Spotlight: Essay Explores Campaign Finance Regulation and its Role in American Democracy

Yasmin Dawood, associate professor of law at the University of Toronto, published the essay last month

Yasmin Dawood, associate professor of law at the University of Toronto, published the essay last month

Interested in campaign finance? Then check out an essay published last month called “Campaign Finance and American Democracy” – one written by Yasmin Dawood, an associate professor of law at the University of Toronto, that was published by Social Science Research Network and is expected to be published in the Annual Review of Political Science.

In the essay, Dawood notes that resources on the subject of campaign finance are vast, and are derived from numerous fields of study – which was one of the challenges of the piece.

Dawood’s essay takes an “inclusive approach to surveying the many fields that engage in research on campaign finance,” and explores the original debate about campaign finance and “its subsequent evolution in both political theory and constitutional law.

The 28-page essay includes a section that addresses the debate over campaign finance regulation, one that details the argument of both those who favor limits on political giving and spending of private donations to large political campaigns, and those who oppose them.

Another section of the essay explores the legal framework for campaign finance regulation, as well as one that is titled, “The Problem with Corruption.” That section defines the types of corruption, and explains the distinction between individual and institutional corruption.

The essay delves into political equality and its relationship with representation, as well as the concept of Electoral Exceptionalism” among other topics.

The conclusion is especially interesting. While the author acknowledges that there is little consensus among experts when it comes to campaign finance issues, there was one concern they seemed to all share:

“…That the role of money has warped not only the electoral process, but also the political system as a whole.”

Want to read the entire essay? Just click here.

How to Get Millennials to Vote (Because So Many Didn’t in the Mid-Term Election)


It’s a question asked, seemingly, every election cycle: What do you do to get young people to vote?

Especially in the midterm elections.

Because as the International Business Times noted in a story it published earlier this month, “There’s a problem with midterms and millennials.”

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

There’s a problem with midterms and millennials. Only about a quarter of eligible millennial voters — defined as people between the ages of 18 and 29, who grew up during the new millennium — said they planned to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to a Harvard University Institute of Politics survey released last week. The actual turnout might be even less. In 2010, 31 percent planned to vote but only 23 percent did.

One interesting point made in the story? Check it out:

“Young people are far more interested in issues and solving problems than they are in partisan politics, and the entire election is set up as a partisan fight,” Spillane said. “There’s a disconnect between ‘This is an issue I care about so I must vote.’”

In fact, if you want to learn more about millennial and midterms (elections, that is) check the whole story out. To do so, just click here.


In the PA Senate: Online Voter Registration Legislation Languishes Since 2012


Pennsylvania residents: Did you know that a bill that would provide for electronic voter registration and other reforms has been languishing in the state Senate since being introduced in 2012?

It is known as Senate Bill 37, and it was introduced by Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican serving Lancaster County.

The measure would amend Title 25 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes that deal with voter registration. SB 37 would provide for, among other things, electronic voter registration.

“In the near future, I plan to re-introduce SB 1515, which would amend the Election Code.  It will allow individuals to register to vote online.  The registration deadline will be 30 days prior to an election,” Smucker wrote in a co-sponsorship memo.

Proponents of the bill believe that the legislation say it would:

– Reduce state and county costs associated with processing voter registration forms

– Strengthen the security of the registration data

– Make the registration process more efficient

– Ensure greater poll book accuracy

– Expand options for voters, allowing them to register to vote from their homes or office computers 24 hours a day up until seconds before the registration deadline.

The state of Pennsylvania got a so-so report card a national study released Tuesday on best practices at the polls in 10 swing states. They Keystone State’s lack of online registration earned it poor marks.

Here’s an excerpt from that story:

The study by Common Cause, a Washington-based good-government nonprofit, rated the state positively on training for poll workers, accommodating disabled voters, and recordkeeping. But Pennsylvania also received poor marks in some key areas. High on the list of problems were the lack of online voting registration, the state’s requirement that voters must have a reason to request an absentee ballot, and the lack of early voting.

To read more, click here.

Want to urge your state senator to support SB 37 and need his or her contact info? Find it here.

Election Experts: Many PA Counties Use Unreliable Voting Systems

voting boot pic

When you went to cast your vote on Nov. 4, did you stop to think, “If I wanted to check to see that my vote was cast correctly, could I?”

