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Are third-party candidates spoilers? What voting data reveal
01/23/17 |
Publication Date: 
Monday, January 23, 2017 - 08:00

We are scholars of politics and the presidency, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that a shift or addition of just a few thousand votes in one or two key states can determine the outcome of a presidential election. In other words, a handful of voters in the right place at the right time can truly change the course of American history.  ...

We found that not only do third-party candidacies fail to increase turnout, they are actually associated with a statistically significant reduction in turnout. Put simply, fewer people vote in elections in which third-party candidates receive a substantial portion of the vote.  ...

[W]hen controlling for the expansion of the voting pool, turnout does not vary widely from one election to the next. That suggests that most voters go to the polls because they want to vote, not because they are motivated by any particular candidate. The one exception to this rule appears to be Ross Perot’s candidacy in 1992. But the one thing that distinguished his candidacy was the US$100 million of his own money he had to spend. By way of contrast, Jill Stein raised and spent about $3.5 million in the latest campaign cycle.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Texas Voter ID Case, But CJ Roberts Signals Review Likely Later
01/23/17 |
Publication Date: 
Monday, January 23, 2017 - 07:15

The Supreme Court declined to review the Texas voter id case today, but Chief Justice Roberts strongly signaled that the Court could well grant review when the case is fully complete in the lower court (and when, it is likely, there will be five conservative votes yet again on the Supreme Court) ...

What does this mean? In the short term this is good news for Texas voters (who get the benefit of the softened Texas voter id rules ordered by the Fifth Circuit and trial court) and for voting rights activists, who have the benefit of a Section 2 precedent from the Fifth Circuit that helps to strike down some of these more restrictive laws. And the trial court gets to make the record on whether Texas passed its law with a discriminatory purpose.

In the long run, however, things are much less certain. Either in this case, and/or in the North Carolina voting case (cert. petition now pending), the Court could eventually rein in the meaning of Section 2 (both intent and effect) to deal with restrictive voting laws. Within a few years, I expect the Court will likely do so, making it harder to challenge these laws and encouraging more Republican legislatures to enact similar laws.

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Voting as a Student

As a student, you have a constitutional right to register and vote in the place you truly consider to be “home” — whether that’s your parents’ house, your apartment, or your dorm room. But before you make the important decision about where to vote, make sure you know the voting rules (and sometimes consequences) of registering to vote in that state.

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