Join 3,442 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


If voting could actually change anything...
November 2, 2006 12:25 PM   Subscribe

The election isn't until next Tuesday, but already problems are being reported. It's not just in Texas, and not just in relation to everyone's favorite electronic-voting whipping boy, either; it's becoming clear that every vendor has its own unsolved security issues. In fact it seems that an increasing number of voices are warning that the US is in for an awful lot of contention from all parties involved after next week's vote, and that can't be good. Others are taking a non-disinterested rose-colored view of things and loudly proclaiming that there's nothing wrong with the system, or at least that no one should imply or infer or investigate the matter. Still others are quick to point out that there's nothing wrong with electronic voting, except when they're linked to a foreign government that doesn't get along particularly well with them. Whatever is true about the state of electronic voting in 2006, you can't deny that it has led to a certain plurality of opinions...
posted by clevershark (130 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Absentee ballots are goodness.
posted by nofundy at 12:39 PM on November 2, 2006


We just did this on Monday.
posted by smackfu at 12:39 PM on November 2, 2006


You guys (Americans) should get your shit together.
posted by disgruntled at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2006


Somehow I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of these stories again and again on the blue.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2006


Absentee ballots are goodness.

It's the Truth.
posted by French Fry at 12:50 PM on November 2, 2006


I don't have unshaking confidence in much, but I do believe that truth will out. If somebody is trying to hide something about rigged voting machines, it will be exposed to the world. I just wish I could be confident that there would actually be consequences for committing treason.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:50 PM on November 2, 2006


You guys (Americans) should get your shit together.

Good stuff. Insightful. You have a pithy plan for world peace or anything while you are at it?
posted by Pontius Pilate at 1:04 PM on November 2, 2006


Absentee ballots are goodness.

Absentee ballots are counted by central tabulators, basically just another electronic voting machine. . . nice try, same result. . . .

We need to go back to paper ballots. Paper ballots, paper ballots, paper ballots with a confirmation of results through exit polls and counting by members of every political party, not just democrats and republicans.
posted by mk1gti at 1:11 PM on November 2, 2006


"*You have a pithy plan for world peace or anything while you are at it?*"
I do. Mind your own (Americans) fucking business. That would go a long way towards achieving world peace.
posted by 2sheets at 1:13 PM on November 2, 2006 [3 favorites]


"I just wish I could be confident that there would actually be consequences for committing treason."

There are consequences for committing treason, the problem is that voter fraud is not treason. I for one would support changing that law though, and sending white collar criminals to the guillotine for such treachery. For that matter gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics fall under the same general guidelines for me. Especially when the RNC is paying the legal bills of people that help them do these things, like in New Hampshire last year.
posted by sourbrew at 1:14 PM on November 2, 2006


The Election Transparency Project: I want to document everything!

Seriously, get a camera and help the future pick through the wreckage.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:16 PM on November 2, 2006


I do. Mind your own (Americans) fucking business. That would go a long way towards achieving world peace.

Of course. I'm sure the only reason Israel and Palestine are not sitting down for tea together is because we are actively interfering with their constant peace efforts.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 1:16 PM on November 2, 2006


Oh Pontius, you're just going to wash your hands of the whole thing anyway....
posted by dejah420 at 1:20 PM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]


confirmation of results through exit polls

That's a terrible idea. We need to focus on counting votes, not introducing another more uncertain element as a way of verifying those votes.

I'm not a tin foil hat type, convinced that there is some massive conspiracy to rig this election. That said, electronic voting is not really viable at this point. Aside from the obvious potential for deliberate fraud, there are just too many chances for electronic errors, votes being erased, poll operators not knowing how to operate the machines properly, etc.

Even so, we need to remember that paper ballots are not fool proof. It might be marginally harder, but it's entirely possible to rig elections with paper ballots.

We will never eliminate all electoral fraud, it's just not feasible. We just need to make sure we do enough to make sure the elections seems mostly legitimate. The real threat here is to the loss of legitimacy of the results, not necessarily a change in outcome.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:24 PM on November 2, 2006


Paper ballots, monitored by Venezuela returning the favor. Simple.
posted by scheptech at 1:24 PM on November 2, 2006


I do. Mind your own (Americans) fucking business. That would go a long way towards achieving world peace.

That is just so much bullshit. If the American government never again interfered in another country, you and everyone else like you would be here in the blue bitching about how America isn't stopping the genocide in Darfur or Bosnia or Myanmar or wherever the next group of people trying to kill each other for cocked up reasons are.
posted by Inkoate at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2006


Of course. I'm sure the only reason Israel and Palestine are not sitting down for tea together is because we are actively interfering with their constant peace efforts.

Heres looking forward to the Cream & Sugar Accords of 2010!
posted by French Fry at 1:28 PM on November 2, 2006


The root cause of all this stuff is the apathy of the American voter, and that's reason enough to vote.
posted by JWright at 1:34 PM on November 2, 2006


In other words Inkoate, everyone should just stop bitching to America, is that right? Goddamn, the no more fish thread depressed the hell out of me & now this...

Inkoate: That is just so much bullshit. If the American government never again interfered in another country, you and everyone else like you would be here in the blue bitching about how America isn't stopping the genocide in Darfur or Bosnia or Myanmar or wherever the next group of people trying to kill each other for cocked up reasons are.

This would make me laugh if it weren't so symptomatic of how so many Americans feel. Remind me again, what are your cocked up reasons for killing Iraqis?
posted by stinkycheese at 1:36 PM on November 2, 2006


"Heres looking forward to the Cream & Sugar Accords of 2010!"

Followed by the Crumpet and Scone Ceasefire of 2012
posted by sourbrew at 1:36 PM on November 2, 2006


That's part of it, hovercraft, though there seems to be a lot of cynicism regarding photography in polling places. Our form of government was designed too long ago, it does not suit the age. I doubt tweaking it will happen, but we might be able to change the way elections are run. Documentation is a start -- I'd love to see this lead to a great open source redesign, in which gerrymandering is ended, election days become holidays, registration is easier, etc.

There's so much bullshit in this government that it's starting to feel like we are doomed to farce and an entrenched kakistocracy of arms traders, charlatans, and utter bastards. I think I have some hope. We'll see on November 8th what happens to it.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 1:41 PM on November 2, 2006


Apparently Ohio poll workers have come up with a whole new, yet-unexplored way to compromise poll results, too.
posted by clevershark at 1:45 PM on November 2, 2006


confirmation of results through exit polls

That's a terrible idea. We need to focus on counting votes, not introducing another more uncertain element as a way of verifying those votes.


exit polling isn't new nor uncertain. it's been around for nearly fifty years, is used in other countries as a means of gauging the validity of an election. any means of counting would require a check to assure it's efficacy. i don't have the time to check just yet, but i believe the election in '04 had a margin of error around 2 or 3%. how is that not a good idea? without the exit poll in that election we would be without the most damning evidence that the '04 election was stolen. numbers aren't partisan.
posted by andywolf at 1:51 PM on November 2, 2006


Inkoate writes "If the American government never again interfered in another country, you and everyone else like you would be here in the blue bitching about how America isn't stopping the genocide in Darfur or Bosnia or Myanmar or wherever the next group of people trying to kill each other for cocked up reasons are."

Yes. I'm sure the US government shapes its foreign policy to ensure that people will not complain about it on MeFi. uh-uh. Sure. I guess that makes Matt a sort of shadow commander-in-chief. Yes, it all makes sense now...
posted by clevershark at 1:53 PM on November 2, 2006


Lets outsource our voting machines to India!!!

Slate: Bombay Ballot: What the U.S. can learn from India's electronic voting machines.

While we in the United States agonize over touch screens and paper trails, India managed to quietly hold an all-electronic vote. In May, 380 million Indians cast their votes on more than 1 million machines. It was the world's largest experiment in electronic voting to date and, while far from perfect, is widely considered a success. How can an impoverished nation like India, where cows roam the streets of the capital and most people's idea of high-tech is a flush toilet, succeed where we have not?
posted by ernie at 1:55 PM on November 2, 2006


you and everyone else like you would be here in the blue bitching about how America isn't stopping the genocide in Darfur

I'm pretty sure America isn't doing that anyway.
posted by blacklite at 1:55 PM on November 2, 2006


If Hugo Chavez is elected in my district, I'm going to be severely disappointed in the system.
posted by psmealey at 2:00 PM on November 2, 2006


"bitching about how America isn't stopping the genocide in Darfur"
And of course we aren't stopping the genocide in Darfur. That's the point, numb nuts. "Minding your own business" doesn't mean not helping people. It means not invading or overthrowing other peoples government just because you don't like them. It was a bad idea in 1898, and it's a bad idea today.
posted by 2sheets at 2:04 PM on November 2, 2006


2000 election debacle
2001 sept 11
2003 iraq war mess
2004 election irregularities
2005 katrina
2006 election?!

I'm only 30, but it's hard for me to remember a period where America was as incompetent as this. Is it just a bad stretch, or is it signs of a breakdown in the basic ability of the Federal Government to get anything done? Or is someone profitting from all this mess?
posted by cell divide at 2:05 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Avi Rubin was in an NPR interview over the weekend that I liked a lot. He says, basically, that if we're worried about the code security in the election machines, if we're worrying about open source versus closed source, or about Diebold's honesty..... we're screwing up. Badly. We're giving the code too much power.

His idea: machine-assisted ballots. When a voter walks in, they should be asked whether they want to fill out ballots by hand or with a computer. If they fill it out via computer, it just prompts them through the options and then prints a ballot. The voter inspects the ballot; if they don't like it, they can reprint until happy.

