Sometimes they help at risk students see the possibility of a successful future:
On Wednesday, Sasai, along with 11 other Pacific students, went to August School in east Stockton to start mentorships with soon-to-be high schoolers as part of his HopeStreet Backpack Outreach, a program Sasai founded in 2011.
The middle school students received backpacks for starters. But the most valuable gift is perhaps the mentors themselves.
They’ll be responsible for giving the August students advice throughout their upcoming high school careers about peer pressure, homework and even how to ask a girl to prom.
“Don’t ask a girl to prom over text,” Sasai said, and giggles followed. “It makes it awkward.”
Sasai offered the younger students Pacific campus tours when they’re ready and provided his contact information. “I want you guys to ask me anything,” he said.
The ongoing contact is a much appreciated resource at August, which has a largely disadvantaged student population, said Principal Lori Risso. All of the children receive free or reduced-price lunches.
“A lot of the kids think they can’t afford to go to college,” Risso said. The Pacific volunteers, she said, can relate to the kids and encourage them to seek scholarships and other financial aid.
“It makes the vision of going to high school and college possible.”
Kyle who excels in the classroom as a political science major and a member of the Pacific Legal Scholars program, has proven that academic excellence can go together seemlessly with community leadership.
Sasai . . . founded the program his first year of college. Since then, he has gathered volunteers to fill backpacks, write the kids letters and train for the continuing interaction.
Pacific mentors are each assigned about five students to befriend and help guide.
With the students they reached this year, they have connected with 500 middle school students since 2011.
The California Department of Finance released its new population projections for California counties through 2060. There are a whole bunch of goodies in the report, so I thought I would highlight a few of them here.
First, by 2050, Hispanics are projected to be the plurality ethnicity in California. Here’s the projected ethnic makeup (see p. 6) of California in 2010 and 2060:
By 2060, Hispanics will make up 48% of the population (up from 38%), Whites will be 30% of the population (down from 40%), Asian and Pacific Islanders will be 13% (same), African Americans will be 4% (down from 6%), and everyone else will be 5% of the population.
In terms of future voters, these changes have potentially significant implications for California politics. I am not one of the people who thinks that “demographics are destiny” in terms of party politics, at least over the long run, so I don’t think these changes mean that the Republican Party is looking at long term irrelevance in California. If the party keeps its current platform, sure, but there is no reason it has to. Both parties, though, are going to have to adapt to the changing electorate as the issue sets of Hispanic voters are different than the issue sets of white voters.
Second, California will remain relatively young relative to the rest of the country. Our economy (and our budget) will not be as heavily impacted by the Baby Boomers and Generation X moving into retirement. There will still be significant demand, and resources, for public education. The aging of the population will not be uniformly distributed across ethnicities, which will also have significant implications for politics. Whites will grow older faster than any other ethnic group. By 2030, there will be more whites over the age of 65 than under the age of 25 in California. In contrast, there will by almost three times as many Hispanics under the age of 25 as there are Hispanics over the age of 65.
Third, the population–and therefore power–will continue to move inland. Southern California (particularly Los Angeles County) will remain the 800-pound gorilla in California politics, but the Central Valley (Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys) and the Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside) will see their relative populations grow with the rest of the state seeing their relative populations decline. The Central Valley will see its relative population grow 27% between 2010 and 2060. The Inland Empire will see relative growth of 28%. The Bay Area, in contrast, is projected to see the steepest decline in its relative population (down 10%). These changes mean that over time the Central Valley and Inland Empire will gain representatives in Sacramento and Washington DC while other areas see their representation decine.
Fourth, San Joaquin County will more than double in size between 2010 and 2060. San Joaquin will go from being the 15th largest county in California (with just under 700,000 residents) to the 12th largest county (with over 1.5 million residents). Hispanics will account for more than half of this growth.
I am pleased to announce that, working with the League of Women Voters, the University of the Pacific will host two candidate forums on October 15. The first will be for the two candidates contesting Assembly District 13: K. “Jeffrey” Jafri (R) and Susan Eggman (D). The second will be for the two candidates contesting Congressional District 9: Ricky Gill (R) and Jerry McNerney (D).
The event will will be open to the public. Watch this space for more information.
