Elections IDS-131

Elections 2008
Fall Semester – IDS 131
Eaton 209 – 4:00 to 5:30PM

Peter Otto, Richard Ellis
Teaching Assistant: Jessica Cook ’09 (jcook@willamette.edu)


Previous Speakers


Week One – September 3
Bill Bradbury – Oregon Secretary of State
Vote By Mail System

"Ten years ago this fall, Oregon said goodbye to the voting booth and today, Oregon remains the only state to conduct all its elections entirely by mail. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury helped supervise the transition, which has meant lower costs, less fraud, higher turnout and greater voter confidence in the system."
Hosted By: Jessica Cook <jcook@willamette.edu>

Week Two – September 10
Alan Taylor – Dept of Mathematics, Union College
The Mathematics of Voting

“We will give a quick survey illustrating the kinds of mathematical questions and answers that arise from real-world voting systems. Many of these results assert that certain election-theoretic desiderata are impossible to attain. Examples (cryptically stated) include: a “simple” description of the US federal system, an equally good alternative to majority rule, a fair method of apportionment on which to base the Electoral College, and voting systems for three or more alternatives in which honesty is the best policy. Along the way, we will see that sometimes (i) having a vote is just like not having a vote, (ii) a candidate can lose to an opponent that everyone likes less, and (iii) gaining a vote can lead to a loss.”
Hosted By: Scott Fuji <sfuji@willamette.edu> & Nick Birtcil <nbirtcil@willamette.edu>

Week Three – September 17
Melissa Buis Michaux – Dept of Politics, Willamette University

Running as a Woman (and Mother):
Female Political Ambition and American Politics

With the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and now the vice-presidential nomination of Sarah Palin, 2008 may turn out to be the new Year of the Woman. Much of the discussion of gender politics in the presidential race, however, illustrates the unusual place of both candidacies in the American political system as well as serious misunderstandings about the gender gap in the electorate, the nature of gender discrimination and female political ambition.
Hosted By:
Josh Schultz <jschultz@willamette.edu> & Mackenzie Mical <peacemack@gmail.com>

Week Four – September 24
Christopher Shortell – Portland Sate University
Voter ID Laws, Turnout, and the 2008 Presidential Election
In April of 2008, the Supreme Court held that Indiana's requirement that voters present photo identification at polling places was constitutional. The case was merely the latest in a brewing debate over voter ID requirements. Twenty-four states require some form of ID on Election Day, while seven require photo ID. Advocates of voter ID requirements argue that they are necessary in order to prevent voter fraud and present a minimal burden on voters. Opponents claim that these policies intentionally or unintentionally suppress turnout among the poor and minorities. In an election where the Democratic candidate is expecting higher than normal turnout from minority and young voters, will these requirements have an impact? This talk will examine the issues raised by voter IDs as well as the broader question of the impact of legal decisions on elections.
Hosted By: Casey Sparks <csparks@willamette.edu> & Slater Smith <sjsmith@willamette.edu>

Week Five – October 1
Roger Nelsen – Dept. of Mathematics, Lewis & Clark College
Presidential Primaries: Is Democracy Possible?

American presidential primaries are example of multi candidate elections in which plurality usually determines the winner. Is this the "best" way? How should a society determine a collective judgment from individual preferences? While plurality is a common procedure, it has serious flaws. Are there alternative procedures which are in some sense more "fair"? How do we determine the "fairness" of an election procedure? With no more mathematics than arithmetic, we'll examine some alternative procedures, and some "fairness" criteria.