Once the voter has a ballot they like, they take it to the election official and turn it in just the way we've always done. We count them just the way we always have. The actual vote-counting machines hardly have to have any brains at all... something like the old Scantrons. The less code is running, the less there is to go wrong.

If there's a problem, we have paper ballots to recount, and, presuming that most people use computers to fill them out, we'll get much more consistent results, as well.

If there's a real dispute, we do a hand recount. Since we have paper ballots, we can still do that.

This system has worked for 200 years; we can speed it up, take advantage of some of the modern tools, and reduce human error, without compromising the results. If we do it right, we can actually have better accuracy than we ever have before.

If we do it wrong, like with the Diebold systems, we can never know what the actual ballots were. Never. We have to trust trust Diebold to both write perfect code and to tell us the right results. There can't be recounts; Diebold's results are FINAL.

Not smart.
posted by Malor at 2:09 PM on November 2, 2006


andywolf, the problem with exit polls is there is no reason to assume they reflect the actual votes cast. Plenty of people don't answer exit polls, I don't, and people might very well lie. The only true indicator of the vote cast is the vote that is cast. Relying on statistical analysis of a secondary indicator of voting is not a sufficient basis for second guessing an election.

Look at your statement, you propose that the value of exit polls is proved by the fact that otherwise we wouldn't know that the 2004 election was stolen. But, the only way we have to believe that it was stolen is the exit polls themselves. You argue for it by assuming its validity. The group which conducts the exit polls has admitted that there are problems with the polls, and revised them. Can we really start claiming elections are stolen based on this? Is that healthy for democracy?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:09 PM on November 2, 2006


That's part of it, hovercraft, though there seems to be a lot of cynicism regarding photography in polling places.

(Please, hoverboards!)

Yeah, and people have a right to be suspicious of cameras, but there's more to the project than taking photos. Even taking documentary video of whose cars turn up in the lots outside polling stations throughout the day. Citizen journalism is the only thing left when the pros have given up.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:10 PM on November 2, 2006


Even taking documentary video of whose cars turn up in the lots outside polling stations throughout the day.

When the Republicans do this to minorities, it's called voter intimidation.
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2006


andywolf, the problem with exit polls is there is no reason to assume they reflect the actual votes cast. Plenty of people don't answer exit polls, I don't, and people might very well lie. The only true indicator of the vote cast is the vote that is cast. Relying on statistical analysis of a secondary indicator of voting is not a sufficient basis for second guessing an election.

Look at your statement, you propose that the value of exit polls is proved by the fact that otherwise we wouldn't know that the 2004 election was stolen. But, the only way we have to believe that it was stolen is the exit polls themselves. You argue for it by assuming its validity. The group which conducts the exit polls has admitted that there are problems with the polls, and revised them. Can we really start claiming elections are stolen based on this? Is that healthy for democracy?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:09 PM EST on November 2 [+] [!]


Yeah, you're right. The whole field of statistical sampling is totally fake.

You don't seriously think that do you?
posted by butterstick at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2006


cell divide: I'm pushing 40, and I've never seen such incompetence either. The entire country is collapsing, IMO, into a morass of stupidity. The education systems have failed so badly that the voters don't even understand that this isn't normal.

I had some friends who believed that the idiots had taken over in the mid-90s, and actually moved out of the country because of it. I knew they were bright, but I didn't realize just how smart.

Bulgaroktonos: those same polling and sampling methods have been used to disqualify elections in OTHER countries. Considering the climate of "shout down the lib'ruls" prevalent in the country from 2001 through late last year, the pollsters might have agreed to revise their methods without those methods actually being incorrect.

Exit polling is generally considered extremely accurate; in every other election I know of, they predicted the outcome more accurately than any other method.
posted by Malor at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2006


"Minding your own business" doesn't mean not helping people. It means not invading or overthrowing other peoples government just because you don't like them.

No. "Minding your own business" means staying out of the affairs of other sovereign countries. Strict adherence to the mind-your-own-business policy would, in fact, prevent a country from helping another country, since such help would require interference with the status quo. You've come up with a nice alternate definition, but it's not a correct one.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2006


Mind your own (Americans) fucking business. That would go a long way towards achieving world peace.

But they *are* minding their own business, in the literal sense of the word.

Aside from that, can I be the first in this thread to make a "meh - same shit, slightly different flavour" comment on the elections?

This applies not only to the US, but I think to pretty much every country with a largely two-party system these days, in which the major parties, if they are distinguishable at all (other than in terms of the leadership personality cult), are distinguishable only on relatively fringe issues, while their core economic principles & policies are pretty much carbon copies of each other.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:26 PM on November 2, 2006


A statistical analysis of a valid poll might have some persuasive power, but the very groups that conduct exit polls have admitted that they do not always line up with the actual results. That alone should be enough to convince anyone with a brain that we should not be using them to judge whether an election was stolen.

Statistical sampling is far from "totally fake" and I've never even come close to saying it is. Still, we don't count the votes of hypothetical people, we don't count the votes of people based on their neighbors vote. We should count the votes that are cast, and nothing more. If exit polls are a valid election tool, why not simply take a statistical sample of the votes cast to settle the election? I can't imagine you would support that, and that has to do with why we hold elections.

There are two reasons to hold an election. One is, obviously, to determine who should be elected. The second is to provide the public with a sense that they are represented in government, to bind them to that government and it's decisions.

Undoing this second reason is the real threat of voter fraud, since fraud really only comes up in elections that are close enough that who is elected is essentially arbitrary. If we turn to statistical measures to check for voter fraud, we are needlessly undermining faith in the system. Maybe in cases where exit polls disagree with official results there has been fraud, but it's also possible that other factors have resulted in discrepancy. It's profoundly unwise to start muddling the issue of who has won an election without solid, real proof.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2006


So when they hold elections in the United States, do the UN send in inspectors to make sure things run properly?

I sure hope they do.
posted by Jimbob at 2:30 PM on November 2, 2006


Sorry, hoverboards, no more "craft".

I meant to link to this earlier thread on mefi about another project that was only about photography. I was a little stunned by the cynicism and snarkiness.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:32 PM on November 2, 2006


Jimbob, I don't think we let them.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 2:33 PM on November 2, 2006


That alone should be enough to convince anyone with a brain that we should not be using them to judge whether an election was stolen.

Um no. No one is arguing that a statistical sample is a replacement for an election. Nor am I arguing that it would be somehow "more accurate", it wouldn't. It'll have a margin of error like any sample. Since it isn't viable to hold multiple elections and average them, we take a sample to look for irregularities. Most of the time we don't find them, but sometimes we do. Thus the recount.

You really can't discount the notion of the sample. It's pretty integral to any election, as it is the only way to determine if an audit should be done. Without the sample, you might as well not even have an audit mechanism, and therefore, why leave an audit trail at all?
posted by butterstick at 2:33 PM on November 2, 2006


Exit polling is simply asking people when they leave, "How did you just vote?" If those numbers diverge very much from the counted results, it has historically been a pretty safe bet that something is wrong.

Nobody is saying that exit polling should replace counting ballots, but the more sanity checks we have on these systems, the better. Proper exit polling will point out trouble spots, and will let us spend our limited resources looking at things that are the most likely to be a problem.

Arguing against exit polls, IMO, is arguing in favor of rigged elections.
posted by Malor at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Arguing against exit polls, IMO, is arguing in favor of rigged elections.

Without a doubt. I fail to see how anybody can complain about more information, unless they have something to hide.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2006


Butterstick -- what degree of "irregularities" do you propose we tolerate, and what do you propose we do in the event that the irregularities exceed that threshold?
posted by esquire at 2:38 PM on November 2, 2006


Great question esquire, and that is for statisticians to decide. I think that whatever number they come up with (15%?), it should be written into law as a recount trigger, just like we currently do with elections that are decided by less than 1% of the vote totals.
posted by butterstick at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2006


Malor -- I think that what you just described would work well in theory but poorly in practice. Isn't there a high potential for abuse and intimidation? Would a statistical sampling model account for the reluctance of voters to admit supporting, for example, a liberal candidate in very conservative parts of the country? That sounds like an awful idea.
posted by esquire at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2006


I don't believe democracy exists in the USA anymore. I voted anyway. I'm just hoping that false results will be egregious enough, in enough places this time, to make clear to enough people that we need paper ballots.
posted by jam_pony at 2:45 PM on November 2, 2006


Butterstick -- That seems to place a lot of authority in the hands of statisticians. Would the statisticians themselves be appointed or elected? Would we need to pick bipartisan panels of statisticians? I do not know a lot about the field beyond what I learned in two stats classes in college
posted by esquire at 2:47 PM on November 2, 2006


I'm with Malor. When I was a kid (1970s-80s), we had a class in school called "civics," where we learned all about the constitution, voting, where your taxes go, etc. Then again, we had music and art classes, too. (All in public school, btw.) Today there's no such thing -- at least not in my family's PS district. So, people are ignorant going in.

Then there's the well-meaning idiot factor. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I can't help but wonder if when the cynical Republicans (Lee Atwater-era and forward) came into power, they purposely fucked up public ed (under the guise of "small government") to create a population that would be ever-so-slightly dumber and more malleable than previous ones, and thus more susceptible to the "liberals are pointy-headed snobs" sloganeering, and more apt to vote for proposals (and representatives) that advertise themselves as being good for the common man, but actually are anything but. See Bush's "tax cuts" for an example: Explaining how the AMT works, or that no family farmers have ever -- never, ever! -- paid the "death tax" makes most folks' head hurt.