In 2008, in partnership with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters, a group of faculty from a variety of programs at Pacific designed and executed a voter education campaign. The education campaign had three primary goals: (1) to reduce voter induced error in elections (e.g., improperly marking a ballot), (2) to reduce polling-place induced error in elections (e.g., improperly enforcing regulations), and (3) increasing voter awareness and positive perceptions of voting by mail.
At this year’s Midwest Political Science Association meeting, Prof. Dari Sylvester and I presented an analysis of the campaign’s effects relative to this last goal. The main question was, did knowledge about and positive perceptions of voting by mail increase as a result of the education campaign?
To assess these impacts, we relied on three waves (in May, July, and November) of random telephone surveys of registered voters conducted as part of the broader project. The surveys asked respondents four questions of interest:
- Who can vote by mail?
- How does one sign up for permanent vote by mail?
- Are there any advantages to voting by mail? Respondents were prompted to provide up to three advantages.
- Are there any disadvantages to voting by mail? Again, respondents were prompted to provide up to three responses.
Using these questions we constructed four variables:
- Who: The respondent correctly identified who could vote by mail (everyone)
- How: The respondent correctly identified how to sign up for permanent vote by mail (a variety of ways)
- Convenience: The respondent identified convenience as an advantage to voting by mail
- Net advantages: The number of advantages identified by the respondent minus the number of disadvantages
The table below presents the change in each of these variables over the three survey waves.
There are a couple of important points that come out of this table. First, people already know a lot about voting by mail. Generally, we expect between 10 to 30 percent of respondents to answer recall questions like these correctly. Here, roughly two-thirds of respondents were able to answer these questions correctly and thought of voting by mail as convenient–even before the education campaign began. As such, there wasn’t a whole lot of educating to do about vote by mail.
Second, while we can identify some statistically significant increases in voter knowledge and perceptions over the course of the education campaign, the effects are relatively small. In part, this is because of the relatively high starting values for each variable. At the same time, though, it is also because relatively few people reported exposure to the campaign in the surveys (and many of those that did report exposure likely weren’t exposed to it). Given the limited reach of the campaign, there was very little educating that could be done–even if people didn’t already know a lot.
The California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission released the final draft of its proposed legislative redistricting this week and will be voting on the maps today. While there have been some changes here and there to the maps, they remain as anti-incumbent as the preliminary maps. In the following analysis, I rely on the data provided by Redistricting Partners in their analysis of the proposed maps and I focus just on the congressional district maps. In a future post, I’ll look at the state legislative districts, which some observers think create the possibility of Democrats controlling 2/3 of the Senate and Assembly.
The Redistricting Commission was created because people were tired of legislators in Sacramento “choosing their own constituents.” The hope was that by giving the Commission control of the process, there would be fewer safe seats and more competition between the parties (and, hopefully, more compromise as a result). As part of its mandate, the Commission was not allowed to consider partisanship or where incumbents currently reside when drawing the maps. Instead, the Commission had to focus on meeting legal requirements, such as the Voting Rights Act, and then “communities of interest”–areas defined by a common geography, culture, industry, etc. (Considerable time was spend on trying to create a definition for that term.)
The baseline for the comparison is the current California House delegation. Right now, there are 19 Republicans and 34 Democrats who represent California in the House (assuming the Democrat, Janice Hahn, wins the special election in CA-36 later this summer). There are no real competitive seats in the current maps. Only one seat, CA-11, which contains Pacific, changed party hands in the ten years between redistrictings, and for the last two election cycles, incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney has won reelection pretty easily.
Under the final draft maps, it appears that 14 seats would be either solidly Republican or lean Republican, 37 seats would lean Democratic or be solidly Democratic, and just two seats would be true swing seats. So potentially, depending on the election, Democrats could pick up five seats in the delegation.
As in the preliminary maps, there are a number of districts that currently have no incumbent. The preliminary maps had 13 open districts, the final version has 16 open districts. At the same time, the Commission created several districts that have more than one incumbent currently living in them–there are eleven districts with two incumbents and one (Merced) with three incumbents.
In terms of our local district, which the Commission has called San Joaquin and contains Lodi, Stockton, Lathrop, and much of the surrounding area this side of the Altamont Pass, the incumbent Jerry McNerney was drawn into a Bay Area district with incumbent Pete Stark. While there was some speculation that Stark would retire (he’s 80), allowing McNerney to take over the district, that doesn’t appear to the be the case. McNerney announced this morning that he will be moving into San Joaquin County and seek reelection in the district, which voted 56-41 for Obama in 2008 and 51-42 for Brown in 2010. Right now, if no other Republican throws their hat in the ring, he’ll face a political neophyte in Ricky Gill.
