Post-Election Day Thoughts, 2015
Posted on November 4, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 49 Comments
Here in Ohio, aside from some local races, the only things I had on my ballot to vote for were state initiatives. Here’s how I voted:
Issue One: This one changed the state redistricting process so that it’s handled by a non-partisan committee rather than by whoever’s in the majority in the state government when redistricting comes along. Well, I’m a fan of not gerrymandering the shit out of districts for political gain, so I voted for it. So did 71% of the voters, so good for us. Note well, however: the Federal redistricting is still in the hands of the state legislature.
Issue Two: This issue was designed to keep people who are proposing state initiatives from gaining a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel through said initiative. This issue was a direct response to Issue Three, which was on the ballot as well. I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing, and I voted for it. So did 52% of Ohio voters, so it passed. Again, good for us.
Issue Three: This would have legalized marijuana use for medical and recreational use, but also would have created a cartel of producers who would be the only ones authorized to grow pot in Ohio. Basically, a bunch of rich jerks were trying to corner the pot market in the state by appealing to people’s desire to toke up. It didn’t work; 64% of the voters turned it down, including me. I’m not against the legalization of pot generally, but I was against this. That was some bullshit right here.
Aside from the Ohio issues, the other major election event I was paying attention to was the Kentucky governor’s race, because my pal Drew Curtis — who I supported both as a friend and through campaign contributions — was running for the job as an independent. He didn’t win — he got 3.7% of the vote, but neither was he a spoiler for the other guy who lost, Democrat Jack Conway, who garnered 43.8% of the vote. Add up their totals and it’s still less than what Republican Matt Blevin ended up getting (Drew, I know, believes he drew votes off both of them, which, if true, makes him even less of a spoiler). I’m not especially impressed with Kentucky’s choice for Governor, as Blevin seems like a real piece of work. But he’s not my governor, thank goodness (mine is John Kasich, who wasn’t my first pick, to be clear, but is what passes for a moderate in the GOP these days, i.e., he’s not entirely divorced from reality — and his Democratic opponent in the election was a real fuck-up, so, uh, yeah).
In Ohio, roughly 3 million people voted, out of a voter base of about 7.8 million, so that’s about 39%, which is an average off-year turnout; for comparison, 70% of registered voters showed up in 2012, when we elected a president. It does make me wonder what the hell the people not voting every chance they get are thinking.
Generally speaking nationwide this particular election looks to have been good for conservatives/GOP and less so for Democrats/progressives, which is SOP for election days where there’s not someone running for president. Note to progressives and/or Democrats: Maybe, and I’m just spitballing here, you should think of going out and voting every single election day. Try it! It’s kooky fun! Also — another wacky idea! — you might think about trying to actually build local and state organizations that aren’t fumbly and get walked over by the GOP machine on those levels. Rumor is, there is actual government and law going on at that level! And you can’t expect a Democrat to win the White House every single time. Just putting that out there for your consideration.
All that said, for me, in Ohio, this election day went pretty much exactly how I wanted it to. I can’t complain.
Odd year elections are just a terrible idea. We don’t have them in Alameda county in California, outside of (I’m guessing, hasn’t happened while I’ve been here) special elections. It’s not hard to keep to even-year elections.
There’s still an issue where people don’t vote for the mid-term election or primary elections (and in California primary elections are really just elections with the November election acting as a run-off).
But complaining that people don’t vote on odd year elections seems silly, since they are so easily avoidable.
Democrats had a pretty good day in Pennsylvania, taking the state Supreme Court and some other stuff.
I live in Houston, TX. I’m very disappointed that HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) didn’t pass. It didn’t pass largely because the far-right wingnut wackjobs were, sadly, very successful with their ads calling HERO “the bathroom bill.” Literally, ads asking if the voter wanted their little girl to be “assaulted by a man dressing as a woman in a public restroom.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, my mother actually voted against HERO, because she believed the bullshit propaganda. Mostly, I just dislike her, times like now I’m actually embarrassed to be her daughter.
There should be a push to have all the elections at the SAME TIME every two years (Presidential and Governor alternate every two), as in there being no off-major voting for any damn thing. No reason every two years can’t be arranged for every public office/referendum/etc other than the people in charge exploiting low voter turnout.
Our city council holds elections in the summer when nobody votes and most of our seasonal residents are gone. People have held office with less than 200 votes. That’s getting one freaking church out to vote.
Not to mention the EXTREME costs of holding elections when nobody cares. I could have voted, it would have been for one schmuck for county commission and one school board slot and both were only fielding token opponents. Why waste the time?
