Partisan division has reached its peak, shows an alarming new study that identifies three crucial components.
- American political polarization has reached alarming heights, shows a new study.
- Democrats and Republicans hate the other side more than they love their own party.
- The polarization grows worse despite the fact that differences between the sides are not so dramatic.
A President Donald Trump and a former Vice President Joe Biden supporter talk before the Joe Biden Campaign Rally at the National World War I Museum and Memorial on March 7, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Credit: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images
States set their own voting laws, so where does this make voting easiest?
- A new report out of Northern Illinois University lists how easy it is to vote in each state.
- The report can be compared to previous indexes, showing where it is getting easier and more difficult to vote.
- The authors also note that dramatically improving the ease of voting is simple and cost effective.
How the Laboratories of Democracy do with the whole “democracy” thing.<p> Political scientists <a href="https://www.niu.edu/clas/polisci/about/faculty-staff/schraufnagel.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Scot Schraufnagel </a>of Northern Illinois University, <a href="https://www.ju.edu/directory/michael-pomante.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Michael J. Pomante</a> II of Jacksonville University, and Quan Li of Wuhan University in China compare the ease or difficulty of voting in each state with their "<a href="https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/elj.2020.0666" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cost of Voting Index</a>."<br> </p><p>As in previous years, the research team created an index allowing them to rank each state's laws and regulations concerning aspects of <a href="https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/elj.2020.0666" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">voting</a>. </p><p>This included considerations of when voters had to register by, if felons could vote or register, if registration drives were allowed, if automatic registration policies existed, if voting was a state holiday, how many voting stations were in each state, how complex it is to request a mail-in ballot, how long polling stations are open, how many documents are needed to register and vote, and other such concerns. <br> <br> Taken together, these questions consider all facets of being able to vote, from how difficult it is to register to the trouble of actually getting your ballot, either by mail or in person. Each issue was broken down into various considerations and scored. Those considerations that made voting more difficult (for example, a rule not allowing felons to register to vote while in jail) earned more points than those that made voting more accessible. </p><p>For determining how polling hours and the number of days polls were open impacted voters, the average number of poll hours and the number of early voting days were reverse coded, meaning that more time to vote contributed to a lower score. </p><p>After scoring the states, the researchers organized them in a convenient list with the states where voting is most straightforward on top. </p>
Where democracy is easiest to do<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYzNTM2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjk1NjU5OH0.DioH6lPzApgXZq4A-ZCoQbO91GnBLJ2s2dD7-NatKBU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C87%2C0%2C43&height=700" id="fc9ad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd0284418b32e0b24b4d32b79bf043c1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A map showing where voting is easy (low numbers) and where it is more difficult (high numbers).
Northern Illinois University<p> As you can see from the above map, Oregon retained its top spot on the strength of its automatic voter registration policies, extensive vote by mail program, and myriad opportunities to vote early. Washington and Utah, with their similar vote by mail programs, round out the top three. <br> <br> Despite lacking the same vote by mail programs as the previously mentioned states, Illinois made it to fourth place on the strength of its absentee voting policies.</p><p>The other end of the scale features Texas, Georgia, Missouri, and Mississippi. Texas earned its low score partly because of its declining number of places to vote and registration cut off 30 days before the <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/niu-hhi102820.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">election</a>. </p>
Where are the ratings going up? Where are they going down?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/V1FCdfK8gTY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> By comparing these results with those of 2016, it is no issue to see where voting is getting easier and where it is getting more difficult. Perhaps more importantly, it allows us to see what policies can cause which outcomes.</p><p> Those interested in making it easier to vote in their state can look to the reforms passed in Virginia and Michigan for inspiration. This year, Virginia's state government passed a slew of reforms making <a href="https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/april/headline-856055-en.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">voting more accessible</a>, including an automatic voter registration law and the designation of election day as a holiday. This allowed the state to move up 37 spots to its current position of 12. </p><p>Michigan passed similar reforms by referendum in <a href="https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/opinion/contributors/viewpoints/2020/10/28/dont-let-covid-19-stop-you-voting-viewpoint/6040606002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2018</a>, allowing it to move up 32 spots to 13. </p><p>They can also take heart at the authors' references to studies showing that some of these reforms, such as online voter registration, actually reduce the administrative costs of running elections, making them very attractive for those interested in governmental efficiency. Additionally, lead author Scot Schraufnagel suggests that making it simpler to vote can increase turnout.</p><p>On the other hand, if you want to make it more difficult to vote, the index shows you how to achieve that too. </p><p>West Virginia, Missouri, and Iowa all fell 19 spots over the last four years. Co-author Michael J. Pomante explains that these declines are caused in part by the lack of "a willingness to modernize their policies to ease the difficultly of voting and stay current with election law trends we see in many other states." <br> <br> It is worth noting that this report was published on October 13<sup> </sup>and was based on information collected before that time. Some of the ratings might be slightly outdated in light of shifting rules on where and when ballots can be returned in some <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/us/supreme-court-wisconsin-ballots.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">states</a>. However, the report does include a separate section for changes made in response to the pandemic.</p><p>Curiously, while many states in the middle of the pack moved around dramatically in the rankings due to their responses, the top and bottom four appear to have remained the same. <br> <br> How straightforward voting is in the United States is highly variable based on where you live. While some states strive to make it as easy as possible, others retain laws making participation in our democracy burdensome and time-consuming. This index provides a way to understand how our democracy evolves over time and what makes it more accessible to more people. </p><p>What will be done with that information is up to the people. </p>
Younger Americans support expanding the Supreme Court and serious political reforms, says new poll.
