“Targeted demobilization of minority voters”—the most disgraceful practice in American politics today

Perspectives on Politics is a leading journal published by the American Political Science Association. December’s issue includes a sobering article by Keith G. Bentele and Erin E. O’Brien titled, “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies.” The abstract tells the basic story:

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in state legislation likely to reduce access for some voters, including photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements, registration restrictions, absentee ballot voting restrictions, and reductions in early voting. Political operatives often ascribe malicious motives when their opponents either endorse or oppose such legislation. In an effort to bring empirical clarity and epistemological standards to what has been a deeply-charged, partisan, and frequently anecdotal debate, we use multiple specialized regression approaches to examine factors associated with both the proposal and adoption of restrictive voter access legislation from 2006–2011. Our results indicate that proposal and passage are highly partisan, strategic, and racialized affairs. These findings are consistent with a scenario in which the targeted demobilization of minority voters and African Americans is a central driver of recent legislative developments…. [emphasis added]

Bentele and O’Brien’s statistical analysis of 2006-2011 data makes plain what was already pretty obvious. Republican governors and legislatures have sought to hinder minority turnout for partisan purposes. States were especially likely to pass restrictive voting laws if Republicans were politically dominant, but where the state observed rising minority turnout or where the state was becoming more competitive in the national presidential race. Variables that capture the strategic value to Republicans of minority voter suppression are more powerful predictors of restrictive voting legislation than is actual incidence of voter fraud.

This is the most disgraceful and toxic practice in American political life. It’s out there. It’s blatant. I keep waiting for decent conservatives to speak out against this stuff. Now that would be a Sister Souldjah moment worth watching. So far, no takers.

Memories of these efforts will darken the Republican Party’s reputation for many years. It certainly should.

Posner reverses himself on voter ID

Judge Posner has figured out that voter ID = vote suppression. But … that’s why the GOP loves those laws.

Richard Posner, who wrote the majority opinion upholding the Indiana voter-ID law, has figured out that he was wrong, and that his colleague who argued that such laws are primarily vehicles for vote suppression was right.

This, of course, won’t change the minds of most supporters of such laws, for whom vote suppression has always been the point of the exercise.

Holder defends voting rights

The NC voter law challenged by DoJ eviscerates early voting. 70% of black voters in 2012 cast early ballots.

The Justice Department, stripped by the Supreme Court’s Republican caucus of its legislated power to pre-clear voting changes in states with histories of racial discrimination, still has the power to challenge discriminatory laws in court. Yesterday, Eric Holder announced that DoJ is going after North Carolina’s law - transparently designed to make voting harder, rather than to reduce fraud - using the state’s own data to show the law’s racial impact. Fun fact: 70% of African-Americans who voted in NC during 2012 voted early, so the Republican legislature decided to go after early voting.

Another provision disenfranchises anyone who mistakenly comes to the wrong polling place. In the absence of pre-clearance, there would be nothing simpler than running a bunch of last-minute precinct-line or voting-location changes in minority neighborhoods.

I wonder whether it will turn out that John Roberts and his co-conspirators did the Republican Party any favor by unleashing this issue.

Footnote To foreclose what strikes me as an especially stupid line of commentary: of course the Republicans don’t want blacks to vote primarly because blacks tend to vote Democratic. (They also want to keep college students, of any race, from voting.) And no, that doesn’t make a plan to disenfranchise blacks any less racist.

There is No Such Thing as “the” Senior Vote

Political prognosticators tend to think of “the” senior vote as less diverse than it really is

Charlie Cook and Erica Seifert‘s analyses of senior citizens’ voting intentions have drawn a significant amount of attention (See Kevin Drum’s take here, Ed Kilgore’s here). While not uninformative, such analyses may rest on the mistaken assumption that there is such a thing as “the” senior vote. When senior citizens were a small part of the population, it might not have mattered in predicting electoral outcomes that their voting intentions were discussed as a lump. But with the senior population at over forty million and growing rapidly, underestimating its diversity could lead to serious political forecasting errors.