I’m happy with how my local elections went here in Colorado. We fought back some reactionary forces and will hopefully continue with our fairly strong economic growth.
We have universal mail-in ballots here and people still don’t vote in particularly high numbers. I do get-out-the-vote work now and then but have no idea how to get people more involved generally.
Finally making election days to be holidays is one of the first and easiest steps to take to increase voter turnout. I doubt that will happen anytime soon, though, as there are folks with the vested interest of keeping folks who have difficulty getting time off out of the voting booth.
Random thoughts from just south of the Ohio river:
1. Sorry about Drew. I would have voted for him, but I didn’t want to give the B-man any greater chance of winning. For all the good it did.
2. Jack Conway’s campaign will forever be remembered as the prime example of someone who took his victory for granted and didn’t actually do much campaigning. Hey Jack: if you’re the guy on the blue ticket running in the red state, you need to kiss lots of babies.
3. This may the end of the democratic party in state-wide elections. After all, it’s been hard the past couple of years to put together a party platform that is anti-Mexican, anti-gay, pro-union, and in favor of arming everyone who is old enough to hold a derringer, which is pretty much where most of Kentucky is.
4. And now we look toward the future. Personally, I’ve spent the day looking at real estate across the river in Cincinnati. Also considering what to do with my Ky. state pension funds that I will be withdrawing shortly to invest on my own, because I’m sure that when (I can barely even type the next two words) Governor Bevin enrolls the bluegrass state in the Sam Brownback School of Fiscal Planning our current “holy shit” level of pension funding (~20%) will go, per Spaceballs, “straight to plaid.” Plaid with lots of red in it. Education funding? Real Americans don’t need (or want) it. All those newly insured people thanks to Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion? Fuck ’em. For crying out loud, the guy doesn’t even want to spend any money to build the I-75 bridge across the Ohio river for fear that someone, somewhere might benefit from a public good. The only good news is that I no longer work as a public defender in the state. They will probably be outlawed since they aren’t specifically mentioned in the first paragraph of the Constitution.
Gotta run, just found a lovely listing in Over the Rhine.
Always a touch bemused whenever I see referendums on non-partisan boundary committees. I’m so used to the independence of the Australian Electoral Commission, and this reminds me to be more thankful for that.
I voted early by man – easiest way to do it. I have a couple of acquaintances who don’t vote. The reason I get is that “my vote won’t count’. I keep replying that it sure doesn’t count if you don’t exercise it. I don’t get it. If voting didn’t count, why do people actively try to suppress others from doing it?!! If 38% turn out to vote, only 19.1% of the total eligible voters will decide candidates and issues for the rest. It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to persuade 19.1% than 50.1%. Grrr.
Should be ‘by mail’.
“It does make me wonder what the hell the people not voting every chance they get are thinking.”
Can we fix this?
All 4 year offices are voted on during the same cycle as the presidential election.
Not an odd year and an odd month.
All 2 year offices are voted on during the same cycle and day as The House.
No odd year elections (other than special elections).
That being said, can we also switch to vote by mail like in Oregon?
/and can I have a pony
After seeing your post, along with the Facebook posts of my family and friends still living in Ohio, I actually had to go look up election information for California. Largely because I hadn’t seen so much as a post card about elections. Turns out we didn’t have any in my area. SF voted for mayor and board of directors, a bunch of school boards had elections (but not my city, nor any city in my county, which is saying something since I live in San Diego), and there were a handful of local ballot measures, again none in San Diego County.
So I’ll celebrate the good fortune for Ohio and be glad I didn’t miss anything important out here.
I don’t get why people don’t vote more either. My grandparents were both part of the generation that fought in WW2 and, being in the UK, I am acutely aware of how much they both put on the line to ensure I have my right to vote. I have only ever missed one election in my life, and that was because I was stranded out of the country on short notice on the election day. Every other election I have voted, even if on two occasions all I did was scribble on the ballot paper a sweary word about how none of the candidates were fit to represent me. I always tell people that voting on a spoiled ballot is still a vote, and that if enough of those were put in by all those who don’t want to vote “because they are all the same” then things would change. I know spoiled ballots aren’t an option everywhere due to different voting systems though. I remain a big fan of pencil and paper ballots. And I’m a fan of compulsory voting too.
The people have spoken in one off year election after another… we don’t want off year elections. When elections consistently get less than 40% of the vote, then the silent majority doesn’t these elections. Put a voter initiative up to get rid of off year elections. If it goes up during a presidential year it will probably win. If it happens in an off year it will lose.
Considering how few people vote in off year elections, the people who pay attention and vote are the wierdos. I didn’t even remember there were elections coming up.