One of the key controversies that has animated the redistricting process is the representation of ethnic minority groups under the Voting Rights Act. Because California has in the past acted to dilute the representation of both African Americans and Latinos, the state is required to maximize representation of these groups in its congressional delegation. In the final draft maps, there are nine majority Latino districts and no majority African American districts, although there are a couple districts that can still elect African-American members.
- Jerry McNerney looks at new political map, moves to San Joaquin County (sfgate.com)
- California redistricting panel OKs new boundaries (sfgate.com)
- Calif. redistricting plan finalized (politico.com)
- Citizen Group Tasked With Redistricting Dramatically Changes California Map (foxnews.com)
- Calif. braces for member-on-member races (politico.com)
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission (created in 2008 by Prop. 11 and expanded in 2010 by Prop. 20) has now released it’s preliminary drafts of the state’s new legislative districts. In giving the power to draw legislative districts to the CRC, one of the goals was to reduce the influence of legislators in picking their own constituencies. The reformers wanted to avoid another set of maps like those created in 2001, which largely protected incumbents from any serious challengers. The CRC was expressly prohibited from using information about where sitting members of Congress and the state legislature live or information about the partisan makeup of the districts. Instead, the CRC had to first focus on legal requirements (i.e., equal population and Voting Rights Act compliance) and then on respecting “communities of interest.”
After a long summer of traveling around the state to hear public comments about where communities of interest are, the first draft of the maps was released today.
What follows is a quick breakdown of the new congressional maps. I use the political data made available from Redistricting Partners, who use a common voter database to describe each of the districts.
First off, what about the partisan makeup of the House delegation? Currently, California’s delegation is made up of 19 Republicans and 34 Democrats. The partisan balance (if we count leaning districts) for the new maps is 17 Republicans and 36 Democrats. Really, though, those numbers mask the fact that many (though not all) of the districts will now be much more competitive than they have been in the past. The actual numbers after the November 2012 elections could be quite different. Still, the growth in Democratic districts is not surprising given (a) the general trend toward Democratic registrants in the the state and (b) the growth of the Hispanic population (which votes Democratic) in the state.
Here’s where it gets interesting, though. Of the 53 new House districts designed by the CRC, 12 now include at least two incumbents. For example, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D), who currently represents part of Stockton (CA-11), now finds himself in the same district as Rep. Pete Stark (D), who represents much of the East Bay area (CA-13). At the same time, the CRC has created 13 districts that currently have no incumbent.
While there is no requirement that representatives live in the district they represent (see Rep. John Garamendi in CA-10), the combination of (a) packing incumbents into the same district and (b) creating new districts that have no incumbent means that there will be a lot of new people headed to Washington come next January.
So, if you wanted a process that didn’t protect the interests of incumbents, you got it.
As a side note, Stockton (where Pacific is located) comes out much better in these maps than in the last round of redistricting. Rather than having two congressional representatives and more members of the California Assembly and State Senate than will fit on one hand, Stockton is largely kept whole in the new maps. The other cities in the districts change depending on the legislative body, though. In the House district, we’re paired with Lodi. In the Assembly and State Senate districts, we’re paired with Tracy. The reasons for the difference have to do with the Voting Rights Act requirements and the different population numbers required for each kind of district.
- Neighbors for Change – Redistricting (neighbors-for-change.org)
- California Redistricting Commission Releases First Draft of New District Maps (elections.firedoglake.com)
- Calif. incumbents entrenched no more? (politico.com)
Graduating senior Chelsea Kelleher recently took home the top prize for oral presentations at the 2011 Pacific Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference. She was up against 23 other students from a variety of disciplines. Congrats Chelsea!
