Archives for the month of: March, 2012

The staff of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board earlier this week recommended to the Board that there were a sufficient number of valid signatures on the recall petitions submitted for Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch to order a recall election.

Were there ever!

The staff’s reports are available on the Board’s website.

Here’s a helpful summary of the staff’s findings.

Officeholder Signatures Submitted Signatures Struck by Staff Duplicates Struck Valid Signatures
Gov. Walker 931,053 26,114 4,001 900,938
Lt. Gov. Kleefisch 842,854 29,601 4,263 808,990

I’ve been studying ballot initiatives for some time now (nearly 20 years), and I have to admit, I am stunned by the high validity rate for the recall elections. I’ve been involved as an expert in lawsuits, hired to defend and challenge the legitimacy of signatures gathered for initiative and popular referendum petitions which have a far lower rate. For example, in the state of Washington, as I document with Todd Donovan in our 2008 book chapter on the incidence of signature gathering fraud in ballot measure campaigns, an average of nearly 19% of signatures submitted on initiative and popular referendum petitions between 1990 and 2006 were ruled to be invalid, mostly due to names on petitions not being found in the voter file. And compared with other states, Washington has a fairly high validity rate for signatures submitted on petitions.

Perhaps we should expect the validity rates for signatures collected in recall elections should be higher than those collected in initiative and popular referendum campaigns, but I’m at a loss to explain why. The same tactics used by recall petitioners are used by those collecting the signatures in I&R campaigns. Some gatherers are volunteers, others are paid, sometimes incentives or bounties for valid signatures are offered the proponents. So why the outstanding validity rate?

Whatever the reason, we should expect that many of the 900,000 plus Cheeseheads who signed a petition and who are registered to vote (which is not a requirement to sign a valid recall petition in Wisconsin) will be likely to turn out to vote in the upcoming recall elections, even if many of them are not regular voters.

My just-published article with Janine Parry and Shane Henry, “The Impact of Petition Signing on Voter Turnout,” reveals that those who sign ballot initiative petitions, controlling for a host of other factors, are more likely to turn out to vote, especially in low-turnout but high salience elections, like the June 5 recall elections are likely to be.

My scholarly hat is off to the recall petitioners for their truly impressive feat, and I look forward to delving into the petition data in the coming months.

Crack reporter, Nicholas Confessore, in his story, “Anti-Gay Marriage Group Recommends Creating Tension Between Gays and Blacks,” recounts a classic tale of an interest group trying to use a ballot initiative to drive a wedge into a party’s base.

More than a decade ago, I wrote about the GOP using this tactic in California and Colorado. No time to summarize it here, but here’s a link to my 2001 article, Initiative to Party, with Caroline Tolbert on the topic, and it’s also retold in my book, Educated by Initiative.


Solid piece in the New York Times by Michael Cooper (who interviewed me for his story) on the impact of HB1355 on voter registration drives in Florida.

My earlier analysis with Michael Herron (Dartmouth University) on the topic was included in my testimony to the US Senate.

And I’m currently working on a paper with Dr. Herron assessing the differential impact of HB1355 on voter registration in Florida.

Stay tuned.


An interesting case coming out of Davie, Florida.

The Orlando Sentinel has the details.

As reported late Friday night by TPM, the US Department of Justice objected to three portions of HB1355, Florida’s controversial election law that truncates early in-person voting, restricts third-party voter registration efforts, and requires transient registered voters to cast provisional ballots.  Here is a copy of the DOJ’s Joint Status Report in which the DOJ alleges that the state of Florida has failed to show that the three provisions are not discriminatory under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to US Senators Dick Durbin and Bill Nelson’s joint statement on the Department of Justice’s Challenge of Florida’s New Voting Law.

“The Justice Department has made the right decision in challenging Florida’s new voting law,” Durbin said. “The Florida law’s onerous new restrictions are unfair, unwise and will have a disproportionate impact on minority, young, low income and other voters in Florida. I support the challenge and hope the law is overturned.”

 “There’s really not much question at this point that the law’s a thinly veiled attempt by extremists to make it harder for some people to vote, especially seniors, young voters and minorities,” said Nelson.  “The Justice Department’s right to bring this challenge.”

As I’ve noted before, Florida’s 2012 Presidential Preference Primary operated under a dual electoral system.  With respect to the window to vote early in-person, voters in 62 of the state’s 67 counties were limited to just eight days of early voting, from Saturday January  21 through Saturday January 28.  Under HB1355, Florida’s controversial voter suppression law, the state legislature eliminated the final Sunday of early voting that was previously permitted.  But five of Florida’s counties are covered by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the state has yet to receive US Justice Department preclearance to enforce the law in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe counties. As such, early in-person voting in these five Florida counties began on Monday, January 16, giving voters five additional days to cast their ballots. (Although they have done so, and despite the incorrect information posted of the Secretary of State’s website, none of the five counties opted to offer early voting on either Sunday, January 22 or January 29.)

What the figure below reveals is that, on average, early in-person turnout in the Republican primary was higher in the five Section 5 counties than early in-person turnout in the other 62 counties.   More precisely, a greater percentage of registered Republicans opted to vote early in-person in the five Section 5 counties than registered Republicans in neighboring counties. Some 11.8% of registered Republicans voted early in the five VRA Section 5 counties, compared to 9.3% of registered Republicans in the other 62 counties.  More significantly, early in-person voting in the five counties with the extended voting window accounted for a greater percentage of the total turnout in the Presidential Preference Primary, on average, compared with turnout in the other 62 counties.  Nearly one in three votes cast in the GOP primary election in the five Section 5 counties were ballots cast early in-person by voters, compared to less than 22% of all ballots cast in the other 62 counties.

Florida 2012 Presidential Preference Primary Section 5 VRA Counties Early Voters Graph

It is important to note that these significant differences occurred in the GOP primary. In Florida, Republicans are considerably less likely to cast votes early in-person than Democrats or those registered as No Party Affiliate or with a 3rd Party, as the figure below demonstrates from the 2008 general election.

Florida 2008 General Election Party Composition Early Voters Graph

What these figures show, is that early in-person voting–even among Republican voters–was considerably lower under HB1355 than under the old law with more days of early voting. The effects would likely have been magnified if it were a Democratic primary, and will likely be considerably greater in the 2012 general election if the truncating of early voting under HB1355 is upheld.

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