Category Archives: Elections


Vote by JessWhile technology and methods have changed over time, the essence of what a campaign does has not changed since colonial time.  Campaigns have three basic tasks:  1) Identify favorable and potentially favorable voters; 2) Persuade voters to support you; and 3) Get Out your voters on election day.

For all intents and purposes, the identify and persuade phases of the campaign are over, and we are down to the GOTV part of the campaign.  With many states having early voting, the GOTV effort has been well under way in many states.  To everyone who has voted, thank you.  Each person who votes early is one less person waiting in line or getting delayed by traffic on election day.

To those who have not voted yet, please, please do.  As the authors on this site have posted for months, this election is too important to skip.  If you do not know where to vote, click here to find your location or click here.  If those links do not work, most state and local election authorities have a link to help you find your polling place.  Additionally, please check your state and local election authorities for sample ballots and your state’s version of ID requirements.  Knowing what races and proposition are on your ballot can speed up the voting process, particularly if there are a lot of races and propositions in your city/county/state.   If you have any problems voting or notice any problems, you can call 844-464-4455 for the Democratic Party’s voter assistance hotline.

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Election Night 2016 — What to Look For (Part Five)

capitolThere are potential ways that the votes could come in tomorrow that would lead to one of the candidates reaching 270 before 11 p.m. (EST).  It is also theoretically possible that one party or the other could wrap up the Senate or the House by 11 p.m.   Both, however, are very unlikely in the absence of a clear landslide.  The last batch of states represent 10 likely electoral votes for the Republicans and 78 likely electoral votes for the Democrats.  (To make up for the 78, Clinton would essentially have to win all of the contested states.  To make up for the 10, Trump would need to win Michigan or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin in addition to the other contested states.)  The Republicans are defending twenty contested House seats in these states (and it is unlikely that all of the House seats from the earlier states will have been declared.)  The Republicans have three Senate seats in the last batch of states and the Democrats have two (not counting California in which the two candidates in the run-off are both Democrats).

11:00 p.m. (EST) — The polls in most of the remaining states close.  In particular, the remaining polls in Idaho, North Dakota, and Oregon close.  All of the polls in California, Hawaii, and Washington close.  Of the state-wide races, the only potentially close race is governor in Washington.  Most of these races should be called pretty quickly.

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Election Night 2016 — What to Look For (Part Four)

fireworksAs 9:00 p.m. rolls around, enough states have been closed long enough that exit polls become less significant, and raw vote count becomes more significant.  If the exit polls and early returns in the state had been clear enough, those states would have already been called.  The question at this point in time is which if any of the contested states and races have been called.  While enough states remain that technically nobody will have yet won the White House, or the majority in the Senate, or the majority in the House, it should be becoming clear whether it is simply a matter of waiting for the polls to close in “safe” states or if it is going to be a long night waiting for the last votes in a handful of states.  While the race is not yet over, the next two hours should determine the winners.

9:00 p.m. (EST) — The remaining polls close in Michigan, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas.  Additionally, the polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.  Colorado and Wisconsin are the last of the “at risk” states that are part of Secretary Clinton’s easiest path to 270.  Arizona and Nebraska 2 join Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Maine 2 in the batch of electoral votes that Trump absolutely needs to get to 270.

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Election Night 2016 — What to Look For (Part Three)

animated flag glitterAs evening turns into night in the Eastern and Central time zones, the pace picks up.  For whatever reason, 8:00 p.m. is a popular time for states in the Eastern time zone to close their polls as is 7:00 p.m. in the Central time zone.  As discussed in part two, lines at the polls means that the networks typically only have enough results to call races if the races are not close.  Most of the states that will be called by 8:00 p.m. are not the races that will decide the election.  Because most of the polls will have been closed for two hours, there is a good chance that the Indiana senate race may be called by 8:00 p.m.  There is some chance that Georgia (an at-risk state that Trump needs to win) or Virginia (an at-risk state that Clinton needs to win) will be called before 8:00 p.m.  Sixteen states will close their polls at 8:00 p.m. as will the polls in part of several other states.  While the results from the early states give some clues about the shape of the race, the shape of the race will become much clearer when the returns from these states start to come in.

8:00 p.m. (EST) — The remainder of the polls close in Florida.  The polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.  The polls close in the eastern part of Michigan, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas.  Several of these states should have quick calls for president, but several states are key states for the outcome of this election.  (Assuming that none of the “close” states from early are called by 8:15 p.m., the projected electoral vote should be approximately 76 for Trump and 55 for Clinton.)

