Kennedy’s Retirement and Implications

Kennedy’s retirement marks just another transformation that Trump is able to permanently alter the federal judiciary

 

After historic numbers of appointments, Trump is finally able to make his second Supreme Court appointment to replace Anthony Kennedy

 

For years Kennedy’s swing vote has protected civil rights, upheld labor protection laws, and against mass incarceration. However, his retirement effectively cedes all protections that he has sought after.

 

Now for the first time in history since Planned Parenthood v. Casey there is an actual opportunity that Roe v. Wade may actually get repealed and abortion is banned throughout much of the U.S.

 

After appointing young, mostly qualified, but highly conservative judges such as Amul Thapar (former district judge), Allison Eid (former Colorado SC judge), Amy Coney Barrett (former Notre Dame law professor), Kevin Newsom (former Bradley partner), and others to federal appeals courts throughout the nation, Trump can select one of his appointees to serve on the highest court, just like George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the DC circuit then to the Supreme Court.

 

Kennedy’s retirement is calculated, deliberate, and expected by a major portion of the legal community. It’s seen as a return favor for the GOP (which appointed Kennedy) and a personal favor for Trump. Unlike Justice Souter, who decided that he would continue his ideological legacy by retiring under Obama and having a justice in his mold (Sotomayor) to replace him, Kennedy decidedly gave Trump a political gift that would allow the latter to transform federal judiciary from the bottom to the top.

 

Based on current projections, get ready for extreme conservatives becoming Justice Kavanaugh (Appointed by Bush, DC circuit), Justice Hardiman (Appointed by Bush, 3rd circuitt), or Justice Barrett(Appointed by Trump, 7th circuit). By retiring, Kennedy puts Democrats in a disadvantageous political position—confirming Kennedy’s replacement, who is likely to be extremely conservative, would incite enthusiasm for voters who would prefer a more liberal justice, but employing a delaying tactic could be seen as obstruction to moderate GOP voters who may reluctantly back Trump.

 

Regardless, America will no longer be the same with Kennedy’s retirement. By having a replacement who has sparked significant legal outrage toward Roe v. Wade, or Lochner v. U.S., American civil and political rights progress could reverse up to 20 years.

短暂的美国政府介绍和监管机构一览

自1789年美国立宪以来,联邦以及各州政府的权力已经发生了翻天覆地的变化。在杰佛逊时期,包括总统和内阁部长们,美国联邦政府仅仅有数百名员工。今天,美国联邦政府是世界最大的雇主之一,有着超过2,700,000名在美国各州和世界各地外交官邸馆驻扎的员工们。

美国的联邦政府分为三部分,行政部分,立法部分,和司法部分。立法部分被分割为两个分支——参议院和众议院。美国的50个州均有两名成员代表该州担任参议员,由该州州民选出,并担任六年任期。众议院由联邦法律规定有435名众议员,并且分割为435个基本人口等同的选区选出议员。参议院和众议院平时组织进委员会,来负责特定事物。

行政部分由一名由538个成员所构成的选举团(electoral college)所选出。选举团的538名成员为民选且代表美国50个州或华盛顿特区的选民的民意。每个州均有该州国会众议员数量加参议员数量的选举人数;宪法规定,华盛顿特区只能有不超过选举人数最少的州的选举人数。法律规定,除内布拉斯加州和缅因州以外的选举团成员均全部代表一个政党,由赢下该州的政党决定选举团成员。

司法部分分三级—最高法院,联邦上诉法院,和联邦地区法院。法院法官均由总统任命,参议院批准,并任期终身且不能被解雇。美国全国共有94个联邦地区法院,受理联邦初审刑事及民事案件;94个联邦地区法院诉讼双方有权利上诉至9个联邦上诉法院;9个联邦上诉法院双方有权利提交上诉到最高法院,但最高法院选择是否审理案件,而不是类似联邦上诉法院必须审理。

美国联邦政府立法部分可制定法律确定管理方向,但由行政部分对这些方向进行实际管理。美国总统也有签署行政令的权利;行政令的权力等同于法律,但是可以被下一任总统撤销。比如说,美国共和党人大力反对的儿童抵达延期行动(Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals))便是奥巴马总统的行政令,独立机构Consumer Financial Protection Bureau的创立也是奥巴马总统的行政令。同样,立法部分有权力创造新的行政部门或独立机构:比如说,独立机构美国证券交易委员会便是1934年的Securities & Exchange Act所创立的。行政部门和独立机构的区别在于总统可以随意解雇行政部门的部长,解雇独立机构的局长必须有合理原因。

美国法律要求,任命任何行政部门和独立机构的部长,副部长,以及主要官员均由总统提出,参议院批准。美国现任内阁共有22个位置,虽然除内阁外,其他部门也对美国的政策制定起到至关重要的作用。

内阁中,美国国务院(Department of State)负责美国的外交事物,参与制定美国外交政策,管理美国驻各国使领馆,批准和拒绝签证申请,帮助美国企业在外国开展工作,以及保护在外美国人。国务院部长称为国务卿(Secretary of State),由参议院外交委员会(Foreign Relations Committee)批准。

美国财政部(Department of the Treasury)负责印制钞票,刻制硬币,收取税收和关税,为联邦政府支付债务,管理联邦政府各部门财务,管理联邦银行和起诉逃税漏税者。财政部部长和重要官员为参议院财政委员会(Finance Committee)批准。

美国国防部(Department of Defense)负责管理美国军队,以及为美国政府收集情报。国防情报局,国家安全局,国家地理空间情报局和国家侦察办公室均为美国国防部下的情报机构。美国国防部官员有时也参与和国防有关的外交事宜。国防部部长和重要官员为参议院军事委员会(Armed Services Committee)批准。

美国司法部(Department of Justice)负责在美国政府为诉讼一方时代表美国政府,调查联邦犯罪行为,调查金融犯罪,管理联邦监狱系统,以及运营联邦联邦执法机构,比如联邦调查局(FBI)和毒品管理局(Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA)。司法部部长和重要官员为参议院司法委员会(Judiciary Committee)批准。

美国内政部(Department of Interior)负责管理美国联邦土地,联邦海洋,自然资源,管理和美国原住民有关事物,以及运营国家公园及华盛顿特区周围的道路。内政部长和重要官员由参议院能源和自然资源委员会(Energy and Natural Resources Committee)批准。

美国农业部(Department of Agriculture)负责管理和农业,林业和食物有关事宜。农业部设定美国食物标准以及营养标准,同时管理美国政府社会福利中的粮票(全名补充营养援助计划,Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)。农业部长和重要官员由农业,营养,和林业委员会(Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee)批准。

美国商业部(Department of Commerce)负责管理美国人口普查,国家天气服务,和和商谈贸易协定。但贸易协定也可以由国务院和美国贸易代表(US Trade Representative)来商谈,故商业部的权利有限。商业部长和重要官员由商业,科学和交通委员会(Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee)批准。

美国劳工部(Department of Labor)负责帮助劳工获得合理待遇和执行联邦劳工法律和规则。公平就业机会委员会(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)和劳工部,司法部一起调查受到种族、肤色、宗教、性别、年龄、残疾的歧视。劳工部部长和重要官员由参议院健康,教育,劳工和养老金委员会(Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee)批准。

