The Impact of Early Voting

AHappy to say I voted early and have moved one step closer to putting this madness behind me. Thanks to the Hancock County Public Library for setting up such a seamless operation. (I had been in that very room just two weeks prior listening to a presentation by local ghost hunters. God bless public libraries!)

FiveThirtyEight outlines early voting factors and how it may impact this presidential election:

Early voting may have a slight potential to affect the outcome of this election, but experts say its predictive value is not particularly high.

Burden and McDonald agreed that the majority of people who cast their ballots early would have participated in the election anyway and likely would not have changed their minds if they’d waited until Election Day, so the timing of their votes probably won’t change the outcome. Moreover, McDonald said it’s very difficult to identify national trends in early voting, since the laws vary widely by state and different voting opportunities attract different kinds of voters.

In general, though, Democrats who vote early tend to do so in person and Republicans tend to do so by mail. But that isn’t true everywhere — Oregon, Washington and Colorado all offer mail-in ballots to every registered voter, and most of their votes have gone to the Democratic candidates in presidential elections, at least in the last two electoral cycles. Early voting in the past two presidential elections has favored Democrats, McDonald said.

Well-organized campaigns do have opportunities to capitalize on early voting, however, and this year that could benefit Hillary Clinton, who has a stronger ground game than Donald Trump.

It “opens up more possibilities for voting, boosting turnout in the long run,” said Mark Stephenson, the CEO of Red Oak Strategic, a political consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia. “But it also gives the campaign tacticians the opportunity to analyze and see what is happening over a longer period of time and be efficient with where spending is going as a result. Both, when done successfully by either party, can provide a real tactical and strategic advantage.”

“I suppose it probably advantages the Democrats slightly,” Burden said, “but that’s mostly because the Democrats are organized to take on the early vote more than the Republicans are.”

Jon Ralston, a prominent political reporter in Nevada, noted that Clinton can take advantage of the Democratic Party’s edge in organizing early voting, which was built in 2008 and 2012.

The Clinton campaign uses a variety of techniques for reaching out to early voters, including door knocks, phone calls, emails and text messages, said Lily Adams, a Clinton campaign spokeswoman.

Clinton vs. Trump? A Taxing Decision in November

Now that the election process is to the point where the presidential nominees of the two major parties appear clear, it’s a good time to start considering their various tax plans. Although things can change, details will have to be determined and Congress will have its say, below are some of the current proposals from the two presumptive candidates.

Individual Income Tax
Donald Trump proposes just four brackets; Hillary Clinton proposes eight brackets.

trump clinton tax

Clinton caps itemized deductions at 28% of the deduction. Trump phases out all deductions except for the charitable deduction and the mortgage interest deduction.

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
Clinton creates a new minimum 30% rate on individuals earning over $1 million, while Trump eliminates the AMT.

Corporate Income Tax
Trump lowers the top corporate rate to 15%; Clinton has no specific proposal at this time.

Estate Tax
Clinton increases the top estate tax rate to 45% and lowers the estate tax exclusion to $3.5 million. Trump eliminates the estate tax.

Effect of Plans on the Deficit
And as a final note, you may also want to consider how these proposals will likely impact our federal deficit. Trump’s plan is projected to increase the deficit by $9.5 trillion over the next 10 years; Clinton’s is estimated to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over that same period of time.

FMLA: Are You Eligible?

It's been 20 years since the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed by President Clinton and since then many changes have been implemented, creating headaches and frustration for both employers and employees.

Some have even been forced to choose between their family and their jobs because they were not aware of new regulations or did not read the “fine print.”

FMLA is supposed to give a full-time employee a sense of job security when they need to take an extended leave of absence. Their leave can be due to a birth or adoption of a child, personal or family medical emergencies, or a health condition. Leave can be up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period and is generally unpaid.

However, the confusing part is knowing whether or not you are eligible. New regulations are constantly being added to FMLA and are causing many headaches for those trying to qualify. Just a few months ago, new regulations went into effect for military leave and flight crew eligibility.

FMLA is not just a hassle for employees but for the employer as well. Businesses who employ less than 50 people do not qualify for FMLA.

