Monday, May 15, 2017

508 ineligible North Carolina voters cast ballots in 2016

The state of North Carolina did an audit and found that 508 ineligible voters cast ballots in 2016. Of these 87% were felons ineligible to vote and 8% were non-citizens. The non-citizen number may be a bit higher, as they couldn't verify 61 additional voters. Only two people voted for someone else, both a recently deceased family member.

This audit pretty much sums up the truth in the voter fraud debate. Democrats deny that there are any people illegally casting ballots when there are some. Contrary to what Republicans say, it’s a pretty insignificant number. It's insignificant unless you're talking the 2008 Minnesota Senate race that was decided by less votes than ineligible convicted felons who voted.

Voter ID wouldn’t have prevented most of these, although I imagine that there are quite a few more instances of voter fraud they don't catch. The two they did catch here were people voting for deceased relatives, not people coming up with a scheme to create illegal votes. I don't know how many people get away with that, but I don't think there's any way to know the number. It's probably not significant.

Most of the people casting illegal ballots were wrongly registered to vote. One disturbing thing is the 102 non-citizens voting. The article doesn't paint them as part of an elaborate scheme to steal an election, but as people who thought they could and weren't eligible. North Carolina doesn’t give driver’s licenses to undocumented aliens the way California does. I’m guessing California has a lot more than 102 non-citizens voting, with most of whom think it’s legal to do so. This audit does show that contrary to what Donald Trump thinks there’s no evidence the number is significant and changed any election. Of course, any illegal votes shouldn’t be prevented.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Democrats Winning Trump Districts

The media has spent a lot of time writing about Republican districts Clinton won and how the Democrats will take them in 2018. So here's finally an article about a district Trump won. The focus of the article isn't how Republicans will take these. If Democrats will take Clinton districts it's logical to think Republicans will take Trump districts. No, the focus of the article is how Democrats could take even more Trump districts. Democrats dismiss media bias but part of it is the articles they write and how they write them. The focus is almost always about how Democrats are going to win elections, not on how Republicans will win.

Cheri Bustos won her district because it was a Democratic district. It has voted Democratic down ballot. Look at the seats which switched parties in 2016. There were a bunch in Florida and Virginia that switched due to redistricting. There were some districts that had been swing districts before, and they swung the other way in 2016. NJ-5 doesn't fit into either of those but that was a Republican district that Scott Garrett because of things he did.

There was only one district that was Romney-Clinton or Obama-Trump that flipped. That was NV-3. It was Obama-Trump and actually flipped the other way to the Democrat! There were some Romney-Clinton or Obama-Trump districts where the challenger came close, but that’s the best they did. If Romney-Clinton districts were really as vulnerable as people think, you would’ve seen a few flip in 2016. These congressmen would only be marginally vulnerable in a normal election. If there’s a wave, of course, they could be very vulnerable. What they don't mention in the article is that Donald Trump won IL-17 by less than 1 point. That's not a district Trump won by 10 or 20. Those districts aren't flipping even in a wave.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Did Republicans Just Cost Themselves the Majority?

Democrats seem to think so and the Washington Post asks the question.

Democrats have been making the argument that the American voter was going to punish Republicans for the last four cycles, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. They were going punish Republicans for obstructing President Obama's agenda. They were going to punish Republicans for the government shutdown. They were going to punish Republicans for blocking President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. There was a long list of things the voters were supposed to punish Republicans for. They never did. Republicans won the House vote by 7% in 2010, lost it by 1% in 2012, and won it by 6% in 2014, and 1% in 2016. Every time in the past Democrats claimed Republicans would be punished they weren't punished. So why would they be right now?

There's one big reason. There's a Republican in the White House, not a Democrat. Yes, voters have punished congress a few times before, but the President's party almost always gets beat in a mid-term. A President galvanizes the opposition in a way nothing else can. And Democrats are showing a lot of opposition. It's true that the mid-term electorate has favored the GOP in the past but that should be seen as immutable as the Permanent Democratic Majority was.

Less people always show up in a mid-term. In seven mid-terms from 1986 to 2010, the electorate was 71-76% of the previous Presidential electorate. In 2014, it was 64%. Both sides will lose voters who don't see it important to vote in a mid-term. If Democrats lose 20% of their voters and Republicans lose 30% of theirs, Democrats win the House vote by 8% in 2018. And that's certainly possible. While Democrats have had more voters indifferent about the mid-terms in the past they might not be indifferent with Donald Trump in the White House. Well, at least enough less of them might to help Democrats win.

There's another factor which often hurts the party in the White House. Swing voters are often disappointed. They expect something and the President doesn't deliver. The good news for Republicans is that Trump voters don't regret voting for him. Yet. There's still time.

