Pollsters prepare for major changes after presidential election misses

“Pollsters are increasingly embracing new methods in the run-up to the 2022 midterms after notable misses in recent races. Front of mind is the looming 2024 election cycle, when former President Donald Trump — whose support among the electorate has bedeviled pollsters trying to measure it for the past seven years, including missing low on Trump’s vote before his 2016 win and underestimating the closeness of his 2020 loss — could be on the ballot for the third consecutive presidential election.”

“Increasingly, pollsters across the field favor combining multiple methods of contact in the same poll, seeking to include the hardest-to-reach Americans.”

“It’s already happening across the board. After ending their more-than-30-year partnership with NBC News after the 2020 election, the Wall Street Journal’s new poll — a cooperative effort between the pollsters for both Trump and President Joe Biden — reaches a quarter of its respondents via text message. The technique, called “text-to-web,” sends a link to an internet survey, and those interviews are added to others conducted by voice over landlines and cell phones.
Over the past year, CNN’s polling has spanned a wide range of methods. Conducted both over the phone and the internet, some polls are conducted from respondents who have joined a panel maintained by SSRS, the Pennsylvania-based company that conducts polls for CNN and other outlets. But the samples for two other CNN polls — one earlier this year and one in the summer of 2021 — were obtained by mailing solicitations to people at home and asking them to participate, either on the phone or the web.

Prior to last summer, all of CNN’s national polling had been conducted by phone.

Large media outlets have experimented with emerging methodologies before. CBS News and The New York Times did some of the first major media polling over the internet in 2014.”

“as Americans become increasingly more difficult to reach, traditional methods are becoming more untenable.

“These things are only getting harder,” said one pollster who was granted anonymity to offer a candid assessment of the state of the industry. “So if you’re just doing the same thing, it’s only going to get worse.”

The innovations are not limited to sampling and data collection. But devising new weighting parameters — ways to adjust the results to better reflect the electorate — is more difficult. That’s because one of the main culprits of the 2020 election miss appears to be people who don’t respond to polls — so-called “nonresponse bias.” Voters in that group were more likely to support Trump, which made it harder for polls to reflect the true measure of his support.”

“some of the new proposals include weighting data to some social benchmarks, like the percentage of people who know and talk to their neighbors, or who volunteer in their community. Others suggest asking whether people trust media or polling in order to determine if their sample is too establishment-friendly.

The implementation of new methods is also happening at the campaign level, though to a lesser degree. Campaign pollsters — whose jobs involve giving candidates and outside groups strategic advice more than simply measuring the horse race — are dipping their toes tentatively into less-familiar waters.

In general, Democratic firms — many of which banded together after the 2020 election to study went wrong — are more open to experimentation.”

Everything You Need To Know About the Special Election In Alaska

“the primary is plenty interesting on its own. First of all, it will winnow a field of 48 candidates(!) down to four. Why four and not two? Because following the passage of an election-reform ballot measure in 2020, Alaska now uses a unique top-four primary system whereby all candidates (regardless of party) run on the same ballot and the top four finishers advance to the general election. (In a further twist, the general election will also use ranked-choice voting.) “

Florida, Tennessee Ban Ranked-Choice Voting Despite Citizen Support

“On Monday, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a massive election bill into law that creates a special squad to investigate election fraud and crimes and increases some criminal penalties for some election-related violations.

But that’s not all. Buried on page 25 of the 47-page bill is a complete ban on the use of ranked-choice voting anywhere in the state, regardless of what voters might want. In this case, it’s the voters of Sarasota, who overwhelmingly decided in 2007 (with 77 percent in favor) to switch to this type of voting for local elections.

A similar ban was passed in February in Tennessee. There the target was the city of Memphis, where voters first decided they wanted ranked-choice voting back in 2008. The City Council itself resisted the change and attempted to get voters to repeal the system in 2018, but voters instead still chose to keep ranked-choice by 62 percent. Nevertheless, S.B. 1820 will stop Memphis (and any other municipality or county in Tennessee) from using ranked-choice voting to determine election results.

In Tennessee, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R–Germantown), made a typical claim by ranked-choice opponents—that it’s a “very confusing and complex process that leads to lack of confidence.” This is belied by the fact that voters keep choosing it when given the option to do so.

There’s a lesson here on how some of the resistance to certain election reforms is actually about entrenched political interests protecting themselves from electoral consequences.

Ranked-choice voting is a system where voters don’t just choose a single candidate over the others. Instead, voters are invited to rank candidates by preference. In a slate of five candidates, a voter can choose a favorite, then rank the rest as a second-choice, third-choice, et cetera.

