Election Analysis? Already?

I’ve gotten a few e-mails from folks asking me for my analysis on the election; basically my response to this is: Uh, shouldn’t we have the election first? It does seem like a lot of folks have either happily or bitterly said their bit on the election, but unless I’m stuck in some weird pocket of slow time out here in rural Ohio, the election isn’t actually over, and I kind of like to do my election post-mortems when things are actually “post.” The closer we get to election day, the less convinced I am that something could happen to drastically change the status of the election, and I certainly have expectations as to how things are going to go, which are generally in line with most other people’s: i.e., that it’s likely to be a big year for the Democrats. But in terms of what it all means, I prefer to wait until we know what we have in terms of election results. Call me paranoid.

This is also a reminder to folks of all political stripes that your expectations on how things are going to go on election day (and night) are likely to be contingent on your actually voting. Complacency is a fine way to find yourself in a country you didn’t sign up for, in terms of its political direction. Vote, damn you. All of you. Even those of you who will cancel out my vote.

I will say this: At this point, my major concern about the election is not how people will vote but whether their votes will be accurately counted and whether they will be allowed to get to the ballot box at all. The problems with electronic polling places have been chewed over here and other places; I believe they’re a menace to the democratic process and that’s all I need to say about that right now. But it’s not just the electronic polls that contribute to this problem; it’s not all Diebold. Here in Ohio, for example, a voter ID law has been so wildly screwed up that it’s possible some chunk of registered voters will get to the polls and find they can’t actually vote (or they’ll be given provisional ballots, which may or may not be counted); some of the folks who voted absentee may find their ballots thrown out because they entered the wrong number off their driver’s license (not that they were told which of two numbers to use before they voted).

Frankly, this sort of thing sucks. Look, it’s more important that everyone who can vote is able to vote, than one candidate or another wins. Just that simple. For God’s sake, people, make sure you have everything you need to vote with you before you go vote. Don’t give anyone an excuse to keep you from exercising your franchise.

You all already know how I’m going to vote. I’ll have more to say on the actual elections on Wednesday. Until then, I’ll keep some amount of my thinking on the elections to myself until we have results on the ground.

Now: Tell me you’re going to vote.

50 thoughts on “Election Analysis? Already?

  1. Finally! Someone who recognizes that this election might have serious problems. People look at me all funny (well, funnier) when I tell them that e-voting is a bad, bad, bad idea.

    I just hope the election *works*…if not, we’ll have a clusterfuck of a constitutional crisis by this time next week. November of 2000 will look like a Sunday stroll by comparison.

  2. From a long-term health-of-the-country standpoint, it’s important that lots of people vote.

    From a short-term my-way-or-the-highway, it’s important that as few others as possible vote, so that my vote carries proportionally more weight.

  3. California has a slew of ballot initiatives, and they all make me weep, even the ones that would tax the bejeezus out of cigarettes. And don’t get me started on Phil Angelidies vs. the Governator…

    Locally (in Santa Monica), I’m more concerned about the showdown between the renters’ rights group (which has really dropped the ball on traffic and homelessness) and the candidates sponsored by the giant beachfront hotels (who will probably turn Santa Monica into South Beach). Gridlock in government means, as far as I can tell, a livable city, which means I’ll vote for the one guy the hotels want gone, then give some love to the other candidates to make sure nothing substantive gets done.

    Mostly, I just want the whole thing to end. Rah, rah, representative government!

  4. Of course I’ll vote, always do.

    The one problem I’ll have is that when I get in the booth, I’m gonna see that I’m supposed to vote for judges and I don’t have a clue who any of the people running are. I won’t vote in those races because I’m not going to take any party’s word for who would be better and I’m (admittedly) too lazy to put that much research into judges.

    In one of the judges races there are two candidates for two seats (benches?) and each of them is the candidate of both Republicans AND Democrats. I’m not sure if that says something really good about them or something really bad.

  5. As a programmer, electronic voting machines scare the crap out of me. Too many ways to be exploited or just plain broken. Ahh well.

    I think that election day should be a national holiday. I’m not really certain it would get more people to vote, but it couldn’t hurt.

  6. Polls open at 7am – I’ll be waiting outside the door of the school, you bet your bippy.

    I’m clueless about the judges, I admit, but everything else? Got it all planned. For once.

  7. Will do…

    I also worry about the impact of e-voting machines – at least the ones that don’t have paper backups for recount purposes.

