this handy summary of “Elections to Watch“.

My Two Cents on Schools as Polls

As Mike and Lonna noted, each of us have had less than pleasant encounters with school principals regarding polling places in schools and I have blogged about this before. In one of our many polling place observations in Southern California, Mike watched with some amusement when an elementary school principal expressed anger when I took a picture of an election sign at her school.; she didn’t like adults with cameras on her property, and for good reason.

Let me note a couple of other reasons schools are terrible polling places, other than the security of students.

  1. They have lousy parking.  Schools are not designed with excess parking capacity, especially schools in populated areas.  Schools have parking for teachers and some high schools have student parking but they aren’t meant for having hundreds of people park there.
  2. Rush hour for schools is rush hour for voting.  The busiest time for schools is when they open — typically between 7-8:30, which are also peak morning voting times.  The crush of people coming to vote and parents or buses dropping off kids can be quite chaotic.
  3. Where to put the polls in a school?  There often aren’t good places for the polls in a school.  Schools can be noisy places before classes, during lunch, and after classes.  Putting to polls near gathering places is a problem for this reason.  Putting them away from the immediate entrance puts voters too far into the building for security purposes.  And the polls need to be near the disability accessible entrance and this too can be a challenge.

The easy answer is to make election day a holiday and schools would not be open in the first place.  THEN, they would be great polling locations.

NM Secretary of State sends Letter to Greens, Constitutional, and Independent Party Disqualifying Party

About 6 weeks ago now, I got a call from two different Green voters asking me if they were still eligible to vote because of a letter that they received from New Mexico Secretary of State Diana Duran. The letter was dated November 5, 2013 and said,

          RE: Disqualification of NM Green Party

Dear Green Party registered voter:

In the 2012 General Election, the Green Party’s candidate for president of the United States did not receive the required percentage required     by  law for the Green Party to remain an active political party in New Mexico.

The Secretary of State’s office is required by law to notify all registered Green party voters that the party is no longer a qualified political party.

To re-qualify, the Green party would be required to submit petition signatures and comply with the requirements under the Election Code for political parties.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our office.

Best regards,

Bobbi Shearer
Director, Bureau of Elections

Of course, Green voters were not deregistered or disqualified, although their party was, but the letter was a bit ambiguous, especially given the fact that a high profile anti-abortion city initiative was on the ballot in the city of Albuquerque on November 19 and early voting had already begun. I called the Green Party and they indicated to me that they received a number of calls from concerned party members that they would not be able to vote in the city election.

The law indicates, as reported by Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican, see here, that the Secretary of State is supposed to provide notification by March 15 to the party chair and within 45 days of that to all party members of the disqualification. She is also supposed to inform all of the county clerks of her decision. However, the Secretary of State did not keep to this timeline, even once she decided to move forward with disqualification and never contacted the County Clerks regarding this matter.

The Constitution Party has filed suit based upon the fact that she did not follow the timeline or inform the county clerks as was required by law (NM statue 1-7-2).

The biggest concern, however, is that some registered voters thought that as the party goes so do they; thus quite a number of Greens along with Constitution and Independent Party members thought they may have been disqualified and unable to vote. Given that this happened during a high stakes city election in which turnout was higher than in the previous months mayoral election, it is even more disconcerting. Some eligible voters may have decided not to turnout because they thought incorrectly they were no longer legitimately registered voters. A simple fix would have been to make the implications of the law clear to the voter and include in the letter an added sentence indicating that disqualification of the party, does not imply disqualification of the voter.

Reconsidering schools as polling places in the U.S.

There was an interesting story circulating over the weekend in many newspapers from the AP, discussing how in many states school officials are reconsidering the use of their facilities as polling places. Here’s the story, “Some schools want to stop serving as voting sites.”

This reminded me that Thad Hall and I have written about similar concerns over the years. For example, interested readers might want to take a look at this piece that Thad wrote on October 19, 2008 (yes, that is 2008!!!!), “Schools and voting.”

World cloud of Election Commission hearings and public meetings

Just for yucks, I made a word cloud (using Wordle) of all the hearings and public meetings of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. It’s my gift to election geeks everywhere, with wishes for a happy new year.

Public meeting word cloud

Remembering Charles Vest

Charles Vest, former MIT president, passed away recently. There is a wonderful statement about his contributions on the MITnews site. Chuck touched the lives of many academics over the course of his career, and we wanted to celebrate his role in the establishment and success of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project.

The genesis of the VTP came in the immediate wake of the 2000 presidential election, when Chuck (then president of MIT) and David Baltimore (then president of Caltech) thought to put together a unique group of scholars who spanned both academic disciplines and the continent. Vest and Baltimore helped to launch the VTP, they helped to secure early funding for the project, and they were both committed to the project’s lasting success.

Chuck played a important role in putting the MIT team together, in helping to secure early funding for the project, and in providing later intellectual, administrative and financial support. He was a long-time supporter of the VTP, and he continued his support of research on election administration and voting technologies when he later became President of the National Academy of Engineering.

The VTP would not have had the impact and durability had we not had the leadership of Chuck. He will be missed.

R. Michael Alvarez and Charles Stewart III

Big Data and Polling

I recently wrote on Big Data (“Is big data a big deal in political science?”) and on polling accuracy (“Polling accuracy”) over on the OUPblog!