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Check all the boxes that apply November 3, 2009

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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I’ve had a nagging thought in my head ever since I voted early this morning. What if I didn’t press all of the levers? What if I missed one? Will my vote be invalidated? What if accidentally I pressed two on one row and missed another?

It’s not like any of us would rather be voting on a digital Diebold VoteFixer(TM) that’s all insecure proprietary code and owned by Republican fund-raisers, but the current machines at least in the places I’ve lived are a mess too. There has to be a better way.

But here’s what I keep coming back to. If we ever could figure out a more elegant, more secure, more user-friendly, multilingual, fully accessible system for voting, why not incorporate better ideas about voting at the same time? I’m talking about more than just real campaign finance reform, reevaluating the original Constitutional small state solution, and ending gerrymandering. Freedoms should not be constrained by tradition.

Why not fractional voting? We do a lot more calculation in modern elections than the Framers ever envisioned anyway. Bigger numbers, more districts, more ballot questions. We have the capability to calculate fractional voting results now. But more than that, the current scheme’s a false choice. There were 8 individuals running for NYC mayor under 10 parties, because candidate here can be listed on multiple lines under multiple parties. A vote for Thompson on the Democratic line or on the Working Families line still goes to the same person. Why not allow voters to vote for Working Families Thompson and Democratic Thompson and count it as 1 vote for Thompson in determining the winner and as half a vote for each party in determining funding? That’d be a major blow to the current two party monopoly. (Duopoly? Biopoly?) I’d like to think that as disillusioned as voters on the left and the right are with their choices now, such a plan would have majority support despite the obvious legislative hurdles.

What about going further with fractional voting though? What about also allowing a voters to split their single vote between as many of those 8 individual candidates as they choose? Why can’t a voter cast a ballot that says they like the Republican and the Conservative candidates equally? What do we gain from the current process? Voter apathy? A nation perpetually divided near-evenly between two parties? An inordinate number of ballots are disqualified in every election because people try to vote for more than one candidate. I think those voters instincts are right though. I can say I like the colors blue and green but not yellow. Why do we run democracies like we’re ten-year olds? ‘No, you have to pick who’s going to be your best friend, me or Jenny, or I’ll never talk to you again.’ Hell, this is America; we wouldn’t stand for an artificial rule that you could only put one topping on your pizza, why do we have lower standards when we vote? We’re not only capable of calculating fractional votes, but we obligated by reason and ethics.

While we’re at it, how about solving a major objection people may have to fractional voting and the problem of elections without a majority (i.e. no candidate gets at least 50% of the entire vote)? Why not mandate a runoff in any election without a majority? Since our newer, more elegant voting system would also have to be designed to keep costs down and simplify vote calculation, it would reduce the financial and logistical burdens of a runoff. 8 candidates becomes 2 or 3 and a second, definitive vote is taken a week or a month later. Obviously, it would take a Constitutional Amendment to enact this for Presidential races, but we could put this in place for all other federal elections tomorrow. An end to election victors who begin their term in office with already low popularity and approval and an end to the frustration we’ve all felt watching the agonizing recount process. From Bush v. Gore to the fight over the Minnesota Senatorial race, I don’t think any American is happy with the state of democracy in the age of recounts and court battles.

I’ll leave the details of a better voting system to people who are a lot smarter, but I think we need to rethink how we vote in a bigger sense.

Bits and Pieces March 20, 2008

Posted by Paige of Quarrel in we're only gonna die.
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1.) The fifth anniversary of the Iraq War – Five years too many. (At least) 80,000 Iraqi civilians casualties too many. 4000 U.S. lives too many (especially since so many of them are essentially fighting with a gun to their heads these days, knowing that if they’re injured, they’ll lose every benefit and compensation they were promised in the first place).

2.) The magic of voting – Every time we talk about recount efforts in that condescending tone we normally reserve for conspiracy theories or discuss conservative efforts to tamper with open primaries like they’re no big deal, every time Americans read about votes not being counted in Michigan and Florida and don’t understand why, we get farther and farther away from democracy. If people really don’t believe their votes will be counted by the magic of Diebold, if they don’t believe that citizens have any power left over this “government for the people, by the people” what choices are we leaving them? (P.S. – I pray this snafu will be the end of Dean’s tenure.)

3.) Telecom immunity – Isn’t it funny that an administration that just cant stop talking about “activist judges” “legislating from the bench” wants congress to prevent law suits from going forward. It’s a shame that the civil liberty crowd haven’t been able to come up with a catchy version of “judging from the legislature” to hammer on. With all the talk about Spitzer’s hypocrisy*, no one’s slowing down the Bush spin on this front. I’d’ve thought that with W’s approval hovering around 30 percent, even the most mindless mainstream media hack could do more than regurgitate the White House’s nonsense by now. Maybe something about immunity for Ma Bell but not for Mexican immigrants? I dunno. This is when I miss Air America. *shrug* What I do know is that when you remove people’s only legal recourse, you only leave them illegal options. If people feel locked out of the vote and blocked from the courts where will they turn? What will they do?