If you voted in Pennsylvania, there’s a good chance you can’t – a recent study indicated that only one-third of the counties in the Keystone State use systems that can be audited.

You might now be asking yourself, “Wait. Why is that? And what does that say about the systems that don’t?”

The short answer: Election experts typify systems used in many Pennsylvania counties as unreliable and a “bit shady” – but machine upgrades are costly, and not all elections directors are sold on what current options to switch to.

Or so says a story from WESA story published earlier this week that took an in-depth look at Pennsylvania election systems employed by various counties, and the challenges and costs associated with an upgrade.

By way of background, one of the recommendations made in a report issued by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration was to:

Reform..the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available off-the-shelf technologies.

To read the report, click here.


Study: Americans Split on Bigger Election Foe, Fraud or Disenfranchisement

public religion
A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to research and education at the intersection of religion, values and public life, found that Americans are evenly split on what they think is the bigger problem to our elections: voter disenfranchisement or voter fraud.
In the survey by the nonprofit, which is based in Washington, D.C., 40 percent of respondents said they believe that people casting votes who are not eligible voters is the bigger problem, while 43 percent said the perceived eligible voters being denied the right to vote was the more serious issue.
But the study noted that the responses to this questions varied by demographic.
Here is an excerpt from the study:
Americans who most trust Fox News to give them accurate information about current events and politics have a different perspective on this question than Americans who most trust any other media source.
More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Fox News viewers say the bigger problem in U.S. elections is that people who are ineligible to vote are casting votes, while 12 percent say the bigger problem is that eligible voters are being kept from voting.
Majorities or pluralities of Americans who most trust any other media source disagree, saying that voter disenfranchisement is a bigger problem than voter fraud.
There are substantial partisan divides on this question. Approximately two-thirds (68 percent) of Republicans say the bigger problem for U.S. elections is voter fraud, while a nearly identical number (64 percent) of Democrats disagree, saying that the bigger problem is voter disenfranchisement.

The study also asked respondents whether they had difficulty voting in the last election – with one in 10 (about 12 percent) saying they did.

Only 2 percent of voters – but almost one-third of nonvoters (about 32 percent), responded that they had problems voting in the past year, suggesting that the difficulties were serious enough to prevent folks from voting.
According to the study:
The most frequently cited voting-related problem is simply getting to the polling place. A majority of Americans who ran into voting obstacles report they either had difficulty finding or physically getting to their polling place (28 percent), or had trouble leaving work to vote (24 percent). About 1-in-5 (18 percent) say they had moved to an address outside their previous precinct or had problems using or acquiring an absentee ballot. Fewer than 1-in-10 cite difficulties at the polling place itself, such as not having the correct identification (5 percent), finding the ballot confusing (2 percent), or having to wait in long lines (2 percent).
Women, young adults, and non-white Americans are more likely than other Americans to report
having difficulties voting. Fifteen percent of women say they had difficulty voting compared to
nine percent of men. One-quarter (25 percent) of young adults say they ran into problems while trying
to vote compared to seven percent of seniors. Nearly 1-in-5 (19 percent) non-white Americans say they
encountered problems while voting compared to nine percent of white Americans. There are no
significant differences in reported voting-related difficulties by level of educational attainment,
region, or political affiliation.
To read the entire study, click here.



Did Voter ID Laws, Voter Fraud Effect Nov. 4 Elections? Two Op-Ed Pieces of Note


In the aftermath of the Nov. 4 elections – and the overwhelming defeat of many Democratic candidates, much has been written and surmised about whether voter ID laws and voter fraud played a role in the results.

Pennsylvanians for Fair Elections wanted to point out two op-ed pieces on the matter.

The first piece was written by Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil, who write for the Illinois Review, and published by’s blog.

Their opinion? Maybe.

The story explores voter fraud and other fair election-related issues. Here is an excerpt:

A few days before the election, a Wisconsin mailman was seen dumping hundreds of Republican postcards in the trash, all of them supporting Republican candidates.  He is now under indictment.