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Election Night 2016 — What to Look for (Part Two)

VotingBoothImage_0As with many other details of election law, each state gets to choose their voting hours on election day.  Thus, unlike a place like the United Kingdom where all polls close at the same time and when results are announced is a matter of how long it takes to count the vote, there is a slow progression across the country as the different states close.  A complicating factor is that some states are split down the middle by time zones.  In most of the states with multiple time zones, the polls close based on the local time (i.e. the polls in the eastern part of the state close an hour earlier than the polls in the western part of the state) rather than all polls in the state closing simultaneously.  Another complicating factor is that all states only require that you be in line to vote at the time that the polls close; so, in larger precincts, there can be a long line delaying the report of votes from that precinct.  As noted in Part One,  part of the projection process is looking at what precincts are still outstanding.  In a close state, the long lines at urban precincts (which are likely to favor Democrats) can make it hard to figure how strong the Democratic vote in a state is for an extended period.

In terms of interest, not every state is the same.   A lot of states and districts are considered “safe” for President or Senate or Governor or U.S. Representative.  Of course, if something surprising happens in those areas, it could be a sign of a wave developing, but most of the attention will be focused on the “battleground” areas that will decide a close election.  What follows in the rest of this part and the rest of this series is a review in chronological order of closing time (using Eastern Standard Time) at what to look for as the evening progresses.

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Election Night 2016 — What to Look For (Part One)

VotingBoothImage_0After over one year of hate-filled rants from Donald Trump, the fiasco that was the Republican convention in Cleveland, the on-going scandals involving Donald Trump, Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes, three presidential debates, and recent Republican threats to throw a tantrum for the next two to four years if they don’t win, there is little more that can be said about why the only choice in this election is to vote for the Democratic ticket.  The continued loss of rationality and respect for facts in the Republican Party is a long-term problem that needs to be fixed because democracy requires, at least, two viable alternatives to work.  But this year, the choice is clear.  Even if you think that a Democratic candidate for a particular office is less than perfect, those candidates are still way better than what the Republican Party is offering.  While there is still more to be done over the next three days to get every Democratic voter to the polls, Tuesday night is now looming ever closer.  So, for the next several days, some thoughts about what to look for on Tuesday night.  While the remaining posts in this series will take a chronological look at Tuesday night, this post is more about the basics and the mechanics.

For the media, there are two main tools for calling the election.  While these tools have changed slightly over time, the fundamentals have basically stayed the same.  The first tool is the “exit” poll.  The second tool is the unofficial vote count.

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Bridgegate — Who needs to be locked up?

For the past four months, Donald Trump has been leading chants of lock her up.  Who knew that the her was Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff.  Earlier today, a federal jury found that Christie’s deputy chief of staff and his hand picked appointee to the New York Port Authority were found guilty of violating multiple federal laws in connecting with shutting down I-95 near Fort Lee, New Jersey.  Throughout the trial, the federal prosecutor’s laid out a convincing case that Chris Christie was aware of and approved of the decision to shut down I-95.  Of course, Chris Christie is also the person in charge of Donald Trump’s transition team if the country goes insane on Tuesday.  In what universe can anybody who knows anything about what is happening in this country think that Donald Trump — he of the multiple conflicts of interests who has never followed the rules in his life — and Chris Christie can be trusted to clean up corruption in government.  That’s putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

While it is probably too late to hope for one more piece of investigative journalism into the charade that is Donald Trump before the election, I can’t wait until some journalist after the election does a thorough analysis of Trump’s FEC reports.  Between designating Trump Organization employees to do work on campaign, assigning vacant Trump Organization office space to house the campaign, and holding multiple campaign events (doubling as free advertisement for the Trump Organization) at Trump Organization holdings, the FEC reports have shown and will continue to show a large amount of expenditures going to the Trump Organization.  How much (particular as a percentage of the amount that Trump “contributed” to his campaign) of the total campaign funds ended back in Trump’s pocket will be interesting to see.  Who knew that a business could make a profit running for president?

The shame with ninety-six hours or so left in the campaign is how much Trump’s blather and blatant falsehoods have sucked the air out of  the room for the issues that deserve serious debate.  “Repeal and replace” without any details about the replace is not a solution to what is wrong with out health care system.  Building a wall and deporting everyone is not a realistic plan for dealing with immigration.  Trickle down economics is not a program to reinvigorate the middle class.  Banning all Muslims is not a solution for terrorism.  This country deserved a real campaign.  Instead, we are focused on a person who is unfit to be President as a holding place for folks who are tired of gridlock in Washington but do not understand why (hint it’s the party of no) it exists.

