Back on December 22, 2015, UNC-Chapel Hill professor Andrew Reynolds wrote a column for the News & Observer claiming the state of North Carolina could “no longer be classified as a democracy” because voters elected Republican super majorities to both the state House and Senate.
“North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela,” Reynolds wrote.
The state performed so poorly, according to the “study,” “that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.”
Seriously, we can’t make this stuff up.
Subsequently, many of the state’s mainstream media outlets, and even many national media outlets, ran with the story as if it were fact, never once offering an alternative point-of-view.
All of this because a radical liberal professor from North Carolina’s most radically liberal university did a “study” and wrote about it after voters didn’t carry out his will up and down the ballot on November 8th.
Now, numerous actual real experts in electoral politics are speaking out against Reynolds findings, describing the “study” as “silly,” “crappy” and “absurd.”
“I just think it’s sort of crappy data,” Andrew Gelman told the Carolina Journal. Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, is a well respected researcher in the field of electoral practices.
“This was not a trustworthy measure of anything. This is just sort of bad science,” Gelman continued.
Andy Taylor, a political science professor at NC State and frequent political expert for many of the state’s mainstream media outlets who ran with the original story but never once asked Taylor for his opinion in their original reporting, also found the “study” to be “absurd.”
“I think the comparisons are absurd, and I think the definitions are slippery as well,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t really matter what you’re saying. It’s the tone that’s important. It was shrill, and it fit the narrative of one part of the polarized divide, and so bang, it got picked up.”
“It confirmed what many people in the media seem to believe, and got into the bloodstream,” Taylor continued.
According to Reynolds ridiculous, and now debunked, “study,” North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58 of a possible 100 points placed the state “alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia, and Sierra Leone.”
Reynolds went on to attack North Carolina’s electoral districts that were redrawn by Republican super majorities in the General Assembly, a favorite target of the liberal media.
His study gave the redrawn districts a grade of just 7 out of a possible 100 points, making it “not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting, but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project.”
Professor Taylor scoffed at this notion, saying in research and political circles many “experts” tend to use these type of “dramatic” narratives to sell their study.
Taylor said with many researcher there is an “escalating of the dramatic in order to be seen and heard in a very, very noisy public sphere these days. One often errs on the side of the dramatic rather than the modest to get your point across and so to be heard.”
Obviously, being able to take an on-going narrative and paint it with “facts” as the worst possible situation garners the “study” much more attention, a fact Reynolds clearly took to heart with his “study” as he watched many “news outlets” report on his findings as if they were solid fact.
What’s more interesting about Reynolds study, carried out by the Electoral Integrity Project, for which he is a founder, is the groups and individuals who fund their “research.”
Along with “academic partners” including some of this country’s most liberal Ivy League universities, Reynolds’ project is funded by the Open Society Foundation, a group funded by billionaire progressive George Soros.
The Carolina Journal also reports other funders include “the Sunlight Foundation, a group that purports to back political transparency but has attacked the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision as “open[ing] the door to the unfettered, unregulated influx of money into elections;” and the Hewlett Foundation, which provides grants to left-leaning environmental and activist groups.”
Reynolds used The Perceptions of Electoral Integrity report as the basis for his “absurd” findings. The report is based on 49 criteria points distributed in a survey that is supposedly sent to as many as 40 individuals deemed “experts” in each governmental unit the project covers.
However, for some reason, the experts used are never once identified.
To this fact, Galeman said, “They used a certain method, and then it gives an unbelievable answer for North Korea. It makes me doubt their estimates for other countries too,”“They used a certain method, and then it gives an unbelievable answer for North Korea. It makes me doubt their estimates for other countries too.”
According to Galeman, the real issue at hand with the dataset Reynolds used is its reliance on ‘subjective responses’ from the participants. The dataset never takes into account, and never identifies, the participants’ personal political biases and preferences.
Galeman also said because different “experts” are chosen for each area, there is zero consistency or a standard of responses for comparative purposes. He was also apparently alerted to the study by a political scientist who received the questionnaire, an individual Galeman did not feel has the expertise to answer some of the questions being asked.
To the validity of that dataset, Professor Taylor remarked, “Across-state, and across-time comparisons are much more fruitful and interesting than those international kinds of comparisons” used in the study because others have very different electoral concepts and institutions, and “clearly do not approach the kind of democratic principles we have in North Carolina.”
Taylor did concede that North Carolina’s redrawn legislative districts do reduce North Carolina’s electoral integrity, but claimed Reynolds’ assertion that the General Assembly’s decision to call a special session to redefine the Governor’s executive authority as a “power grab” is clearly off-base.
“That’s a question of what we often call in the United States republican principles, this notion of preventing a concentration of power, of checking and balancing power,” Taylor said.
Reynolds’ entire premise appears to lie in the false assumption that the United States is a democracy run by the majority alone, instead of the truth of the matter being the U.S. is a republic that protects the minority against a majority run amok.
According to Taylor, the majority view is important, “But we don’t believe the majority should get what it wants sort of carte blanche without any limits. We believe that individuals have rights, and those rights should be protected, and majorities no matter how large and how passionate cannot take them away.”