In 2016 Donald Trump wasn't closely associated with House and Senate Republicans. There were many Republican held districts where Trump dropped off heavily from Romney and the House Republican didn't really drop off from how they did in 2012. The reverse was true. House Republicans failed to make inroads in many districts where Trump did a lot better than Romney. That was seen as unusual in age the experts insist there isn't ticket splitting. Of course, that was when Trump wasn't in office. It's a lot easier to see Republicans in the House being associated with Donald Trump now that they're working together. That could be a double edged sword. Yes, Republicans in Clinton won districts could suffer but Republican challengers in districts Trump won could take those. There's a lot of talk about 22 Republican districts Clinton won but not about the 11 Democratic districts Trump won. If Republicans can take 1 Democratic district for every 2 they lose, they'll have a bad night but still keep the House.

Will the AHCA hurt Republicans? I actually don't think so. I think the opposition would be robust whether they passed this bill or they didn't. I don't think vulnerable Republicans who voted no will be spared. Democrats were already energized before this bill passed. I doubt that'd dissipate if they didn't pass it. I think Democrats should do very well in the 2018 election. Of course, others have predicted they'd do well in previous elections and that didn't really happen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Democrats and the 2016 and 2018 Elections

Hillary Clinton lost the Presidential election despite having more overall popular votes while losing several states by small margins. All those things are true. What is controversial is why. Some Democrats think Trump would never have won if the Republicans hadn't had help from James Comey and the Russians. Of course, Republicans won the House vote by 1.4 million votes and James Comey and the Russians had nothing to do with that.

Hillary Clinton clearly falls into the camp of "it was James Comey and the Russians." Believing this works for a few reasons. She doesn't have to accept responsibility for the loss and who wants to accept responsibility? That makes us fee bad. And other people get angry at us. And we might think that our policies aren't supported by enough people or that we are personally flawed. Better to blame it on others.

That's not to say that James Comey's letter, which he defends as justified, and the Russians didn't impact the election. Without them, Hillary Clinton would've won the popular vote! Oh wait. She won it anyway. We don't know how many people were influenced by either of these things and it's certainly possible that enough people in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were to flip the election.

On the other hand, about a half dozen women accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. People assumed what they were saying was true, but none offered any evidence. I'm certainly not defending Donald Trump's treatment of women but then I'm not defending Hillary Clinton's treatment of classified information either. Let's say all but one of those women were telling the truth but that last women cost Donald Trump 100,000 votes. No one knows for sure and in a close election we can cite any number of factors which may have cost people votes. One thing that is true is that the leaked DNC emails were real and Hillary Clinton did mishandle classified information. It wasn't like James Comey was accusing her of killing Vince Foster.

I agree with David Axelrod. James Comey didn't prevent Hillary Clinton from campaigning in Wisconsin. Sometimes external factors are going to break against you. Sometimes they'll break for you. I don't get the feeling that anyone from Barack Obama's campaigns would complain about James Comey's letter. No, they'd work as hard as they could and would've won anyway. Of course Obama did have the advantage of never being the target of an FBI investigation. Some guys catch all the breaks!

Blaming the FBI and the Russians for the 2016 loss completely obscures that Democrats did lost the House vote by a point and they failed to beat vulnerable Senate Republicans. Priorities USA, a Democratic Super PAC, decided not to chalk up weak Democratic performance to the FBI and the Russians. They went out and found out why two time Obama voters voted Trump or not at all. And the answers were enlightening. You have to be doing something wrong when people who voted Obama as recently as 2012 switch to the Republicans.

The good news for Democrats is that they control nothing in Washington. How is that good news? Because the party in control gets a ton of blame for everything that goes wrong and people vote for the other party regardless of their policies. The Republican party wasn't offering much in 2010 other than Obamacare repeal, how's that going?, but America voted for them anyway. Because they weren't Democrats. As long as the Democrats don't do anything stupid like tell anyone opposing abortion not to vote for them, tey should do very well in 2018.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Political Parties

In the 2016 election many Bernie Sanders' supporters had a fundamental misunderstanding what political parties are. At their core they are a group of people who come together to support multiple candidates. Political parties tend to form on ideological lines. So it becomes a way for people who share a group of political positions to come together. In parliamentary countries there tend to be a lot of political parties and some parties focus narrowly on specific issues, not taking a stand on other issues. People in these parties support each other's candidacy and it provides a vehicle for donors and volunteers to latch onto. People know what the Democrats roughly stand for. They don't know what an independent stands for unless they look at his or her stances on the issues. An independent is just one candidate and a republic is set up where you have to win many elections to govern. Any time you group candidates together, for any reason, you pretty much have a political party.

Bernie Sanders hasn't wanted to join a political party and many of his supporters haven't either. Sanders, however, chose to run as a Democrat last year and the Democratic party is a group of individuals who've banded together to support other Democrats. Not independents. Since independents don't support all Democrats why should Democrats support independents? The Democratic party had rules that Sanders and his supporters chaffed at following. If he didn't want to follow those rules he shouldn't have become a Democrat. If he wanted to make up the rules himself he should've run as an independent or formed his own political party or like minded people. He chose to do neither.

