Archive | Elections

Second Amendment Results, Final

Only reporting results which represent a change.

U.S.  Senate. Gains: Indiana (Donnelly replaces Lugar). NM  (Heinrich replaces Bingaman). ND (Heitkamp replaces Conrad).

Senate losses: Mass., Warren defeats Brown (-.5 with NRA C-rated Senator replaced by an F). Virginia, Kaine replaces Webb.

Senate net: +1.5. Ted Cruz’s win in Texas won’t change Senate voting patterns, but the former Texas Solicitor General will be an outstanding and very well-informed leader on Second Amendment issues.

House losses: AZ 9. CA 7 (C-rated Lungren ousted), 26, 36 (Mary Bono Mack), 41, 52. FL 18 (Alan West), 22 (Bloomberg-funded extremist wins), 26. Il  8, 18. MD 6. MN 8. NH 1 & 2. NY 18, 24.

House gains: AZ 2. IA 3 (incumbent vs. incumbent). NC 13 (F-rated incumbent retired). OH 16 (incumbent vs. incumbent).

House net: -12.5.

Governor Loss: Montana (although not officially called yet; winner Steve Bullock has a B- rating). Waiting for results in WA, a possible gain.

Ballot issues. Strengthen Louisiana state right to keep and bear arms, to require strict scrutiny. Win, very important reform, that will be a model in other states. Constitutional right to hunt  and fish passes overwhelmingly in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Idaho.

In short, as Barack Hussein Obama, the Juan Domingo Peron of the 21st century, leads America to fiscal collapse, you can at least keep your guns. […]

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Implications of Obama’s Victory

All of the major networks have called the election for Obama, and it’s pretty obvious that he’s going to win, even though the Romney campaign has not yet officially conceded. It’s an impressive political achievement for the president and his supporters, especially if (as now seems likely), he does better in the popular vote than most national polls predicted. The Democrats also scored an important success in retaining control of the Senate in a year where the GOP hoped to make significant gains.

For me and most other libertarians, this election was always a choice of evils and I shed few tears for Mitt Romney. But I do think he was the lesser of the two evils on offer this year. Obama’s reelection will likely have at least two major negative consequences from my point of view. First, Obamacare is likely to stay in place. Although it remains somewhat unpopular – as shown the by the president’s reluctance to bring it up in the campaign – he is going to hold onto it successfully. Second, Obama will get to replace any Supreme Court justices who retire or pass away during the next four years. With four justices in their mid to late seventies right now, there’s a real chance he will get at least one or two more nominations. All conservatives and libertarians can do is hope that Justices Anthony Kennedy (76 years old) and Antonin Scalia (also 76) will remain healthy and uninterested in retiring. But even if Obama gets to replace one of the liberal justices, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg (79), there’s a big difference between a justice who probably has only a few years left to serve, and a much younger one who could stay on the Court for 25-30 years or even longer.

On […]

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Second Amendment election results

As the results come in tonight, I will blog here about the results as they affect the Second Amendment. In an article last week for National Review Online, I previewed all the Senate and Governor races, and all the competitive House races. Election night starts with a net +3 for the Second Amendment in the Senate, regardless of which party wins the Senate races in New Mexico, North Dakota, and Indiana. In all these states, both major party candidates are strong on Second Amendment issues, so the winner will replace retiring anti-gun Senators (Bingaman in N.M., Conrad in N.D.) or an anti-gun Senator who lost in the primary (Lugar in Ind.).  To summarize the rest:

The three gubernatorial races that are close and that feature major differences between the candidates on Second Amendment issues are Washington, Montana, and New Hampshire.

. . . In four states — Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Virginia — there are serious risks that Senate seats could be taken by new senators hostile to gun rights. Plausible opportunities to gain seats for the Second Amendment exist in Maine, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In these eight swing Senate states considered together, the possibility of a net loss probably exceeds the possibility of a net gain.

As for the U.S. House, a rough estimate would be that if the net gain for Democrats is x, then the net loss for gun owners will be about one-half or two-thirds of x. In swing districts, most candidates are unwilling to forgo the 5 percent of the vote that can be lost by opposing Second Amendment rights. So, in these districts, candidates of both parties tend to support the Second Amendment. Thus, the net change in House composition on the gun issue tends to be smaller than the net party change


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The Case for Abstaining from Ignorant Voting

Today, Americans will have an opportunity to vote on a wide range of candidates and ballot initiatives. In many cases, however, we will be voting on candidates and issues that we know very little about. It is rational for most voters to be ignorant about most issues, because the chance of casting a decisive ballot in an election is so extremely low. And the available evidence strongly suggests that much of the public is poorly informed about politics and public policy.