美国卫生和人类服务部(Department of Health and Human Services)管理美国居民健康,福利和收入安全问题。该部门管理食品和药品管理局,疾病控制中心,国家卫生研究院,和管理美国政府给低收入者和老人的Medicare和Medicaid福利。卫生和人类服务部部长和重要官员由参议院财政委员会批准。

美国住房和城市发展部(Department of Housing and Urban Development)向个人和家庭提供贷款保险,建设公共住房,制定住房政策,以及执行住房非歧视法律。住房和城市发展部长和重要官员由参议院银行,住房和城市事务委员会(Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee)批准。

美国运输部(Department of Transportation)管理美国交通系统,管理联邦空域,管理联邦交通资金,以及管理美国近海安全事宜。运输部长和重要官员由参议院商业,科学和交通委员会批准。

美国能源部(Department of Energy)管理美国核武器计划,海军核反应堆生产,节能,能源相关研究,放射性废物处理和能源生产事宜。能源部也负责学习基因学。能源部长和重要官员由参议院能源和自然资源委员会批准。

美国教育部(Department of Education)管理美国联邦助学贷款,其他联邦助学补助,以及确保在教育过程中少数群体不受歧视。教育部长和重要官员由参议院健康,教育,劳工和养老金委员会批准。

美国老兵事务部(Department of Veterans Affairs)管理美国老兵利益,老兵补助医院系统和老兵纪念堂和墓地事宜。老兵事务部部长和重要官员由参议院老兵事物委员会(Veterans Affairs Committee)批准。

美国国土安全部(Department of Homeland Security)管理美国海岸警卫队,海关和边境保护局,移民和海关执法局,联邦特勤局和联邦应急管理局。国土安全部部长由国土安全和政府委员会(Homeland Security and Government Committee)批准。

除了政府这16部门以外,美国政府还有多个独立机构。比如,重要的独立机构包括美联储(Federal Reserve),环境保护局(Environmental Protection Agency)以及证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchanges Commission)。

美联储的理事会成员由总统任命,任14年期,且不能以因除国会立法指定的原因以外的原因解除美联储理事。通过管理钱款,财政部管理联邦政府批准的银行们确定它们遵守政府要求银行必须拥有的安全和健康性。联邦存款保险公司(Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, FDIC)强制要求银行给客户存款进行保险以防止银行的崩塌,并有权利监视银行所保证银行满足FDIC的安全要求。美联储设置美国的货币政策,同时也可以在任何时候给银行进行安全和健康性检查。同时,证券交易委员会也可以对美国各大银行进行监督,确保银行和投资机构使用普遍接受的会计准则以及设置银行必须拥有的资本来进行一定业务。

美国的司法部门也参与在这个管理的过程中。比如说特朗普政府在签署行政令一月尝试禁止七个国家的公民进入美国境内,但华盛顿州联邦法院认定该行政令违反美国宪法,在全国范围内禁用了该项行政令,最高法院否决美国政府禁止体育博彩的法律,或最高法院禁止联邦政府规定公司不可无限捐助给政府官员作为政治献金。法院也有权利拒绝某些公司提出的并购申请等,在立法和行政机关外再加一道规范。

综上所述,美国政府的三个部门共同努力实现监管效果。法部门创建了广泛的法律理论框架,行政部门负责执行法律的具体效果,制定一定非法律规则,并创建具有法律效力的行政命令,司法部门确保法规符合现有法律和宪法的规定。

A Short History of Voter Suppression

Voter suppression has been mentioned by numerous political pundits across the political spectrum; However, it is difficult to measure the impact of these voting irregularities. Therefore, several types of factors should be considered to understand voter suppression completely. This paper will examine the various techniques of voter suppression, including strict voter ID laws, gerrymandering, felon disenfranchisement, literacy testing, polling hour manipulation, etc. All these techniques have been discussed extensively—but rarely together—and their effects are profound. This essay would examine the historical backgrounds of modern voter suppression to provide resources for further investigations.

In Shelby County v. Holder (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013), the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. § 10101, VRA) as unconstitutional because the court held that under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, states have a broad right to utilize their reserve power not responsible by the federal government, including “the power to regulate elections”(U.S. Supreme Court, 1991). Section 4, the section that determines the coverage formula requiring certain jurisdictions to preclear with the Justice Department before imposing new voting regulations, violated this belief and the constitutional principle of “equal sovereignty of states”. The court deems the coverage formula no longer rational given “voter turnout and registration rates in covered jurisdictions now approach parity” with jurisdictions not covered under the coverage formula. Since the section deeming a coverage formula was declared unconstitutional, unless Congress passes another coverage formula, which is unlikely, Section 5, which requires jurisdictions covered to pre-clear any voting changes with the Justice Department, would be rendered obsolete.

As an indirect consequence, Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, and Florida—all states implemented literacy test and/or poll tax before the 25th Amendment, which made poll tax unconstitutional, and VRA, which made literacy test illegal—passed voter identification laws after Holder(Brennan Center for Justice, 2016).  Supporters argue that the laws “protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the common sense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote”(Liptak, 2017).  This was said by North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in a joint statement after the Supreme Court refuses to grant North Carolina certiorari in North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory (831 F.3d 204 (4th Cir. 2016)). In the ruling, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s strict voter ID law, saying its provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision”(U.S. Court of Appeals, 2016). The court concludes “The photo ID requirement here is both too restrictive and not restrictive enough to effectively prevent voter fraud”(U.S. Supreme Court, 1996). Too restrictive, as in no individual has ever been charged with voter fraud in North Carolina, and not restrictive enough as in the voter ID requirement only applies to in-person voting, not absentee voting, where voter fraud is most likely to happen(Stern, 2016).  In other states, although there have been reported cases of voter fraud, occurrences are extremely rare and likely results of extreme cherry-picking(Riddell, 2016).

TECHNIQUES AND EFFECTS OF MODERN VOTER SUPPRESSION

There are several types of modern voter suppression techniques, most notably through gerrymandering, disenfranchisement of convicted felons, strategic poll opening hours, combination of voting precincts and voter identification laws. All these techniques have been discussed profoundly and their effects are significant on swinging American and foreign (Australian, British, Canadian, among others) elections(Orr & Arkley, 2016) suggests in Canada, “the move to mandate physical ID in Canada reduced Indigenous voting there by 10 per cent”. Currently, the Canadian legislation mandates one piece of government-issued photo ID bearing name current address, or two pieces of non-photo ID bearing name current address, similar to the strict non-photo ID laws passed in Arizona passed in 2015. There have no reports of this practice significantly lowering voter turnout on a macro scale, but when the scope of such law is put on indigenous Canadians, their voter turnout decreased about 10%–since indigenous Canadians mainly vote NDP and Liberal, decreasing their turnout would increase the chance that Conservatives win the election (Arkley, 2015). In Australia, Arkley’s paper also expressed that it is “fairly conclusive that voter ID disadvantaged indigenous voters and those people living in rural and remote areas”.