The current senior population includes veterans of World War II and veterans of the Viet Nam War; African-Americans whose adult life was lived entirely after the passage of the 1960s Civil Rights Acts, as well as many who lived for decades under Jim Crow; women who made decisions about marriage and career prior to the founding of NOW and women who made them afterwards; people who liked Ike and people who were too young to vote for him. Those people just turning 65 thus see many political issues differently than do those oldsters who are 75 or 85.

In analyzing the youth vote, political prognosticators focus on a narrower 11-year birth cohort (i.e., people age 18-29). Yet when they analyze seniors, they treat anyone from age 65 to 105 as an undifferentiated mass. As the country’s grey ranks continue to swell in the coming years, this oversight will become ever more problematic for electoral forecasting efforts.

Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina?

The short answer is no. Only persons voting in person must show ID.

From the comments to this post showing differences by party of same day registration/voting as compared to absentee via mail voting was the following comment (shown in full):

It could be argued, of course, that the Obama vote totals in both ’08 and ’12 were unjustly enriched from a no-ID policy, if one believes that matching an ID to the vote is an appropriate regulation in a democratic system. The new law, in this view, would correct the “over-vote” for that candidate.

I’d be interested in knowing whether the presentation of an ID in order to obtain or register a mail-in ballot is a requirement under the new law.

Answering the question but skipping the evidence-free innuendo, the only form of voting under the new North Carolina election law that does not require an ID to be shown to someone to legally vote is absentee mail voting. From the text of the H589: Continue reading “Do Absentee Mail Voters have to show ID in North Carolina?”

Update on Durham, NC Absentee v Same Day Register Voting

Following up on yesterday’s post, I managed to get some data for the share of Same Day Registration and Voting during early voting by party (in 2008 from SBOE; 3rd link from top), and the party breakdown of Absentee voting in Durham County, North Carolina (from the 2012 election; received from the Durham Board of Elections by email). I compiled a table below. You can see that people registering as unaffiliated had a similar share of Absentee mail voting in 2012, and same day registration and voting during 2008 (I can’t find this broken down by party of registration for 2012), but that Republicans were much less likely to use same day registration/voting, with Democrats being more likely. Same day registration and voting during the early voting period is now gone. Absentee voting by mail remains. If someone showed an ID as everyone will now have to do, why not allow same day registration and voting? The effect of ending same day registration and voting by party is fairly clear, in Durham County, North Carolina, at least.

Party Share by Absentee Mail & Same Day Register/Vote
Durham County, North Carolina
Mail Same Day
2012 2008
Party N % N %
Dem 2355 46.9 2729 59
Rep 1267 25.3 580 12.5
Una 1381 27.5 1295 28
Liber 13           <1 18           <1
Total 5016 4622

The potential impact of one voting change in Durham, N.C.

The North Carolina General Assembly is set to enact a sweeping series of changes to the voting laws. The most high profile change has been the requirement to show an ID to vote. Nate Cohn says the requirement to show an ID would have reduced President Obama’s total in North Carolina by 25,000-30,000 votes, had the proposed law been in effect in 2012. Gov Romney won North Carolina by around 92,000 votes in 2012, but President Obama won North Carolina by ~14,000 votes in 2008.

Below, I estimate that in Durham County, North Carolina alone, President Obama would have had a net reduction of at least 2,460 votes if voters had been unable to register and vote on the same day during early voting; the bill that is about to become law ends this option. I cannot find the data for the same analysis below, conducted statewide. Continue reading “The potential impact of one voting change in Durham, N.C.”

Note to the Department of Justice Inspector General

When a Civil Rights Division employee is accused of being”pro-black,” the problem is not harassment.

When three attorneys for the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department accuse a colleague of being “pro-black,” the primary problem is not “harassment” (p. 125) and anti-harassment training is not a solution. And no, using commitment to civil rights as hiring criterion for the Civil Rights Division is not inappropriate, any more than commitment to crime control is inappropriate in hiring a prosecutor.

Footnote Yes, this took place under Bush the Lesser. Why do you ask?