Even if you are an unusually well-informed voter, the enormous size, scope, and complexity of modern government ensure that there will be many issues and candidates about which you know very little. Perhaps you have a good handle on Romney and Obama. But you might not know much about your candidates for governor, senator, congressman, and various local offices, or about the various state and local referenda on the ballot in your area.

It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will achieve a high level of knowledge about every race and every initiative. But if you find that you know little or nothing about a particular race or ballot question, you might want to consider simply not voting on it. As political philosopher Jason Brennan argues, voters have a moral duty to be at least reasonably well-informed about the issues they vote on, because the decisions they make affect not just themselves but all of society. John Stuart Mill put it well when he wrote that voting is not just an exercise of personal choice, but rather “the exercise of power over others.” If you can’t exercise that power in at least a minimally responsible manner, maybe you should not do so at all.

It would be dangerous to give government the power to forcibly exclude ignorant […]

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Richard Epstein and Glen Whitman on Libertarians and the Presidential Election

Well-known libertarian scholars Richard Epstein and Glen Whitman have recently weighed in on a question that has been much-debated in the blogosphere: Who, if anyone, should libertarians support in the presidential election. Epstein argues that we should support Romney as the lesser of the two available evils:

In the final countdown to what promises to be a close election, the libertarian finds himself without a comfortable home in either political party. Political parties and their presidential candidates offer market baskets of policy prescriptions on a large array of different issues. We do not have the option of picking out from each basket the policies that we like and rejecting the rest. Politics do not come served a la carte in our two-party system….

Though no libertarian can take comfort in the blurry Romney campaign, the scorecard does tip in his balance. The state of play nationwide on social issues is decidedly mixed, with too much intolerance on both sides. But on economic issues, the one confident point is that in an age of bloated government, the correct vote goes to the party, when the campaigning is mercifully done, that is more likely to limit the rate of government growth, if not shrink the size of government altogether. This election cycle, that party is the GOP. It is time for a change from Blue to Red, from Obama to Romney.

Epstein’s analysis of the Romney vs. Obama tradeoff is in many respects similar to mine, though I am less convinced about Romney’s superiority than he is. Epstein also makes an important point about social issues. While conservative Republicans are very bad in this area from a libertarian point of view, liberal Democrats also favor many types of social regulation, some of which are just as intrusive as those favored by […]

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Some Key Referenda to Watch

In addition to the presidential and congressional elections tomorrow, there are also some important referenda initiatives on the ballot in many states. They include several on issues of special interest to me and many VC readers: property rights and the War on Drugs.

Here in Virginia, we have Question 1, which would strengthen protection for property rights against eminent domain abuse. For reasons I outlined here and here, Virginia currently has one of the nation’s worst state constitutions on property rights issues. While far from perfect, Question 1 would be a major improvement over the status quo. I hope my fellow Virginians will support it.

Six other states have marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot, including three (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) that would legalize marijuana entirely, and three others that would only legalize medical marijuana. As I explained here, all of these initiatives are imperfect, but still important improvements over the status quo. Polling data suggests that the Colorado and Washington initiatives have a good chance of passing, and Oregon is not completely out of the question. This is an important opportunity to roll back the War on Drugs in three major states, and I hope the voters will take it.

According to survey data, opposition to drug legalization comes disproportionately from political conservatives. I summarized the conservative case against the War on Drugs here. Conservatives and others may also want to check out the late William F. Buckley’s reasons for opposing it. […]

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New Pew Poll Gives Obama a Three Point Lead

In my last post, I said that Obama should be favored to win the election, and suggested he has roughly a 65-70 percent chance of winning. My estimate of Romney’s chances was based in large part on his relatively strong showing in national polls, which still had him even with Obama late last week. Today, however, the Pew Research Center came out with a new poll giving Obama 3 point lead nationally, among likely voters.

Obama’s lead in this poll is actually slightly greater than the survey’s margin of error (2.2 percent). And Pew is one of the best polling firms in the business. In combination with the other evidence, such as the battleground state polls, I think this gives Obama an even higher probability of winning than I suggested yesterday, perhaps 80% or even more.

This is still going to be a close election, and will still be one of the rare instances where the outcome is not a foregone conclusion well before election day. But at this point, it’s looking more like 2004 (a close election where one side nonetheless has a clear edge) than 2000 (close to dead even). The polls are still close enough that Romney has a shot, especially if you buy claims that the pollsters’ turnout models are overestimating the number of Democrats who will vote. But his chances are much weaker than it seemed as recently as a week ago. A Romney victory is possible, but at this point would be a pretty substantial upset.