Here’s the abstract of her paper, which she completed as an independent research project under the direction of Prof. Keith Smith:
Is there a relationship between crime and Section 8 housing? In 2008, Atlantic Monthly journalist Hanna Rosin published an article investigating the relationship between high crime rates in the Memphis area and newly formed clusters of Section 8 recipients. She argues that the Section 8 program is responsible for the rise in crime rates for Memphis, Tennessee, and extends this conclusion to the rest of the United States, implicating a host of popular affordable housing programs as well. Housing advocates and policy makers were quick to respond to these allegations, arguing that Rosin had established no causal link between Section 8 and crime, and that her findings could not be verified for the country as a whole. This paper seeks to test the hypothesis that the presence of Section 8 housing increases crime rates in an area. To do this I use a controlled comparison of crime rates in six Stockton neighborhoods in 2009, using three pairs of neighborhoods matched by similar demographic characteristics. Drawing from crime statistics from the Stockton Police Department, I then examine their crime rates in comparison to their matches, before finally drawing a conclusion. The results reveal that there is insufficient evidence to state that there is a relationship between Section 8 and crime; while areas with higher poverty rates tended to experience more crime, whether or not they accepted Section 8 did not make a difference.
- Section 8 Tenants: the Housing Market’s Salvation? (walletpop.com)
Ed. note: This is the first of several entries on our faculty’s presentations at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings in Chicago, IL. Prof. Keith Smith and Prof. Dari Sylvester presented their results from a field experiment on the choice by voters to use vote-by-mail.
In California, voters have several options when choosing to cast a ballot during an election. A voter can go the traditional route and vote at the polling place on election day. The voter can also go to the registrar’s office and cast an early ballot. Finally, a voter can request a vote-by-mail (VBM)–i.e., absentee–ballot. In 2002, California created permanent, no-fault absentee voting, now called permanent vote by mail (PVBM), which allows voters to request and receive a mail ballot for all future elections.
As Figure 1 (below) shows, the use of PVBM by California voters has increased significantly since its creation. By Jan. 2010, one in four voters statewide was a PVBM voter and nearly one out of every two voters in San Joaquin County (where Pacific is located) was a PVBM voter.
Figure 1: PVBM Statewide and in San Joaquin County.
Why would someone choose to become a PVBM voter? Why choose to vote by mail instead of going to the polling place? The literature is largely silent on this question, though we can infer some guesses. First, someone might choose to vote by mail because it lowers their costs of voting (a la Downs 1957). If you vote by mail, you don’t have to worry about taking time off from work or finding child care to go vote; you don’t have to drive to the polling place, find parking, or wait in line; and you can take your time working through the ballot rather than feeling the pressure to vote quickly. Most people, when they think about vote by mail, think of it as a less costly and more convenient to vote.
Alternatively, people might be motivated for reasons that have little or nothing to do with personal cost. People might respond to social pressure. Gerber, Green, and Larimer (2008), for example, find a significant social pressure effect when trying to get people to vote. People might respond information about cost savings to the county from VBM. Finally, people might not be using VBM because they are concerned about voter fraud or their ballot not being counted. Perhaps they might respond to a message about the safety of VBM.
We ran a field experiment to test each of these hypotheses. We randomly assigned all registered, non-PVBM voters (~144K people after exclusions) to one of five groups. The first group, the control group, received a postcard explaining that they were not registered PVBM and informing them that if they signed and returned the card they would be. The second group got essentially the same card as the control, but its card contained a message about the convenience of voting by mail. The third group got a message about the cost savings from VBM. The fourth’s card had a social pressure message. The final group’s card had a message about the safety of PVBM.
We then waited to see who returned the cards and who did not. The results are in Table 1 below. The rates of return are substantively and statistically higher for every experimental message except convenience. People who received the social pressure message were about 10 percent more likely to return their card than people in the control group. Similarly, people who received the safety and cost savings messages were 12 percent more likely to return their cards than those in the control group.
Table 1: Experimental Effects
So what do we make of these results? First, on a practical level, if you want people to use PVBM, don’t make a convenience argument to them. In all likelihood, they know that VBM is more convenient than going to the polling place and are choosing not to VBM for some other reason. Second, on a more theoretical level, like voting the use of PVBM may not be simply about relative costs and benefits to the voter. There are likely other factors at play, factors that we do not have a good understanding of yet and need more information about.
A trio of Pacific Political Scientists, as well as several other Pacific faculty members are working on a research, training, and voter-education project to help reduce voting errors and “spoiled ballots in San Joaquin County. On result of the project is to encourage people to vote early by mail and to register as “permanent absentee” voters.
In addition to Bob Benedetti, Pacific Political Scientists Dari Sylvester and Nathan Monroe are contributing to the project, which is being undertaken in partnership with the San Joaquin County elections department.