Contemporary Issues

Voting
Updated:
October 2, 2021
Published:
September 20, 2021
Electoral College vs. Popular Vote
Congressional Gerrymandering
2020 Election Voter Turnout
Individual States' Voting Laws
Voter Fraud
The Legal Response to the 2020 Election
Polling
The For-the-People Act
2021: California Recall Election

Electoral College vs. Popular Vote

The Electoral College was created by the Founders in the Constitution as an in between way to elect the President. Throughout election history, there have been five elections where the candidate won the presidency through the electoral vote rather than the popular vote. The 2016 election results reignited a debate of whether to abolish the Electoral College and replace it with just the popular vote, ensuring a more democratic election, or to keep the Electoral College.

Why can a candidate win the popular vote yet lose the Electoral College, thus losing the presidency? The arguments for and against the Electoral College and popular vote have sparked recent debates over whether it is time to change.

The Framers established the Electoral College as a middle ground between a President elected by Congress and by the people. Currently, the electoral college has 538 electors who represent a given state, and each cast a vote for a Presidential candidate in an election. The number of electors in a state is proportional to its Congressional members, with each state allowed to decide how these electors are chosen. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Following the vote of the electors, votes are then counted together in Congress as a way to certify the election and officially announce the new President. The electoral college can only be abolished by Congress ratifying a new constitutional amendment which is extremely unlikely.

Ahead of the 2020 election, 58% of Americans said the Constitution should be amended to abolish the Electoral College and instead use a national vote to declare a presidential winner.

Most Americans in favor of abolishing the Electoral College support the use of the popular vote. The popular vote would determine the presidential winner by who received the majority of votes nationwide. Proponents of the national popular vote believe this would be more representative of the country as a whole, instead of making candidates focus on battleground states like Michigan, Georgia, or Pennsylvania with the most diverse constituency. Opponents to the national popular vote say that presidential candidates will tour only the most populous big cities without the Electoral College, thus disenfranchising rural voters and states with small populations.

A Gallup poll shows 61% of Americans want to use the national popular vote; however, it has become a partisan issue with the Left in favor of abolishing the electoral college and the Right in favor of keeping it. In 2020, Colorado ballot proposition 113 passed a statewide vote which entered Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The NPVIC is a ballot referendum movement that gets states to pledge their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. This movement hopes to get enough states assigning electors to the national popular vote winner to eliminate the need to reach 270 electors. As of June 2021, 15 states and DC have adopted the compact. Opponents of the compact cite the Constitutional legitimacy of the NPVIC and its inability to retain states when the electoral college would give better results for that state.

There have been five elections in United States history where the President won the electoral vote but not the popular vote. The most recent was President Trump’s victory in 2016, when he won the electoral vote despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million votes.

Left Narrative

The electoral college is outdated and does not support the idea of “one person, one vote” where every vote counts. America is a place of democracy where everyone should feel that their vote makes a difference. No candidate should be allowed to lose the popular vote but win the electoral college and thus, the presidency. The popular vote reflects the “one person, one vote” concept and is well supported by the general public.

Right Narrative

The Electoral College is an important institution in the United States because it prevents a simple majority living in one state from deciding the rules for people in less populous states. If the United States had a national popular vote, politicians would only need to care about getting votes in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles to win the election. This keeps  people living in small towns across the country from having a voice.

Congressional Gerrymandering

Congressional gerrymandering has been around since 1812, and is the act of manipulating and redrawing district lines. Politicians on all sides have manipulated district lines to their party’s advantage, but the debate only is brought up if it hurts their party at the time. Recent court rulings make it easier for states to get away with racial gerrymandering, and states are leaning towards establishing independent redistricting committees that are nonpartisan to draw their updated district lines.

Gerrymandering is the manipulation and redrawing of legislative districts to favor one’s party or hurt the opposition. Districts are either “packed” together to keep votes to one district or “cracked” to separate votes into multiple districts to dilute their influence. Having been in the United States since the 13 colonies, gerrymandering has increased drastically in multiple states. In 1993, the Supreme Court prohibited racial gerrymandering in Shaw v. Reno. However, a more recent ruling in 2019 said that federal judges lack jurisdiction over partisan gerrymandering.

