I. Introduction Thomas Jefferson once said: “I could think of no worse example for nations abroad, who for the first time were trying to put free electoral procedures into effect, than that of the United States wrangling over the results of our presidential election, and even suggesting that the presidency itself could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box. ” II. Gerrymandering and Malapportionment The famous Baker v. Carr ruling, “one person one vote”, unfortunately has not come to fruition.
Gerrymandering and malapportionment are still as common, if not more common, than in years past. According to David Samuels and Richard Snyder of Cambridge University, the highest levels of malapportionment are found in large, democratic countries with bicameral state legislatures. The United States happens to fit that mold perfectly . According to a study called “Unfair Advantage”, supported by the League of Women’s Voters and Citizens Union, “Only 29 of 212 legislative districts (14%) [of New York] are within one percent of the ‘ideal size.
’” The ideal size of a district is mainly determined based on population. The report also found that district lines were drawn in a way that reduces the competition in the state assembly races. According to their report, “Only 25 of the 212 legislative districts (11%) have close enrollments. The populations of the rest favor one party or another by a wide margin. ” The control of both of New York’s houses has been quite constant over the last several years. Since 1982, only thirty-four New York state legislature incumbents lost their election.
The votes of both republicans in “democratic districts” and democrats in “republican districts” have been made meaningless. Gerrymandering, a specific type of malapportionment, is effective due its the “wasted vote effect. ” The wasted vote effect is defined as the packing of the opposition into one district, thereby “wasting” as many of their votes as possible. As evident in the picture below of the district breakdown of Columbus, Ohio, many districts are arranged in strange shapes in order for the “wasted voter effect” to work best.
In this case, Ohio’s District 7, a district heavily occupied by democrats, was stretched into a clamp-like shape in order for it to encompass as many democrats as possible. The republicans who controlled the state legislature at the time of the redistricting pushed all of the democrats together in order to limit the democrats’ influence. In District 7, the Democratic nominee would probably win be a margin of around 75%, while the Republican nominees would win both Districts 12 and 15 comfortably.
While the democrats originally would have had 60% voting power in all three district and the republicans 40%, after the gerrymandering the democrats have 96% voting power in one district and 20% in the other; the republican have a 4% voting power in District 7, and 80% in the other districts (percentages are fabricated but are used to express the point). According to a projection made by the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council, if there were no more gerrymandering, there will be a rapid increase in voting in almost every single state.
The projection was based on an earlier finding of theirs, that people are less likely to vote in elections that have large margins of victory, and gerrymandering is the major cause of those large margins. They projected that the voting in Louisiana would increase 59%, while the voting in New York would increase 50%. It is definitely true that people are much less likely to vote when they think that their vote doesn’t mean anything. 11 million people, according to the projection, have chosen not to vote, due to the lack of competitiveness caused by gerrymandering.
With 11 million more people voting, those races that currently are runoffs, could possibly be hard fought, close elections. III. Effect of Exit Polls on Voting Before the official voting results are tallied, the media make their own exit polls. They ask people walking out of the voting booths if they would like to disclose whom they voted for, and the results are counted. Though it would seem that the influence of such polls would be minimal, in fact there is a chance of it being enormous.
According to Dr. Walter Mebane of the University of Michigan, exit polls play the largest role in promoting “wasted voter logic. ” Wasted voter logic is when someone who supports a third party hears from an exit poll that the race is only between the major two parties, and therefore he/she decided that in order to make his/her vote “count” he/she must vote for one of the two major parties. Clearly, the media outlets that are supplying the people with the exit polls could exploit this.
Exit polls have also been found to be misleading, especially in elections in which a white candidate is running against a minority candidate. The Bradley Effect, named after Tom Bradley who once ran for mayor of Los Angeles, is the widely held theory that white voters frequently tell pollsters that they are voting for the minority candidate (when they have no intention to actually vote for him), because they don’t want to appear racist in anyway. In Bradley’s election, he was up in the exit polls by 10%, but ended up losing the election.
Though none of the disparities are as big as those in Bradley’s election, research has shown that the exit poll disparity is much higher among minority candidates. Even in the 2008 presidential election, which some historians consider to be the end of the Bradley Effect, research has shown that the Bradley Effect still played a role, as evident in the chart above. Given that many people base whether or not to vote in an election on exit polls, the Bradley Effect can help in the determination of a close election involving a minority.
In addition to the Bradley Effect, there is also the Spiral of Silence that can greatly skew exit polls. The Spiral of Silence, a theory formulated by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, states that someone is much less likely to express his/her opinion when they feel that they are in the minority, because they fear reprisal from the majority. Therefore, someone who favors a minority party would be very likely to tell a pollster that he/she is voting for one of the two major parties.