The American political system has mostly been a two party system from the beginning. That means that one party often needs to get more than half the vote in each election and a party needs to get more than half in more than half the elections. The parties have always had firm, usually opposing, positions on issues. And they've operated on the idea that no one needs to adhere to all those beliefs, that people in their party need only support something in the half to two thirds of those positions. There's never been any strict requirement that to support a party you had to have a particular stance on an issue.

And there's good reason for that. Take abortion. While the numbers have varied a bit, about half of America is pro-choice and the other half is pro-life. If everyone who is pro-choice voted Democratic and everyone who is pro-life voted Republican each party would win roughly half the elections. That'd work fine. But pro-choice voters don't all support the Democratic party.

As you can see in this poll 36% of Republicans support abortion being legal in almost all cases. So Democrats aren't getting their votes. But that balances out, because 24% of Democrats think abortion should be illegal in almost all cases. That's because these people agree with their political party on most other issues. Democrats wouldn't win that many elections without their pro-life voters.

That's why it's perplexing that Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez declared, “every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same, because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.” The logical conclusion from what Perez is saying that every Democratic candidate has to be pro-choice and, by logical extension, every Democratic voter does too.

This is a suicidal party position. If voters who are pro-life even vote for independents, and not Republicans, Democrats are going to lose most elections. They'll be a small minority in the House, Senate, and won't win the Presidency. Because there are only a few places where people who are pro-choice and support Democrats are the majority of voters. I can't imagine this is a path Democrats will go down.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GA-6: Is a Wave Building?

Last night was the GA-6 primary election. Democrats Jon Osoff failed to get the 50% he needed to avoid a run-off but he had a very strong showing, getting 48% of the vote. He'll face Republican Karen Handel in a run-off. While he may be at a disadvantage in a fairly Republican district, it's a positive sign that Democrats lost this seat 51%-49%. Here are things to consider:

1) It's not necessary for Democrats to win this seat for them to do well in 2018. Republicans won only one House special election in 2010 and that was the quirky jungle primary in HI-1 where Democrats actually got 58% of the vote. They won no special elections from the Democrats in 2014. Yes, they had the big senate win in Massachusetts, but they actually didn't win the senate that year. Winning this seat won't give them the majority. Winning 24 seats in November 2018 will. And they don't need a win to be enthusiastic.

2) Last week some people jumped on the KS-4 result, saying that Republicans won a district Trump won by 27 points by only 8. That's a gain of 19 points! If they can do that everywhere they'll gain over 100 seats! Trump won GA-6 by 1.5 points. Republicans won it by 2 in the special. Oops. So now they're pointing out that Tom Price won the district by 23. That's a gain of 21 points!

3) There are a few problems with applying that everywhere. Jon Osoff spent $8 million, a total Democrats won't match in swing districts in 2018. This was the only race and got 100% Democratic focus. Republicans couldn't push one candidate, only run against Osoff. The biggest difference, however, is that there might be few open seats in competitive districts. Running against an incumbent can be tough, as he or she has a ton of capital with the voters. Open seats are much easier to win and Democrats likely will be favorites in any open swing district. So far six Republicans are retiring. None are in swing districts. At least one Democratic seat, MN-1, is one that should be competitive.

4) Republicans are looking for reasons a wave isn't building, a few of them are detailed above. That's denial. A wave could be building. If one is, these are the results you expect to see in special elections. One thing Republicans can't change is that their party has control of the White House. As they know, that can be a big motivator for the opposition. I doubt opposition to Donald Trump is going to drop. The party with the White House is less motivated. Many people will feel the President they voted for hasn't lived up to expectations. People just expect too much and are disappointed. So they don't go to the polls in mid-terms.

It's way too early to judge whether there's a wave building. In 2010 there were real indications until January of that year. In 2014 there were none. The wave was a surprise on election night. But a wave could be building.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

KS-4 Special Election Means Something or It Doesn't

Last night there was a special election in KS-4 a red district centered in Wichita. Republican Rob Estes won 53%-45%, a lackluster performance considering that Mike Pompeo won 61%-30% a few months ago.

Why It Means Something
The most obvious answer is that if Republicans are winning districts they won by 31 points by only 8 in 2018 they are going to lose a lot of seats. In 2008 and 2010 there were a number of special elections where the Democrats, in the former, and Republicans, in the latter, overperformed what they normally would do. These were signs that a wave was coming.

Why It Means Nothing
There were also elections in those cycles that swung the other way, where Republicans overperformed in 2008 and Democrats overperformed in 2010. This falsely led the parties to think there might not be a wave. On the other hand there were special elections in the 2004 and 2012 cycles where Democrats overperformed. These weren't indicative of a wave. It should be noted that the Kansas environment is positive for Democrats. Governor Sam Brownback is unpopular and Rob Estes is the state treasurer. That won't be the case in GA-6 or MT-AL, so those races might show if this close race was due more to Kansas or the national environment.

When will we know whether this election meant something? Possibly not until after the 2018 election. And that's not helpful at all.