If Obama does win a narrow victory, it’s possible that the effect of the hurricane will be responsible for pushing him over the edge. But I think it’s at least equally likely that things have just reverted to the outcome that could be predicted based on the […]

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Election Predictions

I wouldn’t take this prediction to the bank if I were a betting man. But, like co-blogger David Bernstein, I give Obama a slight edge, perhaps a 60-65 percent chance of victory. In the contest between national polls favoring Romney and battleground state polls favoring Obama, I give slightly greater credence to the latter. My main reason for doing so is that their results have been more consistently favorable to Obama than the national polls have been for Romney. In addition, there is a nontrivial chance that Obama could win the electoral college while narrowly losing the popular vote. I also give some weight to the majority view among mainstream pollsters, which seems to be that Obama is more likely to win than not. On technical questions like this, I try to give some deference to expert opinion, unless there is strong evidence of bias or ulterior motives. And I am skeptical of claims by some conservatives that the professional pollsters are in the tank for Obama.

On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that the pollsters’ likely voter models are just slightly skewed in Obama’s favor. In a very close election like this one, even a 1-2 point skew could lead to an incorrect prediction as to the outcome. Dan McLaughlin of Red State makes an interesting case for that view in a series of posts (see here and here). Notice that McLaughlin is not claiming that Nate Silver and other analysts who predict an Obama victory are a bunch of idiots whose models are radically deficient, or a bunch of shills for the Democrats. Rather, he seems to be saying that Silver has a pretty good model that is slightly off – enough to make a wrong prediction in a close election. Silver […]

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Adventures in Microtargeting

In this much-discussed recent article, Sasha Issenberg argues that Democrats are much better than Republicans at “microtargeting”: the art and science of tailoring messages to the proclivities of individual voters and contacting them directly by phone, mail, or sending a volunteer. Issenberg’s account is interesting and entertaining. And it’s certainly possible that the Democrats are better at this than the GOP. So far, however, it doesn’t seem to have had much effect. The Democratic victory in 2008 was roughly in line with what might be expected, given the political and economic situation. Microtargeting didn’t keep the Democrats from getting clobbered in 2010, when the economy and some other factors worked against them. If Obama wins by a narrow margin this year, that result, too, would be in line with historical expectations. So far, at least, it seems like microtargeting is no more than a minor Democratic advantage.

Living in the swing state of Virginia these past few months, my wife and I have had more exposure than we might like to both Democratic and GOP microtargeting. Neither strikes us as especially brilliant, though the GOP seems worse. Perhaps because we are on various Federalist Society and libertarian mailing lists, we have been deluged with mail from the Romney campaign and allied organizations. Some of it is at least reasonably calculated to appeal to us (e.g. – promising to cut federal spending). On the other hand, a lot of it consists of attacks on Obama for failing to impose trade sanctions on China and promising to punish the Chinese if Romney gets elected. It’s hard to hit on a message more likely to alienate two pro-free trade libertarians. If we believed that Romney really plans to start a trade war with China, that would be a big strike against […]

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An Election Recount without Voter Registrations?

The North Dakota Senate election could be close — close enough to trigger a recount. Given that control of the Senate could be at stake, the party lawyers will no doubt descend ready for battle. But in ND there’s a twist: No voter registration. As Sasha Issenberg explains in Slate, North Dakota is the only state without voter registration rolls. Those who show up to vote without the required identification can sign an affidavit and have their vote counted, leaving no way to challenge potentially ineligible voters who cast ballots. […]

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Overconfident Pundits Predicting Victory for Their Side

Given the extreme closeness of both the national and battleground state polls, one would think that serious political commentators would avoid making bold predictions about the outcome of the presidential race. After all, an overconfident pundit who turns out to be wrong will have egg on their face in just a few days. This is especially true in a situation where state polls and national polls seem to be in tension with each other.

Yet one of the striking things about recent election commentary is that most conservative Republicans are confidently predicting a Romney victory, while liberal Democrats seem equally convinced that Obama is sure to win. Karl Rove, for example, is predicting a clear Romney win. Liberals such as Joan Walsh and Mark Mellman are just as confident that Romney is doomed.

