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Democratic Turnout In New Hampshire Primary Breaks 2008 Record

More than 290,000 New Hampshire voters participated in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary — a significant increase from 2016.

Turnout appears to have broken the state’s record, set during the 2008 election.

As of Wednesday morning, with about 96 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, 293,550 ballots had been recorded, well above the 249,587 votes cast in the last New Hampshire Democratic primary. The state’s previous record for the Democrats primary was 287,556 votes cast in the 2008 race between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and several other prominent candidates.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was victorious on Tuesday night scoring approximately 26 percent of the overall vote, with more than 91 percent of the state’s precincts counted. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were the only other candidates earning convention delegates, garnering about 24 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The GOP primary results were less encouraging for Donald Trump, who still managed to handily defeat his opponent.

For months, Trump has claimed again and again to enjoy an “all time high” 95 percent approval rating among Republicans. At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Monday, Trump also claimed 40,000 to 50,000 had shown up to support him, though the venue capacity was less than 12,000 people.

On Tuesday, Trump received less than 86 percent of the vote, with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016 and has amassed less than one percent of Trump’s war chest for this race, received more than nine percent of the vote.

GOP turnout was also only a little over half of Democratic turnout for the primary. And it was way down from 2016, when Trump faced better-funded opponents than Weld.

As Vox noted on Wednesday, there’s a small caveat in the turnout numbers. New Hampshire voters who aren’t registered with a party are free to vote in whichever primary they choose, but registered Republicans or Democrats “must vote in their respective primaries.” That means Democratic turnout was likely propped up by the relatively noncompetitive Republican race.

“… An NBC News exit poll showed that 43 percent of the Democratic primary electorate in the state were independents, only slightly up from 40 percent in 2016, which would seem to suggest that there wasn’t a big influx of independents who voted on the Republican side in 2016 and switched to the Democrats this time around,” the outlet wrote.

Trump will likely fare better in other states, where Republican officials have rigged or canceled the primaries to ensure he wins.

Democrats will vote next in the February 22 Nevada caucuses and the February 29 South Carolina primaries.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

IMAGE: Bernie Sanders smiles after winning at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Concord, New Hampshire February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

‘Storm Of A Century’ Voter Turnout Predicted For 2020 Election

Reprinted with permission from The Washington Monthly.

Talk of the 2020 election has focused primarily on polling, whether it involves the Democratic primary or potential face-to-face match-ups with Trump. But in The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein took a look at something equally important: voter turnout. Political scientists are forecasting a veritable tsunami.

Signs are growing that voter turnout in 2020 could reach the highest levels in decades—if not the highest in the past century—with a surge of new voters potentially producing the most diverse electorate in American history…

With Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency stirring such strong emotions among both supporters and opponents, strategists in both parties and academic experts are now bracing for what Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist who specializes in voting behavior, recently called “a voter turnout storm of a century in 2020.”

In a recent paper, the Democratic voter-targeting firm Catalist projected that about 156 million people could vote in 2020, an enormous increase from the 139 million who cast ballots in 2016. Likewise, Public Opinion Strategies, a leading Republican polling firm, recently forecast that the 2020 contest could produce a massive turnout that is also unprecedentedly diverse.

McDonald is forecasting that two-thirds (67 percent) of eligible voters will cast a ballot in 2020. Here is how that compares with recent history.

Since 18-year-olds were granted the vote [in 1972], the highest showing was the 61.6 percent of eligible voters who showed up in 2008, leading to Barack Obama’s victory. And since World War II, the highest turnout level came in 1960, with John F. Kennedy’s win, when 63.8 percent of voters participated.

It is worth noting that in both of those cases a young, dynamic Democrat was running against an older establishment Republican. In one instance, the Democrat went on to become the first Catholic president in the country’s history, while the other became the first African-American president.

Recent predictions are based on data points like the number of small contributions to presidential campaigns, cable news viewership, and polls indicating a high degree of interest in the election. But it also reflects what happened in the 2018 midterms, in which 35 million more people participated than in 2014. Here is the good news for Democrats.

