Major New Report Identifies Gaps in the American Electorate

With just over three months until the 2016 election, a major new report from voting rights group Project Vote identifies where participatory gaps still exist in the American electorate.

In Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate, Project Vote Research Director LaShonda Brenson, Ph.D. analyzes registration and voting rates over every midterm and presidential election since 2004. The report examines participation for different demographic groups—according to race and ethnicity, age, gender, income, education, and other factors—to determine the ways in which the American electorate is becoming more or less representative of the citizen population.

“When our electorate does not accurately reflect the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of the United States, democracy is not working the way it’s supposed to work,” writes Project Vote’s president, Michael Slater, in his foreword to the report. “Our national priorities are skewed, our most vulnerable citizens are left out of the process, and our government does not represent who we are as a people.”

Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate provides comparative registration and voting data for the presidential elections of 2004, 2008, and 2012, and the midterm elections of 2006, 2010, and 2014, in order to trace how the composition of the electorate has changed in the 21st century. The report provides a comprehensive overview of where there is still significant work to be done to achieve a fully representative democracy.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • As has been widely reported, the 2014 midterm election marked a historic low in participation. Thirty-eight U.S. states had turnout rates under 50 percent in 2014, and the highest turnout rate was only 61 percent.
  • Black participation has been trending upwards over recent election cycles: since 2008, black Americans have been represented in the electorate in proportion to their numbers in the adult citizen population.
  • America’s growing population of Latino citizens remains significantly underrepresented at the polls: Latinos made up more than 11 percent of the adult citizen population in 2014, but just over 7 percent of the electorate.
  • Young citizens also continue to be severely underrepresented in the electorate: Americans under 30 made up 21 percent of the adult citizen population in 2014, but only 10 percent of the voting population.
  • Continuing historic patterns, the 2014 electorate skewed much wealthier than the general population. Less than a third of adult citizens making under $25,000 a year voted in 2014, compared to 51 percent of those earning over $100,000 dollars.
  • Gender and marital status are positively associated with higher registration and turnout figures. Women are typically more likely to participate in elections than men, and being married increases the likelihood that an individual will register and vote.

The report shows that, if disparities in participation had been eliminated in 2014, tens of millions more Americans would have voted:

  • If non-white Americans had participated at the same rates as white Americans, 8.4 million more votes would have been cast in 2014.
  • If people under 30 had participated at the same rate as those over 30, nearly 13 million more votes would have been cast.
  • If people making less than $25,000 a year had participated at the same rate as those making $100,000 or more, 9.8 million additional votes would have been cast.
  • If people with a high-school education or less had turned out at the same rate as those who had attended college, 15.6 million more votes would have been cast.
  • If persons with disabilities had turned out at the same rate as people with no reported disabilities, 2.4 million more votes would have been cast.

Looking ahead, it is clear that there is still enormous work to be done to ensure that the voice of the electorate successfully reflects the needs and interests of all Americans.

“The under-representation that we observe in voter registration and voter turnout is troubling,” writes Dr. Brenson. “Not only do these disparities have the potential to elect persons not representative of the population, but they also sway how current policies are enforced and whether new public policies are introduced that might address disparities.”

The full Representational Bias in the 2014 Electorate report is available here. A summary of key findings, individual tables and charts from the report, and individual fact sheets for all 50 states, are also available to download separately.

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Concord Coalition Releases ‘Key Questions’ for Candidates on Federal Budget

With the federal budget deficit on the rise again and the nation’s debt still on an unsustainable long-term path, The Concord Coalition today released this year’s version of its “Key Questions” that voters should ask candidates for federal office.

“Voters should expect candidates in this year’s elections to explain how they intend to deal with the huge challenges ahead,” Concord says in the introduction to the Key Questions. “This is no time for vague rhetoric and petty partisan jabs; voters should insist on credible solutions — the more specific, the better.”

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Topics covered by the questions include deficit-reduction plans, health care costs, candidates’ budget priorities, defense spending, the tax code, Social Security, other domestic spending and opportunities for bipartisan cooperation on fiscal reform. Candidates should also explain the relationship they see between getting our fiscal house in order and a strong economy.

“Key Questions Voters Should Ask Candidates About Our Fiscal Future” includes background information to help voters assess campaign rhetoric on all of these topics and evaluate whether individual politicians’ promises are responsible and their financial estimates reasonable.