On marijuana, I say legalize it. If you “decriminalize” and do “medical marijuana” you’re still going to have violent cartels. With FULL legalization it would be done by probably tobacco companies and private “artisanal” growers; and no gun play.
@scorpious: medical marajuana is more dangerous than recreational use. You get unregulated idiots acting like this is tonic water and a cure all. For it to be a medical drug it needs clinical trials. If you want to legalize it, make it legal, then make it illegal to make medical claims. I would regulate the hell out of it far more than what is done now. Id also put a very high tax on it. I would also make penalties for anyone who works with organized crime and funnels money to them far worse including life sentences. The reason to legalize is first off its a waste of everyones time and money to put stoner idiots in prison and second to get money out of the pockets of organized criminals.
To enforce the higher taxes I would make penalties for selling marajuana without a license extremely severe. Worse than what the penalty is now for dealing marajuana.
just no getting stoned in public places. I would also make driving while ‘stoned’ worse than driving while drunk as a deterrent. DUIs are dangerous and we dont need anymore idiots on the roads. I dont want these idiots in the park and anything where in ingest smoke is cancer causing. I Dont want the smoke anywhere near me.
Off year elections are just stupid. Nobody cares. We don’t have ’em in my county but alas the TV stations come from the next county, which does. So we got all their stupid political ads. I say, if I’m not allowed to vote, I shouldn’t have to see the ads. Or vice versa. Even scanning through them on the TiVo is annoying.
In my case, I didn’t vote because as near as I could tell from the county election board, there was nothing to vote for in my county.
(Also, I was throwing-up sick, so I would have had to figure out how to get a written ballot. Which strikes me as a useful thing that I should learn for the future, since yesterday, I was too sick to care about voting.)
here’s a short piece on why people don’t vote as often as they could or should. It basically comes down to the length of our campaigns is fatiguing.
As they said in my grandfather’s day “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” .. Oh, I see. Never mind.
“The reason to legalize is first off its a waste of everyones time and money to put stoner idiots in prison and second to get money out of the pockets of organized criminals.”
I agree. We waste a shit-ton (sorry John) of taxpayer money imprisoning non-violent drug criminals. I’d legalize it and grandfather in their convictions and free them.
Here is a rather unconventional opinion from fivethirtyeight about off-year elections:
I’ve voted in every election since I was old enough to- I feel like it would be wrong not to make an effort. Given the ways in which historically we’ve prevented people from voting, nobody should voluntarily remove themselves from having a voice in their own government. I also feel it’s a bit of a bad habit to get into, not voting (at least in smaller elections) because it makes it that much easier to not make an effort to pay attention to what’s going on. At least if you vote, there’s some pressure on you to understand what you’re voting on, and that’s probably why a lot of people don’t do it.
It frustrates how many people seem to think the only offices worth bothering with voting on are the big ones. People complain their vote doesn’t count, and it is a fairly small drop in the bucket in a lot of bigger races, but in the smaller ones it can matter a lot more and a lot of the decisions that affect us more directly happen at that level. If more people were engaged in those elections we might be happier with the government we end up with.
I feel like one of the biggest problems with elections in this country is that the bulk of the rules of how they function are in the hands of parties with vested interests in manipulating the results. We should really have some clear guidelines set as to how elections should function which discourage a lot of the partisan shenanigans, such as gerrymandering, deliberate scheduling of elections on schedules which reduce turnout, etc. Of course that’s easier said than done, given that the Constitution and our federal laws don’t really talk much about how voting should work and we seem to prefer our government to work as a patchwork of local rules wherever possible.
There was an interesting article in FiveThirtyEight yesterday about ways in which Democrats also participate in attempts to suppress turnout (note that I don’t think it’s anywhere near the seriousness of what we’ve been seeing with the Republicans lately, just that there are situations where it’s being manipulated on their side as well):
As a Kentucky resident for over 62 years, I was disappointed, but not real surprised, about yesterday’s election. While there were probably many reasons For Mr. Conway’s defeat, these are the three that I came up with:
1. Kentucky has been, unfortunately, trending red;
2. IMHO, Conway ran a lousy campaign (as he did during his senatorial race against Rand Paul); and
3. Voting turnout was small, especially in traditional Democratic strongholds.
Traditionally, the two largest Democratic strongholds in Kentucky are Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington) Counties. In Governor Beshear’s first run in 2007, he received 141,471 votes in Jefferson County, over 29,000 more votes than Conway received in 2015. In Fayette, Governor Beshear 42,302 in 2007, more than 14,500 votes than Conway received in 2015. (Note that 2015 figures are unofficial.)