* Speaking of Spitzer, have you questioned what your reading and hearing? The way people refer to sex workers? The level of vitriol over his “crime”? How about Alan Dershowitz’s hunch that he was targeted? Possibly for pissing off Wall Street and maybe being the lone voice of reason nailing Bush in a taxpayer bailout while foreclosures continue to rise with no aid in sight for ordinary Americans. “Show me the man and I will find the crime?” Have you asked yourself what the government could get on you if they bugged your phones and email? …Are you sure they haven’t?

4.) Warrantless wiretapping in general – Isn’t it funny that the Bush-Cheney claim to privacy as “executive privilege” in withholding important documents continues, even gets a crack in Bush’s hilarious song, but we common folk not only don’t have the right to privacy, either in or bodies, our bedrooms, or our conversations, but we should just shut up and accept it without suing or fighting back? Or what? We’ll be un-american? I think I’m with Frank Schaeffer on this one (*shudder* never thought I’d say that), when liberals (and our pastors) call bullshit on the things we want to change about America, we’re traitors, but the same people who say that sucked up to Falwell. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In this scenario, of course, the minority voice in a democratic society still get screwed out of their liberty and safety by Bush’s fearmongering.

5.) ANGER – What all of this brings me to: people left with no options, backed into a corner; voting doesn’t help (eight years ago, we watched a party that received slightly LESS than half the vote take control of all three branches of government and the majority of state governments and it led us where we are today); the door of the courthouses have been closed to average Americans whether it’s to sue to protect our rights, to stop soldiers who’ve served with honor from being forced to fight, or to declare bankruptcy after we’ve lost our houses; the economy is tanking and it’ll get much worse before it gets better; and we’re stuck in a horribly unpopular war. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen people – on both sides – so angry. Obama democrats are threatening other democrats with revolt at the convention. We’re publicly wondering on the front page of the Times if the Good ‘Ole Boys will assassinate a black or female president. There’s routinely talk on political boards that would’ve warranted a visit from the Secret Service 20 years ago.

Look, I know a lot of you are also activists. I know you’re probably just as angry as a lot of other people I’ve spoken to lately. And that’s OK; anger can be a strong driving force for change. But you should keep in mind as a long season of protests begins with this week’s Iraq War anniversary that there’s a lot at stake in the choices you make out there. Our government is watching the same images of Tibet that you are, studying up just as they have been since Tianamen Square when they began heavily investing in so-called non-lethal weapons and paramilitary training for local police and new methods of crowd suppression. They learned important lessons at Kent State and in Chicago in 68 and in LA in 92. And any person who tries to convince you that violence is an option, they’re not only taking your life for granted, but they’re putting progressive movements at risk all across the nation. All it would take is one really stupid act to crack down on protesters everywhere as “domestic terrorists.” If one person wrote an email or text about it or mentioned it on the phone, the government already knows about any planned action. They’ve infiltrated your organizations. They’ve been taking names and addresses for years. Violent actions are doomed to failure in modern America. IF they let anything happen, it will only be because it makes what they do next easier to spin on that night’s news. Forget the moral and ethical arguments against violent actions — do you want to live to keep up the good fight another day? While, yes, tear gas and rubber bullets still kill, what happened in Seattle in 99 might as well have happened in another country. The Republicans have been trying to tell us for years that everything changed on 9/11 and in this respect, it’s actually true. This is exactly the type of political climate when terrible things can happen to good intentioned people. Don’t give them an excuse. There’s always another way. Stay safe out there, kids!

6.) The primary that won’t die – You may remember back in January I was torn between Obama and Clinton and Obama had only a slight edge when it came time for NY to vote. I just wanted to update that tally based on more recent events: -10 points to Clinton for doing McCain’s job for him and basic all-around evilness I expect from Republicans (even though I still don’t agree with Olbermann on the whole); we’ve seen an Obama staffer fired for calling Clinton a “monster” over her dirty tricks and a Clinton staffer quit after, well, acting like a monster — minus 5 more to Clinton for such poor leadership choices when running for head of the Executive branch of the (formerly?) most powerful nation in the world; finally, +1,000 points to Obama for masterfully playing that speech on race! Not only was the speech amazing, but any claims that “the more he has to talk about race, the blacker he becomes in the public imagination” obviously miss the strategy-fu wherein he took the high-road on race, an ever present issue this year either way, and actually highlighted his Christian pastor problems to set straight months of Republicans trying to peg him as a Muslim (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Well played, sir.