There appears to be a strong evidence that voter ID laws disenfranchise minority and poorer voters systematically, at advantage of right-wing, conservative political parties. However, such research could be bettered by using a weighted regression pattern correlated with demographics to investigate the scope of such suppression among various areas of the administrations that have implemented voter ID laws. With such empirical research, the scope of voter suppression can be better understood.

References

  • Arklay, Tracey. “The Voter ID Experiment: Reform Or the Continuation of a Queensland Tradition?” Social Alternatives 34, no. 3 (2015): 12-17.
  • Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U. S. ____ (2013)
  • Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U. S. 452, 461–462. (1991)
  • North Carolina NAACP v. McCrory 831 F.3d 204 (4th Cir. 2016)), 11
  • Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620, 633 (1996)
  • Stern, Mark Joseph. “Why Republicans Aren’t Actually Interested in Stopping Voter Fraud.” Slate Magazine. September 01, 2016. Accessed May 16, 2017. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/09/01/voter_fraud_ exists_through_absentee_ballots_but_republicans_won_t_stop_it.html.
  • Riddell, Kelly. “No, voter fraud isn’t a myth: 10 cases where it’s all too real.” The Washington Times. October 17, 2016. Accessed May 16, 2017. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/17/no-voter-fraud-isnt-myth-10-cases-where-its-all-to/.
  • Orr, Graeme, and Tracey Arklay. 2016. Rethinking voter identification: Its rationale and impact. Australian Journal of Political Science 51 (3): 386-99. DOI: 10.1080/10361146.2016.1197181

How Partisanship Transcends Ideology: An Investigation into U.S. Congress members’ Voting Records on Abortion

Abstract

Each congressional session, NARAL(1) and NRLC(2) publish their scorecards on legislators’ performances on votes related to abortion. Ostensibly, abortion is one of the most divisive issues in American politics and the ideological positions of candidates would be imperative for abortion-centered voters. Recently, the polarization of American politics has almost erased moderatism, creating a hyper-partisan environment that disallows centrists to express their centrist endeavors. The author’s personal observation on NARAL and NRLC scorecards evokes a point that “pro-choice Republicans” and “pro-life Democrats” are in sharp declines and the terms no longer apply strictly to their meanings. In this paper, the link between a congressional representative’s votes on abortion and his or her partisan affiliation is investigated and results analyzed using spreadsheets and scatterplots.

Methodology

The voting records of each congressional representative in the 114th Congress are investigated by NARAL and NRLC as a part of their electoral scorecard programs. The scorecards list their partisan affiliations as well as their record on abortion-related issues (e.g. contraception, access to abortion, planned parenthood funding, etc.) (3). This project extracts such data and lists them in a spreadsheet format listing each congressional representative’s name, partisan affiliation, NARAL score, and NRLC score. The results are then analyzed to find two correlations—the links between a congressional representative’s partisan affiliation and his or her NARAL score and NRLC score. In the diagrams, each congressional representative’s “Pro-Choice” score represents the sum of each representative’s NARAL score plus 100 minus his or her NRLC score. Expressed in an equation format, this is S_p=S_NARAL+100-S_NRLC.

Findings and Diagrams

Figure 1: “Pro-Choice” score for U.S. Senators in 114th Congress

In the Senate in 114th Congress, there is no significant variations among members’ “Pro-Choice” scores. Only two Democratic Senators have a non-200 “Pro-Choice” scores, and only three Republican Senators have a non-zero “Pro-Choice” score. Senator Lisa Murkoswki (R-AK) received 66% from NRLC because of her vote in favor of “Collins Amendment to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood” to H.R. 3762, the budget reconciliation bill introduced to repeal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2015. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) received 25% from NRLC for her vote against H.R. 36, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (see Footnote 3), her vote for her own amendment to H.R. 3762, as well as her vote against the final passage of H.R. 3672, which Sen. Murkowski voted for. However, Sen. Collins voted against an amendment provided by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to provide 1 billion in funding for Planned Parenthood, giving her 25 points for NRLC. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) voted against NRLC positions in all four votes, including for the Murray amendment, becoming the only Republican receiving a perfect pro-choice score of zero. For Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted for H.R. 36, against Murray amendment, against preserving funding for Planned Parenthood, but against the final passage of H.R. 3762, earning him a NRLC score of 75. Another senator, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) earned a NRLC score of 25 for voting in favor of H.R. 36, but against NRLC positions for the remaining bills. Some Republican Senators broke with leadership in voting against defunding Planned Parenthood in 2015, which is a position NARAL favors in its scorecard. This includes Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Sens. Murkowski and Collins received 50 on NARAL for some other votes in favor of their positions, and Sen. Kirk received 80. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) received 45 from NARAL, for his votes against NARAL positions four times out of seven. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who has a perfectly zero NRLC score, received three strikes from NARAL and earned himself a score of 60. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) received zero from NARAL in 2015. However, every single Democratic Senator received 100 from NARAL in 2016 and every Republican received zero. This result is indicative that although Senators sometimes break rank with party leadership in voting in favor/against some issues in abortion, they are unlikely to break rank at all times (indicative of Manchin’s 0 in 2015 and 100 in 2016).

Onto the House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives, congressmen and women displayed a variety of opinions deviating from their partisan norms. Yet, only two Republican can be considered “pro-choice”, and only one Democrat can be considered “pro-life”, according to the scorecards. The House scorecards had much more scoring items and are likely better reflections to Representatives’ true positions than the Senate scorecards are. In the House scorecards, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) received a 91% from NARAL, and a 21% from NRLC, totaling a pro-choice score of 170, indicating pro-choice positions. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) received 62% from NARAL, and 40% from NRLC, totaling a score of 102, indicating a weaker but nevertheless pro-choice position. Onto the Democratic side, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) received a 9 from NARAL, and a 86 from NRLC, totaling to 21, indicating a strong pro-life position. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) received a 66 from NRLC and a 59 from NARAL, indicative of a weaker, but still strong, pro-life position. The values all other representatives indicated are not nearly enough to be considered deviating from their partisan norms and do not display strong test-cases for indications for ideological positions transcending partisanship.

Discussion

A statistical analysis displayed that the r^2 value for Senate pro-choice score and partisan affiliation is 0.96x, and is 0.975 for the House. These correlation numbers display that partisanship is an excellent predictor on how an individual congress member would vote on abortion-related issues. Self-identified ideology bodes very little significance upon voting. For instance, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) identifies as pro-life and her father was the respondent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in his official capacity as Pennsylvania’s governor. Sen. Casey received a pro-choice score of 160, a score slightly less pro-choice than other Democratic Senators, but still strongly pro-choice. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), a self-described pro-choice and campaigned on a pro-choice platform, received a score of 0. Examples also include the case of Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who has been described as “more socially liberal than Casey”. Rep. Dent showed extreme pro-life tendencies when he votes for bills concerning abortion, yet he campaigns on a platform advancing and promoting “safe, legal, and rare”. Dent’s views are unsurprising-Republican national organizations—most notably NRCC—help keep politically endangered Republicans in office; however, NRCC leadership is composed of hardline political Republicans, with its chairman being hard-line pro-life Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH).

