Change in voter turnout over time for five selected countries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Proficiency in basic math may not be universal among adults living in the United States, but it should be relatively close. Despite this fact, it continues to amaze me how few people question or challenge elected officials who claim to have a mandate from the people despite never actually winning a majority of the votes. I know what you may be thinking: that elected officials, by definition, have won a majority of the votes cast, otherwise they would not be in office. Okay, hold that thought while I explain why I believe most elected officials should not claim such a mandate.
Start with voter turnout in ANY election. In local elections around the country voter turnout can be as low as ten to fifteen percent. Even in presidential elections we are lucky to get anywhere near sixty percent—great. Let us focus on the big ticket race, the presidency. If sixty percent of eligible voters vote in the election that means forty percent did not vote for any candidate. Now, if the winner of the election wins with fifty-five percent of all votes cast (to be generous) he or she gets the job with a majority of the vote, right? I get that, but that’s not my point. I’m saying they can’t claim to represent a majority of the people. In my estimation the winner of the election only had around thirty-three out of every one-hundred votes possible if you base your analysis on all eligible voters. In defense of my point of view you can’t discount the significance of non-voters with the argument that they didn’t vote so they don’t count. Not voting is a choice in most cases, similar to voting “none of the above.” I also don’t accept the argument that those who do vote somehow represent those who do not (usually based on surveys of non-voters), therefore the results of the election are representative of the people. If that argument had any validity we should just replace elections with some representative sample from a survey and save everybody a lot of time and money. In my estimation, everybody that wins an election should be wary of hubris, and assume their seats with a measure of humility. I would like to know what you think about my argument as it is played out here. Does it hold water?
BATTLEGROUND STATES 08 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The direction of the 2012 presidential election will become increasingly apparent in the days and weeks to come as the candidates and their supporters target important battleground states. Battleground states are states that are considered to be contestable in the upcoming election; in other words, the state is worth visiting and investing substantial resources in. Non-battleground states are states that candidates do not expect to win, making them less likely to receive much attention from candidate or their surrogates. The identification of battleground and non-battleground states begins just as the election results of the previous presidential election are being tallied. Campaign managers, political scientists, journalists, and others have been studying campaign maps for decades; especially Electoral College maps for presidential elections going back to the 1960s.
Battleground states are more likely than not to be states that have a history of voting democratic or republican. Battleground states can also be determined by the margins of victory by various statewide elected officials (governors, etc.) in recent elections. For example, if republican candidates have won recent elections in a state by what are considered wide margins the state is not likely to be considered a battleground state by the democratic party (they will basically write it off). Once the battleground states are identified the process shifts toward identifying swing voters in battleground states that can make all the difference in a close election. Hispanics, women, younger voters are likely voting blocks that will be targeted by candidates in the 2012 election. What do you think about candidates for the Presidency targeting some states and ignoring others? Should all fifty states receive their fair share of attention? Is this even possible given the costs associated with national elections?
Posted in Campaigning, Campaigns, Civil Rights, Democracy, Elections, Individual Rights, Interest Groups, Media, Political Participation, Political Parties, Presidency, The Media, Third Parties, Voting and Elections, Voting Behavior
Tagged Electoral College, swing state, Voting
Vote Oregon! (Photo credit: jugbo)
According to the Constitution of the United States individual states are required to provide to their citizens a republican form of government. The guarantee of a republican form of government in the Constitution is vague, but it provides a wide door for rights related to voting, representative-based government, and the sovereignty of the people in all fifty states. The clause in the Constitution is also used as a foundation for each state to organize and conduct all elections in a state, whether the elections are for local, state, and even federal offices.
The state of Florida is currently involved in a legal dispute with the federal government over the issue of voter registration rolls. The state of Florida is arguing that it has the right to purge voter registration rolls of names of persons not eligible to vote in Florida elections. The state is arguing that it has the right to establish voter qualifications that do not directly deny citizens of the United States their fundamental right to vote and that maintaining voter registration rolls that are accurate and based on state law includes taking reasonable steps to protect their integrity. In the current dispute, the federal government is arguing that the state of Florida recently purged properly registered voters from the rolls causing citizens of the United States to be denied their right to vote simply because they have the same name as a person who is ineligible to vote. Both sides of the dispute are well-grounded in law, precedent, and practice—unfortunately, the specters or partisanship and electoral self-interest are seen at work on both sides as well. The current dispute is about to peak in the middle of a presidential election year in a well-known battle ground state. Do you believe the issue can be addressed by the courts impartially? Do you think the current dispute is a legitimate clash of opinions and positions or a side-show of the election season we are watching unfold?
Posted in Bill of Rights, Campaigns, Civil Rights, Democracy, Elections, Federalism, Individual Rights, Judiciary, Political Participation, Political Parties, State and Local Government, Voting and Elections
Tax (Photo credit: 401K)
Interest groups engage in electioneering when they become involved in the electoral process. During actual electoral cycles many interest groups channel resources usually committed to efforts to influence government policy to activities immediately intended to promote particular candidates and causes. The differences between electioneering and regular interest group activities may be only a matter of degree. For example, Californians will be voting soon on a new tobacco tax that has predictably spawned a television campaign to defeat the initiative paid for by tobacco interests and anti-tax groups.
Both groups would be involved in the political process even without an actual campaign to focus their efforts. Elections do provide opportunities to participate in very election-based activities that are unlike the industry norms of lobbying and general fund-raising. It might be argued that what electioneering activities a particular group may become involved can provide valuable insight as to the actual and concrete interests of the group. In the case of the California tobacco tax it is unlikely that the tobacco interests currently funding anti-tax commercials will spend any money to support the other side (it is not uncommon for interest groups to spread their money around as a form of hedging their bets). What do you think? Is electioneering actually a different form of interest group behavior or is it, as suggested above, simply a shift in emphasis during election cycles?
Mitt Romney (Photo credit: Dave Delay)
One of the most important trends in voting behavior over the past twenty years is the increase in the percentage of voters claiming to be independent. Not surprisingly, media coverage of the 2012 presidential election is already focusing on the importance of independent voters to both President Obama and his likely opponent Mit Romney. Many analysts believe that to get to the White House one must drive straight down Independent Lane. I happen to be of the opinion that the key to this year’s election is now only being hinted at—the likely impact of female voters.
Recent polls are showing a huge lead for President Obama among female voters in several key swing states—this gender gap may prove to be the undoing of Governor Romney’s bid for the White House. Democratic candidates have historically benefitted from the gender gap—with a higher percentage of female voters both registering and voting as democrats. And, given the apparent lack of overall enthusiasm among republican voters for Romney, the election of 2012 may be settled by the dual effects of the gender and enthusiasm gaps; stopping Governor Romney dead in his tracks. The issues facing female voters this time around—the economy, health care, abortion—may play better from the democratic point of view. Mit Romney will be hard-pressed to distance himself from much of what has been said by his fellow republican candidates up to this point in the election. There may be more Americans claiming to be independents than ever before, but women voters are still a piece of the puzzle that will have to be respected and accounted for this November.
Do your own research on the role of women voters over the past twenty years. How have previous presidential candidates fared among female voters? Are there any factors at play suggesting Governor Romney will do better than expected among women voters?