What explains such seemingly irrational overconfidence? One possibility is that these people are simply engaging in biased wishful thinking. Like sports fans, committed political partisans tend to overvalue evidence that reflects favorably on their preferred “team” and ignore or downplay anything that cuts the other way. But another factor may be the desire to create a “bandwagon effect” by convincing as many people as possible that their candidate will win. As I explained here, a small number of swing voters will tend to gravitate to the side that looks like it’s going to win. In a close election, they could make a decisive difference. If the Roves and Mellmans of the world can persuade the public that their guy has the momentum and is likely to win, it could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 54 percent of the public believe that Obama will win, compared to only 34 percent who predict that Romney will prevail. […]

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Slate Quiz: Recognize the Year from the Electoral College Map

Lots of fun; take it here. Here’s Slate‘s blurb:

Today, Slate challenges its readers to demonstrate their grasp of presidential election history. Check out the 12 electoral maps randomly generated from presidential elections since 1860. States are shaded according to the party of the candidate who won them: red for Republicans, blue for Democrats, and green for third parties or even splits. For each map, pick the proper election out of four choices before the timer runs out. Every correct answer is worth 45 electoral votes. Collect 270 to come out on top.

I got 11 out of 12, which gave me a “Ronald Reagan” (apparently since my 45 x 11 = 495 wasn’t far from Reagan’s 489 electoral votes in 1980). […]

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May a State Ban Electioneering on Election Day?

The answer is pretty clearly “no,” given the First Amendment, and Emineth v. Jaeger (D.N.D. Oct. 29, 2012) has struck down such a North Dakota statute:

Any person asking, soliciting, or in any manner trying to induce or persuade, any voter on an election day to vote or refrain from voting for any candidate or the candidates or ticket of any political party or organization, or any measure submitted to the people, is guilty of an infraction. The display upon motor vehicles of adhesive signs which are not readily removable and which promote the candidacy of any individual, any political party, or a vote upon any measure, and political advertisements promoting the candidacy of any individual, political party, or a vote upon any measure which are displayed on fixed permanent billboards, may not, however, be deemed a violation of this section.

The statute — which by its terms applies to flyers, yard sign, speeches, newspaper editorials, and a vast range of other speech — has apparently been largely or entirely unenforced, but the North Dakota Solicitor General nonetheless defended the law, arguing it was (1) content-neutral, (2) served the interests in preventing “election day intimidation tactics,” preventing “dissemination of false or misleading information on election day” (when there’s little time to respond), and “establishing a definite close to electioneering” so that “all voters have the same information to make their decisions, whether they vote at 9 a.m. or 4 p.m.,” (3) and was “narrowly tailored” to those interests.

Not so, the court correctly held. The law is content-based, “since it singles out election-related expression for prohibition.” (See, e.g., Burson v. Freeman (1992), which made clear that such laws are content-based, though a plurality concluded that the particular content-based law passed strict scrutiny because it was limited to speech very […]

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How Should Libertarians Vote?

Continuing the series of posts examining how libertarian-leaning folks should vote (assuming they think it’s worth voting at all), Reason has published essays on the libertarian case for Obama (Mike Godwin), Romney (Robert Poole) and Gary Johnson (Nick Gillespie). Some may also be interested in this post by law professor Brad Smith explaining why he will vote enthusiastically for Romney, and this essay by Shikha Dalmia arguing Romney is the most protectionist GOP candidate in ages. Then again, perhaps Katherine Mangu-Ward is correct, and libertarians shouldn’t vote at all.

UPDATE: Reason board member Manny Klausner e-mails to note that he is enthusiastically voting for Gary Johnson, but also encouraging libertarians who live in battleground states to vote for Romney if the election looks like it will be close. He writes:

It seems to me that the WORST possible move for a libertarian would be to vote for a statist candidate who may win the election — and doesn’t need your vote to win. In my view, this implicates the voter in the bad policies pursued by the candidate once they take office. To me, the only exception to this is a close election where your vote arguably could be decisive, so that voting for the lesser of the evils might well be appropriate.

Moreover, on the issue of drug policy — a high priority for libertarians — I’d point out that a libertarian in a non-battleground state emphatically should not vote for Romney, who shows no sign of doing anything other than supporting the counterproductive war on drugs. Voting for the Gary Johnson/Jim Gray ticket is a commendable way to express dissatisfaction with the War on Drugs — a “cure” that is far worse than the disease.

I generally agree with this sentiment, but would also note that the […]

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When Will We Know How Ohio Votes?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the outcome of the Presidential election in Ohio may not be known until mid-November. This is because state election officials will not count provisional ballots until at least ten days after the election. Given the large number of provisional ballots in Ohio — a number that could increase due the large number of absentee ballots expected to be cast this year — such ballots may make the difference, and legal wrangling on which ballots to count could drag things out even more. This is why the Cincinnati Enquirer called this a potential “nightmare voting scenario.” […]

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