McDonald estimates that the number of eligible voters increases by about 5 million each year, or about 20 million from one presidential election to the next. That increase predominantly flows from two sources: young people who turn 18 and immigrants who become citizens. Since people of color are now approaching a majority of the under-18 population—and also constitute most immigrants—McDonald and other experts believe it’s likely that minorities represent a majority of the people who have become eligible to vote since 2016.

However, that only matters if the newly eligible voters actually turn out on Election Day—which is exactly what happened in 2018.

Turnout typically falls for all voter groups in midterm elections compared with the previous presidential race, but that falloff was much smaller than usual last year. Moreover, while turnout surged across virtually all groups, it increased most sharply among the voters who historically have participated at the lowest levels.

In addition to voter suppression, here is what Republicans are counting on.

The electorate is not diversifying nearly as fast in the three Rust Belt states that Trump dislodged from the Blue Wall—Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Those states, for years to come, will remain older and whiter than the nation overall, meaning that to win them, Democrats have to run better with older, whiter voters than they do in most places.

But Trump faces an uphill battle in those Rust Belt states right now, where his approval rating stands at -7 in Pennsylvania, -12 in Michigan, and -13 in Wisconsin. He’s going to need to energize a lot of angry white non-college-educated males in those states to turn that around.

Study Warns Latino Voting Rate May Drop In November Election

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Latinos appear less likely to vote in this year’s presidential race than in either of the past two elections, according to a Pew Research Center study released on Tuesday, even as immigrant rights groups enraged by Republican Donald Trump’s rhetoric seek to drive them to the polls.

The results could signal a challenge for Democrat Hillary Clinton as she relies on a coalition of minority voters to help her against the brash New York businessman, who launched his presidential bid last year by calling some Mexican immigrants rapists and promising to build a wall to stop them.

About 89 percent of Latino registered voters said they plan to vote in the Nov. 8 election, according to the poll, down from 91 percent in an October 2012 survey and 94 percent in a July 2008 survey. Another 10 percent said they would not vote in the upcoming election, and 1 percent said they did not know yet.

By comparison, some 96 percent of the total U.S. population of registered voters plans to vote on Nov. 8, Pew said.

Latinos, a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. electorate with rising influence in closely fought states like Florida and Nevada, tend to lean Democratic and favor Clinton heavily over Trump. Some 58 percent support Clinton compared to 19 percent for Trump, according to the survey. Another 10 percent favor Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 6 percent prefer Green candidate Jill Stein.

But turnout among Latinos tends to run well below that of whites and African Americans, blunting their impact in political races.

A number of civic groups opposed to Trump have been working to ensure Latinos get to the polls.

Immigrants’ rights group America’s Voice, for example, launched a new Spanish language radio ad in Miami and Orlando stations for the next two weeks bashing Trump’s hardline immigration proposals, which include deporting all undocumented foreigners and making it harder for would-be immigrants to get visas.

In Nevada, the Culinary Union, which is heavily Latino, is working to ensure its members get to the polls, helping them with logistics like finding their polling stations and arranging transport.

“It could make the difference between a one point loss and a one point win,” said Yvanna Cancela, the union’s political director.

Sergio Garcia-Rios, a professor of Latino studies at Cornell University, said Clinton could be missing an opportunity to drive voter turnout further, however, by not engaging Latino voters enough on policy.

“We can’t just rely on an anger reaction to Donald Trump,” he said. The challenge is “to create enthusiasm for Latinos to get out and vote.”

Trump has argued that his proposals on immigration can help minorities by reducing the competition for jobs.

The Pew report was based on a bilingual telephone survey of 1,507 Latino adults, including 804 registered voters, from Aug. 23 through Sept. 21. The overall margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points; for registered voters, the figure is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

IMAGE: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a “Latinos for Hillary” rally in San Antonio, Texas October 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Darren Abate

How The GOP Gamed The Voting System To Dominate And Why Elections Are An Anti-Democratic Mess

Two months to elections and counting. Americans will be voting for the entire House, a third of the Senate and the president, as well as all members of state legislative lower houses and usually half of their state senators.

