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It's simple: Don't let the blacks vote, your guy "wins".
June 5, 2001 1:09 AM   Subscribe

It's simple: Don't let the blacks vote, your guy "wins". "Florida's conduct of the 2000 presidential election was marked by "injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency" that unfairly penalized minority voters, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has concluded in a report that criticizes top state officials -- particularly Gov. Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris -- for allowing disparate treatment of voters."

"A computer analysis by The Post showed that the more black and Democratic a precinct, the more likely it was to suffer high rates of invalidated votes."

"No inquiry so far has been as broad as that conducted by the commission -- or as specifically focused on the rights of minorities. The commission held three days of hearings, interviewed 100 witnesses and reviewed 118,000 documents."
posted by owillis (40 comments total)

 
LATimes chimes in:

"Even unintentional acts that have a disparate effect on minority voters are illegal under a 1982 amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

"Duval County also had a ballot that was a design disaster. Gore, Bush, Ralph Nader and two other candidates were on one page. Five other candidates were on another page. Even worse, the official sample ballot printed in local newspapers before the election instructed voters to "vote all pages." Anyone who did so spoiled their vote."
posted by owillis at 1:36 AM on June 5, 2001


I was going to write something like, "Give it up, Oliver. I'm with you, but it's too late." But it's never too late. Keep going.
posted by pracowity at 2:06 AM on June 5, 2001


I'm sure it's been posted before, but what the hey. If this were happening in, say, Kosovo, we'd be the ones agitating for change. Gotta love the sour taste.
posted by Ezrael at 2:23 AM on June 5, 2001


Does it not concern you that your president may have no mandate to govern? Forget about hanging chads, and poorly designed ballot papers. This is evidence of electoral fraud. The fraud was small and would have been insignificant but for the closeness of the vote. As it happens, it appears that it has swung the result of the election.
posted by salmacis at 2:28 AM on June 5, 2001


I'm not sure what good petitiononline does, but to underscore the thwarting of good america's democratic values there exists a petition asking the UN to investigate. It might be neat to see our wonderful and free america not only officially vilified from the inside but officially from without as well. Won't hurt to sign it.

And perhaps a UN investigation would impel the media to finally cover the "low key" coup with the vivaciousness of how it covered what kind of cigars Clinton smoked. Not defending Clinton BTW. Just case in point.
posted by crasspastor at 2:32 AM on June 5, 2001


The petition has accrued under 2500 signatures, a handful of which are quite fake (Bush Wins Get Over It from Nashville and whatnot) and so funny I forgot to laugh but yet so simply poignant I actually didn't notice. Still, here at MeFi we've at least half of us as Democrat or Progressive, and I'd even be willing to go as high as 80 to 90 percent of us slant southpaw. It would be interesting to see if we could grow that up a couple thousand in the next few days. If not for any reason to see if PO gets /. Or just to see the fruits of our virtual Madison Square Garden at a little over half capacity numbers.
posted by crasspastor at 2:52 AM on June 5, 2001


Does it not concern you that your president may have no mandate to govern? Forget about hanging chads, and poorly designed ballot papers. This is evidence of electoral fraud. The fraud was small and would have been insignificant but for the closeness of the vote. As it happens, it appears that it has swung the result of the election.


"The inquiry found no 'conclusive evidence' that officials 'conspired' to disenfranchise minority and disabled voters."

And what makes you think that with .05% more votes Gore would've had a mandate to govern, or with even less votes (not even over 50%) that Clinton had a mandate for the last 8 years?
posted by gyc at 3:13 AM on June 5, 2001


The ubiquitous "mandate" question deals largely with how Bush took office at all. He most certainly wasn't elected president electorally or otherwise. I know. . .gratuitous Bugliosi/None Dare Call it Treason post. We've all read it. But it bears repeating.
posted by crasspastor at 3:27 AM on June 5, 2001


grrr. i'm about as bleeding heart liberal as they come, i truly believe that the election was stolen in florida, and i would jump for joy if our man dubya was canned tomorrow.

