I've been thinking about a good visible mission for Al Gore
December 13, 2000 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I've been thinking about a good visible mission for Al Gore over the next four years, and took a look at this Google search. After all, he is not only a government wonk, but also a technology wonk with an reasonably expected level of passion on the topic. Imagine my surprise when only one of the top hits today was about the US, while the UK, New Zealand, Canada, and Bosnia were highlighted.
posted by fpatrick (8 comments total)
The links from that search are primarily about proportional representation and such - but the US has much more fundamental problems. It's inappropriate to talk much about PR and other alternative systems when there's no uniform voting method, counting standards, registration/enumeration methods, etc. Until all that is solved - as it is throughout Europe and in Canada - any talk of PR is just obfuscation and FUD.

But even to do that could prove to be a major constitutional issue in the US. The majority decision yesterday talked a lot about equal protection - but only Breyer got it right in saying that there's NO equal protection for voters under the current miasma of schemes, policies, and machines. How can the court have stood on the equal protection principle when, due to constitutional and inertia reasons voters currently have their votes counted under as radically different systems as are in use now.

The US (and England as well) largely invented democratic government as we know it now - this isn't a blanket condemnation at all. But the US is not in any way at the forefront of research or practice into how to make elections fair, complete, and representative. There's a bridge to get over before the US can even idly consider alternative systems like those referenced on many of those links.
posted by mikel at 7:42 AM on December 13, 2000

miels's second paragraph is my point and the source of my original interest is doing the search on the topic. I was hoping to find more about it. That was what I was referencing in my original post when I mentioned Gore's interest in technology. The current technology of punch cards and readers in use in places like the Sunshine State are woefully inadequate when the manufacturer admits that the capabilities of the system are only good to within a couple percent. (And that's when the district can afford to maintain them.)

hmmmmm . . . For years, Ralph Nader has been at the forefront of various topics regarding reform of government processes. Isn't it ironic that his vote-getting abilities in Florida might end up leading to his most meaningful impact, via the equal protection can of worms identified by the Supremes?
posted by fpatrick at 8:03 AM on December 13, 2000

Hmmm. I think the Supreme Court might have inadvertantly laid a lot of the groundwork for electoral reform in terms of process and policy reform. Pundits are saying that the majority decision, as written, was carefully crafted to not create a wide precedent.

But I don't know - I think that the majority's reliance on this equal protection thing could become a big deal. Basically, there is a constitutional issue in any election that features different counting methods in different counties. Which is to say, there is a consititutional issue in every state in the US (as far as I know this decision is a county one everwhere).

posted by mikel at 8:20 AM on December 13, 2000

This is definitely an issue that the Democrats need to get behind, because it will almost certainly benefit them more. Rather than concentrating on flawed "motor voter" schemes, they need to realize that the error-prone punch card system is chiefly used nowadays in large urban areas -- generally considered Dem strongholds. Take a back-of-the-envelope calculation that the 30% of the country using punch cards skews 55% Democratic, and throw in the enormous 3, 5, 9, or 12% undervote that has turned up to be all too common, and you get a national undervote of around a full percentage point -- that is, the Democratic vote has been undercounted by almost that much. (The Republican vote has been, too, but I'm talking about the relative difference.)

Never mattered until a close election in a big state, and look what happened.
posted by dhartung at 9:32 AM on December 13, 2000


I feel the need to remind everyone once again on this thread that we do not conduct federal elections. I'm *still* willing to bet good green American money that this wasn't accidental on the part of the Framers, and I think that preserving it is a good thing to do.

Certainly the Feds can make suggestions about what would be good standards to set (the UCC is such an animal, though the UCITA revisions *suck*), but those things must be codified into *state* law, by *state* legislatures, answerable to *their state's residents*.

Get the impression I'm a statist? :-)
posted by baylink at 9:55 AM on December 13, 2000

What about "pulling a Reagan"? I.e., no federal funding for X or Y until you change this state law (in his case it was the drinking age - raising it from 18 to 21). A nifty way of getting around the problem while not trampling (nominally) on states' rights.
posted by mikel at 10:37 AM on December 13, 2000

Ah yes, political blackmail. Which leaves your followers loving you for getting getting your agenda into law, while making everyone else hate you.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 11:12 AM on December 13, 2000

nit, baylink: we do conduct elections federally. We don't conduct them nationally.
posted by dhartung at 8:19 PM on December 13, 2000

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