Hosted By: Meghan Lloyd <mlloyd@willamette.edu> & Jazmyn Li <zli@willamette.edu>


Week Six – October 8
Blair Bobier – Pacific Green Party of Oregon
Elections and America's Evolving Democracy

This lecture will examine: the evolution of America's evolving democracy; the role of third parties; barriers to citizen participation in government and the electoral process; recent and current examples of voter suppression; and solutions for some of the problems plaguing our country and its electoral system.
Hosted By: David Shields <dshields@willamette.edu> & Josh Schultz <jschultz@willamette.edu>


Week Seven – October 15
Todd Donovan – Dept of Political Sciences, West. Wash. U.
Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process

The American presidential nomination process is a sequential election, where voters can adjust their expectations about candidates based on candidate performance in states that vote early. This has implications for strategic behavior that may affect who wins and loses. Reforms that change the nature of the sequence (such as a national primary, regional primaries), or change which states vote first, may alter nomination outcomes.
Hosted By: Andreas Probst <aprobst@willamette.edu> & Kimberli Helmbold <khelmbol@willamette.edu>

Week Eight – October 22
Debra Ringold – Dean, Atkinson School of Management
Citizen Choice and the Desire to Reform Campaign Finance
Hosted By: Meghan Lloyd < mlloyd@willamette.edu> & Jazmyn Li <zli@willamette.edu

Week Nine – October 29
Bill Smaldone – Dept of History, Willamette University
Why Two Votes are Better than One: The Modern German Electoral System
The German voting system has a long and tumultuous history.  In the nineteenth century the imperial German electoral system reflected the interests of Germany's social elites and was basically rigged against workers.   With the advent of the Weimar Republic in 191, Germany introduced a system of proportional representation that was much more democratic than the imperial one, but was prone to instability.  Ultimately, it helped to open the door to the victory of Nazism in 1933.  The current system of electing members to the German parliament, the Bundestag, is part of the post-1945 political settlement that allows Germans a wide variety of political choices without sacrificing stability.  In my view this combination has made it one of the most successful democratic systems in use.

Hosted By: Victoria Stiver <vstiver@willamette.edu> & Scott Fuji <sfuji@willamette.edu>


(November 4 – Presidential Elections)

Week Ten – November 5
Richard Ellis, Alison Gash, David Gutterman Dept of Politics, Willamette University
Post-election round table

Hosted By: Janelle Duyck <jduyck@willamette.edu> & Jennifer Seward <jseward@willamette.edu>


Week Eleven – November 12
Fritz Ruehr – Computer Science Department, Willamette University

Hacking Democracy
Electronic voting has a seductive quality about it: many people assume that if
a computer is involved, the results must be especially accurate. In fact, computers

are a disaster for voting purposes, for a number of reasons: exclusively electronic

systems leave no physical trail to recount votes. Computers tend to concentrate power
into a very few hands. They can be "rigged" in nearly undetectable ways and controlled
from afar. And, as noted above, they lend an air of accuracy and reliability to the

process that is completely unwarranted.

In actual practice, electronic voting machines are built by a small number of companies
that are run by political partisans who refuse to publicly release the details of how
their machines work. And investigations have shown over and over again that these
machines are at best poorly built and faulty, and at worst rigged to return inaccurate

The video "Hacking Democracy" highlights many of the problems of current electronic
voting machines; computer science professor Fritz Ruehr will discuss some of the
technical problems with e-voting machines.
Hosted By: Edward McGlone <emcglone@willamette.edu> & Jessica Cook <jcook@willamette.edu

Week Twelve – November 19
Albyn Jones – Dept of Mathematics, Reed College
Post Election Audits
The Oregon Legislature recently passed a measure requiring hand counts of sample batches of ballots to validate the machine tallies.  I will discuss the arguments for post-election audits, with some recent cases as evidence, the Oregon statute and implementation, and what principles should guide the development of audit procedures.

Hosted By: Casey Sparks <csparks@willamette.edu> & Janelle R Duyck <jduyck@willamette.edu>

Week Thirteen – November 26 (day before Thanksgiving – no class)

Week Fourteen – December 3
State representatives candidates Jackie Winters & Larry Galizio

Hosted By: Nick Robinson <nrobinso@willamette.edu> & Ben Heinatz <heinatz@willamette.edu>

Week Fifteen – December 10
Evaluations and follow-up discussion

Last Updated 12/15/08
C. 2008