Thursday, December 12, 2013

Anne Marie Yates Finds Herself a Gin-You-Wine SCHOLAR

Just in the nick of time, an ASU civics professor has produced a piece of writing that purports to be scholarly research proving, we gather (among other things), that Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto do not need to be removed from the Watauga County Board of Elections. (Jesse Wood delved into this "scholarship" in the High Country Press and linked to the full document.) Republican Party Chair, and the person responsible for putting Eggers&Aceto into office, Anne Marie Yates began applauding this piece of sapience immediately, as though it had just come down from Mt. Sinai.

Dr. George Ehrhardt, "a registered Republican and advisor to the Appalachian State College Republicans," poo-poos the voter suppression charges lodged against Eggers and Aceto by purporting to massage voting statistics. Hmmm. I'll leave the evaluation of those numbers to others, but I would like to react to Dr. Ehrhardt's overall presentation and to the "scholarship" underpinning it.

What is his major point? That Early Voting is actually a bad thing and that the Watauga County Board of Elections under Eggers&Aceto were really just doing us all a favor to close down Early Voting on the ASU campus and to move the precinct polling place for an urban precinct five miles out into the countryside.

He also alleges, through the use of published scholarship that is footnoted in his paper, that there may be one or two political scientists who actually agree with him (though, after reading the sources he footnotes, not so much).

Dr. Ehrhardt's Scholarly Scaffolding
1. The trouble starts with Dr. Ehrhardt's footnote # 4. Here it is in context:
Ehrhardt writes: "These results match that of previous research on early voting. In fact, the most recent study on the subject finds that to the contrary, early voting itself actually suppresses vote turnout.4"
That statement is, at best, an exaggeration of what the cited source actually claims
Ehrhardt's source: “The results show that election day registration has a consistently positive effect on turnout while the most popular reform – early voting – is actually associated with lower turnout when it is implemented by itself. We propose that early voting has created negative unanticipated consequences by reducing the civic significance of elections for individuals and altering the incentives for political campaigns to invest in mobilization.”
Notice that italicized phrase. This is an article about get-out-the-vote efforts. When campaigns focus just on early voting and not other forms of “mobilization,” then, yes, early voting alone is not that successful. But that's a fur piece from "early voting itself actually suppresses vote turnout." Bullshit.

2. Footnote # 5: Dr. Ehrhardt suggests that this source supports his contention that early voting actually depresses turnout, but that is not at all the clear-cut case when you actually read the source
Ehrhardt's source: “While one prominent study suggests that voting by mail is associated with a 10% increase in turnout, other studies find smaller—but still statistically significant—increases in turnout associated with other convenience voting methods.” Emphasis added
“Convenience voting” in this context refers to early voting. More bullshit.

3. Footnote # 7: Dr. Ehrhardt uses this source to claim that there is little to no effect on voter turnout caused by moving polling places around. Here’s what the source actually says about moving polling places which inconvenience voters by costing them more for travel: 
“Could changing the locations of polling places affect the outcome of an election by increasing the costs of voting for some and decreasing them for others? The consolidation of voting precincts in Los Angeles County during California's 2003 gubernatorial recall election provides a natural experiment for studying how changing polling places influences voter turnout. Overall turnout decreased by a substantial 1.85 percentage points .... the changing of polling places still had a small partisan effect because those registered as Democrats were more sensitive to changes in costs than those registered as Republicans. The effects were small enough to allay worries about significant electoral consequences in this instance (e.g., the partisan effect might be decisive in only about one in two hundred contested House elections), but large enough to make it possible for someone to affect outcomes by more extensive manipulation of polling place locations.”
In my estimation, Dr. Ehrhardt is guilty of academic malfeasance in the pursuit of partisan advantage, and I cannot agree that the Watauga County Board of Elections has actually doing us all a favor, nor was that their intent back on August 12, 2013.


George Ehrhardt said...

If you promise here to publish my full response I'll be happy to write one up, but given your history of censorship I'll wait to hear from you before putting in the effort.

JohnnyMananger said...

George, I would love to read your full response. Please send it to me at

Anonymous said...

It stinks when someone checks your sources doesn't it professor.

I Can Count said...

This "study" is such a joke. I cannot believe Appalachian actually allowed this garbage to be publicly posted.

If it was such a "simple" process why couldn't Prof. Ehrhardt get the numbers right? Why did he have to twist his sources?

Because he's the College Republicans Advisor, a primary voting Republican, and a terrible excuse for an educator.

Someone should send this "study" to his superiors.

George Ehrhardt said...

Most of these criticisms appear in a press release that is coming out from the Democratic Party and I answer them in my reply to that press release. HCP says they will publish my reply in full, so you can see it all there.

I've put links to all 7 articles on my webpage ( so you can all read them yourselves.

Johnny, I sent you a copy--let me know if you don't get it.

The press release doesn't mention JW's first point about the Burden article, so I'll talk about that here. Also see the quote from the Burden article in my reply to the Democratic press release.

First, JW agrees with my citation in footnote 4 that says “early voting – is actually associated with lower turnout when it is implemented by itself,” but complains that other forms of mobilization offset this, so the assertion is “bullshit.”

Read past the article’s introduction and you’ll see that the authors address this point directly. On page 8 they say:

“Early voting almost certainly brings out some new voters who would have difficulty making to the polls on election day (the direct effect), but it more than offsets this increase by dissipating the energy of election day over a longer period of time and reducing mobilization (the indirect effect).”

Similarly, if you look at the table on page 31 it shows that contra JW’s assertion, the negative effects of early voting persist even if you control for other electoral system changes.