The same issue prevails for Democrats, although less promisingly so. The vast majority of Democratic candidates for Congress either take no position on abortion, or identify as pro-choice, and vote in a pro-choice way. The Time magazine only identified three pro-life Democrats in the House of Representatives. Even so, the three pro-life Democrats do not have a strongly pro-life voting record. Next to Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) is Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D). Cuellar received a 48 from NRLC and a 64 from NARAL, placing him roughly in position with Rep. John Katko (R-NY), the second pro-choice Republican in Congress. The problem is less profound for Democrats than for Republicans is because of Democrats’ softer and weaker self-identification on abortion issue, yet Republicans have a stronger self-identification. Bob Casey indicated a pro-life position, but his voting records are very pro-choice, only voting against NARAL position three times and against all NRLC positions in the 114th congress (all Democratic Senators either missed the vote or voted against invoking cloture on H.R. 36, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, including Casey, Donnelly, and Manchin). Democrats also had fewer members that had a score other than 200 than Republicans had for a score more than 0.

This paper, however, relies heavily on recent voting data provided by NARAL and NRLC in 114th congress only. Although the recent congress is not a concern given the large number of departures and arrivals from party caucus each election. However, it would be easier to acquire the whole picture on abortion and partisan issues if the scope of the investigation is provided to track a longer period of time, such as beginning in the 104th congress when polarization started to evolve in America. In 2006 and 2010, the extreme amount of polarization almost erased liberal Republicans representing Democratic presidential districts and conservative Democrats representing Republican presidential districts, respectively.

The degree of primary competition has also influenced how an individual representative votes in Congress. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) represents West Virginia, a state that voted more than 40 points for the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. In order to sate his wider constituents, Manchin sticked to a strictly centrist to center-right approach in voting, confirming Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General and Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury Secretary. However, his centrism attracted primary opponents—environmentalist Paula Jean Swearengin (D-WV) announced a Democratic primary run against Manchin on an anti-coal and staunchly liberal platform (4). Although it would be difficult for Swearengin to prevail, there is certainly a history of Republican tea party candidates defeating establishment centrist Republicans deteriorating Republican electoral successes. Christine O’Donnell, a tea-party backed candidate, defeated Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) in the Republican primary, almost guaranteeing a Chris Coons (D-DE) victory given Delaware general election voters’ dislike for a hard-line conservative candidate like O’Donnell. Polls before primary showed a significant Castle advantage over Coons. Coons defeated O’Donnell by 17 points despite O’Donnell overspending Coons 2-1. Similar story happened in Nevada the same year, where tea-party backed Sharron Angle defeated establishment backed Sue Lowden in the Republican primary. Angle lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Harry Reid by 7 points. In 2012, moderate Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) was defeated by State Treasurer Richard Muerdock (R-IN) in the Republican primary, giving then-Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) an opening to acquire a Democratic Senate seat in Indiana. All these examples indicate that voting against party’s official position—especially in non-swing or opposing party states—is politically risky. Therefore, a strong primary election risk disables politicians to vote against their party’s official positions.

This research can definitely be improved by providing a long-term trend line comparing positions on abortion from previous congresses and infer a long-term shift in abortion-related position alterations.Yet, voting positions still depend on state and constituents represented. Sen. Murkowski was elected in part because Democrats and independents broke heavily writing her in in 2010 to defeat tea partier Joe Miller, who won the Republican primary over Sen. Murkowski. Murkowski still voted in a conservative way that the Democrats and Independents who elected her would not be extremely satisfied (Sen. Murkowski received 39.9% in 2016, the lowest percentage of votes an incumbent senator running for reelection received in 2016). Sen. Donnelly represents a 60% Trump state, and Sen. Manchin represents a 70% Trump state—although they have conservative views on abortion, they are still much more liberal than what a Republican would be expected to vote. In conclusion, partisanship trumps ideology, at least on the issue of abortion. An individual congressperson’s personal ideology would not be as determinative as their partisanship would suggest.

Endnotes

  1. “Congressional Record on Choice.” NARAL Pro-Choice America. Accessed July 07, 2017. https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/laws-policy/congressional-record-choice/.

  2. “Legislative Action Center.” National Right to Life Committee. Accessed July 07, 2017. https://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/home/.

  3. “Key Roll Call Votes.” National Right to Life. Accessed July 07, 2017. https://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/vote.xc?votenum=314&chamber=S&congress=1141&voteid=68834631&state=US.

  4. “Paula Jean.” Brand New Congress. July 07, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2017. https://brandnewcongress.org/paula-jean.

Bibliography

Cohn, Nate. “Jay Rockefeller’s in Big Trouble in West Virginia—and So Are the Dems.” New Republic. November 29, 2012. Accessed July 09, 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/ 110549/democratic-losses-in-coal-country-put- rockefeller-in-danger.

Cooney, Samantha. “Democrats Who Support Anti- Abortion Legislation Are Men – Motto.” Time. May 18, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2017. http://motto.time.com/4782994/democrats-anti- abortion-men-congress/.

Lett, Phoebe. “The Endangered Pro-Choice Republican.” The New York Times. December 24, 2015. Accessed July 09, 2017. https:// takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/24/the- endangered-pro-choice-republican/.

Decoding Abortion: How Abortion went from an Unknown Medical Procedure to No. 1 Social Issue in America

Introduction

Abortion is the medical procedure of the termination of pregnancy after the elimination of the fetus. Because of the procedure’s grim nature, it is one of the most heated topics up for debate in the United States. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2016 indicates that 98% of Americans have an opinion in the abortion debate (Mitchell, 2017); a CNN/ORC survey conducted in 2015 also concurs the percentage by indicating only 1% of Americans have no opinion on the abortion debate (Agiesta, 2015). However, since the complexity of the abortion debate is extensive and has multitudes of impacts socially, politically, and religiously, for that abortion has been viewed as one of the pressing issues concerning the “religious freedom” (American center of law and justice, 2016) of some faith-based and/or conservative groups. In left-leaning/liberal groups, the fundamental right of abortion is deeply entrenched in the organizations’ manifestos and platforms (Dorf, 2016). In this paper, the origins of abortion, the history of abortion as a medical procedure, the process of legalizing abortion procedures, and the debate surrounding abortion as a social issue are discussed in an expository manner.

Origins of Abortion

The origin of abortion is not clear, but some have described the process as “as old as pregnancy” (Klabusich, 2016). Most primitive abortion methods are nonsurgical, such as climbing, weightlifting, contacting heated metal rods, stepping onto a viper, and others.  “A range of oils, herbs and liquids such as wine, seawater and vinegar have been described in early writings to […] induce abortion” (Wright, 2010). Fossil records indicate early surgical processes conducting abortions, but such records are not available in a wide-spreading capacity (Department of Classics, 1999). Later, some plants and natural products were found to have the ability to induce abortion, including the infamous pennyroyal teas (Riddle, 1992, p.47).