In 2013, the Supreme Court took out a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. States with a history of racial gerrymandering no longer needed approval from the federal government to change voting laws, creating the possibility for more gerrymandering in those areas. More recently, reform groups and the general public concentrated more on gerrymandering, with worries that the Census delays due to COVID-19 could lead to more redrawing. Due to extensions with the Census, redistricting data for states will not be available until the end of August. With states like New Jersey and Virginia expected to hold state elections in 2021, this posed an issue of what county lines to use. Virginia decided to use their current lines which are a result of Republican gerrymandering. Other states like Illinois and Oklahoma needed to redraw lines by a certain date or would be subjected to a non-partisan commission. Both were passed in May and will be amended in the future if need be.

Left Narrative

Congressional and racial gerrymandering are forms of voter suppression that need to be addressed so that one party is not favored over the other through these redistricting efforts. States must implement non partisan independent redistricting committees to draw electoral district lines as a way to prevent gerrymandering by either side.

Right Narrative

Political parties will only complain about gerrymandering when it does not benefit them. Gerrymandering can be done to win certain districts, but it can also be done to give a voice to the community in the minority. If you live in a district that heavily favors one side over the other, it may be more equitable for you to be gerrymandered into another district.

2020 Election Voter Turnout

The 2020 election produced the highest voter turnout across all age and race groups since 1900. Voters faced challenges getting to the polls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many turned to absentee or early voting. Not only did the Presidential election see an increase in voters, but state elections like Georgia’s Congressional races made history as well. According to the US Census, 17 million more people voted in the 2020 Presidential election than in 2016.

Despite voter registration challenges caused by the pandemic, voters utilized non-traditional ways to vote, specifically early voting and vote by mail; 69% voted using these two methods. States with the highest increase in voter turnout voted entirely or almost entirely by mail. Because of the record number of mail-in ballots, some states needed more days to count the votes. President Biden was not announced as the projected winner by media organizations until four days after Election Day.

In addition to the historic presidential turnout, Georgia saw record voter turnout for special elections in which Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won seats in the United States Senate (the first Democratic victories in Georgia in 20 years). Georgia Democrats attribute much of their success in both the 2020 Presidential and Congressional races to Stacy Abrams. She registered over 800,000 new Georgia voters before the 2020 elections and founded Fair Fight Action. Recently. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffenspergeer accused the organization of pushing voting machine misinformation in the state.

Absentee & Early Voting

The processes of absentee ballots and early voting allow voters to cast a ballot before in person on Election Day. Each state has laws regarding who is eligible to vote absentee via mail or attend an early voting polling location in their district. These two non traditional forms increased significantly for the 2020 election as a result of the pandemic. Some states have attempted to restrict who can vote by mail or early for fear of fraud.

Absentee ballots enable citizens to vote outside of their polling district and must be requested from a local or state Board of Elections. They were created during the Civil War as a way for soldiers overseas to be able to vote. Now, over two-thirds of the states allow anyone to request a mail-in ballot, known as “no-excuse absentee” voting. Sixteen states require voters to submit a reason to justify voting outside of their polling district. These justifications vary by state but include illness or disability, working during polling hours, and out-of-state students. 

Absentee ballot usage has increased significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stanford Studies found that mail-in voting increases political participation by making it easier for certain citizens to cast their votes. While it does boost voter turnout, it hasn’t been proven to benefit one party over the other. As such, the majority of states offer at least some opportunity to vote early. Connecticut, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are the only states not to do so. ‘Early voting’ refers to voting early in-person, absentee ballots, and voting by mail. The start of early voting varies in each state and may start in October, while others just a day or two before Election Day. 