that said, i gotta believe that this horse breathed its last months ago. and our continued flailing isn't gonna do a damn bit of good.
posted by dogmatic at 3:30 AM on June 5, 2001


that said, i gotta believe that this horse breathed its last months ago. and our continued flailing isn't gonna do a damn bit of good

What do we do then?
posted by crasspastor at 3:36 AM on June 5, 2001


Let it go already. It is done and it will not be changed. 3,5 years from now is what counts. A long 3.5 years from the looks of it too.
I miss Bill's antics. He was a fun Prez.
posted by a3matrix at 4:23 AM on June 5, 2001


I think people are missing out the important middle term in this correlation: it isn't simply that the precincts to be most affected by voter irregularity were Democratic and black, but that they were poor. (Just as when police chiefs blame young black men for street crime, they neglect to point out that they greater correlation is between crime and poverty.)

And while a situation exists where your actual vote -- not just your political influence -- counts less because you live in a poor area, the notion of democracy is a mere pretense. And that matters far more than the occupant of the White House, given that neither of the major candidates ever faced that kind of disenfranchisement.
posted by holgate at 5:35 AM on June 5, 2001


My point in posting this is not for the current shmuck to be removed from office, because as illegitimate as he is - there's a cold day in hell before that's going to happen. What I do want, is for people not to forget what happened and realized the dirty tricks and shennanigans involved in his "selection". And to keep said illegitimacy in mind when future elections roll around (2002, 2004).

Like this quote from the LAT:
""Yeah, I'm mad . . . ," Davis said, "mad that someone would pollute a system that was pure. But we won't be fooled again. We'll redouble our efforts next time. That I promise you.""
posted by owillis at 6:08 AM on June 5, 2001


Mandate? There hasn't been a president with a clear voter mandate since Nixon, as far as I know. Clinton never broached the high 40's.

Democracy? Our little experiment in America was never designed to be a democracy - it's a republic. Look it up.

Here's my Modest Proposal: let's get rid of the House of Representatives and go with a true Democracy on the Greek model: one (wo)man, one vote, every issue. Each day, the web and every newspaper in the country posts the full text of each bill before the voters. We use the web/phone/SSN/PIN system to vote - on every issue, on only the issues we want, on issues that concern us, or not at all. The Senate stays - they write the laws; the Supreme COurt stays, they make sure that we don't make bad laws; the president, well, he could stay I suppose, more like a nice weak King, someone to send overseas and represent us at schwanky dinners; the House, adios. In one fell swoop:

*We remove the influence of money from lawmaking. Who's easier to bribe: 435 Congressman all located in one convenient place, or 150 million voters scattered all over the landscape?

*We end pork. Since the lawmaking process is removed from the committee system, nobody is poking special interest crap unscrutinized into essential spending bills.

*We save money. Goodbye House, it's perks, it's staffs, it's needs, it's grafts.

*It's fair. The representative system was originally set up because most citizens lived far from the seats of government, and were tied to the land by the agro-season. They couldn't act in their own interest, so they elected represnetatives to do so. Today, that notion is outdated. With the technology we have today, everyone can make their voice heard. Who doesn't have a phone?

*It revitalizes the news industry. Every day, a horde of analysts, experts and accountants poring over every bill.

*It enervates the voter. Now, each voter really is important! Their vote directly matters. Voter apathy will disappear overnight.

Flaws?
posted by UncleFes at 6:45 AM on June 5, 2001


Thanks for posting this, O. I understand the fatigue everyone has for this issue, but the fact is it's never going away. This is the single greatest test of our system of government for decades--perhaps since the Civil War. If the candidates hadn't been so goddamned boring--that is, if they had actually riled people's passions--what went on in Florida might have done some very serious damage to our country.

This election will be talked about forever. Forever. And, since it will, we have a duty to document as many facts as possible while the iron is still hot, if you will, so that historical record will reflect the Truth as much as possible.
posted by jpoulos at 6:50 AM on June 5, 2001


I got a good laugh from the quote from the LA Times. Davis said he was "mad that someone would pollute a system that was pure. " I posit that the elections in the U.S. have never and likely will never be "pure" (whatever that means).