The above examples are just a scant sampling of voter fraud in America.  Patriots argue for an overhaul of our election security.00 processes, and laws. Every person who casts a legal vote should do so with the confidence it is not being canceled by an illegal one.  America’s electoral system should be perceived as reliable, efficient, and honest; a system that has the tools to detect fraudulent activities as well as convict perpetrators who violate our laws.  A system that is working effectively will not only detect voter abuses, but would also be a deterrent to prevent potential fraudulent activities.  Oddly, many of our government officials often seem more concerned about election irregularities in other nations than our own, and when informed of voter improprieties in the United States, they have the audacity to state such claims are grossly exaggerated.

To read the entire story, click here.

The second story is written by Nate Coen, who covers elections, polling and demographics for The Upshot, a New York Times politics and policy site.

Does he think voter ID laws swing election results? Nope.

Here’s an excerpt:

Voter ID laws might well be a cynical, anti-democratic attempt to disenfranchise voters to help Republicans, as Democrats claim. But that doesn’t mean that voter ID laws are an effective way to steal elections. They just don’t make a difference in anything but the closest contests, when anything and everything matters.

This may come as a surprise to those who have read articles hyperventilating about the laws. Dave Weigel at Slate in 2012 said a Pennsylvania voter identification law might disenfranchise 759,000 registered voters, a possibility he described as “an apocalypse.” Pennsylvania’s voter ID law was reversed before the election, but it is not hard to see why so many thought it could be decisive when Mr. Obama won the state with a 309,840 vote margin.

To read the entire story, click here.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

PA Announces Participation in Voter Registration Crosscheck Program Despite Controversy

This week Pennsylvania is taking what the Department of State is calling a step toward enhancing the accuracy of its voter registration rolls by participating in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.

Twenty-eight states are participating in the 2014 Crosscheck Program, which compares voter records among states to identify possible duplicate voter registrations.

“We have received a list of potential duplicate voter registrations obtained by comparing our statewide voter list with those of 27 other states,” Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele said in a statement. “This will be tremendously helpful in reducing the number of potential duplicate voters in Pennsylvania,” she added.

Aichele added: “I want to emphasize no voter will be removed from the rolls in Pennsylvania unless he or she first verifies residence in another state, or the time prescribed by federal law has passed without the individual either voting in Pennsylvania or responding to the notice sent by a county voter office.”

The Department of State is sending a list of nearly 43,000 voters with potential duplicate registrations to county election offices, and asking counties to contact voters who appear to have a more recent registration in another state.

Because of existing voter list maintenance requirements, these voters could remain on the rolls through two additional federal elections, or up to four years, after this notification.  A voter will only be removed after two ensuing federal elections if they have not voted, or contacted the county election office to confirm their current address.

“Having as accurate and up-to-date voter lists as possible will help instill confidence in our elections,” Aichele said.  “This is why more than half the states are now taking part in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program,” she added.

The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is run by the state of Kansas, at no cost to other participating states.

The Crosscheck system, however, has been the subject of controversy recently – with opponents claiming the system works improperly and kicked out thousands of eligible voters from the registration rolls, swinging results in several close races in favor of the GOP.

To read more about that, click here.

Report: PA Lags Behind in Modernizing Election System

voting booth

Pennsylvania lags behind other states in the nation in modernizing its election systems, according to a recent study by Washington-based, good-government nonprofit Common Cause.

According to the study, the Commonwealth State rated positively on:
  • training for poll workers
  • accommodating disabled voters
  • and record keeping.

What Pennsylvania isn’t so great at? The report cites:

  • lack of online voting registration
  • the state’s requirement that voters must have a reason to request an absentee ballot
  • and the lack of early voting

The Common Cause study evaluated Pennsylvania’s progress in implementing 19 recommendations made in January by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, as well at the progress of Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina. Pennsylvania was scored “satisfactory” on six, “mixed” on six, and “unsatisfactory” on six. One recommendation was not applicable.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

The satisfactory ratings included the state’s integration of voting registration with the motor-vehicle agency, use of schools as polling places, recruiting to expand polling station volunteers, training, and two issues related to easy site access to polling stations.

The state received unsatisfactory grades on online voting, early voting, interstate exchange of voter information, a failure to establish voting centers where people can vote outside their precinct, access for people who are not strong English speakers and clear language used in voting material.

Without legislation, the state has limited ability to implement some of those 19 recommendations, said Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Department of State. Mandating change is further complicated by the autonomy counties have in establishing voting procedures and other changes. The advantage of local control is the ability to address a community’s specific needs, Ruman said.

Many nonprofits and organizations advocating for fair elections lauded the report for bringing the information to light.