When votes in this system are tabulated, a single candidate must receive a majority of the vote, not just the most votes, in order to win. If a single candidate doesn’t surpass the 50 percent threshold, the candidate receiving the least number of votes is disqualified. Then the votes are retallied. For those who chose that last-place candidate as their first pick, instead their second choice is now their vote. The process repeats until a single candidate gets the most votes.

One of the stated goals for proponents of ranked-choice voting is to avoid a situation where, due to the size of the candidate pool, a person is declared a winner with just 30 percent of the vote or even less. Under the status quo, a candidate with polarizing positions that appeal to a small but committed group of voters can overcome the majority if votes get split among three, four, or more candidates.

Ranked-choice voting therefore also creates a system where third-party and independent candidates can have impact without voters having to worry about allegedly “throwing their vote away” or choosing a so-called “spoiler” who can’t win but can draw votes away from a similar candidate. A voter can select a Libertarian Party or Green Party candidate or an independent candidate as their first choice. Then, the voter can select a more conventional Democrat or Republican candidate as the second choice, knowing that they can have their values reflected in initial results without losing their voice entirely.”

“Unsurprisingly, politicians who benefit from a highly polarized environment wouldn’t want an election system that encourages alternatives. Florida’s politics these days can most certainly be described as “polarizing.””

How Worrying Are Pro-Trump Gubernatorial Candidates Running on Rigged Election Claims?

“David Perdue cut straight to the chase.

“First off, let me be very clear tonight: The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said at the beginning of his opening statement during a Republican gubernatorial debate on Sunday night.

It wasn’t just a cheap applause line for the MAGA crowd. It was something more like a thesis statement for Perdue’s campaign. Perdue, a former Republican senator who lost his bid for reelection in 2020, is now running against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Georgia. And in Perdue’s telling, everything from rising gas prices to illegal immigration and even the U.S. coming “to the brink of war” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were the result of Kemp allowing “radical Democrats to steal our election.” Something that he says Kemp was responsible for aiding and abetting.

Kemp, of course, was one of the Republican officials who blocked then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to get state legislatures and governors to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Two weeks after the election, as state officials finalized the results showing that Joe Biden won by about 12,000 votes, Kemp called for tightening voter ID laws in Georgia and making other technical changes in how the state conducts future elections. But he also certified the result of the 2020 election, against Trump’s wishes.

Since then, he’s been a target for Trump, who vowed not long after the 2020 election to boot Kemp from office. Trump has helped Perdue fundraise and has even chipped in $500,000 of his own campaign cash to Perdue’s campaign.”

“Perdue is staking his claim to the governorship on the hope that Republican voters are motivated primarily by the former president’s delusions and rage.

But Georgia is hardly the only swing state where this year’s Republican gubernatorial elections are focused on Trump. In Pennsylvania and Arizona, too, Trump-backed candidates who say they believe the 2020 election was stolen are running at or near the top of the polls. If they’re successful, those governors might create major complications for the next presidential election—as they would be in a position to do some of what Kemp, and others, refused to do in 2020: decertify results that go against the Republican nominee.”

“Is this really how Republican voters want to define their party going forward: as little more than a tool for for Trump’s self-serving lies about the 2020 election? These three races will provide an answer—and it might not be one Trump likes, as his preferred candidates are facing difficult paths to winning in November. Perhaps it’s too simple of an explanation, but the average Republican voter is likely not as motivated by Trump’s grievances as Trump himself.”

“it remains unnerving that so many high-profile Republicans—in Perdue’s case, even a former U.S. senator—have decided that the path to political success on the political right requires rallying around a blatant falsehood constructed to serve the political ambitions of a single man.”

“it is a falsehood. Audits and recounts in swing state after swing state failed to turn up evidence of a stolen election—one much-ballyhooed audit conducted by Arizona Republicans actually found that Biden won by a slightly larger margin than originally thought. Dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign or its supporters alleging voter fraud and anti-Trump conspiracies collapsed in court. The myth of the stolen election lives on as a way to raise money and as a way to snare the endorsement of the most popular man in conservative politics.”

“In a nutshell, this is the worry of liberals, anti-Trump conservatives, and anyone else harboring concerns about rising authoritarianism on the political right: What if this campaign rhetoric translates into official behavior. What happens if elected Republicans begin ignoring their oaths of office and the rule of law to declare illegitimate any election the GOP loses?”

“Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial races are rated as “toss-ups” right now. That means characters like Lake, Perdue, and Mastriano will have a decent shot at being elected in the fall (and helped by a political environment that’s shaping up to be favorable to Republicans across the board) if they can win their respective GOP primaries during the spring and summer. And this trend goes beyond those three. In Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rebecca Kleefisch said this week that she believes the 2020 election was “rigged.” According to Politico, some 57 participants in the January 6 protest are running for office this year—though mostly for lower-level posts.”

“polls say the majority of Republican voters believe, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, that Biden’s victory was not legitimate.”

The Catch-22 Facing Black Voters At The Ballot Box

“The 2022 midterms are approaching and Black voters must choose between the Republican Party, which has actively worked against their interests for decades, and the Democratic Party, which has long struggled to meaningfully address race and racism, as well as issues important to Black voters — such as police reform and federal voting rights legislation.

The sad thing, at least for most Black voters, is it’s an easy choice. In the last 60 years or so, the Democratic Party, despite its many failures, has done far more for Black voters than the GOP. That’s why the vast majority of Black voters cast ballots for Democrats even if they aren’t necessarily liberal themselves. And therein lies the problem: Because Democratic leaders know that most Republican candidates aren’t a truly viable option for Black voters, the Democratic Party doesn’t have much incentive to court members of its most loyal constituency.

As former FiveThirtyEight senior reporter Farai Chideya wrote back in 2016, Black voters are so loyal that they’re considered “captured” — a theory put forth by Paul Frymer, a professor of politics at Princeton University, in a 1999 book titled “Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America.” In other words, they’re ignored by one major party and taken for granted by the other.

“In recent elections, there’s normally some sort of conversation around what direction Latino or Asian Americans are going to swing,” said Jennifer Chudy, a professor of political science at Wellesley University. That “reveals the predicament Black voters are in because there’s not even a curiosity surrounding what they’ll do. … And I think they’re unique in that way.””

“Black voters are “captured” not simply because most favor Democrats, but because overt appeals to them are seen as disruptive to the rest of both party’s coalitions. But other voting blocs don’t necessarily experience the same thing. So, for example, Republicans can court white evangelicals because direct overtures to this group — for example, promoting anti-abortion policies, Christian values or legislation against transgender students and athletes — won’t turn off a majority of Republican voters. Certain civil rights issues that would have the greatest impact on Black voters, in contrast, are seen as too taboo to promote because being pro-Black is often conflated with being anti-white. As a result, politicians on both sides of the aisle often ignore Black voters’ concerns because they don’t want to take steps that would either turn off white voters or make it seem like they’re disrupting the existing racial hierarchies of power where white people are at the top.”

Here Is Why a Federal Judge Says Trump Probably Committed Felonies When He Tried to Overturn Biden’s Election

“Donald Trump and one of his legal advisers, former Chapman University law professor John Eastman, probably committed federal felonies when they conspired to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by pressuring then–Vice President Mike Pence to block or delay congressional ratification of Joe Biden’s victory. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter concluded it was “more likely than not” that the scheme violated 18 USC 1512, which prohibits obstruction of “any official proceeding,” and 18 USC 371, which criminalizes conspiracies to “defraud the United States.”
Carter made that determination while adjudicating a dispute over emails sought by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who accepted his stolen-election fantasy and were angry at Pence for refusing to go along with Eastman’s plan. While the practical impact of Carter’s conclusion is limited to just one disputed document, his analysis amounts to an indictment of conduct that was not just dishonest and reckless but arguably criminal.

“The illegality of the plan was obvious,” Carter writes. “Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election. As Vice President Pence stated, ‘no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority.’ Every American—and certainly the President of the United States—knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed….President Trump knowingly tried to subvert this fundamental principle.”

Eastman argued that 111 of the documents sought by the January 6 committee’s subpoena were protected either by attorney-client privilege, which applies to confidential legal advice, or by the “work product” doctrine, which applies to material prepared in anticipation of litigation. The select committee argued that the disputed emails were not protected, invoking the “crime-fraud exception,” which applies to legal advice “in furtherance of” a crime.

Carter concluded that 13 documents qualified as work product and that the crime-fraud exception applied to just one: a memo prepared for Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani recommending that Pence “reject electors from contested states on January 6.” Carter says that memo “may have been the first time members of President Trump’s team transformed a legal interpretation of the Electoral Count Act into a day-by-day plan of action.”