Additionally, the theory states that a minority can be empowered by the media, and therefore seem to no longer be the minority. The Tea Party, which was started as a relatively small movement, has evolved into a national policymaking force. Due to the media attention allotted to the party by FOX News, it has been made into an almost mainstream movement. The majority, due to an unwillingness to belittle such a small movement, prefers not to criticize the radical Tea Party. The Tea Party has then taken advantage of the vacuum of criticism by posing as the majority, hence the spiral.
The Tea Party, which originally only represented the views of a few radicals, is now, though still small, regarded as a major party. (develop idea better) The effect of inaccurate exit polls first appeared on a large stage during the 2004 presidential election. John Kerry, according to many reports, was shorted out of many swing states due to the misleading exit polls. Pollsters blamed the inaccurate poll results on the republicans not wanting to answer their questions, and therefore the democratic opinion was overrepresented in the poll.
They also blamed the inaccurate results on their using younger and less experience polltakers. Nevertheless, the poll results did result in the misleading of the American people. According to Joe Lenski of Edison Media Research and Warren Mitofsky of Mitofsky International “there were 26 states in which the estimates produced by the exit poll data overstated the vote for John Kerry. ” Morra Aarons-Mele, John Kerry’s pollster during the 2004 presidential election, claimed to have been sure that he would win after the exit polls showed that he was up 50% to 48% late in the afternoon.
The fact that Bush was down two percent could have made republican voters even more urgent to go to the polls, while making the democratic voters complacent, and thereby less likely to vote. IV. Election Fraud There are four kinds of election fraud: vote buying, fraudulent registration, fraudulent use of absentee ? ballots, and falsification of election counts. Each of those types of fraud have occurred in the United States, and has been said by some to have caused the wrong person to win the election. Al Capone famously once said: “Vote early—and often.
” Since its founding, the United States of America had a major problem with double voting. While the government considered high voting turnouts to be the result of a well-functioning democracy, it was really the result of the democracy’s undoing. For example, in the 1880s, the voter turnout in a West Virginia election was 108%. Though fraud of such magnitude is not common, just a few instances thereof could have a plethora effects. Given that elections, on average, get voter turnouts of 75% (from registered voters), 33% of the votes (practically 1/3 of the election) were the result of double and probably triple voting.
That 75%, which is assumed to have voted legitimately and legally, had their voting power decreased from 100% to roughly 70%. That drastic decrease in voting power is a clear result of the fraud. Though voting discrepancies have been attributed to everything from people not knowing better about double voting’s illegality, and/or convicts (or people on probation) voting, despite not being allowed to by law, it has still been done maliciously. As of 2007, over 87 people have been convicted of felonies due to committing voter fraud.
While 87 is not that large of a number, each individual’s fraud could have cost someone an election. One person’s widespread fraud could result in the negation of the votes of tens of thousands honest and moral voters. Many of the aforementioned widespread frauds are when someone either registers for someone who is not interested at all in the political process, or who don’t exist. One of the most notable cases of election fraud in recent memory was the 1997 Primary Mayoral Election in Miami, Florida. Mayor Joe Carollo received 51.
4% of the votes in his reelection campaign. However, his opponent, former Mayor Xavier Suarez, received over 60% of the absentee ballots, giving him a 150 vote lead over Carollo. Due to the neither of the two candidates having over 50% of the votes, a runoff was held, which Suarez won. Just one week after the conclusion of the election two Suarez supporters were arrested for buying absentee ballots. Carollo then appealed to the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Circuit of Florida to invalidate the November 4th election results, due to the widespread fraud.
The courts noted in its decision that there was “a pattern of fraudulent, intentional and criminal conduct. Expert witnesses showed that 225 absentee ballots had forged signatures, and that close to 500 ballots were procured by ballot brokers. Alberto Russi, a 92-year-old ballot broker, was arrested in a raid, in which police found 75 absentee ballots intended for the November 13th runoff. The court then gave the office of mayor to Carollo instead of Suarez. In this case, everything worked as it should have, and the election was given to the rightful winner.
However, it seems hard to believe that such an organized operation does not happen elsewhere. In fact, 35 years beforehand, an even more corrupt operation led by Chicago mayor Richard Daley, led to the supposedly inaccurate election of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy, who won Illinois by slightly more than eight thousand votes, won Chicago alone by over four hundred thousand votes. Additionally, while the average nationwide voter turnout for the election was approximately 63%, the turnout in Chicago was 89%. Shortly afterward,