Saturday, November 8, 2014

2014 election and implications

The 2014 election on Tuesday is following some extremely predictable patterns of American politics. It saw the lowest turnout since 1940, which is probably due to the general malaise of people saying "both parties are the same", which has some truth with some members of the Democratic Party being right-wing, such as Landrieu of Louisiana, and a few others who lost on Tuesday, but this malaise is likely a symptom of single-winner districts and first past the post. I have more information below.

NCSBE and Election Project along with US News have good data

This turn to voting for another party despite being partially cause by low turnout is also a recurring pattern in American politics known as the Six year itch.

Section 1: Turnout
If we wanted to measure how turnout decreased and where it decreased we would want to have the following information, which I have already done in a spreadsheet:

  1. We will want to know if having a governor's election increased turnout substantially.
  2. We will want to also know if having a senator's election increased turnout substantially.
  3. We will want to know if political alignment of a state changes voter turnout.
  4. We will want to know if political polarization of a state changes voter turnout, whether a state like Ohio and Florida which are extremely close in number of Democrats and Republicans will have a different turnout than a state like Hawaii or Utah.
There are more types of things we can do when it comes to seeing what effects turnout, but these are the four measures I am going to choose to analyze.

I took this data and measured in a spreadsheet the data based on them, here are my results:
  1. States with governor elections had a voter turnout of 37.44% (with a standard deviation of 8.2%) versus a turnout of 36.17% (with a standard deviation of 6.4%) for states that had no governor with a correlation of 16.7%. This demonstrates a very weak correlation between voting for governor and people turning out. The long-term average shows a turnout increase of 3% (governor = 43% vs. non-governor of 40%) with a standard deviation of 5% with elections and 7% without elections. Their correlation is 19%. This demonstrates that having governors elections still has a weak correlation. The other way we can measure correlation is to take two elections and find the correlation between them for each state, and the correlation between 2010 and 2014 for all 50 states is 78.3%, which is very strong. This means voters in states tend to vote year after year or not, with a little dependence on whether they are electing their governor. Lurking variables include voter access laws, and state corruption.
  2. States electing a senator had a voter turnout of 38.3% versus 35.9% for states that were not electing a senator with a correlation of 23%.
  3. Political alignment has a correlation of 27.04% with voter turnout. Political polarization has a correlation of 27.50%. The more polarized a state is the more likely it is people will vote, so this empirically demonstrates that one way to increase voter turnout is to have competitive districts as opposed to safe seats.
So in order to increase turnout we should implement an election system which ensures that every vote counts which means every district must be competitive. The best way to do this is STV, which I have written about a lot.

Section 2: 2016 (focused on strategy options)
History tells us that when one party takes over congress in the 6th year of a presidency it is almost always followed by a changing of the party in the next election, This has in fact occurred 14 times now in American history (out of 16 two-term presidents) which is a rate of 87.5%.

This type of arrangement where Congress is controlled by one party and the President is controlled by another has occured now 11 times (including this new instance), and out of 10 previous occurrences only one of them has not seen the Presidency flip parties, which started in 1946 and ended in 1948 when both houses of Congress became controlled by the Democrats and President Truman was reelected. This bodes well for the Republicans if history repeats itself again.

Then if the Democrats want to maintain control of the Presidency it is prudent to study President Truman and the Republicans of the late 1940s. It was a time of economic recovery, and there was a recession after World War II which helped the Republicans a lot in 1946. An economic recovery would then probably help the Democrats a lot. President Truman was also up for reelection which is different from this time. The election of 1988 is also pertinent since the last two years of Reagan's presidency saw the Democrats dominate both houses, and all of George HW Bush's presidency for a total of 6 years, which is unusual because out of the past 10 times this arrangement has happened 5 have lasted only 2 years, 1 lasted 4 years, 3 lasted 6 years, and the longest lasted 8 years. This is in other words a very unstable political arrangement. This means there is a 50% chance that 2016 will see a new party arrangement.

For the Republicans, the best they can do is have a charismatic leader who can capitalize on their advantage and take the Presidency. They need a strong Vice Presidential candidate who can turn on centrists as opposed to Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan. For the House they want the map to stay the way it is, which will not happen since Florida is already going to change. 

For the Democrats, they want a politician who people can look up to. They need someone who can get people to turn out to vote and vote for their local representatives. Turnout is going to be key, and they need to run strong candidates in every congressional district in the country to try to take as many seats as possible. Florida is going to be forced to redraw their districts to not be so gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans, and there are other states where this can be done, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas which will make the house elections much more balanced in the next election. They need to appear more liberal than the Republicans and not complacent in their demands. Getting new faces into the party who are from the progressive wing would be useful, and speaking to women, African Americans, and Hispanics would help get the vote out. Hopefully there will be a primary season with candidates who have experience to move the party back in line with their voter base. This will give the Democrats a massive advantage in the next election. Pushing for ranked voting would be another very smart move.

Section 3: Policy
The next two years will be difficult, and the Republicans will put forward budgets which will be from the interests they represent. Fortunately, President Obama has a veto pen and will hopefully use it. The only danger is that since we do not have a Line-item veto it is likely the Republicans will put things into budget bills that Obama would veto, but since he does not have the authority to veto budgets they will pass. People will inevitably blame the President for this Congressional decision, but it will not change the fact of who makes these changes. Gay marriage will continue to move through the court system, and the Supreme Court will likely support gay marriage in the very near future. Supreme Court nominations from Obama over the next two years will need to be moderate to get past Congress, I however doubt that there will be any retirees or deaths.

It is not going to be an exciting two years away from the courts, and there will hopefully not be a lot of court action on economics given the economic makeup of the court of 1 libertarian and 4 conservatives. This is very favorable to conservatives, so even though it will be dangerous it is likely more decisions like Citizens United v. FEC will be filed.

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