As Carter notes, that plan of action was blatantly illegal. In conversations with Greg Jacob, Pence’s counsel, Eastman conceded that the plan violated the Electoral Count Act in several ways. And while Eastman questioned the constitutionality of that law, Carter says, the proper way to resolve those claims would have been to raise them in court rather than unilaterally choosing to ignore the statute.

Eastman likewise acknowledged that it was “100 percent consistent historical practice since the time of the Founding” that the vice president does not have the legal power to do what Eastman and Trump wanted him to do. Eastman also admitted that it was likely the Supreme Court would unanimously agree.

On January 3, 2021, Eastman nevertheless wrote a six-page memo calling for “BOLD” action by Pence to stop Biden from taking office. “The stakes could not be higher,” he wrote. “This Election was Stolen by a strategic Democrat plan to systematically flout existing election laws for partisan advantage; we’re no longer playing by Queensbury Rules.”

The next day, Eastman, at Trump’s behest, pushed his plan in a meeting with Pence, Jacob, and Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff. “During that meeting,” Carter notes, “Vice President Pence consistently held that he did not possess the authority to carry out Dr. Eastman’s proposal.” Eastman met again with Jacob and Short on January 5, saying, “I’m here asking you to reject the electors.” Most of that meeting was consumed by an argument in which Jacob disputed the legal merits of Eastman’s memo.

“Despite receiving pushback,” Carter says, “President Trump and Dr. Eastman continued to urge Vice President Pence to carry out the plan.” At 1 a.m. on January 6, Trump tweeted that “if Vice President @Mike_Pence comes through for us, we will win the Presidency,” averring that “Mike can send it back!” Seven hours later, another Trump tweet insisted that “states want to correct their votes,” saying “all Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN.” He urged Pence to “do it,” because “this is a time for extreme courage!”

Trump delivered the same message in a phone call to Pence around 11:20 a.m. that day. According to Pence’s national security adviser, who was present during that conversation, Trump castigated the vice president as “not tough enough to make the call.” Trump and Eastman reprised the same theme during their speeches at the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Capitol riot. Trump closed his speech by urging his followers to march on the Capitol in the hope of inspiring “the kind of pride and boldness” that “weak” Republicans like Pence needed “to take back our country.”

Around noon, Pence publicly rejected Trump and Eastman’s appeals, saying, “It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” After the riot started, Trump condemned Pence on Twitter: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”

In an email to Eastman while Trump’s enraged supporters were storming the Capitol, Jacob noted that the rioters “believed with all their hearts the theory they were sold about the powers that could legitimately be exercised at the Capitol on this day,” and “thanks to your bullshit, we are now under siege.” Eastman, who was still trying to change Pence’s mind, took a different view: “The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so the American people can see for themselves what happened.”

A conviction for obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding requires proving that the defendant acted “corruptly.” According to 9th Circuit precedent, that element does not require “consciousness of wrongdoing.” But in this case, Carter says, Trump “likely knew that the plan to disrupt the electoral count was wrongful.””

“Carter’s conclusions do not necessarily mean that Trump or Eastman could be successfully prosecuted for either of these crimes. The preponderance-of-the-evidence standard for applying the crime-fraud exception is much less demanding than the proof beyond a reasonable doubt required for a criminal conviction. So even if the January 6 committee ends up recommending criminal charges, the Justice Department might sensibly decline to pursue them. But Carter’s ruling, which calls Eastman’s plan “a coup in search of a legal theory,” reminds us of how outrageous and unprecedented Trump’s reaction to his electoral defeat was.”

How Democrats learned to stop worrying and love the gerrymander

“The grinding battle over congressional redistricting is drawing to a close. And, contrary to expectations that the process would result in big Republican gains, the final House of Representatives map may well improve somewhat for Democrats.

The main reason is gerrymandering — redrawing of district lines for partisan benefit. Republicans built on their existing gerrymanders to try to expand their House advantage, but Democrats fired back even more powerfully with gerrymanders of their own.

Basically, Democrats saved themselves by resorting to a tactic they’ve previously denounced as not only unfair but downright unethical — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called gerrymandering “unjust and deeply dangerous” in 2019. But in the absence of national reforms banning the practice, refusing to gerrymander would have meant effective unilateral disarmament, ceding the GOP a significant advantage in the battle for control over the House.

Redistricting has proceeded like a tug of war. As state legislatures, judges, and commissions have approved new maps, creating more safe or swing districts in various states, the underlying partisanship of the median House district has been pulled in one direction, and then the other. The most powerful pulls came from either state legislatures that gerrymandered, or state courts that struck down certain gerrymandered maps”

“it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that Democrats will still lose badly in House elections this fall — the party has a small majority, President Biden is unpopular, and the historical pattern is for the incumbent’s party to struggle in the midterms. But unlike much of the previous decade, the underlying map may be at least somewhat less biased in Republicans’ favor.”

