Today is an election day in Pennsylvania. Turnout is expected to be very low, as it is in all states that time elections off of the federal cycle. There has been a movement afoot to get states to line up their elections with federal elections, something voters and citizens favor overwhelmingly.
The consolidation bills, which were generally sponsored by Republicans, typically failed because of Democratic opposition, according to Anzia. By her account, Democrats opposed the bills at the urging of Democratic-aligned interest groups, namely teachers unions and municipal employee organizations.
Consider a 2011 bill in Michigan to move school board elections to November of even-numbered years. The Michigan Education Association, a teachers union, testified against the bill, as did associations of school boards and administrators. The bill ended up passing on nearly a party-line vote, with almost all Democratic legislators opposed and almost all Republican legislators in favor.
Looking at the 102 bills aimed at consolidating school board elections with other elections between 2001 and 2011, Anzia found that 72 were sponsored either exclusively or predominantly by Republicans, compared with 23 that were sponsored exclusively or predominantly by Democrats. The bills sponsored by Democrats were also generally much weaker than the Republican bills. For example, the Democratic bills typically permitted municipalities to hold on-cycle elections while the Republican bills required them to do so.
Moreover, for the subset of bills that went to a vote, Republicans were far more likely to vote “yes” than Democrats. For all the bills that went to the floor, Anzia estimates that Republicans voted for consolidation 60 percent of the time and Democrats 40 percent.
The difference is even starker when you look at the “strong” consolidation bills that would require local elections to move to the federal cycle.
There’s no mystery as to why unions want turnout for local elections to be low. It’s so that they can control them. In any local election, the unions turn out like crazy because they know that school boards and local politicians exercise immense control over spending and hiring. Without a federal election to drive up turnout, there is no counterbalancing force. In fact, Anzia’s research shows that public employees in areas with off-cycle elections get higher pay and benefits than those with on-cycle elections.
It is accepted wisdom in our society that Democrats are all in favor of everyone voting while Republicans want to suppress the vote, especially the vote of black people, to serve their special interests. Why else would Republicans want to require ID to vote … for free … like many other democracies? And at the risk of being accused of “saying both sides do it” — currently the gold standard for responding to revelations about Democratic chicanery — this shows a much more focused and naked interest.
And at least the Republicans have the public on their side. Voter ID laws are supported by 70-80% of the public, including a slim majority of Democrats. By contrast, having local elections off the federal cycle is opposed by the 70-80% of the public, including 70-80% of Democrats.
(The excuse being made is that, in a consolidated election, the ballot would be too long for people to have a good feel for each election. This would apparently be worse than … not voting at all.)
So … who exactly is sabotaging the elections in favor of their special interests? Oh, right. Must be the Republicans. ‘Cuz we all know they’re evil.
(PS – And you should check out the comments on 538’s site and their Twitter feed. The idea that Democrats are noble defenders of the electorate and Republicans are evil vote suppressing maniacs is a deeply ingrained faith.)