A new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Eli Berman, Michael Callen, Clark Gibson, and James D. Long looks at the effects of election interventions in fragile states, specifically Afghanistan. The results are encouraging:
International development agencies invest heavily in institution building in fragile states, including expensive interventions to support democratic elections. Yet little evidence exists on whether elections enhance the domestic legitimacy of governments. Using the random assignment of an innovative election fraud-reducing intervention in Afghanistan, we find that decreasing electoral misconduct improves multiple survey measures of attitudes toward government, including: (1) whether Afghanistan is a democracy; (2) whether the police should resolve disputes; (3) whether members of parliament provide services; and (4) willingness to report insurgent behavior to security forces.
Writing for Bloomberg, Chris Christoff and Greg Giroux explore the math behind gerrymandering in Michigan with some fascinating examples and graphics. The 14th congressional district, for example, looks pretty weird from high up:
From Detroit, one of the nation’s most Democratic cities, it meanders to the west, north and east, scooping up the black-majority cities of Southfield and Pontiac while bending sharply to avoid Bloomfield Hills, the affluent suburb where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was raised.
(HT: The Big Picture)
Joshua Tucker of the Monkey Cage points to a new website designed to collect information on voter behavior in various electoral systems and educate the public about different systems. Here’s the rundown, from University of Montreal political scientist André Blais:
A team of scientists has launched the website voteforpope.net. The website has two objectives: inform the public about the various electoral systems that exist in the world to elect state leaders, and collect data on voters’ behaviour under these systems. We provide information about four electoral systems: one round plurality, two round runoff, alternative vote, and approval vote. The electoral system that is used for the election of the Pope is also described. The visitor is invited to imagine how he/she would vote if the pope was elected under each of these four electoral systems. The study is part of a larger international project designed to better understand the functioning of electoral democracy (Making Electoral Democracy Work). For an example of how such data can help us understand how electoral rules affect vote choice, see Blais et al. 2012. “Assessing the psychological and mechanical impact of electoral rules : A quasi-experiment.” Electoral Studies 31 :829-837.
From a reader named Kyle Gregory:
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I decided about a year ago that I am not going to vote and happened to find a neat little trick for those of us who take this stance.
I’m not sure about other states, but in Virginia, jury duty is determined by voter registration. I moved a couple of years ago, but never changed my voter registration since I didn’t plan on voting. I recently received notification of jury duty at my parents’ address where I am still registered to vote. The notification form has a section to fill out stating that you have not lived in that county in the past 6 months, which automatically disqualifies you from jury duty! So, as long as I do not want to vote, I am also exempt from having to do jury duty!
I was on the public-radio show Marketplace Tuesday evening, interviewed about waiting (sparked, I assume, by lines of people waiting to vote). I never vote on Election Day and never have to wait to vote: I take advantage of Texas’s early voting, which is quick and easy. I estimate the opportunity cost of people waiting in line on Tuesday — the value of their time — was around $1 billion. Those resources would have been much better spent creating facilities for early voting in all states. For that sum, a lot of election workers’ salaries could be paid and polling facilities could be kept open from late October through early November. An additional virtue is that more people might vote, and expanding democracy would be a good thing. Who couldn’t support this reallocation of resources?
With the Presidential debate finished, we are officially in the final lap of America’s second-favorite spectator sport. (Yes, football is better than politics.) Of all the talking that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will do by Nov. 6, you can bet that a great deal of their breath will be expended on economic matters. Because that’s what the President of the United States does, right — runs our economy?
That, of course, won’t stop the candidates from talking about their plans to “fix” or “heal” or “restore” our economy — all of which imply that we are in an economic doldrums that is sure to pass. But what if it doesn’t? What if the massive economic growth the U.S. has experienced through most of our history is a thing of the past?
Can’t resist chiming in on Mitt’s “47%” comment, as I was asked to do so by USNews and World Report:
I’m a freeloader/slurper from the public trough. But I’m also producing something—educated citizens and workers, and useful research—that taxpayers’ decisions in political markets have determined to be socially valuable.
Read the rest here.
For years, I have argued that the best way to track what really matters through election season is to follow the political prediction markets. The one difficulty is that these markets aren’t really available to the general public. Sure, the University of Iowa runs a market, but because it’s for research purposes, the maximum bet is set at only $500. And while I track InTrade closely, they’re based in Ireland, and are frowned upon by American regulators. Likewise, Betfair won’t deal with American customers. But all that may be about to change. Read More »