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>
The states with golden stars on them are extra intriguing.
- Barnes & Noble reported a 57% increase in political book sales compared to 2017.
- The top three best-selling political books of 2018 have been mostly critical of President Donald Trump, though each state varies in which political books it buys most.
- Despite the boost in sales, Barnes & Noble could put itself up for sale in the near future.
Polarized readers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODcwNzkzOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTEwMTQ3NX0.JlxltCL_2HyDL1ApLD8AGYyjBI5nFAfWbTCWZ5NT1mA/img.jpg?width=980" id="b9c4a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="05d21d1569d251a97fd602ca44ae2e6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Source: Barnes & Noble<p>The top three bestselling books for the company were all mostly critical of Trump. At the top, by far, was Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's <em>Fear: Trump in the White House</em>, which sold more than one copy per second (upward of 750,000 copies) on its release day, Barnes & Noble said. Trump called this book, which included many incendiary interviews with high-level officials, a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gaKZtQ7mUk" target="_blank">"work of fiction"</a> shortly after its release.</p><p>Coming in second was Michael Wolff's <em>Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House</em>, and <a href="http://www.latimes.com/books/la-et-jc-barnes-and-noble-20181009-story.html" target="_blank">third</a> was James Comey's <em>A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.</em> </p><p>Gregg Jarrett's <em>The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump</em>, which, needless to say, painted Trump in a favorable light, came in at number four on the list. John McCain's book, <em>The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations</em>, also made the top 10 list, but was not focused on the president.</p><p>Despite the boost in sales, Barnes & Noble executives have been considering selling the company, which is the nation's largest brick-and-mortar bookstore, for <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/07/25/barnes-noble-urged-sell-itself/507766001/" target="_blank">more than a year</a>. Last week, the company announced it was naming a special committee to review bids of prospective purchasers, <em>CNBC </em>reports.</p>
Research calls into question the separation of church and state in the United States.
- Senators let their personal religious beliefs influence how they vote.
- Theological beliefs affects legislature on broader policy issues.
- This reality "circumvents" the separation of church and state in the U.S.
The counties in question failed to provide voting and elections information online in both Spanish and English.
- Attorneys for the ACLU of Texas found that 36 counties failed to provide adequate, or any, voting information on in Spanish on their websites.
- Some counties' websites contained voting information that was misleading or poorly translated.
- The Hispanic vote could be key to Texas Democrats in upcoming elections.
Hispanics could be key to a "blue wave" in Texas<p>Texas is home to about 28 million people, about one-third of whom speak Spanish at home. The state has more majority-Hispanic counties than any other in the nation, and it seems like it's only a matter of time before Hispanics become the largest population group throughout all of the Lone Star State, according to recent census data.<br></p><p><img src="https://assets.rbl.ms/18658681/980x.jpg">Texas has historically been a red state. However, the data suggest Hispanics in Texas mostly voted Democrat in recent elections. In 2016, for instance, Hispanics vastly preferred Hillary Clinton over President Donald Trump by a margin of 80% to 16%, according to the polling group Latino Decisions.</p><p>As American politics have become increasingly polarized, particularly in relation to anti-immigration rhetoric on the right, some have suggested Texas might see a <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/9/21/17852260/beto-orourke-cruz-down-ballot" target="_blank">"blue wave" in upcoming elections</a>. But, as Richard Parker notes in an opinion column for <em><a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/04/13/texas-democrats-doomed-can-rally-hispanic-voters" target="_blank">Dallas News</a></em>, that would require Democrats to rally the Hispanic vote.</p><p>"To win, Democrats need to run Hispanic candidates and speak to Hispanic voters. That means, yes, being fluent in the language of immigration. Fairness and justice matter.</p><p>But so do good jobs, good pay, good education and decent health care. Yes, Latino voters want fairness in a country that has turned bitter and resentful. But they also want the same thing as everybody else: A decent shot at doing better than their parents. And the polling shows that.</p><p>That is the difference between a wave and a trickle."</p>
Do you know your rights? Hit refresh on your constitutional knowledge!
The 2nd Amendment: How the gun control debate went crazy
The gun control debate has been at fever pitch for several years now, and as things fail to change the stats get grimmer. The New York Times reports that there have been 239 school shootings nationwide since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. Six years later, 438 more people have been shot in schools, and for 138 of them it was fatal. Here, journalist and author Kurt Andersen reads the Second Amendment, and explains its history from 1791 all the way to now. "What people need to know is that the Second Amendment only recently became such a salient amendment," says Andersen. It's only in the last 50 years that the gun debate has gone haywire, and it was the moment the NRA went from reasonable to absolutist. So what does the "right to bear arms" really mean? What was a firearm in the 1790s, and what is a firearm now? "Compared to [the] many, many, many rounds-per-second firearms that we have today, it's the same word but virtually a different machine." Kurt Andersen is the author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.
The 5th Amendment: Do not break in case of emergency
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is often talked about but rarely read in full. The reason? Counterterrorism expert Amaryllis Fox explains that it has, these days, simply become shorthand for not saying anything in court to incriminate yourself. But the full text states how important the due process of law is to every American. So perhaps learning the full text, not just the shorthand, is an important step to being an American citizen. You can find out more about Amaryllis Fox here.
The 13th Amendment: The unjust prison to profit pipeline
The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery—but it still remains legal under one condition. The amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Today in America, big corporations profit of cheap prison labor in both privatized and state-run prisons. Shaka Senghor knows this second wave of slavery well—he spent 19 years in jail, working for a starting wage of 17 cents per hour, in a prison where a 15-minute phone call costs between $3-$15. In this video, he shares the exploitation that goes on in American prisons, and how the 13th Amendment allows slavery to continue. He also questions the profit incentive to incarcerate in this country: why does America represent less than 5% of the world's population, but almost 25% of the world's prisoners? Shaka Senghor's latest venture is Mind Blown Media.
The 14th Amendment: History's most radical idea?
In 1868, three years after slavery was abolished, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting equal protection under the law to every born and naturalized U.S. citizen. For CNN news commentator Van Jones this amendment is, in his words, the "whole enchilada." It's not the most popular amendment—it doesn't get name-dropped in TV courtroom dramas, or fiercely debated before elections—but to Jones it is a weighty principle that was far ahead of its time. "It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're a lesbian. That's not what it says. It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're African American. That's not what it says. It says if you're in the jurisdiction you get equal protection under the law. That's radical. In 10,000 years of human history, that's radical." Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.
The 26th Amendment: The act of voting should empower people
Is a 55.7% voter turnout really enough? Bryan Cranston was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election, not for the outcome but for the process. According to Census Bureau figures it was a bumper year for voter engagement with 137.5 million total ballots cast—but is just over half of the eligible voters really that impressive? The Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. still trails behind most developed nations in voter registration and turnout. "I think we've devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we've become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities," says Cranston. The good news? Millennials and Gen Xers are on an upward trend in civic engagement, casting more votes than Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election. Cranston reminds us of how empowering the 26th Amendment is in granting voting rights to Americans over the age of 18. "We can't take that lightly," says Cranston. It's a timely reminder too, as 40 million people are expected to drop off that 55.7% figure for the midterm elections, mostly from the millennial, unmarried women and people of color demographics. Bryan Cranston's new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.