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The Political Argument for Fixing VAWA Now

The difference between policy and politics is not always well understood. Policy are the laws and strategies that politicians put in place that actually affect people. Politics is what politicians say and do to get your vote. It is often said good policy is good politics but this is not always true, because sometimes good policies are hard to explain to voters.

Over the past several years we having been winning the policy debate among people primarily concerned with policy, including think tanks and talk radio. But we have made less progress with politicians, who have to think about politics to win elections.

One way to convince politicians that the politics is on their side is to show them the votes they will get by supporting a given policy. We have calculated that 16.5 million voters, or 13.5% of likely voters, have suffered from the abusive misuse of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or have a loved one who has, and will vote based on that experience. The nationwide and state by state calculations are shown below.

Further people adversely affected by VAWA, and their family members, represent a cross section of the electorate and very often feel so strongly about what happened to them that any recognition of the ways in which VAWA is misused would override all other issues, and they may very well switch their vote.

The next obvious question is how many votes will be lost by opposing the egregious flaws in the current version VAWA. This number is harder to calculate, but based on a National Organization for Women claimed membership of 500,000, that would leave them with less than 1/2% of likely voters. 1% or 2% of likely voters would be a very generous estimate because not all NOW members support VAWA's gender-discriminatory policies. This small group projects an inflated image of their numbers by influencing the 85% of likely voters who have had no direct experience with the system, and so are unfamiliar with the injustices caused by our domestic violence policies. No one is in favor of domestic violence, and those who don't really know anything about how our domestic violence system actually works naively believe the policies truly help domestic violence victims and don't harm innocent citizens.

Looking at the plusses and minuses of addressing the harm caused by the loopholes and other flaws in VAWA, it seems clear that Republicans would face no loss of voters because it is unlikely these voters would ever vote for a Republican. But even for Democrats who might consider addressing VAWA's flaws, the politics still works in their favor. As noted above, our calculations show that 13.5% of voters have either been seriously harmed by VAWA's flawed policies, or have had someone they love harmed by those policies. The number of voters for whom this issue is a top priority greatly outnumbers the generous estimate of the number of voters who think the current system is just fine.

But all politicians, Democratic or Republican, must be concerned with how the message is received by the 85% of voters who have no direct experience with DV.

In a nut shell, the truth, fair and just policies, and the numbers are all on our side. What the other side has is an overly-simple analysis of a complex problem. So their message, although wrong, is easier for the public to understand. So, we too must craft a simple message for politicians, but one based on truth and justice. One example of such a message is:

"VAWA inspired DV laws clog our courts with false claims of domestic violence, which prevents true victims from getting help."

Once a politician has been convinced that fixing VAWA will result in a net gain of votes, they will need simple and truthful messages for use in their campaigns.

 


 

Nationwide calculation

People issued Protective Orders each year1 2,000,000
Percentage of false protective orders2 50%
Percentage of voting age population that votes in presidential elections3 55%
Number of close family members affected4 3
Number of years of harmful impact5 10
 
Total likely voters directly impacted by unjust domestic violence laws6 16,500,000
Total actual voters in 2004 presidential election7 122,293,548
 
U.S. % of likely voters adversely affected by intrusive DV laws 13.5%

 


 

1 http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/RADARreport-VAWA-Restraining-Orders.pdf, pg. 9, estimates that 2-3 million temporary restraining orders are issued each year in the United States. The low estimate was used in these calculations to account for cases in which multiple restraining orders were issued against a single individual.

2 http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/RADARreport-VAWA-Restraining-Orders.pdf, pg. 9, estimates that estimates that half of all restraining orders are issued in the absence of direct injury or harm.

