Q: Do you think online voting will have a place in future campaigns?
A: It’s already happening in elections for boards, civic associations, and alumni offices—and the same groups often use the technology to get member feedback for group decisions and award selections. The positives are low cost, high turnout, and fast results since outcomes can be tabulated in real time. Negatives—especially when monetary awards are involved—include the potential for double voting and gaming the system to circumvent legitimate results. As for online elections for public office, that will only happen years from now—if ever—because they can involve millions of voters and extraordinarily high stakes. But if you think differently, bring it on—happy to look at this topic from all sides.
Q: Does an undergraduate major in political management make sense?
A: It can help. But so can majoring in history, because it provides depth and perspective. Or business, because every campaign requires entrepreneurial skills. Or literature, because campaigns are at their most basic about competing narratives. Or math, because polling, targeting, and fundraising are numbers driven and involve statistical analysis.
Q: Can I really be prevented from voting because of a misdemeanor?
A: Depends on where you live. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, forty-eight states take away voting rights of people sentenced to jail or prison after a criminal conviction. (Maine and Vermont are the only two that do not.) Thirty seven states allow convicted criminals to re-register to vote after they’ve served jail time and/or satisfied probation and parole conditions. Eleven states permanently revoke the voting rights of at least some convicted criminals. And ten states take away the right to vote for people jailed for at least some types of misdemeanor convictions. For more information, check out http://www.brennancenter.org
Q: Do you think the birther issue will be big in 2012?
A: Not if Republican pragmatists hold sway. For example, even before President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, Karl Rove had called the birthers and their fellow travelers the “nutty right” and “a joke.” We’ll see.
Q: What is considered a bundled contribution, and who has to report?
A: Federal and state laws differ, but here’s the federal drill: A bundled contribution is any donation brought to your campaign by a registered lobbyist or received by you and credited to a lobbyist through “records, designations, or other means of recognizing that a certain amount of money has been raised.” Bundled contributions do not include contributions made from the personal funds of the lobbyist or his or her spouse. A federal candidate, leadership PAC, or political party committee that receives two or more bundled contributions exceeding the “reporting threshold” during a reporting period must report them. If that sounds like jibber jabber, well, the law is complicated—and that’s why you should retain an election lawyer to guide you through this process.
Q: Our opponent is a moron—really I am not making this up—but we can’t seem to get ahead of him in the polls. Help.
A: Repeat several times—life is unfair. Especially if you’re running in a bad district or during a bad year for your party. Journalist Heywood Broun once wrote of a boxing match, “Here were two young men in the ring and one was quite correct in everything which he did and the other was all wrong. And the wrong one was winning.” The only thing to do is keep plugging away—raise the money, work the issues, knock the doors, meet the opinion leaders—and remain undaunted if you lose, because, no matter how lousy it might feel, you can live to fight another day.
Craig Varoga has managed and consulted on local, state, and presidential campaigns for more than twenty years. Send questions using Facebook, LinkedIn, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.