The real answer, of course, is that the Republicans became master marketers, while tossing out their morals completely -- the notion of the common good has gone the way of the Dodo when it comes to the Republican party, which is why I can swallow the so-called "wimpiness" of the Democrats. The fact that John Kerry would never savage John McCain over a bad joke (or whatever it was) is actually a small ray of hope for our Godforsaken republic.
posted by turducken at 2:54 PM on November 2, 2006


No authority is being granted to statisticians. Every state controls its own election laws, and this is just another aspect of those laws for them to decide.

I really don't see a way around the need for spot-checking and audits. In fact, I would go further and say that not only should polls that diverge widely from exit polls be audited, but random precints should be audited as well.

Is democracy not worth double checking? This could only serve to dramatically increase voter faith in the system.
posted by butterstick at 2:55 PM on November 2, 2006


"has its own unsolved security issues"...but I thought they were keeping us safe...?
posted by GreyFoxVT at 2:56 PM on November 2, 2006


That seems to place a lot of authority in the hands of statisticians.
not if the methodology, sample size, etc are open for review. i would think other statisticians review the work. just wikipedia the 2004 irregularities and you have a bunch of different number crunchers going over the data. the more data collected in an election the more transparent it becomes.
posted by andywolf at 3:04 PM on November 2, 2006


Seriously people, paper voting is the only way you guys are ever gonna get your shit together.

Here in Australia, I've scrutineered the vote count at several previous elections. I'm there (usually for my party's candidate) when they lock the doors and open the ballot box and pour all those paper votes onto the table. There's usually a scrutineer for every candidate there as well, but often it's just for the other major political party.

There's also an official from the Electoral Commission, a relatively independent body whose job it is to be impartial and to make sure the votes aren't tampered with. As a scrutineer, I'm not allowed to touch the votes. The only ones allowed to do so are from the Electoral Commission.

As the votes are counted, I watch and so do the other scrutineers. I'm watching to make sure any vote that the vote counter from the Commission gives to my opponent is actually a vote for my opponent. If I think the counter made a bad decision, or if I think the vote is invalid for whatever reason, I can dispute it. In situations where there's some contention, the official from the Commission makes a final call.

At the end of the night, once all the votes have been tallied and preferences distributed etc, the official rings in the result to the Electoral Commission where the results are entered into a central computer. Meanwhile we, the scrutineers, call in the results to our candidate. In this way we can ensure that after the paper vote count has been called in to the commission and entered into their computer, if for some reason the numbers don't match up later there is several independent verifications of what the count actually was. If there's still a dispute after that, the paper votes are kept for a period of about a month (I believe) so that a recount can be done.

Which all sounds a hell of a lot better to me than that fucked up system you guys have over there.

Computers have their place people, but when it comes to ensuring the future of your democracy, you don't go down the easy route. You spend as much money as needs to be spent, you do as much checking, double checking and triple checking as is needed, and most importantly of all, you use a pen and a paper.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:08 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


fuck it, let cyberdyne handle it.
posted by andywolf at 3:15 PM on November 2, 2006


Even taking documentary video of whose cars turn up in the lots outside polling stations throughout the day.

smackfu writes: When the Republicans do this to minorities, it's called voter intimidation.

Because it is voter intimidation. And it's racist as hell, as are running radio ads saying you'll be arrested for voting if you have too many parking tickets, or putting up flyers advertising a false election day.

As for this election, I'm looking forward to it, but in multiple precincts they're going to be counting and re-counting votes into the Spring. Welcome to our very own banana republic.

And we want to make Iraq a democracy in our image. Lawl.
posted by bardic at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2006


We have to nationalize elections before 08 (even if only for national elections like for Senate and House and Pres), with paper trails, recounts, and open software and systems. (of course, with Bush, Brownie or someone just like him would end up in charge of the committee, and Diebold would be chosen by the GOP to provide the machines)
posted by amberglow at 3:16 PM on November 2, 2006


and HAVA, the Help America Vote Act, has to be scrapped and they have to start over--this law has put these machines in every single district in the country--without mandating any oversight or paper trails.

(it's only because of people fighting that NYS hasn't implemented it yet--we're a year late)
posted by amberglow at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2006


Would a statistical sampling model account for the reluctance of voters to admit supporting, for example, a liberal candidate in very conservative parts of the country?

I'm not an expert, but I'm fairly sure that this hasn't been shown to be the case in the past. We've been doing exit polling a long time, and in nearly every case, it matches the actual result very closely, even in very partisan areas like the Deep South.

As a thought experiment: if we presume that this does happen, where intimidated voters lie to the exit pollers about the results... all that happens is more vote counting. Their untruths won't actually change the outcome of the election, they'll just make the results take longer.

For the election results to be changed invisibly, the dominant party would have to both intimidate voters AND miscount votes in almost exactly the same percentages, and I don't think anyone knows how to do that.

The only possible problem I can see is if intimidated voters cause a recount, and the dominant party is able to rig the recount... but sans exit polling, all they have to do is rig the original count.

I'm not seeing any downside... it'll never be WORSE than no exit polling, and often better.
posted by Malor at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2006


amberglow: I'm all in favor of paper trails, recounting, and open systems... but I'm not sure federalizing it would necessarily be a good idea. Or constitutional.
posted by Malor at 3:20 PM on November 2, 2006


We need to go back to colored pebbles dropped into a hat. The losing candidate then get's stoned with his losing pebbles.
posted by tkchrist at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2006


but I'm not sure federalizing it would necessarily be a good idea. Or constitutional.

I don't see why not---the illegal suppression of votes and other voting problems in our past have always been solved nationally--either through laws or the Supreme Court. The south didn't change their ways thru states acting.
posted by amberglow at 3:24 PM on November 2, 2006


The Shirley Jackson Voting Act of 2007: We need to go back to colored pebbles dropped into a hat. The losing candidate then get's stoned with his losing pebbles.
posted by amberglow at 3:25 PM on November 2, 2006


Ooooh, tkchrist, you may be on to something there...very Lottery. I like it.
posted by dejah420 at 3:31 PM on November 2, 2006


It puts too much power in too few hands, amberglow... do you really want the Bush Administration in charge of nationwide elections?

Even if you trusted their motives and desire to count ballots accurately, which I know you don't..... these are the people who handled Katrina.

I think I'll stick with the locals. At least that way, if there are problems, the size of the problems will still be manageable. Local corruption can be detected and overridden at the Federal level, but Federal corruption, even if it's detectable, will be damnably hard to fix.

Look at Congress.
posted by Malor at 3:32 PM on November 2, 2006


Butterstick -- That seems to place a lot of authority in the hands of statisticians. Would the statisticians themselves be appointed or elected? Would we need to pick bipartisan panels of statisticians? I do not know a lot about the field beyond what I learned in two stats classes in college --esquire

Next thing you know, we'll be debating why there are only theoretical statisticians in power and we're throwing applied statisticians into the sea. You just can't trust those dirty non-applied statisticians. They eat babies.
posted by Bugg at 3:34 PM on November 2, 2006


Local corruption, and state corruption can't be all fixed or even all detected at the Federal level--it never is.

What we have is many corrupt Secys of State like Blackwell (and like Harris was) who all are playing different games--removing valid voters from the rolls, conniving with the manufacturers of the machines, covering for the manufacturers, etc...

If it was based on SS#s or something, and thoroughly nationalized, it would be visible when bad things were done--as long as safeguards were built in. This is not about Bush, but a non-partisan and ongoing problem that's unacceptable.
posted by amberglow at 3:36 PM on November 2, 2006


Most civilized countries don't have this local and state hodgepodge of shit--they have national standards and laws and procedures.
posted by amberglow at 3:37 PM on November 2, 2006


amberglow - nationalization is *really* not the solution to everything. There are millions of issues, voting included, where nationalizing them would do more harm than good. (Consider education and No Child Left Behind, for instance.)
posted by Pontius Pilate at 3:56 PM on November 2, 2006


Actually, I think nationalizing elections is the prime example of where the government at the highest level has an obligation to step in and make sure states and counties have their act together. I'm not in the mood to look it up, but I've heard Brazil has a pretty nifty system in place.

It's not socialism to want to make sure something (that's crucially important, yet pretty darn straightforward) works the way it should. It's common sense. Florida and many other states have proven, repeatedly, that they can't get the job done. Take 1% of the TSA's budget (believe me, we couldn't be any less safe with fewer of those morons) to do it. It'd be a start.
posted by bardic at 4:08 PM on November 2, 2006


Pontius, kneejerk anti-nationalization is also not the solution. Voting already is mostly nationalized--it's just not standardized. It's always been a federal thing, especially in terms of who can vote, and when, and where. Even the adoption of these horrible machines only happened because of HAVA, a national law itself.
posted by amberglow at 4:21 PM on November 2, 2006


It's alway also been the failure of states and local places to implement federal voting laws and federal court judgements that has been the problem, as it is now. Local and State implementation and effective oversight of federal laws and voting rights have ALWAYS been the problem.
posted by amberglow at 4:23 PM on November 2, 2006


I'm not going to pull the cites again, because we've been through this before, but arguing that exit polls are not any more reliable than any other statistical poll is just ludicrous.