  8. Damn right, I’m voting.

    I second the federal holiday idea for Election Day. Make it a paid time off thing and I am sure the voter turnout will increase.

    Voting is more than worth it, but sometimes the effort of trying to stay even half informed seems to call for some compensation to the wallet. Sheesh, studying for my college classes is easier then following all of the damn propositions here in Cali.

  9. Of course. In Kanss, 8 of the people listed as Democrats are Republicans who bolted because their party is out of control — and this includes the candidates for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. The current governor is a Democrat, and she especially endorsed the Attorney General candidate’s move to her party.

    Kansas is one strange place.

  10. Sadly, the fact that the electronic voting machines suck is very well known in the security community, but getting more public and government awareness of the problems has been more difficult.

    FYI, here’s a nice rollup of some of the problems.

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/11/how_to_steal_an.html

    The best answer I’ve heard: Use a electronic voting machine to create a paper ballot, which is scanned separately. Most of the security problems for electronic voting are solved by this solution. If there’s a question of the final totals, the paper ballots can be counted manually. Arguably this solution does require voters that pay attention to their final printed ballot, but I’d say that’s not really any different from any other paper balloting solution.

    There are a few places you could attack this model, but the attacks are easier to detect. Without having formally run a security model on it, I think the most likely form of attack would be a denial of service attack on the voting machines themselves. Specifically, you target voting machines in districts where you want to suppress the vote.

    More subtle would be altering the names that appear on the screen — or the order they appear in — to be different than the expected ballot. That’s pretty easy to audit, though.

  11. If the Dems win a shitload of races, expect voting machine reliability to suddenly get a lot of attention from certain rightwing pundits.

  12. I just mailed in my ballot.

    Out here in Oregon, all elections are vote-by-mail. 100% hardcopy. At first I missed the civil ritual of the polling place, but now I appreciate the convenience. Y’all ought to try it.

  13. I am absolutely not voting, no way.

    Of course, I’m Canadian, so it’d be pretty tricky and not that legal for me to vote in US elections.

  14. Oh, c’mon Chuk. Live dangerously. I have some friends from Windsor who actually crossed the border one year to vote in American Idol, but I think federal elections a trifle harder to game.

    (Oh, don’t look at me like that. At least she didn’t vote for Taylor Hicks.)

  15. Two more years to go, and hopefully by that time the political system will have gotten its collective act together so I don’t have to pick between Mudslinging and Mudslinging-er, or Dumb and Dumber, or Not Very Moral and Even Less So.
    In the meantime I’ll *still* read all the voter info stuff we get through the mail before my voting-age parents throw it away, know more about what’s on the ballot and the character of the candidates than my voting-age parents do, and hope that maybe I can influence their votes by pointing out that maybe McCain (for instance) doesn’t have as much integrity as everyone in the traditional news media thinks he does, that maybe the president isn’t as smart/competent/honest as he pretends to be, and that “protecting women who live with their boyfriends from domestic abuse” is more important than “protecting marriage”.
    The voting age so, so, so needs to be lowered. Or abolished, right along with the Electoral College and Diebold machines.

  16. i’m from DC, where the democrats outnumber the republicans on an order of 50,000 to 1. So whoever wins the democrat primary for mayor IS the mayor. Unless the Washington Post uncovers evidence that Fenty eats babies for breakfast, the election is pretty much over. The election in my ward for city counsel does seem to be close however, which is a first in the albeit limited time I’ve lived in the District.

    regardless, I always vote because I consider it my civic duty. It’s an obligation and a privilege.

  17. I will be voting on Tuesday. And I feel ambivalent about it. Because as much as I truly understand and appreciate and am concerned by the security issues with electronic voting machines, they will allow me to cast my vote independently for the first time in my life, since I am totally blind. I like the idea of not having to verbally tell another person my decisions.

    So my vote will be just as reliable and confidential as everyone else’s, for once. The problem is that that might be “not very.”

    Although at least Washington State does have the machines that have paper verification.

  18. Yup, I even moved a trip so I can be home to vote (my voting place is literally around the corner from where I lived so absentee seemed silly… until now).

  19. I’ve been having a spirited discussion here,
    trying to convince these folks to vote. I don’t have the time to keep up my side of the debate right now, but if you’re so inclined, feel free to pitch in.

    I also get to vote in the Webb/Allen race, and am looking forward to it.