Concord warns that some solutions won’t be easy because the problems go far beyond the simple “waste, fraud and abuse” that campaign speeches often dwell upon. Nor should voters expect strong economic growth alone to put the federal budget on a sustainable path.

The Key Questions are part of Concord’s “Lookout Campaign,” which encourages elected officials, candidates and the public to focus on the dangers posed by the growing pressures on the federal budget in the years ahead.  

“Doing nothing would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility, could jeopardize our economy and undermine our position of global leadership,” Concord says. “It would also burden our children and future generations with massive government debt. So what do the candidates propose? Voters have a right — and a responsibility — to find out.”

The document can be found here.

Argentina’s Election A Chance For Improved U.S. Relations & Justice For Victims Of 1994 Jewish Center Terror Attack

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today issued the following statement regarding the results of Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday:

“I congratulate the Argentine people and president-elect Mauricio Macri for a successful election in Argentina. The country has clearly chosen a new direction.

“For the first time in many years, the United States has an opportunity to work with Argentina’s leaders in supporting democracy and human rights, and in championing freedom throughout the Western Hemisphere. With this election result, I also hope that a fair and impartial investigation can finally be conducted into the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who was investigating Iran’s involvement in the bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people in 1994. Justice for Mr. Nisman and for the victims of the 1994 terrorist attack is long overdue.

“As Florida’s senator, I am proud to represent many Argentines who call Florida home. The United States should stand ready to help Argentina re-establish its natural and rightful place among the region’s political and economic leaders. It is my sincere hope that we can once again revive the strong and mutually beneficial relationship that we have enjoyed in the past.”

After Historic Venezuelan Elections, Political Prisoners Should Be Immediately Released

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, issued the following statement today regarding Venezuela’s historic elections:

“The people of Venezuela have courageously stood up demanding a better future and rejected not just the Maduro regime and all the misery it has brought to Venezuela, but also the axis of repression and tyranny that it represents in the Western Hemisphere.

“Maduro and his followers should accept the will of the Venezuelan people, and accept accountability for mismanaging the economy, destroying the rule of law and violating the fundamental rights of countless Venezuelans. Acknowledging the will of the Venezuelan people by releasing all political prisoners, including Leopoldo Lopez, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and San Cristóbal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, would be a positive start and should happen immediately.

“These election results are even more remarkable considering the Obama Administration’s neglectful, and at times counterproductive, approach to the Western Hemisphere. This outcome in Venezuela comes at a time when the Obama Administration is propping up Maduro’s allies in Havana, and despite the fact that mounting serious human rights abuses and repression have been met largely with indifference from the White House and a failure to fully implement a sanctions law I helped pass last year to crack down on human rights violators.”

SNL Financial Founder Reid Nagle Voices Opposition to Florida Horse Racing Decoupling

Before he started training Thoroughbred race horses in Florida five years ago, Reid Nagle had spent more than 30 years in the world of high finance.  In 1987 he founded SNL Financial, the premier multi-industry business intelligence service that caters to Wall Street and public companies worldwide.  Starting with four employees and a small office in Hoboken, New Jersey, today SNL has 3,300 employees, offices in 4 continents and was just sold last month to McGraw-Hill Financial for $2.25 billion.

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Currently, Nagle has 20 horses in training, split between Oak Ridge Equine Training Center in Morriston and Gulfstream Park.  He operates a high-end barn rental operation at Oak Ridge, and owns the largest manure removal and shavings delivery company serving the Ocala area—All-In Shavings and Removal. These rapidly growing horse-related enterprises collectively have 35 full-time employees in Florida.

Humble and soft-spoken, Nagle loves Florida and loves to train his Thoroughbreds here.  But Nagle’s love for the Sport of Kings was why he’s stepping up and voicing his objection to any legislative consideration of “decoupling”–a misguided plan he agrees will trash horse racing in Florida, and forcing him to export horses and jobs to more horse-racing friendly states.

“Decoupling casinos from horse racing will cripple our businesses,” he explained from his Central Florida operation.  “Opposing it is a no-brainer.”

“I’d very likely have to race my horses elsewhere,” he said, “because, at that point, Florida just won’t be able to compete effectively with the many other states that have kept the linkage between casino gambling and horse racing. Our other horse-related businesses would shrink dramatically as well.”

Florida horse racing industry officials have sounded the alarm at the recent surge of legislative interest in “decoupling,” which would effectively expand gambling by immediately creating stand-alone casinos and eliminating Florida’s competitive edge in attracting horse racing business from other states.

