Obama 332
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Romney 206
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Dem 47
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Ties 4
GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (177)
  • Likely Dem (48)
  • Barely Dem (107)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (15)
  • Likely GOP (49)
  • Strongly GOP (142)
270 Electoral votes needed to win Map algorithm explained
New polls: WV
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: IN NC
PW logo Bain Capital Under Investigation for Tax Avoidance Two Polls Show No Bounce for Romney
What Political Reporters are Missing Romney Exits Convention a Little More Likeable
Florida Convention Watchers Moved Slightly Towards Romney Bonus Quote of the Day

News from the Votemaster

Judge Allows Ohioans to Vote the Weekend before Election Day

The Republican-controlled Ohio State Legislature passed a law after the 2010 elections to stop early voting Friday evening before election day except for military families. Since the polls had to be open to accommodate any soldiers who showed up to vote, the law didn't save any money. It was more-or-less a naked attempt to reduce turnout for Democrats who thought they could vote in the weekend before election day and would then discover they couldn't. The Obama campaign sued the state and yesterday a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that, if upheld, will allow all voters to vote the weekend before the election.

It is not clear yet if the Romney campaign will appeal the ruling. Going to court this close to the election to make it harder for people to vote will have two effects. First, Obama will start running ads in Ohio saying that Romney doesn't want people to vote. Second, a court case will draw attention to the matter and probably cause some voters to change their voting plans. In any event, with a lot of publicity, fewer will show up and be turned away if the injunction is overturned. Given how important Ohio is to both parties, this is a major victory for Obama.

But it is important to note that Romney has also won a key victory in court this year. In Pennsylvania, a judge refused to declare Pennsylvania's voter ID law unconstitutional. It is estimated that 10% of Pennsylvania voters, mostly poor people and minorities, do not have a valid state ID and will not be allowed to vote.

2012 may differ from 2000 in an important way. In 2000, one big court case determined the election. This year the outcome may depend on lots of little cases, like these. A long time ago, the voters determined who won, not the judges. Welcome to the modern world.

If you want to keep up with the latest twists and turns in election law and cases, Election law blog, written by UCI law professor Rick Hasen is the place to look.

Fact Checkers Under Fire

It used to be that while everyone had his or her own opinion, at least there was agreement on the facts. In the modern hyperpartisan world, there is no agreement on the facts anymore. Candidates for office just make up whatever they want to, state it as a fact, and fight back hard when anyone produce solid evidence that they are wrong. Organizations like Factcheck.org, The Fact Checker, and Politifact.com routinely rate statements by politicians as four Pinocchios, Pants-on-fire lies, and similar things. And what do the politicians and their supporters do? They accuse the fact checkers of being biased!

Al Gore Calls for an End to the Electoral College

Al Gore is perhaps a bit slow on the draw but has now called for an end to the electoral college. If it had been abolished prior to 2000, he would have been President since he won the popular vote in 2000. Battles about the electoral college are as old as the country and are still going on. Here is a nice summary of the arguments.

Opponents of the electoral college say it is undemocratic and gives too much power to the small states. Wyoming, with 570,000 people has 3 electoral votes while California, with 38 million people has 55 electoral votes. This means that in Wyoming, there is one electoral vote for every 190,000 people while in California it is one EV for every 690,000 people. On the other hand, some people say the electoral college gives too much power to the big states. Both New Hampshire and Florida are swing states, but Obama and Romney have made many more visits to Florida than to New Hampshire because the former has 29 electoral votes and the latter has only 4.

Perhaps even more important is that because all states except Maine and Nebraska allocate all their electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote, no candidate for President ever campaigns in California, New York, or Texas because there is no doubt how they will go. Instead all the attention is given to fewer than a dozen "swing" states. If all the states split their electoral votes by congressional district, as Maine and Nebraska do, then candidates would visit all states since an extra electoral vote in Texas would be worth as much as one in Colorado.

Supporters of the electoral college say that it provides a firewall for the chaos resulting from a close election. In 2000, ballots were counted and challenged one at a time in Florida. The 2008 Minnesota Senate race had months of recounting and fighting before Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) was declared the winner by 312 votes. Imagine that the national popular vote was close and recounts had to happen nationwide. It would be a disaster, as well as an opportunity for partisan cheating.

The electoral college is not going to be changed soon, simply because too many politicians have too narrow a perspective. Wyoming politicians are focused on the fact that they currently have 3/538 = 0.56% of the power whereas in a national election they would have only 570,000/314,000,000 = 0.18% of the power. Texas politicians like the idea that all of its 38 EVs always go to the Republicans. Nevertheless, there is a movement afoot to de facto abolish the electoral college. It is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is that the constitution says states can allocate their EVs any way the state legislatures decides. The idea behind the NPVIC is to get states to pass laws saying that all their electoral votes go to the winner of the national popular vote, irrespective of who won the state. If states with 270 or more EVs pass such a law, in effect, the winner of the popular vote will be President. Currently eight states (Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, California, Washington, and Hawaii) plus D.C. have joined the compact. It is pending in New York, Pennsylania, and North Carolina. The compact only goes into effect when states with 270 EVs have signed up for it. In general, Democrats (and blue states) are for it and Republicans (and red states) are against it (see below). This could possible be an artifact of Gore's winning the popular vote in 2000 but losing the electoral college. If Romney wins the popular vote this year but loses the electoral college, everybody might switch sides.