There has always been corruption, vote fraud, what have you from both major political parties. (For Democratic shenanigans in the last election, look at the St. Louis dead voter fiasco) I'm all for fixing the system, but let's not lose sight of the fact that both parties are guilty of exploiting it for their own gain.

Also see:
A partisan, but well documented site
A critique of the Motor Voter Act presented to a senate committe by the Cato Institute
posted by CRS at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2001


While your idea definitely has merit and good points here's what it comes down to: the average person does not want to spend their life deciphering bills that come up in congress. That's what we elect the knuckleheads for, to represent our interests when legislation comes up.

And ending pork sounds nice, but when all the constituents clamor for it - can you blame the politician?
posted by owillis at 6:53 AM on June 5, 2001


Owillis: I think you're right. I think what you'd end up with is a smallish cadre of interested, highly motivated voters who would vote on every issue, and the rest of us would vote on stuff that we either understand or that particularly interest us.

OTOH, it could be that you'd have an increased level of analysis and expert deciphering by private sector sources, like news organizations, or just simply people who know stuff. I'll bet my tax accountant would have some insight on the budget....?

As for pork, I'm not sure the constituents do clamor for it. I've never clamored for pork. Most of it seems to go as rewards for faithful service to the legislator. Either way, they could still write porky bills - they'd just have to get it passed by all the voters like every other bill.
posted by UncleFes at 7:08 AM on June 5, 2001


If the candidates hadn't been so goddamned boring...what went on in Florida might have done some very serious damage to our country.


I've always kind of thought the reverse. Had this been a blow-out by anyone, we'd all be looking at Floriduh and saying "eh, it happens... the right guy won anyway". The fact that this election was ultimately decided by a state in such a mess (although to be fair, most states probably aren't much better) brought this particular problem to the forefront. Had Bore or Gush gotten enough votes without Floriduh, I doubt this dead horse would be beaten so badly. Not that I don't think that, given our technology, the fact that I voted by punching a hole in cardboard is a near crime in and of itself.
posted by srw12 at 7:31 AM on June 5, 2001


It seems the real issue that should be covered by the press is that the effort to purge the voter rolls was a deliberate, methodical process initiated by Florida officials and guaranteed by that processes criterion to disenfranchise voters who might vote Democratic in the presidential election and later in the governor's race.
Florida election officials started the purge in response to the massive voter registration effort across the state after the governor moved to eliminate affirmative action.
We have motive, we have method, we have criminal intent, we have a national travesty, now if only we could have justice perhaps we could actually bury this thing. Until then, it will continue to stink.
posted by nofundy at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2001


Had this been a blow-out by anyone, we'd all be looking at Floriduh and saying "eh, it happens... the right guy won anyway".

I agree with that. My point was that the reason there weren't more people in the streets was that many American's decided early on that they didn't care that much who won. If the election had been this close, but there had been a greater polarity in voter opinion, we might well have seen violence, the National Guard, etc.
posted by jpoulos at 8:19 AM on June 5, 2001


There hasn't been a president with a clear voter mandate since Nixon, as far as I know. Clinton never broached the high 40's.

Reagan beat Mondale so bad in 1984 Fritz still has bruises. I think that can safely be called a mandate.
posted by rcade at 8:28 AM on June 5, 2001


it isn't simply that the precincts to be most affected by voter irregularity were Democratic and black, but that they were poor

This is to be expected, no? The poor are less likely to be literate. You need to be literate to read the instructions on the ballot. If you're can't, or have trouble with it, you're more likely to botch it up. This is the root of the problem -- the ballots were poorly designed. Which we knew, to a large extent some time ago, but it is obviously a much bigger issue than previously thought.

It is easy to overestimate your audience when designing documents. I once did a user manual for a trucking company's freight transfer system. This system is used by loading dock workers -- it tells them where to put each individual pallet as it is removed from a truck and tracks each pallet to make sure it ends up on the right truck. I was told that many of the workers had only a 6th-grade reading level, so I did my best not to use big words or long sentences. Nevertheless, my first draft of the manual came back from client review with comments like, "Don't use big words like 'verify.'" Now to me, "verify" does not look like a big word, but apparently it is if you're at a 6th-grade reading level. The client suggested using "check" or "make sure."

