Congressional elections rules of the game
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CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS “Rules of the Game”. DRAWING OF HOUSE DISTRICTS --Process for allocating each state its share of House seats --Effects of fixing the size of the House at 435. CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS “Rules of the Game”. District-drawing process within the states

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CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS “Rules of the Game”

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Congressional elections rules of the game

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

DRAWING OF HOUSE DISTRICTS

--Process for allocating each state its share of House seats--Effects of fixing the size of the House at 435


Congressional elections rules of the game1

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • District-drawing process within the states

  • --Initial judicial reluctance to interfere

  • --Relevant Constitutional provisions

  • --Baker v. Carr, Wesberry v. Sanders, and the “Reapportionment Revolution”


Congressional elections rules of the game2

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • GERRYMANDERING

  • ---Partisan gerrymandering: “cracking and packing,” “wasting votes,” “trading security for seats”

  • --Is partisan gerrymandering legal? What about midterm gerrymandering?

  • --Why partisan gerrymandering is less common/effective than people think


Congressional elections rules of the game3

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • RACIAL GERRYMANDERING

  • --1965 Voting Rights Act

  • --1980 Bolden v. City of Mobile

  • --1982 Voting Rights Act Amdendments

  • --1986 Thornburg v. Gingles

  • --Dramatic 1990 Redistricting

  • (from 25 Afr.-Amer./10 Hispan.Reps in 1992 to 38 and 17 in 1993)


Congressional elections rules of the game4

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • RACIAL REDISTRICTING CONT’d

  • --Shaw v. Reno (1993) NC

  • --Miller v. Johnson (1995) GA

  • Reasons for Controversy

  • --related to Affirmative Action

  • --MMDs help GOP?

  • --is votitng always racially polarized?


Congressional elections rules of the game5

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • EFFECTS OF DISTRICT-DRAWING PROCESS ON HOUSE ELECTIONS IN GENERAL

  • 1.) Unnatural districts may aid incumbents?

  • 2.) Minimizes role of television in some House races due to bad fit between media markets and districts

  • 3.) Local party orgs more interested in city, county, state races


Congressional elections rules of the game6

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • CAMPAIGN FINANCE

  • No real meaningful reform until 1970s Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and Amendments

  • 1.) Disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures

  • 2.) Disclosure of “independent spending” on candidates’ behalf

  • 3.) $1000 limit on individual contribution to campaign

  • 4.) PACs legalized (explain how they originated), limited to $5K contributions

  • 5.) Party contributions: higher limits, “coordinated expenditures”

  • 6.)***Attempts to limit overall spending by a campaign, self-contributions, and independent expenditures


Congressional elections rules of the game7

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • Buckley v. Valeo (1976) struck down *** overall spending limits ind. Spending limits, and self-contributions (explain why)

  • 1980s (“Old School”) proposed campaign finance reforms: outlawing PACs, partial Fed. Funding of campaigns coupled with spending limits


Congressional elections rules of the game8

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS“Rules of the Game”

  • 1990s-2000s proposed reforms, sparked by

  • A.) Republican takeover of Congress in 1994

  • B.) Turnover meant less concern about incumbency advantages

  • C.) New (or newly discovered) loopholes in FECA

  • In mid1990s

  • ---unlimited raising and spending of “soft money” by parties

  • ---”independent spending” that wasn’t really independent’

  • ---”issue advocacy” campaign advertising that avoided limits/regulation by avoiding use of “magic words”


Congressional elections rules of the game9

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: “Rules of the Game”

  • Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, a.k.a. “McCain-Feingold” bill); finally passed in 2002 after many attempts

  • 1.) Raised indiv contribution limit to $2000

  • 2.) Banned raising and spending of soft money by national parties, and by state parties for Fed. Candidates

  • 3.) Authorized FEC to tighten restrictions on independent spending

  • 4.) Brought “electioneering” (i.e., issue advocacy) communications under FEC regulation (define “electioneering”)---unlimited, but could only be done by PACs, not by corporations or labor unions themselves---electioneerers had to disclose contributors


Congressional elections the incumbency advantage

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: The Incumbency Advantage

  • High re-election rates, especially for House members (why is Senate re-election rate lower?)