It may be an historic election, an election in which many states will be operating under rules adopted only in the last half dozen years. These rules affect the value of one’s vote and the ease of voting. All of this is occurring in a setting where fewer and fewer federal races are even competitive. Together these impose considerable challenges for those trying to dislodge incumbents, the success of which may depend significantly on the level of voter turnout.

Voter dilution, voter suppression, turnout, the dwindling number of winnable seats: These four key factors will influence the outcome of the 2016 election and determine the future composition of the federal government.

1. Voter Dilution

Every 10 years, per the U.S. Constitution, the number of representatives allocated to each state is determined based on the U.S. Census. The Constitution largely, although not entirely, leaves the manner in which those representatives are elected to the states—and that has left room for manipulation of voting districts to benefit one party or another, also known as gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is not new. Indeed, the word is more than 200 years old, a combination of the name of a former governor of Massachusetts, Eldridge Gerry, whose party redistricted the state in 1812, and the animal the resulting map of Essex County looked like—a salamander.

The advent of computers in the 1980s made it easier to fine-tune redistricting efforts for partisan purposes, and in the 1990s and 2000s, a wealth of new, easily accessible personal data enabled the creation of detailed voter profiles on a street-by-street, block-by-block basis. As one judge has commented, “Today, modern computer mapping allows for gerrymandering on steroids, as political mapmakers can easily identify individual registrations on a house-by-house basis, mapping their way to victory.”

The next evolution in the redistricting process occurred in 2010 after a handsomely financed and well-coordinated Republican effort to capture state legislative seats proved wildly successful. Going into the election, Democrats held a 60-36 advantage in state legislative chambers. After the election, the legislative advantage dramatically shifted to the Republicans 57-39.

The winners immediately set themselves the task of ensuring permanent control. David Daley, former editor in chief of Salon, explains how in his new book, Ratf**cked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. The effort, fittingly called REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project), involved the Republican Governors Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ALEC, with funding by Walmart, tobacco companies and individual millionaires and billionaires. Their tool was an unprecedentedly finely detailed computer model.

The shape of gerrymandered districts were at times bizarre. Consider this map of the 7th Congressional District in Pennsylvania.

../Downloads/Pennsylvania-7th.png

The dramatic voter dilution resulting from redistricting has led one federal judge to lament, “the fundamental principle of the voters choosing their representative has nearly vanished. Instead, representatives choose their voters.”

The effects of the post-2010 redistricting have been dramatic. Until 2010, Ohio congressional districts were roughly evenly divided between the two parties. In 2012, while Ohioans cast 52 percent of their votes for Republican congressmen, their House delegation was 75 percent Republican.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates for the House received half the votes, but Republicans won three-quarters of the congressional seats. More than half the voters in North Carolina voted for Democrats, yet Republicans filled about 70 percent of the seats. Democrats drew more votes in Michigan than Republicans, but took only five out of the state’s 14 congressional seats.

Right after the 2012 election, Mother Jones published a visually instructive chart comparing the percentage of House seats won by each party to the percentage of the popular vote that party won. A fair election would be one where the light red line was roughly the same length as the dark red line.

Republican Gerrymandering and the 2012 Election

012 election battlegrounds

Another way to look at this is that in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia, one Republican vote had the same voting impact as 2.5 Democratic votes. In North Carolina, the ratio was 3:1.

Republicans were masters of the art of gerrymandering, but when Democrats had the opportunity, they didn’t hesitate to use similar techniques, although they were unable to achieve the ultimate magic trick of converting a minority of the popular vote into a majority of House seats. In Maryland, Democrats won 62 percent of the combined votes for Congress and 88 percent of the seats. In Illinois, they won 54 percent of the popular vote and 66 percent of the seats.

Democrat Gerrymandering and the 2012 Election

../Downloads/Democrats-gerrymandering-in-2012.png

Federal courts have been reticent to intervene in state redistricting disputes. Even when they do, the impact is delayed and often modest. North Carolina’s gerrymandered maps were drawn in 2011, but it wasn’t until February 2016 that a federal court overturned them. In the interval, the state had two congressional elections. As ThinkProgress observes, “the message to lawmakers is clear: go ahead and draw the most self-serving maps you can manage, because even if they are struck down it will take the courts years to do so.”