After early votes are received, each state counts them differently. Some begin to “process” their mail-in ballots three weeks before Election Day, and some only count on Election Day. Counting only on Election Day can be extremely long, especially if there are many votes (as was the case in 2020 due to absentee and early voting).

Left Narrative

Voting needs to be easier and more accessible. Absentee ballots and early voting options must be available for all voters without an excuse in order to give a free and equal chance for all to cast a vote. Modern technology should be implemented to ensure safe elections, and more time should be granted to ensure mail-in ballots are delivered on time.

Right Narrative

Republicans tend to prefer the tradition of election day; however, many people have issues getting to the voting booth on the actual day of the election. There needs to be a secure way for people to vote early if necessary. Early voting is preferable to mail in because mail in voting is insecure and is rampant with fraud.

Individual States' Voting Laws

After the For The People Act failed in the Senate, states began to pass voting laws in response to alleged voter fraud after the 2020 election. As of May 14, 389 state voting bills have been introduced in 48 states. Of these bills, 22 have been enacted in 14 different states.

Republican legislators have proposed the laws in order to ensure election security. In March, Georgia Governor Brian Kempt signed SB 202 into law. Among other things, the bill expands early voting for primary and general elections but not runoffs. Voters would be required to provide a driver’s license, state ID number, or copy of another accepted form of identification instead of the current signature-matching process.

Proposed bill HB 351 would make it illegal for someone other than an election worker to give food or beverage to any citizen while in line to vote, a practice known as “line warming.”

Two Arkansas bills, HB 1244 and HB 1112, were passed by the legislator. Similar to Georgia's bill, they make state voter ID law stricter, removing the ability for ID-less voters to sign an affidavit to prove their identity.

Florida SB 90 would require proof of identification to vote absentee and eliminate the ballot drop boxes and let only an immediate family member return another’s ballot. The absentee ballot requests would only be valid for one election cycle, rather than two.

Democrats have been pushing back for some form of federal voting rights reform. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was introduced to the Senate by Democrats in July; it would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 struck down in 2013. This would allow private parties or the federal government to challenge state-passed voting laws that are expected to or already have the effect of diminishing voting rights for minorities. It would create its own version of the 1965 act which required voting and election laws to be reviewed by the Justice Department for states with a history of voting discrimination.

Left Narrative

These individual state voting laws are restricting Americans’ fundamental right to vote. Republican governors believe these laws are passed to ensure election security, but this is not the case. These laws intentionally make it harder for people to vote. A national voting rights law must be passed to prevent more suppression.

Right Narrative

Most measures to secure election integrity are categorized as restrictions by the Democrat Party. Republicans look to provide early voting over mail in voting and want to ensure voter ID is used to check the voter only votes once.

Voter Fraud

Voter fraud has become a heavily debated issue in the country over the last few elections. Voter fraud includes altering a ballot, voting twice, or voting when ineligible. Voters, election boards, or campaign officials can all commit this act. Republicans argue the 2020 election was plagued with voter fraud, while Democrats argue that research shows that voter fraud is extremely rare and inconsequential to elections.

The issues of voter and election fraud plague the country during election cycles. Voter fraud encompasses many acts: false information when registering to vote, voting when ineligible, voting more than once, using someone else’ name to vote, or registering and voting in multiple locations for the same election. Fraud can also be committed by election boards or campaign officials. Oftentimes, these focus on altering a ballot, paying a voter in exchange for a specific vote, or engaging in voter suppression.

Driving voters to polls, giving workers time off to vote, giving stamps for absentee ballots, or creating fake petitions are not federally an election crime, but may violate state laws. The legality of ballot harvesting has been widely debated; it includes a third party collecting voters’ absentee ballots to deliver to election offices. While it is illegal in states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania, other states allow campaign volunteers to collect these completed ballots. Some argue that a volunteer could temper with or throw out the ballot before it reaches the ballot box.

Claims and worries of voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential election centered on the heightened number of absentee ballots. In Wisconsin, only 27 potential cases of fraud were found out of 3.3 million ballots cast. Most were from a singular city, placing an incorrect mailing address.