  • Esp. since late 1960s: incumbents winning by larger margins “vanishing marginals”

  • Measures of incumbency PERSONAL advantage---sophomore surge, retirement slump---on the rise


Rules of the game finale

Rules of the Game: Finale

  • SUPREME COURT action on BCRA---2003 McConnell vs. FEC: act as a whole facially valid---2007 FEC v. Wisconsin RTL: ban on corporate $ invalid as applied in this case---2008 Davis v. FEC: millionaires amdt. invalid---2010 Citizens United v. FEC: ban on corporate $ invalid, totally


Congressional elections the incumbency advantage1

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: The Incumbency Advantage

  • EXPLANATIONS FOR INCREASE IN INCUMBENCY ADVANTAGE

  • 1.) Not 1960s redistricting (although 1990s and 2000s may have mattered)

  • 2.) Increase in “independent” (nonpartisan voters)---but that’s not entirely it either

  • 3.) Mayhew “Congress: the Electoral Connection” 1974

  • a.) Advertising

  • b.) Credit-claiming (includes both non-legislative “casework” and “pork barrel legislation”

  • c.) Position-taking on issues of concern to the district

  • (In all of these activities, Congressional resources---i.e., personal and committee staff, exposure on C-SPAN, franking privilege of free mailing to the districts, more paid trips home---increasingly and aggressively used to promote re-election)


Congressional elections the incumbency advantage2

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: The Incumbency Advantage

  • EXPLANATIONS FOR INCREASE IN INCUMBENCY ADVANTAGE CONT’D

  • Morris Fiorina, “Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment” (1977), emphasized casework, argued that Congress deliberately keeps the bureaucracy big and confusing so they can “rescue” constituents

  • Even though few ever ask their member of Congress for help, the few that are helped spread the word; most members acquire a general reptuation for helpfulness


Congressional elections the incumbency advantage3

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: The Incumbency Advantage

  • INCUMBENTS’ FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE

  • --Corporate and trade association PACs (biggest and wealthiest) tend to favor incumbents and the majority party

  • --Only labor unions and ideological (nonconnected) PACs are willing to help challengers

  • THE SCARE-OFF EFFECT

  • Possibly the biggest consequence of incumbents’ activities and fundraising is to scare off qualified potential opponents

  • “Strategic” candidates only run when they believe they can win; if incumbents look unbeatable, only unqualified opponents will run

  • Paradoxically, the strongest incumbents end up facing the weakest opposition

  • Paradoxically, even though they find it easier to raise money, spending doesn’t appear to help incumbents that much (‘cuz incumbents get so much free publicity); pre-emptive vs. reactive spending may have different effects


Congressional elections are they local or national affairs

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: are they local or national affairs?

--Long-time trradition of “coattails” and midterm losses for president’s party

--Since 1980, most presidents have lacked coattails, and in 1998 and 2002 midterms presidents gained seats

--Size of presidents’ party gains and losses seems to reflect presidential approval and ups and downs in the economy; but do voters really consider these national factors when voting for Congress?


Congressional elections local or national affairs

CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS: Local or National Affairs?

  • Jacobson and Kernell’s “Strategic Politicians Theory” tried to explain how cong. Elections could be both national and local

  • Candidates, potential candidates, and contributors all make decisions in response to national factors (presidential approval, economy, war, etc.)

  • National factors influence the quality of candidates voters get to choose from, and voters respond primarily to candidate quality

  • So voters don’t have to be consciously thinking of national factors in order for those factors to have an effect; what influences cong. Elections most is national factors EARLY in the year (when elites are making decisions) rather than in November

  • Some argue that in elections like 1994 and 1998 (Clinton impeachment) voters DO payattention to national factors) e.g. commercials featuring local candidates “morphing” into Clinton or Gingrich


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