“Florida seems committed to doing anything and everything imaginable to compete with other states for business, and now some misguided legislators are considering changes that would cripple the State’s robust horse racing industry that attracts tourists and provides employment to tens of thousands of workers.” Nagle said.

Rubio: A Path For Reforming The VA

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Tampa Bay Times

October 20, 2015

Print Edition

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/rubio-a-path-for-reforming-the-va/2250356

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second-largest federal agency, with more than 350,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $159 billion. Yet today — more than a year after scores of veterans died while stuck on secret wait lists — mountains of backlogged disability claims, wide-scale construction overruns and a serious lack of accountability continue to plague the agency.

Instead of being given the benefits they have earned, veterans’ disability applications have been shredded, while whistleblowers who expose this corruption face retaliation. Time and time again, too many senior VA officials have proven incapable of serving those who have served our country.

In our own state of Florida, veterans are still waiting 30 days for a primary care appointment at the Jacksonville VA. Meanwhile, the James A. Haley VA has been stricken with serious pest issues, and every day veterans from across the state contact my office for assistance navigating VA’s broken bureaucracy. These conditions are alarming and our veterans deserve better.

This lack of transparency and accountability even extends to VA construction projects like the Denver VA. With a $1.6 billion dollar price tag, more than $1 billion over its initial budget of $604 million, the Denver VA hospital is known to be one of the most expensive medical facilities in the world. And at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, officials decided to spend more than $6.3 million on art, including $483,000 for a sculpture of a rock.

The incompetence at the VA is unacceptable. Negligence continues to go unpunished while our nation’s heroes are dying. We must stand together as a nation to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve. It’s why earlier this year, House VA Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and I introduced the VA Accountability Act of 2015, a commonsense reform bill to end the culture of unaccountability by giving the VA secretary additional authorities to remove or demote any VA employee based on performance or misconduct.

With this authority the VA secretary will be out of excuses for not holding accountable those who are responsible for the dysfunction and incompetence plaguing our VA system. It also strengthens whistleblower protections and extends the current probationary period for new employees to a minimum of 18 months.

While I believe that a majority of VA employees act in the best interest of our veterans and are passionate about the work they do, it is our duty to ensure that those who put their own interests before our veterans are fired, not protected.

Keep reading here.

Rubio To Obama: Reconsider Request For Federal Flooding Assistance To Tampa Region

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently urged President Barack Obama to reconsider Governor Rick Scott’s request for flooding assistance to help the five Gulf counties heavily impacted by August flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied the Governor’s original request without cause or explanation, despite serious flooding and widespread damage.

“The severe weather events last month caused significant damage to numerous homes, businesses, transportation networks, and public infrastructure,” wrote Rubio. “These hard hit areas are home to populations that are more susceptible to economic hardship.

“As Floridians continue to reel from the effects of last month’s torrential rains and flooding, I respectfully request you consider Governor Scott’s appeal for a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance for the five impacted counties,” Rubio continued.

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the text is below:

September 15, 2015

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As you may know, from late July to early August, heavy rainfall battered Florida’s central west coast, resulting in amounts of 10 to 20 inches. The counties of Dixie, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Taylor experienced numerous days of heavy rainfall that resulted in severe flooding. As the State of Florida continues to address the effects of this record-breaking rain, I urge you to reconsider Governor Rick Scott’s August 25, 2015 request for a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance.

The severe weather events last month caused significant damage to numerous homes, businesses, transportation networks, and public infrastructure. These hard hit areas are home to populations that are more susceptible to economic hardship. Taylor, Dixie and Hillsborough are above the national average for persons living below the poverty level. Two of the counties, Taylor and Dixie, have a disabled population approximately two times higher than the national average. Dixie, Pasco and Pinellas Counties consist of a significant elderly population, which equates to one and a half times higher than the national average. And, according to the 2010 census, the five counties affected had an unemployment rate higher than that of the national average.

As noted in Governor Scott’s September 11, 2015 appeal letter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration, and state and local officials worked together on preliminary damage assessments. It was this joint effort that prompted Governor Scott to request a Major Disaster Declaration on August 25, 2015. On September 3, 2015, FEMA denied the State’s request without cause or explanation. As Floridians continue to reel from the effects of last month’s torrential rains and flooding, I respectfully request you consider Governor Scott’s appeal for a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance for the five impacted counties.

Respectfully,

Marco Rubio