Within a few days of the court’s decision, the North Carolina legislature convened a special session and promptly redrew the map in a way only marginally better than the previous one. Again a lawsuit was filed. In June 2016, the same federal court that had found North Carolina’s redistricting racially biased in February refused to intercede. The judges did note the declaration of one of the key legislators: “[W]e want to make clear that we are going to use political data in drawing this map. It is to gain partisan advantage on the map. I want that criteria to be clearly stated and understood. I’m making clear that our intent is to use the political data we have to our partisan advantage.” And the judges did not hide their distress: “The Court is very troubled by these representations.” Troubled but powerless, they insisted. “Nevertheless, it is unclear whether a partisan-gerrymander claim is judiciable given existing precedent.” Based on precedent, “the Court’s hands appear to be tied.”

Given the aftermath of the 2010 election, state legislative elections in 2018 and 2020 promise to be bitterly contested. Spending in 2018 may reach levels reached only in presidential election years.

For those wanting to bring fairness to the redistricting process, a non-judicial remedy may be available. Take control out of the hands of self-serving legislators and parties and invest it in nonpartisan citizen commissions. In the 14 states that have direct initiatives, this can be accomplished by a majority statewide vote, as has already occurred in California and Arizona. In 2015, by a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Arizonans’ right to do this. An independent assessment of the impact of California’s independent commission found that the process elicited broad bipartisan support and resulted in many more competitive legislative races. Five other states have semi-independent commissions: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and New Jersey.

Whatever happens, at least the next two elections should be guided by the political maxim: Vote for your local state legislator as if the Congress of the United States depended on it. Because it will.

2. Voter Suppression

In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law requiring all voters casting a ballot in person to present a U.S. or Indiana photo ID. The facts were not in dispute. Those least likely to have state-issued identification were disproportionately poor and nonwhite. The only voter fraud addressed by photo IDs is voter impersonation fraud, which was practically nonexistent.

None of this mattered to the justices. John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, insisted the burden of proof rested not on the state to justify new voting restrictions but on the citizenry to prove they created a burden. Moreover, the burden had to be extensive and widely shared. He elaborated, “Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek.”

The decision reversed a century-old dynamic in America during which the franchise had been regularly broadened and the ability to vote regularly facilitated.

Since 2010, 23 states have either introduced more restrictive voter procedures or tightened those in operation.

In 2013, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, further enabled disenfranchisement by striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the provision that required pre-approval by the federal government of changes in election laws. This freed the nine covered states and dozens of counties in New York, California and South Dakota to change election laws without advance federal approval. They can still be sued, but only after the fact.

Five new voter suppression laws enacted by states were in place for the 2012 presidential election. Fifteen more laws will be tested for the first time in the 2016 elections. Seven of these enacted their laws after the Supreme Court eliminated the need for pre-clearance.

../Downloads/Voter-ID-Laws-Map.png

Since 2013, suits regarding these laws have been wending their way through the courts. Early this summer, courts halted the implementation of voter suppression laws in North Dakota and North Carolina.

North Carolina’s voting restrictions, introduced the day after the 2013 Supreme Court decision, added a strict photo-ID requirement, cut a week off of early voting, and ended same-day registration, preregistration and out-of-precinct voting. A Circuit Court upended the stricter voting requirements, concluding the law’s provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” and explained, “We can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.” On August 31, the Supreme Court, without Justice Scalia, affirmed the Circuit Court decision by a 4-4 tie vote.

The status of all these lawsuits, as of mid-August, can be found at ProPublica.

3. Voter Turnout

Voter dilution makes it extremely difficult, although not impossible, to capture congressional and state legislative seats. Voter suppression aids and abets the impact of voter dilution but also affects the capacity to win statewide elections for statewide offices, senators and the president. Both obstacles can be overcome, at considerable expense and effort, by increasing the number of people who vote.

When it comes to voter turnout, history is clear. When turnout is high, Democrats win. When turnout is low, Republicans win.

Voter turnout for presidential elections, according to the Census Bureau, has remained fairly stable over the last generation, while voting for congressional races has declined.