Exit polling is, far and away, the most accurate form of polling -the sample is huge and extremely targeted. Exit polls, until the last two national elections, have historically been extremely accurate. We need exit polling, and anyone in power telling you otherwise is hiding something.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:32 PM on November 2, 2006


WaPo today: A recently distributed guide for Republican poll watchers in Maryland spells out how to aggressively challenge the credentials of voters and urges these volunteers to tell election judges they could face jail time if a challenge is ignored. ...
posted by amberglow at 4:40 PM on November 2, 2006


amberglow: What we have is many corrupt Secys of State like Blackwell (and like Harris was) who all are playing different games--removing valid voters from the rolls, conniving with the manufacturers of the machines, covering for the manufacturers, etc...

I don't think that it's entirely knee-jerk. One of the principles of American government not shared by many other countries is that separation of powers also works vertically as well as horizontally. Do we really want a situation where the party in control of the federal government can influence who controls the statehouse, city hall and the schools? The vertical separation of powers often acts in the interests of the left as opposed to it, as states and municipalities are often able to act on issue that are deadlocked at the federal level.

It's a complex issue and while some forms of federal standardization are good ideas, handing the entire kit and kaboodle over to a federal bureau needs to be handled with caution, especially given the winner-take-all nature of federal politics. Will the appointed federal replacements for county clerks and secretaries of state have any accountability at the local level?

I have to say that this election is one of the first in a while that have me warming to the Democrats. The MeFi chorus after 2004 demanding that the party throw mythical "red state" voters under the bus was extremely depressing. Local politics matter, and fighting local politics on the ground is what is going to gain seats in the federal House and Senate (in addition to statehouses and city councils all over.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:52 PM on November 2, 2006


I don't know that electronic voting is the real bogeyman here. The fact that electoral offices for each state are patronage appointments run by people who run political campaigns and therefore have a personal stake in the elections they are also supposed to certify seems unbelievably stupid. Literally, it's putting the wolf in charge of henhouse security. I can't believe that nothing has changed in that regard since the Florida fiasco of 2000.
posted by clevershark at 4:54 PM on November 2, 2006


Allegations of electoral tampering in Baltimore:

Board of Elections officials say between 10 and 20 judges received phone calls telling them not to show up at the polls. Now, a team of federal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating the claims.

The mysterious caller claimed to be with the Board of Elections.
posted by clevershark at 4:59 PM on November 2, 2006


It's a complex issue and while some forms of federal standardization are good ideas, handing the entire kit and kaboodle over to a federal bureau needs to be handled with caution, especially given the winner-take-all nature of federal politics. Will the appointed federal replacements for county clerks and secretaries of state have any accountability at the local level?
Right now, if a Secy of State or County Clerk says no, there's no investigation at all or recounts. Voters have no recourse now at all. That would change, and the pressures put on a national agency would increase to keep it aboveboard--Congress would certainly get involved and have oversight and be able to investigate, which they can't legally do now, because it's up to each state.

Tonight is the HBO doc Hacking Democracy--interview with Bev Harris and Russell Michaels here
posted by amberglow at 5:00 PM on November 2, 2006


KirkJobSluder writes "handing the entire kit and kaboodle over to a federal bureau needs to be handled with caution, especially given the winner-take-all nature of federal politics. Will the appointed federal replacements for county clerks and secretaries of state have any accountability at the local level?"

Uhh... the rest of the world does it. It's called an independent, nonpartisan electoral commission. Look up Elections Canada.

This is not a difficult concept to grasp, yet so many Americans have a kneejerk NO WE MUST NOT FEDERALIZE response. Why? Is there actually a good reason?

Nope!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:09 PM on November 2, 2006


The MeFi chorus after 2004 demanding that the party throw mythical "red state" voters under the bus was extremely depressing. Local politics matter, and fighting local politics on the ground is what is going to gain seats in the federal House and Senate (in addition to statehouses and city councils all over.)

Well said, and another reason to be thankful for Howard Dean and his 50-State strategy. It was the ostensible success of Clinton's "third way" that really screwed the party over, since they weren't going to throw money at winnable local elections in mostly red states. Hopefully those guys are on their way out now -- Bob Shrum, you dumb loser, I'm looking at you, for starters.
posted by bardic at 5:24 PM on November 2, 2006


As to federalize or not: This is a really tough issue. Telling a state how to run their election is hard to justify under the Constitution.

I'm torn on this myself. It goes directly to the gerrymander issue as well. I tend to think that congressional seats should be awarded in blocks on a county basis, kind of like electors are. The problem is, that it's kinda.... unconstitutional.

Or not. Any constitutional scholars care to chime in?
posted by butterstick at 5:39 PM on November 2, 2006


so many Americans have a kneejerk NO WE MUST NOT FEDERALIZE response. Why? Is there actually a good reason?

It has something to do with the powers not constitutionally given to the federal government remaining in the hands of the states. Not a difficult concept to grasp.
posted by oaf at 5:42 PM on November 2, 2006


the problem with exit polls is there is no reason to assume they reflect the actual votes cast. Plenty of people don't answer exit polls, I don't, and people might very well lie.

A more realistic problem is that the spread of early voting, no-excuse-needed absentee voting, and vote-by-mail means that you have to mix actual exit polling with normal polling in complex ways, and opens the door to larger errors.

Exit polling is simply asking people when they leave, "How did you just vote?"

Which is now impossible in Oregon, unless you station a pollster in front of every mailbox in the state during the voting period. And which, if you do only that, will give you a radically skewed result if (1) a nontrivial portion of the electorate voted before election day and (2) those people differ systematically from election-day voters.

If you want to do a proper exit poll now, you have to combine the results of the actual exit polling with normal polling intended to get a sense of how the early voters voted. One problem is that for real exit polling, you can be pretty sure that the respondent actually voted -- they just came out of a polling place. But in a phone survey, you're inevitably going to get some people who didn't actually vote but don't want to admit it. Dealing with all this stuff is possible, but Difficult.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:42 PM on November 2, 2006


If you want to do a proper exit poll now, you have to combine the results of the actual exit polling with normal polling intended to get a sense of how the early voters voted. One problem is that for real exit polling, you can be pretty sure that the respondent actually voted -- they just came out of a polling place. But in a phone survey, you're inevitably going to get some people who didn't actually vote but don't want to admit it. Dealing with all this stuff is possible, but Difficult.

A good point, but remember, we're looking for wholesale fraud that occurs the day of the election. Exit polls would still be usable as long as they were compared to the station totals before being submitted upriver and being combined with absentee/mail whathaveyou.

This isn't to say absentee votes are not susceptable to their own types of fraud. It really is deceptive to tell people that absentee voting is somehow safer. Absentee votes either go through the same electronic counting in a central tabulator, are entered by hand into a touchscreen, or can be tossed out altogether based on the neighborhood it came from.
posted by butterstick at 5:54 PM on November 2, 2006


Telling a state how to run their election is hard to justify under the Constitution.

Time to amend the constitution then, mate. If it's broke...fix it. What's more important, leaving the constitution as it is, or maintaining strong, true democracy?

It seems to me, sometimes, that America established one of the first strong modern democracies. A long time ago. Then decided that everything was hunky-dory and refused to assess itself and see what worked and what didn't. After all, it was the first democracy, it's the expert on these things, right?

Meanwhile, the rest of the western world looked at the system in America, saw it was good, and improved on it. And continued to improve on it. And so you get these threads, where a bunch of us nutters from Canada, Australia, Britain, wherever, turn up, incredulous that Americans find it so difficult to run elections.

If you've got problems, fix the problems. There has to be a mechanism to fix the problems, or you fail as a democracy. Stop bitching about state's rights and get to the root causes. And look outside your own borders for ideas.
posted by Jimbob at 5:59 PM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]


Can I quietly suggest that it's theoretically possible to game an entire national election, especially if it's a close race, without recourse to anything involving electronic voting?

The UK general election on April 9th 1992 had entirely the last outcome expected, all the exit polls were "wrong", and only about 1000 votes in 10 districts would have resulted in John Major's ejection from office. Of the top 100 marginal races it was the first twenty or so in alphabetical order which bucked the national voting pattern most egregiously - a remarkable coincidence.

You can drive a fleet of buses through the holes in security in the British ballot-transport arrangements, and you don't have to get into suspiciously obvious unsubtle ballot-stuffing to have a cumulatively massive effect.

Theoretically.
posted by genghis at 6:10 PM on November 2, 2006


amberglow: Right now, if a Secy of State or County Clerk says no, there's no investigation at all or recounts. Voters have no recourse now at all.

Except of course for suit in federal court, or voting that person out of office in the next cycle.

If elections were run by a federal bureau would there be an investigation counter to the interests of the current party in power? No. Would there be a recount counter to the interests of the current party in power? No. Would there be any recourse? Not at all.

So what would change for the better? Standardized and systemic corruption rather than localized corruption.

That would change, and the pressures put on a national agency would increase to keep it aboveboard--Congress would certainly get involved and have oversight and be able to investigate, which they can't legally do now, because it's up to each state.

Because congressional oversight has been oh so effective at keeping the FBI aboveboard for 80 years while it has chased after civil rights leaders and pacifists. Congressional oversight has been amazingly effective at making certain the NSA, DoJ, TSA, and INS have acted in the best interest of everyone involved.

Congressional oversight at the federal level and $1.00 will buy you a cup of bad coffee. Pardon but I want more than that.

dirtynumbangelboy: Uhh... the rest of the world does it. It's called an independent, nonpartisan electoral commission. Look up Elections Canada.

This is not a difficult concept to grasp, yet so many Americans have a kneejerk NO WE MUST NOT FEDERALIZE response. Why? Is there actually a good reason?