Marian Schneider, senior attorney with the Advancement Project, said:

“I think that the state has a bully pulpit, and they could be out in front of a lot of these issues,” said Marian Schneider, senior attorney with the Advancement Project.

In an executive summary, Common Cause noted these overall conclusions of the study:

  • States across the country – included in the report and beyond – are failing to give voters as many options as possible when it comes to voting before Election Day. This could suppress turnout and lead to long lines for those that vote
  • States that are not covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act are failing to adopt the Commission’s recommendation to provide sufficient bilingual support for limited English-proficient populations. This means that our democracy is not as inclusive and participatory as its promise;
  • A majority of states have adopted electronic systems to seamlessly integrate voter data acquired through Departments of Motor Vehicles with statewide voter registration lists; although not specifically recommended by the Commission, we urge states to replicate this success by ensuring seamless integration of data acquired through all voter registration agencies, including public assistance agencies and healthcare exchanges;
  • When it comes to poll-worker training, most states take a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction approach; this lack of uniformity could easily cause confusion for workers and voters alike, thereby keeping lines long;
  • Six states conduct post-election audits as the Commission recommends; however none of these states has fully auditable elections because at least some of the voting systems do not produce a voter-verifiable paper record.

To read more about the study as it relates to Pennsylvania, click here.

To read more about the study itself, click here.

To read more about Pennsylvania voting laws, click here.



Did Voter Purge Swing Races in Favor of GOP?

voting pic

Did a computerized system designed to prevent voter fraud alter Senate and governor races in favor of GOP candidates?

That’s the question being asked by the website Reader Supported News, which on Monday published a report about the Interstate Crosscheck system, one that is meant to identify fraudulent voters.

The website reported that while the system, which is supposed to identify names of people who voted twice in the same election in two different states. While not only single illegal vote was identified the the system, the news agency indicated that it has identified nearly 7 million names of folks the system suspects of double voting.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

There is good reason to believe that Crosscheck-related voter purges helped propel Republican candidates to slim victories in Senate races in Colorado and North Carolina, as well a tight gubernatorial race in Kansas.

Interstate Crosscheck is a computer system designed to capture the names of voters who have Illegally voted twice in the same election in two different states. The program is run by Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach’s office compares the complete voting rolls of participating states to tag “potential” double voters, those who have illegally voted twice in the same election in two states.

These names are then sent back to the state governments to inform an investigation of duplicate names on the voter rolls. While Kobach advertises Crosscheck as matching numerous identifiers, including the Social Security numbers and dates of birth of voters, a six-month investigation by Al Jazeera America revealed that Crosscheck rosters caught nothing more than matching first and last names. And voters remain on the suspect list even when middle names, Social Security numbers and suffixes (Jr., Sr.) don’t match. Yet all these people — the list contains nearly seven million names — are subject to losing their vote.

Among the 27 states that utilize the system, RSN reported that Republicans control most of the top election positions.

The story continued:

Duplicate or double voting is a crime punishable by (two) to 10 years in prison. Yet, despite this supposed vote-fraud crime wave, not one suspect on Crosscheck lists was charged, although prosecutors would have access to any alleged fraudsters’ names and addresses.

The Crosscheck list purges could easily account for Republican victories in at least two Senate races. In North Carolina, the GOP’s Thom Tillis won over incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan by just 48,511 votes. Crosscheck tagged a breathtaking 589,393 North Carolinians as possible illegal double voters (though state elections officials cut that down to roughly 190,000).

In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner was able to force out incumbent Senator Mark Udall in a race that had poll-watchers guessing all summer. The outcome might have been more predictable if Colorado had made public that 300,842 of the state’s voters were now subject to being purged from the voter rolls.

It should be noted that not everyone on the Crosscheck list loses their vote. However, some of the purges of names on voter rolls was significant – such as one in Virginia, which canceled the registrations of more than 41,000 voters – more than 13 percent of those on the list. The number of purged registration in other states such as North Carolina and Ohio are not known because those states reportedly have refused to release that information.

RSN also noted that the controversy is just beginning. Because the process of removing names from the voter rolls is long and involved, it is expected to make a large impact in 2016.

To read the entire RSN story, click here.

Want to see if your name is on the Crosscheck list? Click here.

Want to read more news about the Crosscheck system? Click here.