  20. I may actually vote for a winner this time. I normally vote straight libertarian (my vote won’t matter as the tiebreaker, but it can signal my beliefs honestly), but this time I think I may try to swing a Democrat into the House. And maybe one in the Senate. As for whether said Democrat can win … who knows?

  21. Nevada has early voting so I already have. And once again voted by individual rather than party line. True believers of any sort make me nervous.

  22. Sure, voting is good. Maybe we (my district) can get an African-American Muslim in the U.S. House, with a platform that roughly aligns with my interests and values. That’d be cool. On the other hand, I have to work the second shift on Election Day. Polls will be closed by the time I get home. If I woke up early and voted in the morning…that means I can’t sleep in, and possibly will be cranky at work. Supposedly the law allows for skipping work so you can vote, but the red tape sounds like a big PITA. Maybe I’ll give voting a pass for the first time in many, many years. On the third appendage, Guitar Hero 2 comes out the same day, and if I have to wake up early anyway, I might as well stagger over to the local games shoppe and reward myself for taking part in the Great Experiment.

  23. Did the early voting thing today in TX. My X’s went for a scattering of Dem, Rep and a small number of Libertarian candidates. I did NOT vote for Kinky for governor.

    Turnout was VERY heavy. Today was the first time I’ve EVER had to wait to vote. That indicates to me that the election will be VERY interesting…

    Can’t wait. Meanwhile, my DVD player is burning up as I avoid commercial TV…

  24. Been there, done that. We have one-stop early voting here in Asheville, NC (you can vote at any of the one-stop places anytime during open hours, for weeks ahead of time. Living in a progressive county is very cool.) I just stopped by my local literacy lounge (library) and did my part for regime change between dropping off old books and picking out new ones. Easy peasy.

  25. If the Dems win a shitload of races, expect voting machine reliability to suddenly get a lot of attention from certain rightwing pundits.

    Their traditional tack is to claim that get-out-the-vote efforts in black neighborhoods are somehow fraudulent.

  26. Will be sitting down with my absentee ballot, the informational booklet for my precint, and teh interwebs this weekend. Will be hand-delivering my absentee ballot Monday. Will be awake at 5:00 AM on election day so as to open my home precinct’s polling place at 7:00 AM. Will be there all the livelong day.

    I hope The Twisted Pine’s Taproom has the business-savvy to stay open late on the 7th, because there’s gonna be a ton of election judges in its neighborhood looking to decompress.

  27. Another Washingtonian here, to say I’ve already sent in my ballot…

    … and two more, for my cats. I voted the straight Democratic ticket, but the kitties are anarcho-libertarian-dingbat, so who knows who they voted for. They wouldn’t let me look.

    Washington, BTW, sends out a Voter’s Pamphlet for every election. It’s great: lists all the candidates, along with their statements, and all the ballot initiatives, along with statements for and against. The thing runs to book length sometimes, since this is an initiative-happy state, but there’s no better single go-to source for information about what you’re voting on.

  28. I envy you Virginia voters. I think Jim Webb is one of the finest candidates in the country. The rest of the country looks to you to send Jim to Washington. Ridding the country of George Allen is a bonus.

    Here in Kentucky, I’ll be voting for the Democrat, but with little enthusiam. Someday, I hope to have a candidate I feel passionate about, but not this year. Of course, there are the local races and in reality, they’re the heart of representative government.

  29. I always vote. And, from the days I had to take ‘em into the booth with me in a Snugli (TM), I’ve brought my children with me. I want them to grow up to be aware, involved citizens, and like so much else in parenting, setting a real-life example outweighs every “blah blah democracy blah blah rights blah blah responsibility” speech I’ll ever give them.

  30. I voted yesterday (Thursday) at the mall around the corner from my house. Austin’s system sounds like the one Soni enjoys in Asheville – basically every big grocery story and mall in the city has an early voting center. Like Dave Sorgen, I actually had to *wait* to vote early – turnout looks heavy.

    Oh, and a personal thank-you to Dave for not voting for Kinky Friedman. I’ve been riding that hobby horse for a while now.

  31. After reading your post, and several of the comments, my contrarian brain started working on a response. But rather than hijack your topic, I put it on my own page. If anyone’s interested in my thought experiment on why you shouldn’t vote, please see my blog (sorry I can’t link directly to the post, but it is the most recent as of this writing).