Pardon me, I thought that's what we actually had in most parts of the United States. At least in my neck of the woods elections are certified by a legally-mandated bipartisan group.

But it's not a difficult concept to grasp from my end, yet many people have a knee-jerk response that our election system must be identical to that of France or Canada, ignoring the basic fact that the structure of U.S. government is radically different from that of countries that use a parlementary system.

The point is that we have a federal system in the United States which traditionally has held to horizontal and vertical separation of power.

Are there some good reasons why there should be local oversight of elections. Well here are a few:

1: Each election involves only a few offices with power at the federal level. As someone who lives in a liberal community that is more progressive than the federal government in regards to environmental issues and gay rights, I don't want federal policy wonks to have the ability to influence the local election.

2: Federal agencies such as the FBI have had rather dismal track records at respecting and enforcing civil rights, while acting independently of oversight. Expecting federal agencies to act in the best interest of civil rights in spite of such a bad track record is magical thinking at its worst.

3: Federalism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has been used to historically justify segregation. On the other hand, other states have paved the way for civil rights efforts by granting the vote to women, abolishing legal segregation, and creating gay marriage structures well in advance of the national government's willingness to entertain these issues.

4: An addendum to #1 is that election issues not only involve casting votes, but the geographic division of districts at the state and county level. Gerrymandering is bad enough at the local and state level. Do we really want for the federal government to be involved in this process? Or to phrase this as a matter of simple selfishness, I don't want Republicans at the national level to have control over the city council districts in my progressive community.

5: How successful have nonpartisan commissions been in the current Congress when the ruling party has the tie-breaking vote?

And, um, did you actually read the passage you indiscriminatly and dishonestly cut in half before you suffered a bout of illiterate and ignorant logorrhea? I am not opposed to more federal oversight or standardization of our election system. What I'm concerned with is striking a fair balance between local governments concerned with establishing districts and systems that meet the needs of local citizens, and federal governments concerned with enforcing basic civil rights.

But lets be blunt here. The current purpose of the federal government is to expand the power of the ruling party. Giving the ruling party the authority to expand their power at the state and local level undermines a critical limit on their power.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:12 PM on November 2, 2006


Jimbob writes "Time to amend the constitution then, mate. If it's broke...fix it. What's more important, leaving the constitution as it is, or maintaining strong, true democracy?"

Exactly what I was going to say. More to the point, how is it, then, that the Feds can dictate who may run, where they run, and what day the election is held--but not the method?

Come off it. Fix your system. You are the laughingstock of the entire democratic world. And dictators are looking at you going "Oh hey... so I can be Boss For Life, and maintain a veneer of legitimacy? BADASS!"
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:12 PM on November 2, 2006


I'm at the point now where, when I hear shit like this, I think "great! now let's get some enterprising and incredibly talented democratic security experts together to take advantage of this." and then I think "oh wait, this is only good news for republicans, isn't it. fuck."
posted by shmegegge at 6:15 PM on November 2, 2006


KirkJobSluder writes "If elections were run by a federal bureau would there be an investigation counter to the interests of the current party in power? No. Would there be a recount counter to the interests of the current party in power? No. Would there be any recourse? Not at all."

Oh my God, you are unbelievably deliberately obtuse. Try looking up the word 'independent' again. Elections Canada is beholden to no political masters. Employees--at least those at the polling station level--are forbidden to vote, a limitation on their rights that they accept in order to perform an important and honourable civic duty.

Since you clearly did not bother looking at the EC website, allow me to quote:

Elections Canada is an independent body set up by Parliament.

Its responsibilities include:

* making sure that all voters have access to the electoral system
* informing citizens about the electoral system
* maintaining the National Register of Electors
* enforcing electoral legislation
* training election officers
* producing maps of electoral districts
* registering political parties, electoral district associations, and third parties that engage in election advertising
* administering the allowances paid to registered political parties
* monitoring election spending by candidates, political parties and third parties
* publishing financial information on political parties, electoral district associations, candidates, nomination contestants, leadership contestants and third parties
* supporting the independent commissions responsible for adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts every 10 years, and
* reporting to Parliament on the administration of elections and referendums


At no point does EC "have the ability to influence the local election", nor does it "have control over the city council districts in my progressive community." They are simply there to enforce the system. The politicians, as they have always done, create the system. Period.

So, KJS, before you call me ignorant and illiterate, it might do you some good to actually understand what the fuck I am talking about before shooting your mouth off about everything it isn't. Got it? Good.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:22 PM on November 2, 2006


Jimbob: If you've got problems, fix the problems. There has to be a mechanism to fix the problems, or you fail as a democracy. Stop bitching about state's rights and get to the root causes. And look outside your own borders for ideas.

Ok, how would you recommend solving the problem of holding consistent and fair elections while giving local citizens oversight over elections that affect them?

dumbnumbangelboy: Exactly what I was going to say. More to the point, how is it, then, that the Feds can dictate who may run, where they run, and what day the election is held--but not the method?

Well, the answer to your question is they don't, they don't, and they don't for all offices. (Determine who runs, where they run, and what day the election is held.)

Who runs is decided by political parties, usually through primaries, conventions, and caucuses. Although states and the federal government mandate some basic age, citizenship and residency limits.

Where they run is determined by state law for the U.S. House and state offices, and by local jurisdictions for county, township, city, and school offices.

When the election is held is decided by state and local law. Most states hold local elections on the same day as the federal elections. Some hold different elections for federal and local offices.

Now could you please understand what the fuck you are talking about before shooting your mouth off about everything it isn't? Got it? Good.

Try looking up the word 'independent' again.

Well, my question again is, don't we already have this? Again, elections in my neck of the woods are certified by by a bipartisan board, and observers from all parties are actively recruited to monitor elections. Granted, this happens at the local and state level rather than at the federal level. But still. It's not as if mechanisms for monitoring and oversight are nonexistent.

So, KJS, before you call me ignorant and illiterate, it might do you some good to actually understand what the fuck I am talking about before shooting your mouth off about everything it isn't. Got it? Good.

Well, yes, when you copy and paste text out of context, without bothering to read it, to counter an argument that has not been presented, the most polite explanation is that you are ignorant and illiterate. The alternative is to call you malicious and dishonest. I'll be happy to call you illiterate if you continue to fail to understand my plainly-worded position. Or dishonest if you chose to continue misrepresenting it.

Since you missed it the first few times, (indulging in your ignorant assumptions about elections here in the United States), here is my key point again:
I am not opposed to more federal oversight or standardization of our election system. What I'm concerned with is striking a fair balance between local governments concerned with establishing districts and systems that meet the needs of local citizens, and federal governments concerned with enforcing basic civil rights.
I have not talked about Elections Canada at all. As I freely admit, I'm ignorant as to how Canada handles the election process, beyond the obvious fact that Canada is not the United States and as such, issues such as independence and vertical separation of powers might require different solutions.

U.S. history gives me a profound skepticism as to the ability of the U.S. government to create an "independent" commission or agency that is immune to the pressures of the dominant party. If Canada manages to do it, I'm impressed but I'm not obligated to suspend my well-justified skepticism regarding the federal government's capacity for corruption.

And if as you say, the role of the EC is not incompatible with local oversight and control of the election process (including the process of redistricting.) Then you have no argument with me, and you should back off.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:53 PM on November 2, 2006


Ok, how would you recommend solving the problem of holding consistent and fair elections while giving local citizens oversight over elections that affect them?

I'm trying to figure out what you mean by "local oversight".

If you mean (a) local control of how the election is run, what method is used - as we've said, why is that necessary? We're assuming elections are fair and proper, right? The only reason I can see that one would want "control" over how a local election is run, is to try to push the odds in their favour... otherwise, it's just a simple process of putting some candidates on the ticket, and collecting and tallying the votes in the most foolproof, consistent, cross-checked way possible. Aim high.

If you mean (b) local checking of how fair the election was - well, these aims aren't inconsistent. The rest of the world does it. Refer to Effigy2000's comment above - locals are there to verify local election returns, within a consistent national framework.

If are concerned about (c) drawing district boundaries, gerrymandering etc. as you appear to be, then it seems you're just as bad as "them". You're just as concerned about maintaining the liberal-favoured set up in your local area as the conservatives may be about destroying it. Neither side appears concerned about simply making it fair.

But, you may be right that the US is beyond being able to set up a true, independent authority to achieve this. If you are right, then the US may be beyond democracy. Being unable to separate party politics from the mechanisms of running elections is almost the definition of undemocratic.
posted by Jimbob at 7:18 PM on November 2, 2006


Will The U.S. Have Other Countries Monitor Our Election?
posted by homunculus at 7:46 PM on November 2, 2006


Jimbob: If you mean (a) local control of how the election is run, what method is used - as we've said, why is that necessary? We're assuming elections are fair and proper, right? The only reason I can see that one would want "control" over how a local election is run, is to try to push the odds in their favour... otherwise, it's just a simple process of putting some candidates on the ticket, and collecting and tallying the votes in the most foolproof, consistent, cross-checked way possible. Aim high.

Just as an example, should the National government or the Local government decide what happens when a mayor decides to step down? Some jurisdictions might handle this with a special election. Other jurisdictions might promote someone else in the administration until the end of the next election cycle. This is one example of a case where local control over when an election is held might be desired. Should school board elections be partisan or non-partisan? What about city and county council? What local issues should be decided by ballot initiatives? What about recall elections? These are all decisions about how elections are run that are best decided on the appropriate level.