- Americans under 40 largely favor major political reforms, finds a new survey.
- The poll revealed that most would want to expand the Supreme Court, impose terms limits, and make it easier to vote.
- Millennials are more liberal and reform-centered than Generation Z.
A simple postcard can improve voter registration rates. Who knew?
- An experiment in getting more people to register to vote in Pennsylvania shows that a simple postcard can get big results.
- Just mailing a reminder to those who were eligible to register increased registration rates by 15 percent.
- The study is one of the first to seriously look at registration drives.
How to get people to register to vote without breaking the bank<p>The study, carried out by political scientists from major American universities with the State of Pennsylvania's assistance, sent postcards to eligible but unregistered (EBU) Pennsylvanians to see if they would register to vote at higher rates than those who were not sent a card.</p><p>Pennsylvania is part of the <a href="https://ericstates.org/" target="_blank">Electronic Registration Information Center</a> (ERIC) collection of states. This group, consisting of several states and Pew Charitable trusts, exists to improve registration rates and voter rolls' accuracy. The states in ERIC all agreed to make serious efforts to reach out to at least 95 percent of all of their eligible but unregistered voters before each election. This means that they have a list of these people, something other states lack.</p><p>Taking advantage of this situation, the authors of the study devised a variety of postcards to send to EBUs to satisfy the state's obligations to mail out to the required 95 percent of EBUs and used the remaining 5 percent as a control group. </p><p>The simplest postcards explained how easy it was to register to vote online and provided the required web address. More complicated versions included a QR code option and a section explaining that online registration was created in response to voter demand. All of them were designed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of State and had the hallmarks of an officially sanctioned, state-issued mailer. <br> <br> The EBUs who were to be contacted were randomly assigned to groups getting one of four possible postcard designs. After the election, the researchers were able to see that the groups that received mailers of any kind registered at a rate of around 8 percent, compared to 7 percent of those who did not receive any postcard. The rate at which those who registered and ultimately voted was similar in all groups. The increase in voter registration was particularly substantial for younger voters, a historically tricky demographic to motivate. </p><p>There was little difference in the turnout of those who got the simple postcard and those who got the complex ones or those with specific phrasing. The authors suggest that this means the reminder and essential information are what's vital to maximizing turnout by this method. </p><p>Now, while a 1 percent overall improvement might seem low, remember that the control group had a measly 7 percent turnout. That 1 percent overall improvement represents a significant increase in comparison. In an election where turnout nationally was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_presidential_election" target="_blank">just over 50 percent</a> and 60 percent in Pennsylvania, that increase is noteworthy.</p><p>It is even more impressive when you remember that Pennsylvania's electoral votes were decided by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_presidential_election_in_Pennsylvania" target="_blank">a fraction of a percent</a> last time. </p>
This is great and all, but what can I do with this information?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="EdaCjUI1" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="97857a380f30c2428a28b18a576e45b8"> <div id="botr_EdaCjUI1_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/EdaCjUI1-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/EdaCjUI1-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/EdaCjUI1-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The authors suggest that their findings have several implications for people trying to get out the vote and political scientists more broadly, writing in the study:</p><p>"We find that a <em>single</em> postcard sent by state election officials several weeks before the election can produce meaningful increases in both registration and turnout. Even in the context of Pennsylvania, a hotly contested swing state which ranked third in terms of campaign visits by the 2016 presidential and vice-presidential candidates, contact by state officials appeared to reach individuals who had not yet been contacted or persuaded to register by the campaigns or other mobilization groups."</p><p>They suggest that further study is needed, as there is a limited amount of literature on registration drives in compilation to attempts to turn out already registered voters. </p><p>More broadly, these findings lend credence to the idea that very many people who don't vote would like to, or at least would, if given the right information. This will prove useful to those trying to improve voter turnout. More importantly, once registered, most of these people ended up voting. </p><p>However, it must also be remembered that the percentage of notified people who registered in the end was still abysmally low—suggesting that many people who are not registered have more complicated reasons for not signing up to vote.</p><p>American voter turnout is low. This study shows that a simple postcard can help raise voter turnout without turning to solutions that would alter how registration and voting are done. Given the importance that Americans place on their democratic traditions, perhaps some people can expect a postcard from their Uncle Sam before too long.</p>
Don't feel like going out to vote? These ten thinkers have something to tell you.
- Everybody occasionally wonders if they should bother to vote.
- To help out, we have quotes from 10 great minds explaining why voting, and participation in politics in general, is the right thing to do.
- Some of them will inspire you, some will scare you, and some are pretty funny.