3 Avg of last two Presidential elections http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/index.html

4 Estimated 2 close family members or friends affected

5 Accounts for multiple years of intrusive DV policies

6 (2,000,000)X(50%)X(55%)X(3)X(10)= 16.5 Million Likely Voters

7 Voters in 2004 pres election. Source: http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/index.html

 


 

State by state calculation

STATE Score1 RANK2 Weight3 % of U.S.
population4
# Likely Voters
Affected by
Intrusive DV Laws5
% Likely Voters
Affected by
Intrusive DV Laws6
Alabama 9 27 1 1.51% 249,150 13.5%
Alaska 15 51 1.4 0.22% 50,820 18.9%
Arizona 9 27 1 2.07% 341,550 13.5%
Arkansas 6 11 0.8 0.93% 122,760 10.8%
California 13 49 1.3 11.95% 2,563,275 17.5%
Colorado 10 34 1.1 1.59% 288,585 14.8%
Connecticut 2 1 0.6 1.15% 113,850 8.1%
DC 8 21 1 0.19% 31,350 13.5%
Delaware 7 15 0.9 0.28% 41,580 12.1%
Florida 7 15 0.9 5.97% 886,545 12.1%
Georgia 6 11 0.8 3.12% 411,840 10.8%
Hawaii 4 5 0.7 0.42% 48,510 9.4%
Idaho 3 2 0.7 0.49% 56,595 9.4%
Illinois 5 8 0.8 4.20% 554,400 10.8%
Indiana 5 8 0.8 2.07% 273,240 10.8%
Iowa 11 41 1.2 0.98% 194,040 16.2%
Kansas 6 11 0.8 0.91% 120,120 10.8%
Kentucky 5 8 0.8 1.39% 183,480 10.8%
Louisiana 9 27 1 1.40% 231,000 13.5%
Maine 11 41 1.2 0.43% 85,140 16.2%
Maryland 7 15 0.9 1.84% 273,240 12.1%
Massachusetts 9 27 1 2.11% 348,150 13.5%
Michigan 8 21 1 3.29% 542,850 13.5%
Minnesota 7 15 0.9 1.70% 252,450 12.1%
Mississippi 10 34 1.1 0.95% 172,425 14.8%
Missouri 12 46 1.3 1.92% 411,840 17.5%
Montana 9 27 1 0.31% 51,150 13.5%
Nebraska 4 5 0.7 0.58% 66,990 9.4%
Nevada 11 41 1.2 0.84% 166,320 16.2%
New Hampshire 13 49 1.3 0.43% 92,235 17.5%
New Jersey 13 49 1.3 2.84% 609,180 17.5%
New Mexico 11 41 1.2 0.64% 126,720 16.2%
New York 12 46 1.3 6.31% 1,353,495 17.5%
North Carolina 10 34 1.1 3.08% 559,020 14.8%
North Dakota 10 34 1.1 0.21% 38,115 14.8%
Ohio 8 21 1 3.75% 618,750 13.5%
Oklahoma 7 15 0.9 1.18% 175,230 12.1%
Oregon 11 41 1.2 1.23% 243,540 16.2%
Pennsylvania 9 27 1 4.06% 669,900 13.5%
Rhode Island 9 27 1 0.35% 57,750 13.5%
South Carolina 8 21 1 1.44% 237,600 13.5%
South Dakota 10 34 1.1 0.26% 47,190 14.8%
Tennessee 9 27 1 2.01% 331,650 13.5%
Texas 7 15 0.9 7.81% 1,159,785 12.1%
Utah 10 34 1.1 0.87% 157,905 14.8%
Vermont 3 2 0.7 0.20% 23,100 9.4%
Virginia 12 46 1.3 2.52% 540,540 17.5%
Washington 11 41 1.2 2.11% 417,780 16.2%
West Virginia 8 21 1 0.59% 97,350 13.5%
Wisconsin 11 41 1.2 1.83% 362,340 16.2%
Wyoming 4 5 0.7 0.17% 19,635 9.4%

 


 

1 Table 5, column "Total", of RADAR Special Reprt: An Epidemic of Cvil Rights Abuses: Ranking State DV Laws http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/RADARreport-Ranking-of-States-DV-Laws.pdf

2 Ibid., column "Ranking"

3 Ibid., Weighting factor based on the state's total points. The mean of 8.5 was assigned a weighting factor of 1. Higher or lower totals were assigned higher or lower weighting factors accordingly.

4 Population distribution among states based on a 1 July 2007 US cenus data http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population

5 (% of U.S. population)X(16,500,000 likely voters (from nationwide calculation))

6 (# Likely Voters Affected by Intrusive DV Laws)/((% of U.S. population)X(Actual voters in 2004 election (from nationwide calculation)))