Point is, ballots need to be usability-checked by people who understand the people who will be using them -- and ideally user-tested by a wide cross-section of voters -- before they are actually deployed. In our country, the under-educated have should have as much of a voice as anyone else -- much as I sometimes shudder at the notion.
posted by kindall at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2001


Uncle Fes, the flaw is that all democratic systems are flawed. An economist named Kenneth Arrown proved that in every democratic system which has no other flaws even worse, some people's votes are vastly more influential than others are. (Arrow referred to them as "dictators".) Arrow proved this mathematically (for which work he won a Nobel Prize). This result was so repugnant that his proof has been scrutinized closely for a long time and no-one has found any flaws in it. It's rigorous.

The system you are describing falls into one of the traps he found: the people who choose what to submit to the populus for voting (when, and in what order) would have the ability to control the outcome in many cases through their control over the order in which alternatives were presented. That's because the system you're proposing would not be free of Arrow's fourth requirement of "Independence from Irrelevant Alternatives". That, in turn, makes your system violate his third requirment of "No Dictatorship" (since the people controlling elections would have more influence than any other citizens).
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:45 AM on June 5, 2001


Democracy? Our little experiment in America was never designed to be a democracy - it's a republic. Look it up.

The voting process is the main democratic element in the US. Considering we're taking about an election, I think its just fine and dandy to be tossing the word democracy around.
posted by skallas at 8:50 AM on June 5, 2001


Whyt hasn't aaron showed up to put us all in our place? I hope he's alright.
posted by Mocata at 8:55 AM on June 5, 2001


This is to be expected, no? The poor are less likely to be literate. You need to be literate to read the instructions on the ballot. If you're can't, or have trouble with it, you're more likely to botch it up. This is the root of the problem -- the ballots were poorly designed.

It's a little more involved than that, I think. In Florida, the poorest counties were also the ones most likely to have old-fashioned, dilapidated or confusing ballot machines, whereas the wealthier ones were able to invest in newer technology, backed up by usability testing. So it's not just a question of user capability, but how there's a negative correlation between that capability and the investment that goes into addressing it.

(I remember the bus driver who won the Plain English award for rewriting the company manual, changing paragraphs of corporatese into things like "Look where you're going.")

Steven: Arrow is right, of course; which accounts for why the current election in the UK is being fought over a political arena the size of a footbath. It's estimated that perhaps 10,000 "swing" votes spread across a handful of constituencies could change things. It's deeply unsatisfying. But I'd hate to augment the skewing of electoral demographics with the failures of the actual mechanics of voting.
posted by holgate at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2001


Pure democracy is an awful idea, mainly because the majority of people are stupid. We have a republic on the premise that the morons won't elect anyone too idiotic, although that premise has been proven wrong over and over again. Personally I like the John Stuart Mill idea of weighted votes, where people get their votes based on education or some other objective criteria. Graduated High School? Congratulations, you've just won the franchise. Got a degree? Another vote. Doctorate? Give that (wo)man another vote!

As for this Florida mess, if we're going to pretend we're an egalitarian country, we need to at least enforce the law evenly. The voter purge is a transparent attempt to pare down on a Democratic demographic. Dead horse? Damn right. But I hear horse is tasty these days.
posted by norm at 10:52 AM on June 5, 2001


Basing votes on degrees? Do you know how many people out there with degrees who are total morons? Lots! Jesus, why don't we just allow the landed male gentry to vote? Whoops - tried that already, huh?
posted by owillis at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2001


You know, the clan-based familial anarchy of mid-millenium Scotland is starting to look pretty good... I'll be shining up my claymore tonight!

Plus, if we took the franchise from dropouts, who'd vote for the Democrats? :)

Steven DB: fascinating theorum! I'd never heard of it previously. But I think that you have to order the candidates *somehow*. Does Arrow recommend a governmental method?
posted by UncleFes at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2001


Landed male gentry? Hmmmm... I like it!
posted by UncleFes at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2001


College educated people are more involved in the process, presumably more educated about the issues, and are voting more anyways.