What Happens if the Republicans Win?

You can't always tell what a President will do if elected from what he says on the campaign trail. Candidate Obama was against an individual mandate for buying health insurance but once in the White House, he was for it because wiser heads in the party (including Hillary Clinton) realized it was necessary. So how does a voter tell what a party really stands for? Actually, it is not hard to know. They even write it all down. It is called the platform and it is not a secret. You just have to read it. It represents a compromise between factions and a lot of horse trading: you vote for my plank and I'll vote for your plank. That doesn't necessarily guarantee the votes when a specific bill is under consideration in Congress, though.

It is said that the camel was a horse designed by a committee. The Republican platform clearly shows it was designed by a committee, too. Some of the more puzzling planks are these:

  • Repeal the 16th Amendment, which allowed the federal income tax
  • Police state universities for liberal bias
  • Oppose all attempts to abolish the electoral college
  • End our dependence on foreign fertilizer
  • Support statehood for Puerto Rico but not D.C.
  • Step up the war on pornography
  • Consider going back to the gold standard
  • Oppose the minimum wage for the Northern Mariana Islands

Some of these clearly have very specific constituencies. If there is such a thing, the American Association of Fertilizer Manufacturers, might have given some money to the party in return for a sentence indicating Republicans would support a tariff on foreign fertilizer. The plank about the gold standard was thrown in to placate Ron Paul. It will never happen.

Some of the items were included by people with a very specific axe to grind. Cheap clothing made in the Northern Mariana Islands is legally allowed to carry a "Made in USA" label. Some planks actually go against everything the party actually stands for. Do the Republicans really want a new government agency that would visit universities and have the power to fire left-leaning professors and shut down courses they felt were too socialist? Is such a broad infringement on free speech consistent with their call for smaller government and leaving as much to the states as possible? Clearly, during the platform committee's meetings, some members were complaining about universities and got the idea to throw this in. Maybe they kept whining about it long enough for the rest of the committee to decide to add it just to get them to shut up. That's how it goes with platform committees. The Democrats aren't any better. The items are just different.

All that said, the platform really does give a pretty good idea of what the Republicans would do if Romney wins and the GOP controls both chambers of Congress. The main thrust of the platform is that taxes are too high and there is too much government regulation of companies. It is a safe bet that if the Republicans win all the marbles, they will not only make all the Bush tax cuts permanent (using the budget reconciliation process if need be), but may go further and reduce them even more. The ultimate goal would indeed be repealing the federal income tax altogether, but getting 38 states to sign up for this is probably not feasible. Cutting the top tax rate is something Congress and the President can do on their own, however.

The other thing to expect is a massive reduction in federal regulations. While the optics of actually abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would look bad, a President Romney could appoint heads who would try to gut the agencies from the inside. Congress could decimate their budgets so they would have few inspectors to go out into the field and see if existing law was being enforced. Congress could also reduce the fines for violations without it getting a lot of publicity. Whether these things are good or bad is something the voters will decide on Nov. 6, but if the voters give the Republicans the green light, nobody who is paying attention now can say he or she was surprised at what they do. It's all laid out in the platform.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
West Virginia 38% 52%   Aug 22 Aug 25 R.L. Repass

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Michigan Debbie Stabenow* 51% Pete Hoekstra 44%     Aug 28 Aug 28 EPIC MRA

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster

Previous Headlines

Aug31 Romney Accepts the Republican Nomination for President
Aug31 Republicans Speak to Latinos but Ignore Immigration
Aug31 Winners and Losers from the Convention
Aug31 Media Invent Euphemisms for Ryan's Speech without Saying He Lied
Aug31 What Obama Must Do in Charlotte
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Aug30 Ryan Accepts Nomination, Attacks Obama on Medicare
Aug30 Ryan Speech Prompts Media Debate on How to Deal with Lying in Campaigns
Aug30 Republicans Give Women Starring Roles at Convention
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Aug30 Boehner Has Never Read Republican Platform
Aug30 Turnout Among College Students Could be Crucial
Aug29 Republicans Nominate Romney
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Aug29 Republican Platform Moves Sharply to the Right
Aug29 Candidates Average 5-Point Bounce After Convention
Aug29 Republican Insiders Split on Top Task for Convention
Aug28 First Day of Republican National Convention Lasts 2 Minutes
Aug28 Seven Factors that Will Determine the Convention's Success or Failure
Aug28 Ann Romney's Speech Tonight May Be the Most Important One
Aug28 Americans More Interested in GOP Platform than Romney's Speech
Aug28 Is 2012 just 2004 All Over Again?
Aug28 Why Do Republicans Say Obama is Divisive?
Aug28 First Day of Republican National Convention Lasts 2 Minutes
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Aug28 Ann Romney's Speech Tonight May Be the Most Important One
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Aug28 Is 2008 just 2004 All Over Again?
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Aug27 Why Did the Republicans Pick Hurricane-Prone Tampa?
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Aug27 Charlie Christ Endorses Obama
Aug27 Ron Paul Exits Gracefully
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Aug26 Why Do Cities Host Political Conventions?
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