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Tag Archives: Voter Registration
In the United States, unlike most major democracies, election law is primarily set by the state. Additionally, elections are run by local officials — usually elected in partisan elections. For those involved in elections (candidates, supporters, and voters), there are two significant consequences to this aspect of American democracy. First, every state has its own rules and timetables for registering to vote and for voting. Second, even within those rules, local officials have a lot of discretion that can influence the results of elections.
To win, campaigns need to do two things. First, they need to communicate a message that connects to potential voters. Second, they need to get those potential voters to vote. The messaging part is like the tip of the iceberg. It occurs above the surface. At this time of the cycle, advertisements are a rising tide. Depending upon where you live and what races are competitive, political ads are slowly becoming more and more omnipresent (ultimately peaking in the week before the election when ads for consumer goods will all but disappear from the air). But political ads are run out of the campaign headquarters and involve the local activist very little. It is the part beneath the surface — the get out the vote campaign — that requires a good field operation and local effort.
For several weeks, Donald Trump has been spouting a lot about how, if he loses, it will because the election was “rigged.” As discussed further below, in the sense of fraud and phony votes, it is almost impossible to rig an election. However, as in the Republican primary, to the extent that the election is rigged in the sense of the rules favoring a certain candidate, the rules are almost certainly rigged in favor of Donald Trump.
The first and biggest way that the rules are rigged in favor of Donald Trump is the electoral college. As folks may remember from high school history or government class, a vote for a candidate for president is actually a vote for a slate of electors supporting the candidate. Those electors then vote in December for the candidate on whose slate they ran. A candidate needs to win 270 of the 538 electors to win. Each state has a number of electors equivalent to the state’s representation in Congress — it’s House seats plus its Senate seats. Because every state has two Senate seats, the electoral college is weighted in favor of small states. (If you have two House seats, you have twice as many electoral votes as House seats. If you have fifty House seats, you only have four percent more electoral votes than House seats.) Of the twenty-one smallest states (those with four or fewer House seats), Republicans have won twelve of the twenty-one states in the past four elections. Of the nine states that have gone Democratic in one or more of the last four elections, four are considered swing states.