The Democrats’ House Majority

No, not really.  But sort of.  Ian Millhiser explains that Democratic House candidates actually got more votes nationwide than Republicans, by around 500,000.  So how could the Republicans maintain their majority?  Simple.  It was gerrymandering.  Nick Baumann at Mother Jones has the goods (h/t Dayen):

  • North Carolina, which Obama lost by around 2 percentage points: 9-4 GOP
  • Florida, which Obama won by around half a percentage point: 17-10 GOP
  • Ohio, which Obama won by nearly 2 percentage points: 12-4 GOP
  • Virginia, which Obama won by around 3 percentage points: 8-3 GOP
  • Pennsylvania, which Obama won by more than 5 percentage points: 13-5 GOP
  • Wisconsin, which Obama won by 6 percentage points: 5-3 GOP
  • Michigan, which Obama won by 8 percentage points: 9-5 GOP

Now, in fairness, it is not all about partisan gerrymandering.  Some of this is also because of the creation of majority-minority districts, particularly in the south.  But that is decidedly a secondary impact.

Last week, I argued that if Obama were to win the electoral college but lose the popular vote, that should not affect his legitimacy as President: that’s the way that the system was set up.  So does that apply here?  Not so much: the Electoral College is created by the Constitution.  Partisan gerrymanders are created by — Republican state legislatures.  They created this distorted system; they can’t argue then that they were simply playing by the rules.

I’m not precisely sure what it means to question the “legitimacy” of some governing institution.  But to the extent that any duly and legally elected House majority is illegitimate, it is this one.  Let’s have none of the idea that the voters wanted to support conservative ideology by returning John Boehner to the Speaker’s chair.  They didn’t.  They wanted change.  And the GOP figured out how to prevent them from exercising their will.

Who still regards their votes as secrets?

Speculations on who answers “none of your beeswax” when asked “how are you voting?”—and why.

About half an hour ago I was eating lunch (outside: this is L.A.) and overheard two female undergraduates talking about heading to the polls. One asked the other, “how are you voting?” The reply, with a smile: “none of your beeswax!”

The answer seemed unusual-not unheard-of, and when said with a smile not offensive, but not what one would normally hear. When I went to grade school in the 70s, I was taught that it was very impolite to ask other kids’ parents-or even one’s own!-how they voted. I certainly gathered then, and at least through middle school, that anyone who did ask would receive a none-of-your-business response at least half the time, perhaps coupled with anger at the questioner’s impudence for asking.

The norm of regarding voting as secret to friends may have been an oddity of place (West L.A.), perhaps coupled with ethnicity: the teacher who taught me the norm was African-American, and my grade school was in an area full of immigrants, refugees, Japanese-Americans, a few probable communists, and others who might not have taken their voting rights for granted. But whether I was taught an odd norm or the country has changed, I gather that few Americans now think it strange to ask others how they vote, and almost nobody would think it appropriate to express anger upon being asked. Meanwhile, my wife, who’s from New Zealand, has told me that where she’s from the norm I was taught is still in place: one doesn’t ask, and one doesn’t have to tell.

What accounts for this? Are there data? If not, can anyone provide interesting anecdotal evidence (my favorite oxymoron)? My own speculations are that in the U.S. the vote-as-secret norm tracks (1) contested civic status, as just mentioned, and/or (2) having unpopular politics: Democrats in Provo, or Republicans in Santa Monica, would be unlikely to want to tell others their vote and also, by the Golden Rule, disinclined to ask. Internationally, country-to-country differences might well track broader cultural norms about extroversion and reticence, and perhaps even strong inter-country disagreement as to what democracy is all about and how it properly functions. I’d love to hear about those too, in the form of either fact or conjecture.

Because of these speculations, I tend to wish that the norm were back in place, at least a little. For if I’m right, the people most likely to be offended at being asked their voting intentions will be those who remember when someone tried to take away their vote, or those who most need the secrecy of the ballot box to avoid social ostracism. So feel free to combine normative argument with the empirical speculation.