  32. Vote, dagnabit. And yes, that means you too CoolBlue and NJSoldier/Bram.

    Not voting sends absolutely no message at all. Nobody in politics is looking at the non-votes and thinking, “we ought to change because all these people aren’t voting.”

  33. Of course I’m voting. Sure, it’s painful, especially afterwards, but because you feel kind of whoozy and lightheaded, the nice volunteers let you have all juice and NutterButter cookies you want.

  34. Moved from Wisconsin to Oregon a hear ago. Big difference in procedures.

    In Madison, I always felt blind sided. Poll workers were honest, mind you, but unless you had crib notes with you from research you’d done, locating the various measures & candidate opinions, you often had to stand in the ballet cube, read some mumbo jumbo and take an instant stab at what you think is the correct answer.

    In rural oregon, I recieved in the mail a couple news-packets, tht had the legal text of all the measures, a summary on how each affects the finances, followed by paid ads where folks outlined their arguements – if one measure was supported by the teacher’s union and lobbied against by the church, then I know where to vote. Similar candidate info is included. A week or so later, we get a paper ballet in the mail. I’ve already filled mine out and dropped it off at the county bldg ballot slot.

  35. I’d vote, except for that felony conviction and 3 years left on parole.

    Late in the thread, and this might not be seen by many, but….as an FYI:

    The League of Women Voters have some good pages re:judges amd their verifiable qualifications (education, former employment, etc…) Some of the candidates also have policy statements or answer questions.

  36. Also from OR. Also loving the mail in system using paper ballots. The one hitch in that system, though, seems to be the somewhat firm requirement to use a pencil or BLUE ink. I heard on the radio that it seems the pen makers are putting a bit of red in their black ink as a cost-cutting measure. Apparently the red in the black messes with the vote reading machines just enough to make reading ballots marked with black ink difficult. And I’m just that distrustful of the volunteers at the ballot-counting office to NOT use a pencil.

    Of course the beauty of mailing in your ballot is you get to vote as soon as you get the ballot and then tune out all of the electioneering rhetoric.

    So yeah, I voted already!

  37. I think (hope?) we’ll eventually end up with:

    1) electronic voting with a verifiable paper trail. In California (Sacramento) it’s fill in the little space with a black blob (like on the SAT). It’s scanned and the paper copy retained. Even better routinely do some random statistical sampling of the paper versus the scanning machine totals.

    2) requiring ID to vote, with the rule that the ID must be readily available and range from very cheap to free in cost. Not one of those situations where your mother’s maiden name is required or you need to go to an office and apply behind the “beware of puma” sign. Yes, I am worried about voter fraud.

    3) not moving to absentee ballots entirely, a la Oregon. It might work in Oregon. Years ago I was an election worker in Buffalo and even then it was clear that the absentee ballot possibilities were just a little too interesting. Selling of votes is just a start. BTW, for an analogy for Buffalo in the 70′s think of Cook County (Chicago) machine politics.

    I think I’m being an optimist but let me hope, anyway.

  38. Having only ever voted in CA I was a little surprised when a friend told me that not all states mail out a pamphlet like the ones here (just the the Oregon one described above) I assumed it was the same in every state. How the heck do you find all that information independently?

  39. Went to the Election Commission for early voting. Voted for Ford, Jr. (am in TN so the local news is full of discussion re: those gross ads) as well as against the constitutional amendment for banning gay marriage along with a few state offices, since in the general election back in August took care of the local offices.

    I really liked how there was a lack of a voter’s guide available before the end of the early voting period.

  40. Yes, I’ll be voting. I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, though, so…who knows if the equipment’ll work or my e-vote will count. Dems mailed me an absentee ballot application and the Repub Governor pushed people to absentee vote also. (PAPER, in other words.) I regret not doing so. And I’m not sure who in MD trusts the evoting garbage at this point, or the totally moronic e-book voter rolls (what idiot thought that up?!). If few trust it, I hope it gets gone!

  41. I did the early voting thing Friday morning, in CO, because we have the “unreliable” e-voting machines, and it makes me nervous that the state government has spent a buttload on ads promising that electronic voting is “safe and reliable,” since the GOP is pretty powerful around here. (I hate how this administration makes me feel like I’m turning into a tinfoil hat paranoiac freak.)

    Anyway, I did my research, and did my part in voting against the stupid marriage “protection” act, which I’m sure will pass anyway. Gaah!

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