Some argue that while voter fraud may be present, it is inconsequential to the number of ballots cast in total and will not make a difference, as shown in Wisconsin. However, the National Commission on Federal Election Reform took a stance on the issue and was supported by the Supreme Court. They argued that it “is not the magnitude of voter fraud. In close or disputed elections, and there are many, a small amount of fraud could make the margin of difference.”

Left Narrative

Research shows that voter fraud is extremely rare. While it is important to ensure election integrity, the government must not take extreme actions that affect our free elections for false claims of fraud. It is important to prevent voter fraud in elections with policies that do not restrict Americans from voting.

Right Narrative

All forms of voter fraud must be prevented to secure election integrity. Americans will not be able to trust their elections if they lack integrity. For the good of the nation, fraud must be stopped.

Left Narrative

The 2020 election results were safe and secure with no evidence of voter fraud that would change the outcome. Recounts and courts all show these legal claims of voter fraud and election rigging were baseless. Republicans needed to accept the results with respect.

Right Narrative

The Courts failed to take up any election case because “a victim was not present”. Once Trump lost, and a clear victim was present, the Courts refused to take up any election case because the election was over. Republicans are distraught that many cases were not properly examined and ongoing cases are not covered in the media.

Polling

Polling is the process of gathering information from the public about their political views, who they will vote for, and their opinions on pressing issues in the country. Issue and election polling are the most common polls. When done correctly, polls can be extremely accurate in predicting election results. Past polling, especially failed 2016 election predictions, has proven to be controversial.

Polling allows outside organizations to gather information from the public about who they’ll vote for and how they feel about issues facing the country. While many rely heavily on pre-election polling statistics, they do not always accurately predict people’s thoughts or actions. Even so, when appropriately performed, polling is one of the best available methods to understand and predict how the public feels and why, allowing government officials, news organizations, and the general public to understand what citizens feel and think.

Issue and election polling are the two most prevalent kinds of polls. Election polls predict how much support each candidate has, while issue polls are more comprehensive, highlighting the public’s opinion of specific issues and policies. 

In recent election predictions, pre-election polls have been increasingly inaccurate, especially at the state level. In the 2020 presidential election, state-level pre-election polls underestimated support for the Republican candidates by an average of 5%. Pollsters have argued that larger sample sizes, considering who is more likely to partake in these surveys, avoiding underrepresentation, and paying attention to late voter preference shifts will allow for more accurate polls at these state levels.

In addition, election forecasts that estimate candidates’ win probability can offer voters a false sense of comfort that their candidate is ahead. While these pre-election polls are circulated throughout the media, voters may think the race is less competitive than it actually is. A study from Yale shows that voters are more likely to vote when they believe the race is extremely close. These polls misleading and underrepresenting votes can cause voters to skip out on the election voting.

Left Narrative

Polling, especially around election time, is extremely important. While it is crucial to not rely fully on the polls, voters can use them as a sense of motivation to get out and vote. Polls can show a party which groups or issues they need to focus on in order to garner more support.

Right Narrative

Polling often skews left due to bias in the organization who conduct them. In addition, most Republicans dislike answering polls, skewing them further left. Republicans' trust in polls has decreased since 2016 as many were dramatically wrong on Trump’s odds of winning.

The For-the-People Act

The For the People Act (H.R. 1) was introduced by House Democrats in 2019 and reintroduced in January 2021. The goal of the bill was to restore and expand voting rights for all citizens at a time when state restrictions began to run through the nation. It also looked to strengthen ethics and transparency at the federal level as well as to focus on campaign finance reform. The bill was passed in the House but failed to receive any Republican support in the Senate.

The For the People Act, H.R.1, was a comprehensive bill introduced by House Democrats with their stated goal of restoring and expanding voting rights to ensure democracy works for all citizens equally. It was initially introduced by the Democrats to the House in 2019 but was then blocked after not garnering sufficient support from Republicans in the Senate. Republicans argued that the bill takes away a State’s right to run its own elections and violates Article I Section IV of the Constitution.