As for Drew Curtis, while I like Drew and Heather as people, I was disappointed when he said he’s not opposed to religious liberty laws in principle and that he would support legislation similar to the law in Utah. I find such laws abhorrent.
Beyond the off year election, I think that the sheer amount of elected positions is off-putting and disperses responsibility so thoroughly that it’s almost impossible to determine who is to blame when things go awry.
In my case, I get the pleasure of voting for village mayor & village council, town mayor & town council, county executive & county legislature, state legislature & State senate, governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney, state controller, local judges (how am i supposed to know who is qualified to be a judge?), School district and I am sure that I have missed a few positions…
Who has the time to keep track of all these elected positions & whether or not the elected officials are doing a decent job?
Maybe I should move to Ohio. Compared to Wisconsin, Ohioan politics seems relatively sane.
Things worked out for us in Hoboken. The good guys got a solid majority on the City Council (though the bad-but-not-stupid candidate won in my ward; at least he took out Dim Tim). We did OK on the School Board too. There were no other elections of importance.
My wife and I voted, thought all we had to decide on in our Texas country was state propositions and county bond issues. Since we haven’t lived in the Houston city limits for 20 years, we didn’t get to have a voice on the HERO ordinance (which I would have voted FOR). I don’t know. Participatory democracy seems to be either too granular (come on, voting for a justice of the peace?) or too broad. Still, I play the game.
I’m an Election Inspector in NY State, Scalzi, and I wonder the same thing! I’m there for every General Election and Primary, often getting up in the middle of the night so we can be ready for early morning voters – and sometimes (like Primaries) we have more people working the polls than voting in them!
Syracuse.com did an article on the (mostly geriatric) people who are Election Inspectors in NY – it features a brief on-camera interview with me, blinking out of sync because I’m running on too much coffee and too little sleep…. :p
The pot monopoly issue got a lot of play in the national press. Stupid idea, I’m glad it didn’t pass.
The person who won the race for Mayor of the village I live in won by two votes (out of 1026 cast). I tend to think that yes, my vote counted.
I remember thinking, when the U.S. declared war on drugs, that this would be a farce, because surely the “hearts and minds” lessons of Vietnam would be ignored. That was during the Reagan years, with collateral damage of zero tolerance and overcrowded prisons. Meanwhile, Canada has done OK with a merely peacetime level of enforcement. Perhaps it’s time for the U.S. to compromise and go back to peacetime.
A Right Wing somebody I have the misfortune of knowing (and not a family member, for once!) was gloating about “You Libburuls Failing again!” in the recent election.
Looking over the results, I’d say it was a fairly even split, and only Kentucky was a Right Wing victory and any kind of surprise….
All this talk about off-year elections … Americans seem to have a somewhat unholy fixation with fixed voting dates.
Over here in Germany, voting happens when terms run out, and term lengths vary, and there are reasons why terms may be cut short and so on; the combination of all elections is thus rather irregular, but that doesn’t seem to pose a problem.
Elections also always happen on Sundays, when most people don’t need to work. And we pretty much only elect (at least in general elections) people whose primary job description will be “politician” – legislators, heads of executive, and so on. Never a judge, or a police chief, or a dog catcher – none of those should see their job as being a politician.
And yes, when inconvenient, you can vote by mail.
It’s probably also relevant that for every general election, every eligible voter (we don’t need to go register) gets sent a postcard telling us where to vote, when, and also can be filled in to send back to request a mail-in ballot. And that polling station (at least in cities) tends to be a light stroll away from where you live – often in the school you’d send your offspring to.
We often vote in off-year elections, but this year almost everyone was running unopposed, or two people running for two seats, and no initiatives. In the one case where three people were running for two seats, we couldn’t pick out any of the three to vote for or against. So we stayed home.
Also (she says defensively) we’ve had a lot of medical appointments lately.
I had last-minute work travel come up, so Thursday I brought in my absentee ballot application. City clerk was very nice and gave me the ballot right off rather than having me wait for the mail; girlfriend dropped off the (double-sealed) ballot Monday morning after I had already left town.
And a ballot question I voted against passed by six votes. I’m glad I went through the effort (and pleased my city made it fairly easy to deal with the absentee process.)
The bond for a desperately needed new courthouse in Travis County, Texas (Austin) failed by about 1000 votes, with 73,000 out of 654,000 registered voters turning up. Which is a clear demonstration of how much justice and democracy mean to the voters of Travis County.