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The View from Ground Zero

Vote by JessHello from Chester County, Pennsylvania. We’ve been in the news a lot lately. Back in 2008, while working a full time job and putting in a good 30 hours a week on the Obama campaign, I understood our importance…and I said, often and with much conviction, “To win the presidency, McCain needs to win Pennsylvania. To do so, he needs to win the collar counties, especially Chester County. To win Chester County, he needs to win Tredyffrin, and he can’t do that without W-5. To do that, he needs to get past ME, and the little blonde girl says no. NO. HELL NO.”

In eight years, the demographics of the county have changed. The country has changed. But until last night, I didn’t realize how much **I** had changed. I’ve been canvassing for over 50 years, since I was a little kid. I’ve been working elections my whole life. Carried a lit basket for my uncle the candidate at the age of 3. I’ve talked, I’ve persuaded. I’ve won and I’ve failed. And I was never viscerally angry. Until yesterday.

The man in question embodied all that I look down on: someone who believes rumours but not facts. The folks who, when presented with historical proof, deny that those things happened. And I’m talking BIG THINGS, like a top tax rate of 90% under Eisenhower. Like the idea that people in the United States (not all, but some) knew about the camps in Germany in the ’30’s and tried to get America involved earlier. Like the fact that innocent black men are killed by police. You get the idea. So. Last night this guy is explaining that Hillary is a crook. And I asked what crime she was guilty of…and he couldn’t name one. I talked about Trump’s demagoguery, and ginning up the crowds, and he hadn’t seen it. His issues are income inequality and the need to undertake more domestic manufacturing, and he explained that Bernie Sanders was never for those things.

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Election 2016 — Missouri and Kansas

mo-sealBy the time that this posts, there will be one week to go until the end of voting.  For a variety of reasons, the national campaign has been even more negative than is normal (although nowhere near the most negative presidential campaign in US history, the campaigns of the 1800s were routinely negative with lots of slanderous accusations).  More importantly, the daily release of a new piece of negative information about the presidential candidates have sucked up a lot of the oxygen from state and local races.

While the news media focuses on the national race for president, the reality is that even, for president, there is not a national election.  The race for president is actually 51 local races (one in each state and in the District of Columbia).  Senate control will be decided by 34 local elections, and control of the House will be decided by 435 local races.  It’s impossible for anyone person to know the lay of the land in all of the races (one reason why polling exists), but each of us have some idea of what is happening where we live.  Here is what things are looking like in Missouri and Kansas.

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Supreme Court and Politics

no_more_hate (2)In setting up the federal judiciary, the Framers wanted to separate the judiciary from politics to a certain degree.  By giving judges and justices an unlimited term, judges would be free from having to decide cases on what is currently popular.  Not that the courts would be absolutely immune from politics, but the influence of politics on the courts would be that elections to the “political” branches would be in the choice of new judges and justices to fill vacancies.  The courts would be “conservative” in the sense of reflecting the values of the time at which judges or justices were appointed with a gradual change reflecting changes in those values over time through the appointment of new judges and justices.  (On the Supreme Court, nine of seventeen Chief Justices served more than a decade, and thirteen of seventeen served more than six years.  Of the Associate Justices sixty-eight of one hundred have served more than ten years, and another thirteen have served more than six years.)

The fact that federal judges do not have to stand for election does not mean that judges are not political or aware of politics.  To ask that judges not view close legal issues through a certain political philosophy and that judges not be aware of the potential impact of decisions on elections is asking too much.  However, the Supreme Court wants the public to perceive that they are above politics and would prefer that the Supreme Court rank somewhat low on the list of important issues in any election.  This desire to “lay low” has been reflected in pushing off the arguments on the most controversial cases until after the election (or even later for cases that might currently reflect a 4-4 split).  Even in terms of which cases are being granted for review later this year, the Supreme Court was avoiding cases that were likely to generate headlines.  That changed yesterday when the Supreme Court issued its order reflecting which cases it had just accepted for full review.  While none of the cases on the list are surprises in terms of the Supreme Court granting review, two of the cases are highly controversial — one dealing with transgender rights and the other with sex offenders and the First Amendment — and most expected the Supreme Court to push a decision on reviewing those two cases until after the election, particularly with the election controlling who gets to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.

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