The bill was reintroduced by Democrats to the House in January 2021 and passed on March 3. However, its companion bill in the Senate, S.1, failed to garner Republican support while, at the same time, several states began enacting more stringent voter laws. The ACLU criticized the bill for potential violations of the first amendment, and it was later coined the “For the Politicians Act” by The Hill.

The bill was an overhaul of the United States election system which has drawn clear contentions between the two Parties. Its language is primarily geared towards Democratic priorities. Some of it’s key provisions include...

  • Focus on protecting voting rights by modernizing voting registration and expanding voting access for methods like absentee ballots and early voting.
  • Strengthen ethics rules in all branches of government in order to create transparency.
  • Rebuild and strengthen campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of big money in congressional and presidential elections.  Organizations will be required to disclose all large donors and interactions with foreign entities or political parties in order to lower the effects of dark money. 
  • Establish non partisan redistricting committees in order to prevent gerrymandering and its effects.

Left Narrative

The For the People Act will secure voting rights for all Americans and fight against Republican lawmakers trying to restrict access to voting. It will work to end gerrymandering as well as hold elected officials accountable. A federal bill on voting rights is needed now more than ever.

Right Narrative

The For the People Act is an attempt to federalize elections and enshrine insecure practices across the country. If this Act had been passed, Republicans would never have been able to win an election ever again due to rampant voter fraud and voting tactics that would benefit the Democrat Party.

2021: California Recall Election

California is one of 19 states where voters can petition and vote to remove an elected official out of office before the official end of the term. A petition for a recall election against Governor Gavin Newsome was created before the COVID-19 pandemic and with an extension, received enough signatures to trigger a recall election. The election occurred on September 14, 2021, where Newsome was up against a Republican named Larry Elder. In a hefty win battling claims of fraud, Governor Gavin Newsome beat Elder to keep his official role as governor of California.

On September 14, 2021, California governor Gavin Newsome survived a recall effort that would have seen a Republican challenger Larry Elder take his role. A landslide victory for Newsome, the election saw almost 64% of the vote against his recall. A massive win for the Democrats who run a supermajority in the state legislature, many believe it would diminish the claims of fraud.

Leading up to the election, the website StopCAFraud was published for individuals to report instances of fraud to those managing the recall effort. Republican challenger Larry Elder included a section of fraud on his website which was removed following the election results. During the election period, many California voters were reporting that absentee ballots had been mailed in on their behalf. When attempting to vote in person, many in San Fernando Valley were met with the news that they had already voted. Most controversially, political commentator James Klueg posted a since blocked video of a poll worker showing him he had already voted. Lastly, a viral video showed that holes on the absentee ballot envelope allowed collectors to see how someone voted, thus giving them the opportunity to discard ballots that voted in favor of the recall.

These allegations of election fraud were minimal and could not have resulted in flipping the 2.5 million voter gap. Although Republicans have drawn concern from these reports, the reports are considered unfounded

  • In the Woodland Hills, voters who were told they already voted were informed that it was caused by settings on some computers used to check in voters and the error was overwritten by their new vote. 
  • The polling center in Tulare County which closed because of a wildfire had nearby alternative sites to vote.
  • Lastly, a poll worker at a West Hollywood voting site who was removed was found to be wearing a pro-Trump shirt against electioneering laws.

Left Narrative

Republicans are using false claims of voter fraud to try and sow doubt on the legitimacy of the election. Governor Newsome clearly won in a landslide victory, and the claims of fraud are completely unfounded and had no effect on the outcome. Thankfully, Larry Elder urged his supporters to be gracious in defeat and removed his false claims of voter fraud from his website.

Right Narrative

Clear video evidence exists of potential voter fraud. It is clear that mail in ballots had been fraudulently turned in on behalf of many voters in very red districts. Although the fraud did not occur at a large enough scale to flip the election result, fraud should be eliminated to ensure a free and fair election.

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