I didn't necessarily mean for that to be my advocacy. I have mixed feelings about the proposal because I have known many smart people that have no degree whatsoever; yet perhaps we should get back to feeling like civic responsibility is more a duty than a right.

That is, until we come to our senses and get us a philosopher king.
posted by norm at 11:53 AM on June 5, 2001


Philosopher king! I like that better than the landed gentry thing - all the best elements of despotism and paternalism combined!

I'd like to nominate myself as America's first philosopher king. As for credentials, I took at least two philosophy classes in college (including Modern German Philosphers 410, which was absolutely BRUTAL), and I can be very despotic when provoked or, you know, tired and grumpy. I hereby promise that my court will be filled to brimming with Mefi's (whose advice I will always listen to and discard with impunity), and I will make no proclamation that doesn't directly involve comfortably dressed hot girlies with noses that turn up just slightly.
posted by UncleFes at 12:11 PM on June 5, 2001


I accept your nomination, and as Philosopher King, my first decree is to move the Capitol to Alaska.

Seriously, Plato's Philosopher King turned out to be a bad idea, as the whole imbroglio in Syracuse pointed out. (And when Aristotle tried to make one, we got Alexander the Great...sure, smart and well read, but a warmonger who conquered half the world and is still reviled in most of the territories he once ruled more than two thousand years later...he may have had his own father assassinated, he certainly killed a friend at a drunken feast, the list goes on)

Basically, the problem we have is Acton in action, and the only way out of it is to make responsibility as attractive as power. Which requires emphasis from birth, I think.

I don't think the on-line democracy is going to work, either. Too many people don't know enough about computers or can't spend the money on one.
posted by Ezrael at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2001


That is, until we come to our senses and get us a philosopher king.

I wouldn't want to be ruled by the philosophers. They'd forget all the little details. Gimme the (original, sans the concept of untouchables) Hindu caste system any day, where the organizers do the ruling, and the philosophers do the philosophizing.
posted by darukaru at 12:55 PM on June 5, 2001


something i always think about is this: How many times has this happened in the past? How many votes have never been counted election after election?
posted by th3ph17 at 1:24 PM on June 5, 2001


a3matrix wrote:
Let it go already. It is done and it will not be changed. 3,5 years from now is what counts.
Letting it go will guarantee that it happens again in 3.5 years.

CRS wrote:
There has always been corruption, vote fraud, what have you from both major political parties.
There's always been disease ... so don't bother going to the doctor?

This particular subversion of the election process stinks to high heaven... and it should not be dropped until meaningful reform, on a national level, has been achieved. When I get off my arse and go to the polls, I don't want that effort cancelled out by the desktop machinations of some clever rats.
posted by Twang at 1:26 PM on June 5, 2001


What this election has done:
I voted today here in LA for mayor. I checked three times to make sure all my chads were removed from the ballot. And still I've got this yucky feeling that my vote won't be counted.

That's just so wrong.
posted by owillis at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2001


But how will we, as philosophers, effectively demand our rigorously defined areas of doubt and uncertainty?
posted by dwivian at 1:36 PM on June 5, 2001


UncleFes, to my knowledge Arrow hasn't dealt with the issue of what the best non-ideal system is, and indeed it's not clear just how you'd decide that. What he did was show that they're all faulty in one way or another. Trying to pick the system you should use comes down to analyzing the faults of each possibility and attempting to decide what tradeoffs you're willing to make, and that's a political decision, not an academic one. Most existing systems (including those used in Canada, the US and the UK) violate the "no dictators" rule because the other rules (like "universality") are viewed as being even more important.

However, I believe that no existing system solves the problem of transitive preference, which is one of the reasons why dictators can exist in our system. (Note that "dictator" is a technical term in this context which does not have the standard meaning.) I haven't heard of a system which solves the problem of transitive preference without grossly horrible features elsewhere. (For example, transitive preference is not a problem if a system only has one voter -- but that's not an acceptable solution.)

I love mathematical proofs of impossibility. It's elegant to prove that no-one can do some particular thing, anyplace, ever, under any conditions. Because of that, Arrow occupies a place of honor in my mind along side Russell and Turing.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:42 PM on June 5, 2001


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