So in theory the criticism might be right: if parties work extra hard they can overcome the lower turnout effect of early voting (maybe it happened here this election). The article authors’ large-N analysis, however, shows that in practice it generally doesn’t happen. I stand by my citation.

Frankly, I'm disappointed. JW doesn't appear to have put any more effort into this than reading the first couple of pages in a couple articles and cherry-picking quotes. I had expected better.

Anonymous said...

“Early voting almost certainly brings out some new voters who would have difficulty making to the polls on election day (the direct effect), but it more than offsets this increase by dissipating the energy of election day over a longer period of time and reducing mobilization (the indirect effect).”

This quote supports what JW is saying (and yes I went back and read the article). Early voting reduces turnout ON ELECTION DAY and decreases candidates' MOBILIZATION EFFORTS FOR ELECTION DAY, not for the entire election.
Early voting is depressive of ELECTION DAY VOTING, not voting overall.

Dr. Ehrhardt might also have mentioned this from his source:

Fortunately, there is a way to improve turnout and keep the convenience of early voting. Our research shows that when early voting is combined with same-day registration — that is, you can register to vote and cast an early ballot on the same day — the depressive effect of early voting disappears. North Carolina and Vermont, two otherwise very different states that combined early voting with same-day registration, had turnout levels in 2008 that were much higher than the overall national figure of 58 percent of the voting-age population. Turnouts in Vermont and North Carolina were, respectively, 63 percent and 64 percent. Allowing Election-Day registration, in which voters can register at the polling place, has the same effect. Our models show that the simple presence of Election-Day registration in states like Minnesota and New Hampshire increases turnout by more than six points.

Bottomline. Sr. Ehrhardt might want to write a paper on keeping same day registration in conjunction with early voting, especially now that the state is eliminating same day registration. Not sure if the Professor missed this or simply didn't want to mention it.

A.Conservative said...

Erhhardt: "JW doesn't appear to have put any more effort into this than reading the first couple of pages in a couple articles and cherry-picking quotes. I had expected better."

Why would you expect better?

Anonymous said...

Here's my question. If the changes weren't intended to suppress the vote, why where they made? The BOE was told by its staff that it wouldn't save money? Republicans never do anything without an agenda, and obviously ol Anne Marie thought she was going to get her bro elected. If it had worked, the GOP would have had some analysis for how it had nothing to do with the victory. As the GOP's god (Pres. Reagan) said, "Facts are stupid." Especially in the hands of people driven by pure partisanship.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to comment on Dr. Ehrhardt's numbers or conclusions, but I do find it very amusing that so many Republicans criticize and dismiss professors and PhDs as if their expertise means nothing - until they find one that agrees with them, and then all of a sudden that PhD is a golden ticket to wisdom!!

gercohenJoMC712 said...

Where do I even start. OK, here's where I start. While I don't have a PhD in Political Science like Dr. Erhardt, I do have a Master's degree in Political Science. I've also been a longtime observer of Watauga County politics (the first NC campaign I ever worked in was Steve Metcalf For Watauga County commissioner in Spring '72 (Steve was an AppState senior and I was a UNC-CH student at the time). I've observed voting behavior in numerous college towns over 40+ years, and ran for and was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council as a student in '73). Here's my analysis -- in college towns, students generally don't vote in local elections unless there are; 1) credible student candidates (Boone '09 and '13, Chapel Hill '73 and '11, Elizabeth City '13). 2) a local referendum (Boone beer, whatever year, Orange liquor by the drink '78, Chapel Hill bus referendum spring '73), or when there are real or perceived threats to voting (7,000 Orange voters challenged by those opposed to student voting, '77, Watauga early and election day polling issues '13, Elizabeth City candidate challenge '13). students tend to respond in these three cases by voting actively, despite hurdles. In fact, I'd say having observed this year that the spike in Boone turnout was a combination of factors 1 and 3. (part 1 of 2)

gercohenJoMC712 said...

OK, part 2 of 2 of my comment: as to early voting depressing turnout, this is certainly some evidence for this nationwide, but it is not relevant to student towns nor to NC. Students and blacks have adopted early voting wholesale for several reasons. One of which is that both groups tend to move lot, and early voting is an easy way to report address and precinct changes without having to use a time consuming provisional ballot or even to keep up with election day precinct polling places. In NC, especially student areas, early voting tends to be a 17 (now 10) day election day with GOTV, rides to vote, poll greeters, slates, and the whole panoply of tools which have CLEARLY INCREASED turnout. Finally, I need to say that I am NOT unbiased. Andy Ball's grandfather hired me after law school and my family sent Andy $300+ this year

gercohenJoMC712 said...

OK, this is 3/3. not sure if I stated my conclusion: As an observant political scientist, I believe that the higher turnout in Boone this year was due to three factors 1)having two perceived student candidates - Andy Ball having been so in '08 and a write in student candidate for Mayor, 2) a perceived threat by students of their voting rights, and 3) the existence of early voting, despite its inconvenience (see factor 2). I also concluded based on 40+ years of involvement in university town student voting and 13 years of watching early voting since its inception in 1999 that early voting increases turnout, ESPECIALLY among younger voters. And year, I also have a graduate degree in Political Science, though I stopped with an MA

Anonymous said...

So professor Ehrhardt concluded that more people voting did not prove that votes were suppresssd and Dems want to argue with that because he is registered as a Republican?

Challenge his conclusions if you like but try to stick to facts.

gercohenJoMC712 - you may be right.Their are many possible explanations for the voter turnout. The fact is, the voters DID turn out which is what I read Dr Earhardts paper to say.

Deborah Greene said...

His close association brings to question his independence. "Lies, damn lies and statistics".
My degree was in mathematics.

Anonymous said...

And your degree would be relevant to this conversation because....?