If are concerned about (c) drawing district boundaries, gerrymandering etc. as you appear to be, then it seems you're just as bad as "them". You're just as concerned about maintaining the liberal-favoured set up in your local area as the conservatives may be about destroying it. Neither side appears concerned about simply making it fair.

It may seem that way but not really. The local city districts here are primarily built around neighborhood and township boundaries.

The fundamental question here is this. I own property in a city. I work in a city. I pay city property, sales, and income tax. I use city busses. Should the federal government which represents people from outside of my city, have an influence on the number of people on the city council, and the neighborhoods they represent?

My taxes support a local public school system. Should the federal government which represents people from outside of my school system, have an influence on the number of people on the school board, and the neighborhoods they represent?

If there are civil rights issues at stake, the federal government should step in, and there are mechanisms to do so. But in general how broadly should we extend the federal government's authority in elections?

What exactly is being proposed? Are you just saying that an independent federal comission should standardize on voting machines, train volunteers, and monitor the election? Or are we talking about extending federal control to include primaries, redistricting, and ballot initiatives? What is being said is just that the federal government should be involved, but no specifics.

But, you may be right that the US is beyond being able to set up a true, independent authority to achieve this. If you are right, then the US may be beyond democracy. Being unable to separate party politics from the mechanisms of running elections is almost the definition of undemocratic.

Well, again. I think that at many levels such independent monitoring authority does exist. For the fourth time, I'm not opposed to more federal government oversight and standardization.

But what gets said over and over again is "fix it," often from people who express such profound and basic gaps in knowledge as to how the election process actually works in the United States, and have little at stake in the election process anyway, that I don't really think they fully understand the issues at stake here.

So, again, I'll ask the question, and hope for an actual answer: How would you recommend solving the problem of holding consistent and fair elections while giving local citizens oversight over elections that affect them? If indeed you have an answer as a person from another country, then please provide some more concrete answers, rather than armchair criticism from a position of ignorance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:39 PM on November 2, 2006


In other news: White House Launches Campaign To Politicize Saddam Verdict Ahead of Midterm Elections
posted by homunculus at 8:46 PM on November 2, 2006


And I'm going to profess a profound irritation here.
One of the things that working with people from outside of the States has taught me is that if you are going to criticize a system, you should:

1: Participate in that system.

2: Actually understand the system.

and/or

3: Offer constructive advice rather than just, "fix it."

Which is why I try to be very cautious before sticking my foot in my mouth regarding the internal politics of Turkey, Singapore, China, or Taiwan, especially around people who come from those countries.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:57 PM on November 2, 2006


How would you recommend solving the problem of holding consistent and fair elections while giving local citizens oversight over elections that affect them?
They don't have any oversight at all over elections now--only the Secy of State and local clerks do.

I wish we could get Jimmy Carter on this--by the time Bush is either forced out or leaves, we'd have a workable national plan. He's the ideal person for it. How many untrustworthy elections are we going to have? How many more years of bullshit and crimes? We've known this shit happens for ages, and machine shit since 02.
posted by amberglow at 10:25 PM on November 2, 2006


Ok, so to recap, some of the problems with elections in the U.S. are:
- lack of a paper trail (because of no paper ballots)
- lack of standards (i.e. no federal standards on how the elections are held because a) there are no federal laws on the books, b) state and local laws vary assuming that they're even observed, and c) because no federal non-partisan body like Elections Canada or the Electoral Commission in Australia in the parlimentary systems exists)
- lack of independence (i.e. Jimbob's point of being unable to separate party politics from the mechanisms of running elections being the definition of undemocratic) - probably related to point c) above if one really wants to split hairs
- lack of a viable culture that supports the principle of the exercise itself (i.e. a culture that allows corruption in Sec'y of States, tampering with ballots and voter fraud, voter intimidation, etc. etc.)

Anything else that I'm missing out here before I pour myself another stiff drink?

A personal comment. As a recent immigrant to the U.S. I have to say there's so much that I do love and respect about the country... but any articles about the electoral system make me seriously disgusted, saddenned and frustrated with the system and make me question if there's a point to voting. One day I will have that right - the question is, should I exercise it? I've voted in every Canadian election since I was 18 - as a woman, my mother would practically beat me if I didn't to hightlight just how important voting is, especially for women. But now, I'm wondering if the U.S. system is just too fucked to deal with. Is there any way to cope with this? Do you just get resigned to it? Is there any hope that, say, within 20 years time whatever changes can and will be done to give us a viable, democratic system? If your democracy doesn't merit some sort of constitutional amendment or federal protection, what does it mean to be the 'United States'?
posted by rmm at 10:51 PM on November 2, 2006


rmm, we've always had some form of voting corruption all throughout our history--some was law, like when only white men who owned property could vote, and some (the stories we've all heard, like with Chicago 1960) was party politics locally--paying or feeding people to vote a certain way, or people voting under dead people's names, etc. What's different now with these electronic systems is that most of the previous corruption was people doing it locally, and it was catchable/containable. Now we don't even have a way of knowing what's going on. When it was Tammany Hall or local Chicago bosses or whatever, it wasn't even very hidden. What happens to our votes on a Diebold machine is absolutely hidden.
posted by amberglow at 10:59 PM on November 2, 2006


How would you recommend solving the problem of holding consistent and fair elections while giving local citizens oversight over elections that affect them?

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

But anyway, you want a brief summary. Some ideas.

(a) Stronger national laws defining what technical methods jurisdictions are allowed to use to run elections. These methods are to be defined by an independent (or, if you don't believe in independence, multi-partisan) body. They are to be strict. They are to be standardized. They are to be best practice. It's not too difficult for people to work out that there are serious problems with the current way electronic voting is done, and there are also well known, easy to implement solutions. These solutions should be decided upon and implemented by a body such as this. Paper trail.
(b) National electoral roll. If you're on the roll, you're on the roll. Implement a system to make sure people are on the roll, if they move house. This is not difficult.

I mean, all this is possible. In Australia, states do have different ways of voting. In Queensland state elections, for instance, they do preferential voting where you don't have to number all the boxes. Everywhere else, you have to number every box. Tasmania used to have proportional representation in the lower house - I think they still do, actually, but modified from how it was a few years ago. But we know that, at national elections, everyone in every state has the same system, counted the same way, going to one national tally room.

It's late on a friday afternoon, I'm losing steam, and I've been through this too many times before. The problem is, I hear so often "You don't understand the US system!" Clearly I don't. But the system is causing you problems.
posted by Jimbob at 11:00 PM on November 2, 2006


amberglow: They don't have any oversight at all over elections now--only the Secy of State and local clerks do.

Gee, I can understand ignorance from someone who does not live in the United States, but from you that's unforgivable.

Wouldn't you say that the fact that these offices are elected positions, their operations are by law reviewed by bi-partisan committies, that they are bound by law to observe certain protocols and can be sued for not following that law, and that election operations at all levels are observed by volunteers from multiple parties, constitute some degree of accountability?

So again, here is the question. How would you recommend solving the problem of holding consistent and fair elections while giving local citizens oversight over elections that affect them? What exactly are you proposing?

I wish we could get Jimmy Carter on this--by the time Bush is either forced out or leaves, we'd have a workable national plan. He's the ideal person for it. How many untrustworthy elections are we going to have? How many more years of bullshit and crimes? We've known this shit happens for ages, and machine shit since 02.

Well, other than somehow getting Jimmy Carter on board, what exactly are you proposing?

rmm:

Finally, someone willing to address some substantive issues.

- lack of a paper trail (because of no paper ballots)

Yes, this is a major problem that needs to be fixed.

- lack of standards (i.e. no federal standards on how the elections are held because a) there are no federal laws on the books, b) state and local laws vary assuming that they're even observed, and c) because no federal non-partisan body like Elections Canada or the Electoral Commission in Australia in the parlimentary systems exists)

What standards should we have? It's one thing to say that we need standards, it's another to actually agree on those standards. For example, what is everyone's position on national ID cards here? This is one avenue of standardization that has been highly contraversial.

- lack of independence (i.e. Jimbob's point of being unable to separate party politics from the mechanisms of running elections being the definition of undemocratic) - probably related to point c) above if one really wants to split hairs

Well, the unfortunate thing is that we have to work with what we have. To ignore the level of corruption that has dominated appointments at all levels strikes me as very problematic (and I'm honestly skeptical as to the claimed "independence" of those comissions, but that just might be the radical in me). In terms of monitoring elections I think the system we have is the best we are going to get for the near future, putting people of all parties on the ground observing all aspects of the election system.

- lack of a viable culture that supports the principle of the exercise itself (i.e. a culture that allows corruption in Sec'y of States, tampering with ballots and voter fraud, voter intimidation, etc. etc.)

I think you need to get away from metafilter a bit because the echo chamber likes to cherry-pick the worst examples. The people I know who are volunteering and monitoring the polls this year are deeply committed to making certain that the vote is conducted fairly and without bias. There many non-partisan groups that exist for voter education, transport, and registration. If you want to become one of the many eyes watching this election, you can. If you want to be one of the many people helping ensure that your neighbor's voting registration is up to date, you can.

(I also think that there is a wicked-strong bias on metafilter against local political activism as compared to national political activism. This may or may not be a factor in this discussion.)

Jimbob: Those are good suggestions, and don't actually sound like that much of a sweeping change.