../Downloads/Voting-rates-congressional-and-presidential-chart.png

In 2014, low voter turnout among groups that tend to vote Democrat may have been decisive in expanding Republican control of Congress. Overall voter turnout was 36.3 percent, the lowest percentage since 1942, when millions of men were off to war. Voter turnout among 18-to-29-year-olds dropped to 19.9 percent, the lowest total ever recorded in federal elections, and voter registration among the youth fell to 46.7 percent, the lowest in 40 years.

Voting Turnout for Presidential Elections: 1964-2012

../Downloads/Voting-Turnout-by-Age-Presidential-Elections-1024x649.png

There has been a steady decline in voter turnout for all groups, except those age 65 and over. In presidential elections, turnout of those over 65 has actually gone up since the 1960s and has stabilized at high levels since the early 1990s. It is unlikely that turnout can be increased among this group, but there has been a considerable variability in which party they vote for. They had reliably voted Democrat but switched to the Republican column in 2012, and currently their vote appears up for grabs.

../Downloads/over-65-party-advantage-and-young-1024x543.png

There has also been a dramatic variability in voter turnout for those 18-24 years of age. One might interpret the increase and decrease in turnout in the 1990s as youth voting enthusiastically for Bill Clinton and then becoming so disillusioned that turnout plunged in the succeeding two elections. A massive get-out-the-vote campaign focused on youth in 2004 may be the reason behind the rebound. In 2008, a substantial youth turnout was an important reason for Barack Obama’s election. In 2016, the level of turnout among young voters could determine the presidency.

Another way of breaking down voting patterns is to compare a cohort’s share of the eligible voting age population with its share of those actually voting. What we discover, perhaps not surprisingly, is that young voters lag, while those 45-64 punch high above their weight class, even more so than those 65 and older. Voting rates for those age 30-44 are only slightly below their percentage of the eligible voting population.

../Downloads/Eligible-population-vs.-voting-population-1024x743.png

When we examine the impact of race and ethnicity on voting, we find that black turnout has risen steadily over the past 20 years, hitting a peak with Obama’s two presidential runs. Hispanic and Asian turnout, on the other hand, has not risen much and lags far behind that of blacks and non-Hispanic whites.

If we compare the share of the eligible voting population with the share of actual voters, non-Hispanic whites are disproportionately represented while Hispanics are disproportionately underrepresented.

../Downloads/Differences-Between-Shares-in-Race-etc.-presidential-1024x424.png

4. How Many Races Truly Are in Play?

The presidency may well be won on turnout, and it is conceivable that a high turnout will allow the Democratic Party to take over the Senate, and more remotely, the House. But high turnout is a decreasing factor in many races.

In 1992, according to Nate Silver, 103 House races were competitive; in 2012 this had plunged to only 35. Meanwhile, the number of landslide districts in which the presidential vote margin deviated by at least 20 percentage points from the national result has roughly doubled, from 123 in 1992 to 242 in 2012.

In the 2016 race, 270towin.com estimates, only 50 House seats out of 483 are competitive: 38 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. The map starkly reveals the paltry number of competitive seats. Given that Democrats will need to add 31 seats to gain a majority, their chances are extremely slim.

Where House Seats Are Winnable

../Downloads/competitive-house-districts-on-map-1024x651.png

For the Senate, 11 seats (tan states) are considered competitive. Democrats need four additional seats for a 50-50 tie that can be broken by the vice president or five for an outright majority.

Where Senate Seats Are Winnable

../Downloads/competitive-senate-districts-on-map-1024x789.png

So what does all this tell us? The system indeed is rigged, but that doesn’t make elections impossible to win. The key, at least for Democrats, is to increase turnout. One part of that strategy is to overturn state laws that suppress turnout. For Democrats, winning the presidency and winning back the Senate will require a massive get-out-the-vote effort on behalf of their candidates, especially targeting the young and Hispanics. A massive effort would almost surely be insufficient to take back control of the House, but it could make the margin much, much closer. For Republicans, a low turnout guarantees the status quo in Congress and may well gain them the presidency.

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its initiative on The Public Good. He is the author of “New City States” and four other non-fiction books. Follow him on Twitter: @PublicMorris.