We had exactly one issue on our ballot: a school referendum to sell $17 million of bonds to update the school, originally built in 1958. While there have been some additions and improvements over the years, there is a lot to be done. This same referendum lost last spring, but due to some mighty community organizing and door-knocking and phone-banking and letters to the editor and informational forums — it passed, by roughly the same percentage that it lost last spring :-)
If your county clerk is doing a good job, there is usually a sample ballot available before the election to look at. Likewise your local paper (if you still have one) will frequently publish the same.
Your local or state League of Women Voters will frequently publish information about issue surveys they have given to the candidates at each level, or run candidate forums (as mine just did for a surprise opening on the school board and the six candidates for it).
My former next door neighbor became state senator with 22 votes more than her opponent. A recent state rep in our area won by 6. Local elections really matter to your day to day life (What streets would you like to see fixed? How many bars should their be in your town? What should the kids be taught in your schools?) and are often very very close.
I was thrilled that here in PA we were able to successfully and soundly vote in three Democratic Supreme Court Judges…the kind of sea-change that people don’t seem to understand will have far-reaching effects. The local elections were a yawn-fest..especially the uncontested candidates registered with both parties (which is kind of weird, IMHO).
I’m usually all over your political breakdowns of Ohio-related issues since I live here too, but I think your description of Issue 2 and your reason for voting for it fall a little short.
“Issue Two: This issue was designed to keep people who are proposing state initiatives from gaining a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel through said initiative.”
What you describe is the ends, but the means to getting there lies with the Ohio Ballot Board taking action to scrub offending measures.
I don’t necessarily think this is so “good for us” since it gives more power to the Ohio Ballot Board to regulate what goes on the ballot. This board (essentially the Secretary of State) will be the ones to determine what is considered a monopoly or cartel – not voters, not the courts, not the full legislature.
The Ballot Board is already able to manipulate ballot language to their liking. Did you notice how one of the first words of Issue 3 was “monopoly”? They inserted that language knowing full well what it connotes to most voters.
Yes, maybe Issue 3 was setting up a monopoly or some sort of oligopoly, and yes Issue 2 was a rash reaction to that measure, and no they may never use these new powers, but why did the voters even need to give it to them in the first place? Ohio voters had all the information they needed about Issue 3 and they voted it down. That’s how it should work. I don’t think the Ballot Board should be able to preemptively remove valid, signature backed ballot measures when they “feel” like it or for political reasons.
Issue 2 backers say that it was created just to combat Issue 3, but do you really think that’s all it can be or ever will be used for? It’s an enormous amount of power bestowed on an essentially unelected board. Now that power is baked into the state constitution.
In Canada we’ve had non-partisan boundary commissions since 1964 – I happen to know that off the top of my head because I’ve just finished copy-editing a book called “Principles and Gerrymanders” by George Emery (due out in December, for anyone whose Christmas list includes someone with a burning interest in nineteenth-century Ontario politics). The book is largely a very detailed illustration of why letting the governing party redraw riding boundaries is a really terrible idea. Not that Canada’s electoral system is flawless by any means (and I’m looking forward to seeing whether the Liberals stick to their pledge of reforming it), but I’m certainly glad we don’t have to deal with that particular bit of silliness.
My wife and I (jokingly) were discussing moving out of Kentucky after this last election, but we don’t want to move again after Trump wins (jokingly, we hope).
I’m increasingly keen on the vote-or-be-fined approach of Australia.
@Kevin Hicks: I would love to plead that I live just over the line in WilCo and so couldn’t have voted for the courthouse, but the truth is that work has been so chaotic that I just spaced on the elections and wouldn’t have voted even if I lived downtown.
And I see that despite the Chronicle’s quixotic “vote no on all amendments, all the time” stand, all the amendments passed this year. Sigh.
I think you’re right on all three issues. Ohio is a swing state and needs non-partisan division of electoral districts. Legalized marijuana is a very good thing, but not as a monopoly. Real entrepreneurs will be ready to do well in a free market. Good on you.
Don’t overestimate how much “non-partisan” boundary commissions are going to help. Voters of similar leanings tend to be concentrated geographically and so drawing simple boundaries will likely create *more* safe seats for each party rather than less. Drawing seats that are competitive will require lots of very odd shapes.
A non partisan commission does not appear to have affected the situation in California, for example:
I would vote for most marijuana legalization initiatives, but the one ya’ll got in Ohio was terrible. I’m glad it failed, and hope you get a better one soon.
@Dave you nailed it with your comments about Ohio issue 2. We really want the ballot board determining what issue involves a monopoly rather than the voters (with no definition of what qualifies as something they can block)?