For employees, they must meet a few requirements such as working for their covered employer for at least one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours before their leave. When applying for a job, you must be aware of how many employees there are because, again, if there are less than 50 your employer is not qualified for FMLA and neither are you.

If you and your employer qualify for FMLA, then you will continue to receive any benefits — such as health insurance coverage — while on leave. Upon returning to work, you will retain the same rate of pay before you took leave as well as your same position. Note that you must be a full-time employee to qualify.

Aside from all the headaches, FMLA is the most widely used leave program. Human resource professionals need to stay on top of these changes to best serve their employees. Every year, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce partners with Ogletree Deakins to provide HR professionals and small business owners with information on the FMLA, including seminars and publications. In fact, our upcoming Employee Benefits seminar in September will educate you about new changes and allow you to ask important questions.

Eight is Enough for Penn. Voters

I’m not one to be particularly intrigued by political trends, but this one is hard to pass up. Democrats and Republicans have swapped control of the governor’s office in Pennsylvania every eight years since 1954. That’s 56 years — 14 elections — with a number of other interesting circumstances.

  • Only one of those times did voters choose a governor who was of the same political party as the president
  • According to the story with the details, the political landscape is often described as “Pennsyltucky”: the urban areas of Pittsburgh in the West and Philadelphia in the East, with the equivalent of rural Kentucky in the vast, sparsely populated middle
  • The late primary in 2008 made Pennsylvania (like Indiana) a major player in the Obama-Clinton primary battle. The result has been a 1.2 million advantage for Democrats in registered voters
  • Philadelphia’s dominance, with nearly 80% of registered voters declaring themselves Democrats and the suburbs turning more and more that way

A few excerpts below and the full story here. This will be one to watch in November.

The “8-year cycle,” as it is known from political science classes to the Capitol press room, has spanned 14 gubernatorial elections. It prevailed even in the days when Pennsylvania governors were limited to a single four-year term, rather than two four-year terms, as they are today. Two political analysts recently calculated the odds of the cycle simply being a fluke at longer than 5,000 to 1.

“The body politic likes balance,” says Tom Corbett, who has good reason to approve of Pennsylvania’s regular switches in political thinking. Corbett is the state attorney general, he is the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination and — if 2010 turns out the way the last 56 years have gone — he will be the next governor to take the oath of office in Harrisburg.

The 2010 gubernatorial election will be a test of whether anti-Washington and anti-Harrisburg sentiment can overcome what has been a steadily rising Democratic tide in recent years, particularly in the heavily populated suburbs of Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-largest city.

If this year comes down to turnout, no region will be more important than the suburbs of southeast Pennsylvania that ring Philadelphia. They vaulted Ed Rendell into the governor’s office eight years ago, ensured his re-election four years later and have taken on an outsized role in the state’s political calculus. 

Economist/Presidential Advisor Bearish on Recovery at Economic Club Lunch

Martin Feldstein – one of the most respected economists of our time – spoke a cautionary message at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in Indianapolis Tuesday.

“Reports of the economic recovery have been greatly exaggerated,” Feldstein said.

As a long-time Harvard professor of economics, Feldstein has educated many of today’s economic leaders. He has also served in top advisory roles for three of the past five U.S. Presidents. While acknowledging the consensus among professional forecasters that we are in an economic recovery, Feldstein remains skeptical about the sustainability of current growth.

“Many of the recent positive (economic) numbers are from temporary policy changes such as the stimulus package and first time home buyer tax credit,” Feldstein explains.

Feldstein supports the idea of using fiscal policy to end the recession but feels the Obama administration’s programs were poorly designed and ultimately failed. His long range concerns are based on the housing market – in which one-third of homebuyers owe more money on their loan than the home is currently worth – and the growth in national debt. 

In total, Feldstein feels that the economic outlook is a mixed picture – with the decrease in value of the dollar versus other world currencies making American goods more affordable and reducing trade deficits. He believes the prospects for a recovery are based largely on the household savings rate in 2010. An increased savings rate – while typically seen as beneficial for individual families – would delay the overall economic recovery by slowing consumption. The current national savings rate of 4-5% is double what it was immediately prior to the recession.