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Riding the Tiger > Category: Electoral Reform

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

A Voter’s Eye View of the 2012 Election - Charles Stewart III

Charles Stewart III presents a “Voter’s-eye View of the 2012 Election,” GAGE Colloquium, January 18, 2013

During the Miller Center’s January 18th GAGE colloquium, Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT and co-director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, gave a preview of 2012 Election data that, in his words, is “hot off the press.” Stewart gleaned answers from a survey of over ten thousand respondents to some of the most interesting questions regarding election administration in the recent election, including topics such as reasons motivating voter turnout and public opinion regarding voter ID laws.

Overall, Stewart stressed that the vast majority of Americans have a good voting experience. A large proportion of voters wait five minutes or less on election day, and the vast majority of voters say it was very easy to find their polling place. However, Stewart’s talk suggests that more work could be done. In both his colloquium paper and talk, Stewart cited what V.O. Key wrote in 1949: election administration is “the most primitive and neglected branch of our public administration.” This suggests that more time ought to be spent addressing, in a systematic and scientific way, the administrative challenges associated with the expedience, accuracy, and accessibility of voting.

Stewart showed those states that had previous problems with long wait times, particularly Florida, tended to continue to have the same problems--rebutting the notion that the 2012 Election was particularly problematic in that way. Instead, Stewart said long wait times are more often a function of statewide policies, year after year.

For more, watch the full colloquium, which also touched on issues such as higher wait times for minority voters and partisan polarization over election reforms.

Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap

Endorsement of McCain-Feingold

John McCain and Russ Feingold join Tim Roemer, Jim Greenwood, and Ellen Tauscher to endorse the McCain-Feingold legislation.

Today's guest post is from Ray La Raja, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Univesity of Massachusetts Amherst.

Emily Charnock provides a very insightful post that reveals strong similarities between Super PACs and the various independently organized committees throughout the twentieth century.  In other words, we have been here before.

Political reformers concerned about the role of money in politics should rightfully be concerned about how wealth translates into political power.  Reformers, however, typically assume there is "too much money" when, in fact, it could easily be argued that there is too little, particularly if we consider the costs of informing and mobilizing voters.

“Shadow” Parties and the Origins of Super PACs

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision

Public views of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, by CMBJ (Washington Post), February 2010

“Super PACs” are the enfants terrible of the campaign finance world today. These groups, sporting only slogans for names and raising unlimited contributions to support federal candidates, have been decried as a new and dangerous precedent in election campaigns.

In fact, fifteen years ago this week, the Senate authorized an investigation into fundraising activities in the 1996 elections, which brought similar problems to the fore.

SuperPACs are less creations of the 2010 Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions than they are new incarnations of old problems.