Democrats’ fears about restricting mail-in voting were confirmed in Texas

“Thousands of votes were, in fact, thrown out, directly as a result of a new requirement in the law. A new AP analysis of data from Texas found that a whopping 13 percent of the state’s absentee ballots were discarded or uncounted.

And in the state’s biggest county, the new procedures it mandated contributed to a hugely messy vote-counting process.

“It’s been every bit as catastrophic as we feared it would be,” said James Slattery, a senior staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “I think the onus is on the legislature to acknowledge the harm that it did to Texas voters by passing Senate Bill 1 and make amends by repealing it next year.”

But that probably won’t happen given that key Republicans who pushed for the law have continued to defend it.”

“The statewide rejection rate for mail-in ballots has typically been between 1 and 2 percent in past elections and was about 1 percent in the 2020 general election when mail-in voting rates were much higher. But in the 2022 primaries, county-level rejection rates ranged from 6 to 22 percent, according to data compiled by the Texas Civil Rights Project”

“In four counties that reported the reason they had rejected mail-in ballots, those identification requirements were to blame over 90 percent of the time. In Harris County, which encompasses Houston and is the most populous county in the state, it was 99.6 percent.

This was foreseeable. Even some Republican officials were worried about mail-in ballot rejections ahead of the primary. Texas Secretary of State John Scott said during a February town hall that it was his “biggest concern” of this election cycle. In a statement Tuesday, Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for Scott, acknowledged the issues with mail-in ballots during the primaries and said his office is devoting a significant portion of its voter education efforts to the new ID requirements.”

“Voters whose mail-in ballots were flagged for rejection did have the opportunity to correct them to ensure that they were counted. But the process proved confusing and looked different depending on when the problem with a voter’s ID number was discovered.

“You can see all the different ways that this can go wrong. What if the ballot never gets back to the voter? Or they don’t see it and think it’s junk mail? Or they correct the number issue online but don’t realize they need to send the ballot back?” Slattery said.

For some voters, the process was just too arduous.

“A lot of voters get these letters of rejection, and they just don’t bother,” said Michele Valentino, a Democratic election judge in Dallas.

Some flaws can be expected when implementing a new system for the first time, but this bodes poorly considering how low turnout was relative to general elections: Fewer than 1 in 5 voters cast ballots in the primaries, which is higher than in the past six midterm primaries but still a lot lower than the roughly 46 percent of Texans who showed up for the last midterm general election in 2018.

“I can see this issue compounding and worsening as we reach the midterms this year,” said Jasleen Singh, counsel in the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, where she focuses on voting rights and elections. “That there’s even this much hardship that voters are encountering at this stage is incredibly concerning and dangerous for democracy.”

The AP analysis showed a higher rate of rejections in Democratic than Republican counties (15.1% to 9.1%). That was also predictable: Voters of color typically bear the biggest burden from any restrictions on voting, and they make up a large share of many of those Democratic-leaning counties.”

The presidential penalty

“The historical pattern is clear, and ominous for Joe Biden and Democrats this year: The president’s party usually does poorly in midterm elections.”

“Some theories focus on lower turnout among the president’s supporters. Others emphasize the public’s tendency to sour on an incumbent president. They may both be correct to some extent.
Other theories focus on why some presidents tend to do worse than others in midterms. Maybe the results are mainly about presidential approval these days. Or maybe they’re about the economy or, more specifically, real personal income growth. Some national crises, like 9/11, are associated with unexpectedly strong midterm performances for the president’s party — but others are associated with blowout defeats.

None of these signs are looking great for President Biden right now. His approval rating is the second-lowest of any president’s at this point in their presidency since modern polling came into use. The economy is booming by some metrics, but inflation is at a 40-year high and eating into voters’ spending power. The country is still in the midst of the pandemic, but Biden hasn’t unified the country around his leadership.

There’s no one weird trick that can guarantee midterm success, or one theory to perfectly explain every midterm result. But there are several that, considered together, go a long way toward helping explain why this so often happens — and what November’s midterms might herald for Biden.”

“The trend predates World War II, so it’s not about recent developments. It happens in states (the governor’s party usually loses seats in off-year legislature elections), so it’s not just about the presidency. It’s not just an American phenomenon, either. “It also occurs internationally in systems where there is a chief executive election separate from a midterm,””