I'd add another suggestion that would eliminate some of the temptation for corruption. Get rid of the damn electoral college. This would eliminate the idea of "battleground states" in which a small percentage of the population identified well in advance by polls can swing a national election.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:48 PM on November 2, 2006


Paper ballots would help, but there are a whole range of environmental factors that can affect election results. Take tiredness. In Birmingham (UK), at about 5 a.m. in the morning after the local elections in 2002, the district count supervisor for one of Birmingham's harder-fought wards made a mistake in tabulating the votes, resulting in all votes for the far-right British National Party being counted double.

This miscounting meant that a seat that Labour actually won was shown as being won by the BNP. Oops. The party-appointed observers didn't spot it, the counting officers didn't spot it, and the returning officer (the top election official in the city) didn't spot it.

Because of this the returning officer read out the declaration (the bit Brits will be familiar with from election coverage, which starts "I, William Smith, being the returning officer for the Harrow West constituency...") including the wrong results, with the wrong candidate elected.

And then someone spotted the mistake. And realised that election law says that the declaration is final, so the voters of one bit of Birmingham had a BNP councillor that they hadn't voted for.

It took two years to sort that out, as the wrongly-elected councillor refused to do the honourable thing and resign.
posted by athenian at 12:07 AM on November 3, 2006


as the wrongly-elected councillor refused to do the honourable thing and resign.

What else do you expect from facsists? :)
posted by Jimbob at 1:12 AM on November 3, 2006


KJS, you're a fucking moron. I am neither dishonest nor malicious--that's projection you're having there, and I suggest you talk to your therapist about your tendency to do so.

I know you haven't talked about Elections Canada. I brought EC up because it is a perfect example of exactly how a nonpartisan (please note how very fucking different the words 'nonpartisan' and 'bipartisan' are) electoral commission should work: nationwide, and all it does is enforce the rules that are decided at the local, provincial, and federal levels.

Of course, basic comprehension, as history has shown, isn't exactly your strong suit. You'd rather grind axes instead, which is fine and all--but don't sit there calling me ignorant when you're attacking what I'm saying, and then later claiming that you freely admit that you're ignorant about what I'm saying!

Fuck you, the horse you rode in on, and your country's pathetic excuse for 'democracy'.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:13 AM on November 3, 2006


ElectionsCanada always amuses me in this context. If only because the idea of "Hey, let's turn this over to some bureaucrats, because bureaucrats are pure of heart and would never succumb to political bias!" seems very Canadian.

A multipartisan system requiring support from ~all significant parties can work better in expectation than a formally independent system, since you're harnessing the self-interest and biases of the various actors instead of pretending that they're too good and moral to have any biases.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:53 AM on November 3, 2006


ROU, I am unaware of any biases exhibited by EC that are in the same league as those which continually cause problems in USA elections. There may be some, but I suspect that they'd be several orders of magnitude less.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:04 AM on November 3, 2006


What's different now with these electronic systems is that most of the previous corruption was people doing it locally, and it was catchable/containable. Now we don't even have a way of knowing what's going on.

This is a bit self-fulfilling. The stuff we caught was catchable. The stuff they got away with we don't even know about.
posted by smackfu at 6:57 AM on November 3, 2006


I wouldn't dispute that the US has always taken elections pretty damn casually, often with bad effect, or that the system here is pretty fucked up.

I was just holding up the idea of "Hey! Let's have the government fix this for us!" as amusingly fuckin-a Canadian with Timmy's and a two-four, that's all. This is orthogonal to whether or not US elections work well.

More seriously, in the best of all possible worlds I'd trust the decisions of an elections agency where self-interested people on both/all sides had to agree on the system over one where we just rely on the impartiality of appointed bureaucrats. Especially so given that American political culture differs from Canadian.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:58 AM on November 3, 2006


I wouldn't dispute that the US has always taken elections pretty damn casually, often with bad effect, or that the system here is pretty fucked up.

I was just holding up the idea of "Hey! Let's have the government fix this for us!" as amusingly fuckin-a Canadian with Timmy's and a two-four, that's all. This is orthogonal to whether or not US elections work well.


You know, you might call us naive beer drinking, coffee shop politics, "fuckin-a" idiots for allowing our government the power to make sure our elections run smoothly, but when we walk into the voting booth noone wonders whether or not their vote's going to count.

Maybe the problem in your country is that you're trying to make it so bloody complex to find your votes and who's responsible that it's going over the average person's head (and thus they're getting more and more apathetic). If something goes wrong with our election, it's fairly easy to find out who's responsible because we've designed it that way.

I can't see a multilateral, all sides involved system being so easy.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 7:34 AM on November 3, 2006


dfleming, you're reading an implication that just isn't there. I'm sure EC does a fine job. All that I meant is that it's sometimes amusing when stereotypes of political culture come forward, that's all. That creating EC, an appointed bureaucracy, as a solution to election problems was a very Canadian thing to do.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:51 AM on November 3, 2006


Wouldn't you say that the fact that these offices are elected positions, their operations are by law reviewed by bi-partisan committies, that they are bound by law to observe certain protocols and can be sued for not following that law, and that election operations at all levels are observed by volunteers from multiple parties, constitute some degree of accountability?

They are not all elected positions by any means--many if not most are appointed--the heads of all the State and County Boards of Elections, for just one example (convicted criminal Noe's wife in Ohio served on Toledo's). Operations are not reviewed thoroughly at all because they have the power to stop recounts and investigations of their own misdeeds. They can be sued, but without actual proof (which they don't allow citizens to obtain thru independent investigations), good luck. Volunteers from both parties do not count as accountability--those people are most often trained and present solely to knock people out of the voting pool and booths instead of ensuring a fair election--Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots. ... (10/04)
posted by amberglow at 9:08 AM on November 3, 2006


As a matter of fact, in every single State, Boards of Elections are appointed by the Governors. The State Boards in turn (with Governors and local officials) appoint the County and local Boards.
posted by amberglow at 9:17 AM on November 3, 2006


dirtynumbangelboy: I am neither dishonest nor malicious--that's projection you're having there...

When you copy and paste text out of context in order to transform a statement that acknowledges complexity and ambiguity, into one that you claim is "knee-jerk" you are acting in a dishonest manner.

I don't know how many times I need to repeat this. But, I'm not opposed to some forms of federal standardization of elections. So I'm honestly baffled as to why you object to my questions trying to clarify what is meant by the scope of such standardization.

I know you haven't talked about Elections Canada. I brought EC up because it is a perfect example of exactly how a nonpartisan (please note how very fucking different the words 'nonpartisan' and 'bipartisan' are) electoral commission should work: nationwide, and all it does is enforce the rules that are decided at the local, provincial, and federal levels.

If such is the case, then I don't understand why you object to my argument, because it would seem that my views are fairly much compatible.

If you object to the fact that I don't think you are knowledgable enough to criticize the U.S. election system, and that I called you out on misrepresenting my position, that's your problem.

dflemingdotorg: Maybe the problem in your country is that you're trying to make it so bloody complex to find your votes and who's responsible that it's going over the average person's head (and thus they're getting more and more apathetic). If something goes wrong with our election, it's fairly easy to find out who's responsible because we've designed it that way.

Well, I think that people here are making it more complex than it really is, and a national group running elections would probably need to use similar level of bureaucratic division.

I think that one of the quirks as to our federal system here in the U.S. is that citizens do not directly elect a president. The electoral college elects the president and citizens vote for a slate of electors. The usual chain of events is that local precincts are run by county officials, who report results to state officials. At each stage the elections are observed by multi-party committees.

amberglow: A problem here is that we both agree that some forms of federal oversight and review would be worthwhile, but I still don't understand what you are advocating because you have offered nothing other than "Jimmy Carter." What exactly are you advocating?

On its own, the simple creation of a federal comission, agency or bureau won't solve any of those problems of appointment bias and oversight. Look at how those issues have worked within police departments form Sherrifs to the FBI. At all levels internal corruption is enabled by appoinments, and internal processes are closed to external review.

Volunteer observers have been an avenue for voter intimidation, but they have also been a check on voter intimidation when voters' rights groups place volunteers who ensure everyone gets the opportunity to vote.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:31 AM on November 3, 2006


Volunteer observers have been an avenue for voter intimidation, but they have also been a check on voter intimidation when voters' rights groups place volunteers who ensure everyone gets the opportunity to vote.
All it takes is just one objection to someone's right to vote for any reason (ridiculous, racist, or not) to move a ballot or vote to the "provisional" pile. It's as good as preventing them from voting altogether, especially when the votes and votecounts are then certified without checking all of those one-by-one (see FL, and OH and other places).

I see an Agency, like Social Security, but with both appointed and elected members with strong legal powers and funding and oversight--every single vote everywhere would have to be certified by them under strict and fair and transparent guidelines. There would be one national standard for voting, and a paper trail--everywhere. Recounts would be mandatory in specific cases and/or specific accusations. Prosecution and investigation would be swift and strong. It would be funded by Congress and not live under the Executive branch.
posted by amberglow at 10:10 AM on November 3, 2006


you and everyone else like you would be here in the blue bitching about how America isn't stopping the genocide in Darfur

Say, speaking of that...why aren't we joining forces with the rest of the world to stop the killing in Darfur? I mean, even with your strawman, you acknowledge that it should be stopped in your opinion, yes?
posted by davejay at 12:42 PM on November 3, 2006


amberglow: All it takes is just one objection to someone's right to vote for any reason (ridiculous, racist, or not) to move a ballot or vote to the "provisional" pile. It's as good as preventing them from voting altogether, especially when the votes and votecounts are then certified without checking all of those one-by-one (see FL, and OH and other places).

What kinds of independent oversight would you accept for election sites?