Legal Restrictions to Abortion

In the 19th century, after tremendous progress in surgical proceedings, abortions were conducted by surgeons on a wide scale, while medical abortions were used concurrently. However, as abortion technology prospers, legal restrictions evolved. In 1803, an English statute abolished the previously-legal first trimester abortions. The act “condemned the willful, malicious, and unlawful use of any medical substance when used with the intent to induce abortion” (Stern, 1968). In 1821, Connecticut enabled the first statute in the United States regulating abortions. Within 10 years, states like Illinois, Ohio, New York, Alabama, and others enabled abortion restriction statutes, and by 1968, 50 of the 51 jurisdictions in the United States have prohibited abortion except if women’s life is endangered (Ibid., at 3). In 1965, Britain, however, legalized abortion for “medical conditions of the mother, for socio-economic reasons, for eugenic considerations, and for pregnancies which resulted from rape or incestuous intercourse”, which is still law today (Ibid, at 4). In Canada, abortion has been legalized since 1969 through Bill C-150 if “a committee of three physicians determined that the pregnancy was a threat to the woman’s life or health” (Norman, 2012). In 1988, Canadian Supreme Court struck down bill C-150’s provision requiring committee approval to receive an abortion in its decision in R v Morgentaler, legalizing abortion across Canada for any reasons (Ibid.). American lawmakers, however, did not consider making abortion legal nationwide. Nevertheless, some state legislatures enabled statutes permitting abortion under different circumstances, sometimes after referendums, as is the case in the state of Washington. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that a Texas law criminalizing abortion would violate the right of privacy, and is therefore unconstitutional (Oyez, n.d.). The decision legalized abortion in the United States nationwide, striking down the 47 remaining laws criminalizing abortion. However, unlike most other countries who concluded the abortion debate after corresponding legislations and/or court cases, Americans still struggle to obtain safe and legal access to abortion. Many states, mostly Republican-leaning states, enabled bills requiring parental/spousal notification (struck down in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1993), hospital admitting privilege and ambulatory surgical center certifications (struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016), as well as safety, location, funding requirements, making abortion difficult to access. In Mississippi, for example, only one location in the state is legally permitted to perform an abortion, down from five available ten years ago. Additionally, many candidates, especially Republican candidates, running for offices would make abortion a central part of their platform, promising to act on the abortion issue. For instance, when Republican pro-life Senator Roy Blunt was unexpectedly campaigning in a tight race in the heavily conservative state of Missouri, various pro-life organizations flocked to Missouri to air advertisements or publish opinion articles to promote Blunt’s views (Musgrave, 2016). Likewise, when Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson was campaigning for his reelection, his pro-life views were challenged by several Democratic and pro-choice organizations (Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 2016).

Argument for Control of Abortion

The abortion debate, although mostly calm and settled in other countries, such as the case of Canada (Ling, 2017), is far from settled in the United States. In Canada, Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer pledged to refuse to reopen the abortion debate despite being an ardent social conservative himself. In the United Kingdom, abortion does not appear anywhere on the two major parties’ manifestos, with the same scenario in France, Germany, Spain, and almost all developed countries except the United States. As stated previously, 98% of the American general populous has an opinion on the abortion issue (Mitchell, 2017). The majority of arguments in the United States, unsurprisingly, come from religious oppositions. 53% of Americans identify religion as a “very important aspect” of their lives, down from 58% in 2007 but still astoundingly high among industrialized countries (Wormald, 2015). The most widely utilized argument against abortion would state that the process of abortion would deprive the fetus of the right to life under the assumption that “a human foetus is a human life” and human fetuses has “intrinsic value” (Pollock, 2007), and destroying valuable subjects require justification. While religion is not directly mentioned in this argument, its essence is conveyed through religious expressions. The assumption that a human fetus is a human object in the Western perspective largely comes from the Bible, which states “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7, The New International Version). This became the foundation of Christian arguments against abortion, and is the most widely used argument in the abortion debates. However, other rationalizations have shed light on the issue as well. In 1989, Don Marquis published his famous essay “Why Abortion is Immoral” on the Journal of Philosophy, arguing that abortion morally deprives the fetus’s potential future, and the value of life the fetus may enjoy were it not be aborted, resulting in significant mental stress for the mother. (Marquis, 1989, 190). Marquis’s argument was said to be the “best secular argument” (Strong, 2008) against abortion, and no other argument was convincing enough to crack it. However, Strong argues in his 2008 paper that the essential argument Marquis puts is unacceptable because emotional analysis shows that receiving an abortion does not result in significant mental distress for the mother, especially if the abortion were to be out of the mother’s health reasons. Therefore, Marquis’s central argument would be invalid. Jack Mulder also rebukes both Marquis’s argument and proposed a pro-choice talking point that women’s health trumps “moral superiority” as proposed by Marquis. Mulder argues that “cortical brain activity”, necessary for consciousness, only develops “around 25–32 weeks after fertilization”, therefore making it ineligible to claim that a fetus could be called a person. From a woman’s perspective, Mulder states “even if a fetus counted as a person, the fetus’s rights would not extend to the right to draw sustenance and protection from the pregnant woman” (Mulder, 2013). As a result of these prior philosophical researches, although we can conclude with reasonable certainty that pro-choice arguments are generally stronger than pro-life arguments, personal bias would be difficult to overcome. A pro-choice person would argue in favor of pro-choice positions and vice versa.

Discussion

Abortion has been a divisive issue since the 1960s. As expositors, our objective is to present the facts in a manner as fact-driven and neutral as possible. It is difficult to not inject personal opinions, but personal opinions should be avoided as much as possible. Hopefully, this paper accomplished these objectives, positioning as close to truth as possible.

Works Cited

Agiesta, J. (2015, September 14). CNN/ORC Poll: Views on guns, immigration, abortion. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/14/politics/cnn-poll-guns-immigration-abortion-2016/

American center for law and justice; ACLJ calls supreme court action on abortion mandate “significant victory for religious freedom”. (2016). Politics & Government Business, , 10. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/1791393315?accountid=14656

Department of Classics. (1999). Abortion. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://web.archive.org/web/20070629085332/http://www.unc.edu/courses/rometech/public/content/special/Stephanie_Doerfler/Abortion.html

Dorf, M. C. (2016, May 13). Make no mistake, abortion is a fundamental right. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from http://www.newsweek.com/abortion-roe-wade-fundamental-right-412908

Ling, J. (2017, May 29). Andrew Scheer will oppose transgender rights, fight gun regulations, fund homeschooling. Retrieved June 08, 2017, from https://news.vice.com/story/andrew-scheer-will-oppose-transgender-rights-fight-gun-regulations-fund-homeschooling

Klabusich, K. (2016, January 22). Abortion Is as Old as Pregnancy: 4,000 Years of Reproductive Rights History. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34529-abortion-is-as-old-as-pregnancy-4-000-years-of-reproductive-rights-history

Norman, W. (2012). Induced abortion in canada 1974-2005: Trends over the first generation with legal access. Contraception, 85(2), 185-191. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2011.06.009

Marquis, D. (1989). Why abortion is immoral. The Journal of Philosophy, 86(4), 183-202. doi:10.2307/2026961

Mitchell, T. (2017, January 11). Public Opinion on Abortion. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from http://www.pewforum.org/2017/01/11/public-opinion-on-abortion-2/#

Mulder, J. (2013). a short argument against abortion rights. Think, 12(34), 57-68. doi:10.1017/S1477175613000080

Musgrave, M. (2016, November 04). Missouri: A 2016 Pro-Life Battleground We Must Win. Retrieved June 04, 2017, from http://www.lifenews.com/2016/11/01/missouri-a-2016-pro-life-battleground-we-must-win/

Planned Parenthood Action Fund. (2016). Ron Johnson. Retrieved June 04, 2017, from https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/elections/candidates/senate/ron-johnson

Pollock, W. J. (2007). an argument against abortion on demand. Ratio, 20(1), 71-74. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9329.2007.00347.x

Riddle, J. M., & ACLS Humanities E-Book. (1992). Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the renaissance. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Roe v. Wade. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved June 2, 2017, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18

Stern, L. G. (1968). Abortion: Reform and the law. The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, 59(1), 84-95.

Strong, C. (2008). A critique of “the best secular argument against abortion”. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34(10), 727-731. doi:10.1136/jme.2008.024646

Whole Woman’s Health, et al. v. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services, et al., No. 579 slip op. at ___ (June 27, 2016).

Wright, J. (2010). A history of contraception. British Journal of School Nursing, 5(7), 356-357. doi:10.12968/bjsn.2010.5.7.78291

Wormald, B. (2015, November 02). U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious. Retrieved June 08, 2017, from http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

French Presidential Election: Election-day Modeling and Accountability of Polling Estimates

The French are already in polling places ready to elect their first new president in five years, replacing the scandal-marred Socialist incumbent Francois Hollande. If a candidate wins 50% in this round, he or she becomes the next president without a runoff, of which the top-two candidates not receiving 50% partakes, but sans the largest polling error in the history of the industry, that is a statistical impossibility. The polls now show the far-left, center-left, right-wing, and far-right candidates all having a fair shot of making into the runoff election.

The four frontrunners in this campaign are centrist Emmanuel Macron, nationalist conservative Marine Le Pen, globalist conservative Francois Fillon, and neo-communist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Macron, a former Socialist and economy and finance minister in the Hollande-Valls cabinet who quit both the cabinet and party to create his own political movement En Marche and run as the new party’s presidential candidate. Macron has prolonged lead in the polls, a lead that he has maintained since late February, when he received centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou’s endorsement and news agencies reported the right-wing candidate Francois Fillon’s scandals. However, Macron’s lead in the polls never put him in a safe position that he would be assured a runoff spot. Polls also reported the low lever of loyalty among Macron supporters, a sign of potential danger of a strong unexpected surge from either Fillon or Melenchon.

The candidate appearing next in the polls is far-right nationalist conservative Marine Le Pen. Daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of far-right, anti-semitic, and formerly neo-Nazi National Front, Marine Le Pen has taken a moderate approach, such as moderation of language, lifting of anti-semitic policies, toward his father’s signature nationalist movement, but the message remains a nationalist conservative one, including elements such as “France for French” and “force of (French) people”. Le Pen promises a referendum for exiting the European Union were she to be elected, with herself seeing EU as hostile to the French people. After having a prolonged lead over other candidates in first-round polls, Le Pen’s poll numbers are in a slight decline, but still remains in a commanding position to make the runoff due to extraordinary loyalty among her supporters, with her left-leaning, welfare-expanding, message appealing to the white working-class voters.

The next candidate is the right (Les Republicains in French)’s nominee Francois Fillon. A former prime minister in president Sarkozy’s administration, Fillon beat his former boss Sarkozy and another former prime minister Alain Juppe in November’s Republican primary. Fillon is the most conservative of the three candidates in the Republican primary, echoing Judeo-Christian values in his campaign messages with a strong social conservative platform, akin to a mainline Southern Republican running for governor in Georgia. Fillon’s poll numbers have declined since Le Canard enchaîné reported Fillon’s wife Penelope Fillon receiving a public salary of EUR 500,000 while doing little work as Francois Fillon’s assistant, but the general public has since forgotten about the incident, allowing Fillon to regain some ground in polls, standing in a weak position for runoff but certainly possible because of a polling error or trend continuation.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the candidate for France Insoumise, or Unsubmissive France, a far-left, neo-communist political movement that also echoes nationalist (economic) values and is mildly opposed to European Union, seeing it as an oppressor of liberty, but unlike Le Pen’s national front, Melenchon emphasizes social deregulation and a left-wing economic message, which is perceived as more genuinely pro-worker and commoners than pro-business than Le Pen’s. Melenchon received an unexpected surge recently, beating Socialist’s Hamon to fifth place while taking a solid 18% in the polls with an upward trend. Melenchon has a fair shot of making runoff as a trend continuation, although his chance of entering runoff is not high.

This model estimates the expected vote share of French presidential candidates, adjusted by other poll/election differences in other European countries, and weighted trend continuation in recent first-round polls. Election data in Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, and the United Kingdom are used to adjust the ideology score.

Country Party Average poll Election result % Difference
Netherlands Party for Freedom (PVV)

21.167

20

5.8

Austria (1st) Freedom Party (FPO)

25.92

35.05

-26

Austria (2nd, Jun)

51.76

49.65

4.2

Austria (2nd, Dec)

51

46.21

10.4

Ireland Irish Renewal (RI)

2.2

2.2

0

Denmark People’s Party (O)

17.94

21.1

-15

United Kingdom UK Independence Party (UKIP)

11.8

12.9

-8.5

Average

-3.6375

Table 1: Difference in far-right support in poll number and election result in Europe

Country Party Average poll Election result % Difference
Netherlands Party for Freedom and Democracy and Christian Democrats (VVD and CDA)

48.4

52

-6.9

Austria (1st) People’s Party (OVP)

10.04

11.12

-9.7

Ireland Fianna Fail and Fine Gael

(FF and FG)

50.2

49.8

0.8

Spain People’s Party (PP)

29.2

33

-11.5

Denmark Venstre (V)

20.46

19.5

4.9

United Kingdom Conservative Party (Tories)

34.8

37.8

-7.9

Average

-5.05

Table 2: Difference in center-right support in poll number and election result in Europe

Country Party Average poll Election result % Difference
Netherlands Democrats 66 and Labor Party and Socialist Party (D66 and PvdA and SP)

41.6

42

-1

Austria (1st) Social Democratic Party and Green Party (SPO and G)

39.52

32.62

21.2

Ireland Labour Party (Lab)

6.2

6.6

-6.1

Spain Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE)

21.74

22.6

-3.8

Denmark Social Democrats (A)

25.24

26.3

-4

United Kingdom Labour Party and Liberal Democrats (Lab and LD)

41

39.3

4.3

Average

1.76666666666667

Table 3: Difference in center-left support in poll number and election result in Europe

Country Party Average poll Election result % Difference
Netherlands Green Left Party (GL)

17.2

14

22.9

Ireland Sinn Fein (SF)

16

13.8

15.9

Spain Unidos Podemos (UP)

25.2

21.2

18.9

Denmark Socialist People’s Party (F)

17.94

21.1

-15

United Kingdom Green Party (Green)

5.8

3.8

52.6

Average

15.28

Table 4: Difference in far-left support in poll number and election result in Europe

Source: Linked Wikipedia

As evidenced in the previous tables, polls are most likely to underestimate mainstream right support while emphasizing far-left support, a trend consistent with most nations with accurate polling. The same reasoning can be applied to French elections. Fillon would be underestimated while Melenchon would be overestimated, with Macron and Le Pen receiving no significant difference. In table 5, weighted averaged polling numbers are shown.

Candidate Late April Mid April Early April Unadj Estimate
Macron

12.1

7.722

4.199

24.021

Le Pen

11.25

7.359

4.25

22.859

Fillon

9.6

6.237

3.179

19.016

Melenchon

9.6

6.567

2.601

18.768

Table 5: Unadjusted Estimated Vote Share for each candidate in French election

In this table, we can see that French candidates’ positions have not moved significantly since early April, except Melenchon receiving a major surge while Le Pen declined slightly. The final step of this model is to adjust estimated results with ideological scores calculated in tables 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Candidate Unadjusted Estimate Adjustment Factor Adjusted Estimate
E. Macron

24.021

1.76

23.6

M. Le Pen

22.859

-3.63

23.69

F. Fillon

19.016

-5.05

19.98

J. Mélenchon

18.768

15.28

15.9

Table 6: Unadjusted Estimated Vote Share for each candidate in French election

Table 7 would provide the possibility of each candidate in making runoff. The estimated mark for runoff is 20.79%, after taking average of adjusted estimates.

Candidate Adjusted Estimate Standard Derivation Chance of Making Runoff
E. Macron

23.6

2.787

77.9%

M. Le Pen

23.69

4.197

67.9%

F. Fillon

19.98

2.652

34.3%

J. Mélenchon

15.9

6.357

19.9%

Table 7: Chance for runoff

  To conclude, although the two front-runners have a good chance of entering the runoff (in “strongly-lean” and “slightly-lean” positions, respectively), there is a significant chance that either Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen will not enter the runoff (possibility: 27.1%), or both do not enter the runoff (possibility: 7.2%). Watchers worldwide need to pay close attention and have realistic hopes for their preferred candidates entering runoff. With an electorate this fractured, anything could happen.

Georgia’s 6th Congressional District: Pre-election Briefings

With Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election coming imminently, Democrats and Republicans alike are panicking around the potential results of this crucial special election in this highly educated Republican-leaning, but anti-Trump region located in the deep South. This special election, although would not influence the control of the House in any ways (as the seat would be up for election again in 2018), is seen by many as a bellwether of the state of the race in 2018.

The district is unique in many ways. The district is one of the first in the Deep South to abandon Democratic party loyalty in favor of Republican ideological purity. It was the district that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich held for 22 years; immediately after Gingrich retired, Johnny Isakson held the district for 6 years, and most recently it was the home district of Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. 4 years ago, the idea that district is competitive is incomprehensible. The district voted 59.0-40.1 for Senator John McCain and 60.8-37.5 for Governor Mitt Romney, making the district have a Cook PVI of R+13 ahead of 2016 presidential and general election. Yet, this district with ample of highly educated voters resoundingly rejects Donald Trump as the Republican party’s standard-bearer, with only 48.3% of the voters voting in favor of the New York businessman, while 46.8—a resounding percentage that no Democrat was able to get in this district ever since Jimmy Carter—opted for Hillary Clinton.

This special election carries many weight and hope from the “bold progressives” nationwide. Winning this district is symbolic—a Democrat sitting in the codifier of 1994’s Contract with America would mean the beginning of a Democratic counterrevolution, and more extensively making inroads in traditional Republican territory such as Georgia, which has been trending Democratic for years but true Democratic support never materialized. Winning this district would also open the door for “sun-belt strategy” for the Democrats, finding a pathway to majority after the rise of Trumpism largely consuming rust belt and other midwestern targets (IA-03, MI-01, WI-06, etc).

The leading candidate in this race is former congressional aide and investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old Democrat who has largely carried the entire Democratic base. He is guaranteed to finish first in the Louisiana-styled primary later today, but his support level would be determinative of whether this district could actually flip Democratic. If Ossoff receives 50% outright, he becomes Congressman-elect, and in the more likely circumstance of him not clearing the mark, a runoff would be needed against the second place.

Many predicts that were Ossoff to not clear 50% in the first round, the district’s Republican leaning and consolidation of his Democratic base (facing virtually no credible other Democratic candidates, other than Ron Slotin whose support never materialized more than 2%), but I have no inclination to hold up such prediction as true. To reach my conclusion, we have to introduce the Republican candidates first.

The leading Republican contender for this seat is former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, the first elected Republican Georgia Secretary of State ever. Handel finished first in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial jungle primary, but was narrowly topped out by Rep. Nathan Deal, who later became Governor and as of today still is, by a 0.4 point margin. In 2014 Handel ran for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but finished third after businessman David Perdue, who won the seat after beating Michelle Nunn in the general election.

Handel always had stellar performance in this district. Per DDHQ’s analysis, Handel carried District 6 in both her 2010 run for governor and 2014 run for Senate, so she should be expected to carry the district again today against other Republican candidates, but this two-time loser might have a hard time winning against other three strong Republican candidates—Bob Gray, Judson Hill, and Dan Moody.

The next prominent candidate is businessman who, like Perdue and Ossoff, never held political offices before. He is running on an unapologetic pro-Trump platform and literally tried to drain a swamp in one of his TV ads. Gray has offered Trump his unreserved support, but reciprocal support from anti-Trump groups do not seem decent.

Attachment 1: Video showing Gray draining a swamp

It’s noteworthy that Gray has run attack ads on Karen Handel and Republican groups also have done the same. A Club for Growth ad was targeting Handel as a “big-spending career politician”, and such remarks will not bode well with the runoff, were there to be one.

Judson Hill and Dan Moody, both former state Senators, have consolidated a support around 9%, behind Hill and Gray, but polling in special elections are not extremely reliable, so don’t be surprised to see both State Senators at the runoff. Judson Hill’s former State Senate seat is also up for election. State Senate district 32, a R+20 district that backed Romney 67-31, is expected to be an easy hold for the Republicans but a special election environment plus in an anti-Trump Cobb County area would open the door for surprises. Another Republican candidate David Abroms has the support of Evan McMullin, and that’s likely to get him a few points, but probably not enough to make the runoff.

After an introduction of the Republican candidates, it is apparent that whoever the Republican candidate is, he or she is unlikely to garner the full Republican support. According to runoff polls, Bob Gray, contrary to public opinion among the liberal circles, is expected to be the candidate with most chances to win the runoff (see Emerson poll, Revily Poll, as well as Opinion Savvy poll–more likely voters have an opinion about Gray (in supporting-opposing him, as opposed to with Handel)). Were Handel to be the final Republican nominee, which is likely, the race would be Leans D at worst given the volume of attack ads on her and Ossoff’s seemingly insurmountable financial advantage. Were the Republican nominee to be Gray, the race would be Tossup/Tilts R, given Gray’s clean record as well as his full-fledged support for Trump, whose approval in this district is still 47-48. However, we cannot exclude the possibility of Handel, instead of endorsing Gray like a normal Republican would, endorses Ossoff or makes no endorsement, like Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle in Louisiana’s 2015 gubernatorial race, given Gray’s hostility towards her and her policy positions.

As a closing remark, money works. Ossoff’s 8.3 million is able to deliver him an universal name recognition in the district, like Donald Trump currently enjoys. It is important to know were Ossoff to not win this outright today, whoever may the Republican nominee be, he or she will not consolidate 100% of the Republican support. Given the race’s nationalized status, in my heart I have been considering Ossoff a favorite, but only time will tell if my internal prediction comes out to be true.

Partisan Voting Index for 2016 Elections By Congressional District

I made many posts on Partisan Voting Index so I am going to skip the explanation part–read Wikipedia if you really want to know its definition. I didn’t have time to post this because of the personal issues I have been going through but I think now it’s finally a good time.

 

Some interesting phenomenons:

TX-29 saw the largest PVI swing to the Democrats, from D+13.1 to D+18.7, a 5.5 point swing (due to rounding).

WV-03 saw the largest PVI swing to the Republicans, from R+13.1 to R+22.6, a 9.4 point swing.

The most Republican district remains Thornberry’s TX-13, being R+33.4.

The most Democratic district remains Serrano’s NY-15, an astonishing D+44.5 (with zero change from 2012 PVI).

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This table shows how districts swung. In short, they swung Republican with the country on a new even level.

 

Congressional District election results credit to Daily Kos. 

 

Download spreadsheet here: PVI-by-CD-credit-to-daily-kos

 

 

An Argument for Ranked Choice Voting in a School Election Context

1 Introduction

 

Electoral reform is one of the main goals mentioned by Justin Trudeau (and his Liberal party)’s 2015 federal election platform; the goal has since been abandoned, but the survey (mydemocracy.ca) has communicated a clear message to the Canadian public—Canadians are not satisfied with first-past-the-post voting system. (Canada 2017) On pp. 53 of the report, 62% of the weighted participants were in favor of a ranked-choice system, including 33% strongly in favor, as opposed to only 28% expressing their preference for the current electoral system, with only 17% strongly opposing the ranked choice initiative. There are overwhelming public support for the proposed ranked choice voting initiative in Canada as a whole.  If executed correctly, ranked choice balloting system would substantially improve the power of votes and the voting procedures, as evidenced in allowing voters to have multiple preferences over whom they want to cast their ballots to.

 

2 Methodology

 

The methodology for ranked choice voting is not difficult to understand. In a plurality system, voters only vote for one candidate and the election winner would be the candidate receiving most votes regardless of whether a majority has been reached or not. Under a ranked system, instead of voting for just one candidate, voters can rank the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are counted initially for voters’ first choices. If a candidate wins 50% of the votes, he or she wins the election. If no candidate secures a majority, the candidate placing last in the first-preference ballots would get eliminated, and second preference ballots would be counted and added onto first preference ballots. If still no candidate receives a majority, another round of balloting would continue, and so forth until a majority has been reached.

 

3 Advantages

 

Under this system, voters would be allowed to express multiple preferences, dumping the first-past-the-post (also known as plurality) system of which voters could choose one and only one candidate, voters would be allowed to express a broad amount of preferences, ranking from most preferred to least preferred, effectively eliminating “vote-splitters” to make elections more fair and democratic.

 

4 Disadvantages

 

A ranked choice ballot does not meet satisfy all of unanimity, non-dictatorship, and independence of irrelevant alternatives, which is defined as “if the voters’ rankings of two candidates A and B are the same in two different election scenarios, then the social rankings of A and B must be the same,” (Pacuit 2011) and the addition or removal of candidates between A and B does not affect the ranking of candidates A and B on the social ranking, together An effective solution to this problem is to implement a range voting system, but adopting such system would require an undue amount of burdens and is not optimal for a school election context.

 

5 Implementation

 

A plurality ballot (the balloting system we currently use) would require little alterations in order for it to meet the requirements of a ranked ballot. In fact, on a school ballot, only two simple changes are required to convert it to a ranked ballot. One change is by changing voter ticking box instruction from vote for one to vote for several candidates, another is by changing ballot instruction from vote for one candidate only to rank the candidates according to your preferences.

6 Conclusion

 

Ranked Choice Voting is effective at eliminating vote splitters and would largely put an end to tactical voting. Although it does not prevent vote-splitting from happening (eliminations), on most occasions, votes would count for what they are worth, with ideologically similar camps being represented proportionally in the Student Government, rather than electing candidates representing only one ideological position due to the existence of vote splitters. IRV has obvious weaknesses, as candidates may not necessarily win even if they are indeed preferred by majority of voters, but the benefits IRV brings far outcompetes the potential weaknesses, which is not prevented by retaining first-past-the-post system, it has, and the adoption of IRV is imperative for successfully promoting democracy in a scholastic context.

 

7 References

 

Canada. Privy Council Office. MyDemocracy.ca Online Digital Consultation and Engagement Platform. By Vox Pop Labs Inc. Vox Pop Labs, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

 

Pacuit, Eric. “Voting Methods.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 03 Aug. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

 

Poll: Trump unpopular, but still leads Warren by double digits

Eastern Research is my own polling apparatus. It is not a polling firm as it has no employee other than myself. 

Vancouver, B.C. – Eastern Research’s new national poll shows Trump remains the most unpopular president ever inaugurated since the invention of national polls. Three weeks into the administration, only 48% of the eligible voters say they are satisfied with the performance of Donald J. Trump as president, as compared to 52% who disapprove.

Voters, however, do not translate Trump’s unpopularity with votes for the Democratic candidate. However, by a 47 – 25 margin, voters prefer Donald Trump over Democratic frontrunner Elizabeth Warren, with 28% of voters remaining undecided.

Among men, a bare majority (52-48) approves Trump’s performance, while a significant majority (57-43) of women disapprove his performance. Among the youth, overwhelming majorities of the population dislike Trump, but only one age group (18-24 years olds) prefer Warren over Trump for president.

Eastern Research surveyed 394 adults from across the country on February 6th and 7th. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3%. The sample was randomly selected from a set of population using Google-ads enabled services. The sample was weighted to reflect American demographics, while crosstabs are unweighted.

Q1

Do you approve the performance of President Donald J. Trump?

Approve…………………………….48%

Disapprove…………………………52%

Not sure………………………….…0%

Q2

If the next presidential election were held today, would you vote for Donald Trump (R) or Elizabeth Warren (D)?

Trump……………………………..47%

Warren……………………………25%

Undecided………………………..28%

Q3

If you are a man, choose option 1, if you are a woman, choose option 2.

Man…………………………….…47%

Woman………………..………….53%

Q4

If you are between 18-24 years old, choose option 1, if you are between 25-34 years old, choose option 2, if you are between 34-45 years old, choose option 3, if you are between 46-64 years old, choose option 4, if you are 65 years or older, choose option 5.

18-24 years old……………………8%

25-34 years old…………………..12%

34-45 years old…………………..20%

46-64 years old…………………..40%

65 years or older…………………20%

Download Release Package here