I see an Agency, like Social Security, but with both appointed and elected members with strong legal powers and funding and oversight--every single vote everywhere would have to be certified by them under strict and fair and transparent guidelines.

What kinds of oversight? That's the key question. Shuffling the organizational structure isn't going to address the core problem. Would this agency also be responsible for administering municipal elections? (Elections Canada is not)

Prosecution and investigation would be swift and strong. It would be funded by Congress and not live under the Executive branch.

Well, that strikes me as a bit of a problem right there given that Congress is not much better than the Executive branch. To be blunt, we know that Congress exists to keep Congressmen in power, how do we prevent that from tainting the election process?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2006


i don't know--i'm sorry i can't present you with a complete plan right here right now. Get real. Take that as a skeleton and run with it. How would you fix that? Or you're happy with our present setup? You think having Governors and local people mess up our elections is better? If it was the Senate messing it up, it'd be done in daylight--more daylight than what we have now.

Meanwhile, Bob Ney of Ohio just resigned in disgrace.-- ...The primary author and steward of HAVA was Rep. Bob Ney, the GOP chairman of the powerful U.S. House Administration Committee. Ney had close ties to the now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose firm received at least $275,000 from Diebold to lobby for its touch-screen machines. Ney's former chief of staff, David DiStefano, also worked as a registered lobbyist for Diebold, receiving at least $180,000 from the firm to lobby for HAVA and "other election reform issues." Ney - who accepted campaign contributions from DiStefano and counted Diebold's then-CEO O'Dell among his constituents - made sure that HAVA strongly favored the use of the company's machines.

Ney also made sure that Diebold and other companies would not be required to equip their machines with printers to provide paper records that could be verified by voters. In a clever twist, HAVA effectively pressures every precinct to provide at least one voting device that has no paper trail - supposedly so that vision-impaired citizens can vote in secrecy. ...

posted by amberglow at 2:42 PM on November 3, 2006


And Kirk, this is not about the GOP or the Bush administration, nor is it about what and who we have now--this is about us making a better system, no matter who is President or which party is in control.
posted by amberglow at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2006


amberglow: Take that as a skeleton and run with it. How would you fix that?

I'd start by not engaging in magical thinking in believing that centralization means more daylight.

Or you're happy with our present setup?

False dichotomy, go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

You think having Governors and local people mess up our elections is better?

I think there is a strong argument to be made that a decentralized system with a lot of redundancy can limit the impact of fraud and vote tampering. On the other hand, a centralized system with minimal redundancy means that results can be rigged over large geographic areas.

If it was the Senate messing it up, it'd be done in daylight--more daylight than what we have now.

Well, if the problem is transparency, address the opaque process which minimizes public accountability and review at key spots. If "more daylight" is your primary concern, then handing the election process over the the federal government should bet the LAST thing you would propose.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:17 PM on November 3, 2006


KirkJobSluder writes "I'd start by not engaging in magical thinking in believing that centralization means more daylight."

It works for us. There is no sane, rational, logical reason why it shouldn't work for you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:43 PM on November 3, 2006


It works for all civilized countries--maybe someday we'll join them--i've even seen them counting the votes on British TV--we should have CSPAN recording it all, everywhere (except with these machines there's no record).

The media and the country pay attention to Congress, and to the administration--they don't pay attention to the 1000s of County Bds of Election, nor to the 50 State Boards. Nor have reporters been allowed into the rooms where they count.
posted by amberglow at 8:26 PM on November 3, 2006


a reason to vote now, while we can: Twenty Years Of George W. Bush (NYT Editorial, 2020)
posted by amberglow at 9:57 PM on November 3, 2006


dirtynumbangelboy: It works for us. There is no sane, rational, logical reason why it shouldn't work for you.

When in United States history has an organization set up by congress ever been entirely free of influence by said congress?

...sound of crickets chirping....

Pardon my naive view, but it seems to me that Elections Canada works primarily because of open-door policies that make its operations transparent. I'm also curious as to how Canada prevents corruption in regional and local elections where EC does not have jurisdiction.

amberglow: The media and the country pay attention to Congress, and to the administration--they don't pay attention to the 1000s of County Bds of Election, nor to the 50 State Boards. Nor have reporters been allowed into the rooms where they count.

In contrast, there are lots of federal agencies that are effective black-boxes, and information can only be obtained by filing expensive FOI requests. The problem here is that you are conflating centralization with openness. The FBI, DOJ, DOD, and BoP are federal agencies which are not open, and their internal workings not covered by the news media. In the last 20 years, the Federal Government has become more and more secretive about its internal operations.

A key component of any type of election reform is going to be strong open-door laws that make the decisions of election administrators transparent and public. Just throwing elections onto a federal government that already consists of smokey backroom politics is not likely to be an improvement.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:14 AM on November 4, 2006


Of course we need more transparency--i've been talking about that throughout the thread.

We do, even now tho, have existing sunshine laws that require more reporting and oversight than what we've seen from this administration. Congress and the media have all brought them to court about a ton of things--most recently the VP's logs. Each time that oversight is used, and the WH refused, it made the papers.

I'm willing to bet you wouldn't have argued like this during the 90s.
posted by amberglow at 1:04 PM on November 4, 2006


amberglow: Of course we need more transparency--i've been talking about that throughout the thread.

I don't see that you have. What you've been saying throughout this thread is:
centralization -> a miracle happens -> transparent elections.

I'm just calling you to task on your assumption than a miracle will happen just by virtue of giving oversight to a body that exists to keep its members in power. There are no miracles in politics. If you want transparency, you have to put the focus on strong oversight and transparency. Not just centralization in the hope that it will lead to transparent government.

As I've said, many times before. I'm not opposed to the idea of a nationwide body for standardizing and administrating elections, what I want to see is some recognition that we need to talk about organizational process in addition to organizational structure. Such a national comissions needs to be structured around mechanisms for transparency and reduction of bias that don't exist for any federal agency currently in operation.

We do, even now tho, have existing sunshine laws that require more reporting and oversight than what we've seen from this administration. Congress and the media have all brought them to court about a ton of things--most recently the VP's logs. Each time that oversight is used, and the WH refused, it made the papers.

And in most of these cases it's too little, too late. Remember how the Congress voted for torture? What makes you think that a congress hostile to habeas corpus has the moral fiber to oversee voting rights? And again, how much oversight are we seing into the operations of the FBI, TSA, BoP, DOD, NSA and DoJ?

I'm willing to bet you wouldn't have argued like this during the 90s.

Well, 16 years of being screwed by the abuse of federal power will do this to you.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:23 PM on November 4, 2006


And to repeat once again. My argument is not that we shouldn't have standardized elections, or federal oversight of elections.

My argument is that a federal comission or bureau built along the same lines as existing federal structures and processes could be extremely vulnerable to political pressure, resulting in a situation even worse than we have now. Look at what's happened to the FDA, NSF and DoE.

If we are going to have an independent federal comission for overseeing elections, we need to think pretty radically out of the box towards how we can insure that comission is both independent and transparent.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2006


KirkJobSluder writes "If we are going to have an independent federal comission for overseeing elections, we need to think pretty radically out of the box towards how we can insure that comission is both independent and transparent."

I thought I already pointed you at the Elections Canada website?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:43 PM on November 4, 2006


dirtonumbangelboy: I thought I already pointed you at the Elections Canada website?

Certainly, but my questions about Elections Canada have gone unanswered, and I've never dismissed the possibility of something like EC here in the United States?

Perhaps you could scroll back and answer those questions? And here are some other questions. Who watches EC? How are the hirirng and funding processes of EC insulated from that of the Canadian government? If as you have said, the EC cannot define election policy, then how does it deal with statutory attacks on voters rights and Gerrymandering? How are elections at the regional and municipal level described?

What changes need to be made to an EC model to make it work in the United States? What are some other variations of that model that have been applied to different democratic structures?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:19 PM on November 4, 2006


This Time, the Election Will Not Be Stolen
posted by homunculus at 11:49 AM on November 5, 2006


KirkJobSluder, you've posed some very good questions regarding implementing a body like Elections Canada into the States. I've been trying to think of how best answer them but can't - I think there's just something about the parlimentary model that appeals to me too much. (I wish we could get a political scientist in one of these threads to answer all of these questions - or maybe more political board junkies). There's some info the Wikipedia page on how EC
works, and probably loads more online as well, but on some level it's an emotional issue - that for all its problems (and all systems have them), something about the Canadian (and parlimentary model) just... works. I don't know if it's inherant in a different political culture, if the systems are different, or what. It just is - and I don't know if I have a right to expect to bring my Parlimentary system with me wherever I go...

Your point regarding the issues and potential problems about centralization are noted - they are important, and worth noting. And you're aboslutely right - the electoral college is also a factor. The thing is, I don't know if a new system is possible - can we just install parts of a parlimentary model (like an independent electoral monitoring bodies, assuming that's 'just' a feature of parliments) into the States, and if we should do it. I do think that the Democratic Party would have a hell of an easier time getting votes if they put this on their platform, but that might be asking them to include democracy under a banner of social justice issues, and getting them to have a coherant message of any sort (let alone actual decent nominees) seems damned impossible.

As for your suggestion of stepping away from the MetaFilter 'echochamber', I appreciate the sentiments, but this site helps keep me sane :) Maybe someone should start a Matt Howie/Jessamyn West 2009 campaign site...
posted by rmm at 7:19 PM on November 5, 2006


« Older "I couldn't face the prospect of my child growing ...  |  Cicada Mania.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments