Election Day 2019 Thoughts

In no particular order:

* First and most importantly, the only thing I could vote for this year that was competitive — a levy for a local career center — passed, so I feel pretty good about that. Also on the ballot were a couple of uncontested races for township representative and school board, both non-partisan positions and the people who were up for those slots were perfectly good. While philosophically I am against uncontested political races, as a practical matter, meh, it was fine. Around the Dayton area, voters passed every single school levy that was put to them, which I think is a positive thing.

One new thing this election was that my polling place had different voting machines — ones where the machine you voted on was not connected to the Internet, and which printed out your voting choices on a long strip of paper so you could physically confirm the choices before it was scanned and sent into voting box. I thought this was kind of the long way around for something you could have done with a pen, but I appreciate the apparatus being more secure than the previous version.

So in all, a successful election day locally, from my point of view.

* In a larger sense I am also pleased with the results generally. I’m especially pleased with the result of the governor’s race in Kentucky, because Matt Bevin, the outgoing governor, is a real shitheel of a politician and I doubt he will be missed all that much. Despite being a real shitheel, he still managed to lose by less than 6,000 votes — partisan loyalty is a thing, y’all — and of course is now whining about how there were “irregularities” in the voting and how he’s not conceding the race and so on. At least he’s consistent. President Trump came out the day before the election and stumped for Bevin but of course made it all about him, telling Kentuckians re: Bevin not being reelected, that “you can’t let it happen to me!” Well, Bevin wasn’t reelected, and now it’s all about Trump! Well done him.

Virginia’s House and Senate (and governorship) are now all democratic as well (or will be in January), which doesn’t actually surprise me all that much — Virginia’s been turning bluer for a while now — but it should be interesting to see how that affects the state. I saw on Twitter someone noting that Virginia could become the 38th state to pass the ERA Amendment, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. As I understand it for it to be enshrined in our Constitution there would need to be a special dispensation from the House and Senate of the US (due to the lateness of the 38th vote for it), and I don’t see Mitch McConnell letting that one get by on his watch. Because he’s an awful person, you see.

* This was an off-off election cycle, so I wouldn’t read too much into it, but what I do think is important to see is that conventional wisdom out of Washington doesn’t seem to have that much connection to reality. There was some muttering/hand-wringing that the current impeachment proceedings would have an effect on voting, but… probably it didn’t? As far as I can see, most of the voting seems to be turning on local issues and concerns. Yes, Trump swooped in to Kentucky at the last minute, but when Bevin finally accepts the fact he’s lost, it’ll because of his own policies and karma, and not really about what’s going in Washington.

It’s for that reason I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions yet about what this means for this time next year. Next year, it will be about Washington. And what a time that will be.

37 thoughts on “Election Day 2019 Thoughts

  1. John, I am not a constitutional lawyer (I am a trademark and IP licensing lawyer by trade), but the Equal Rights Amendment issue is quite an interesting one. By its terms, the Equal Rights Amendment indicated that it would have to be ratified within 7 years. But the Constitution doesn’t provide for sunset provisions. On at least one occasion, SCOTUS has suggested that deadlines might be waived by Congress–as you note, Mitch McConnell isn’t likely to cooperate on that one. Still, it would be interesting to see how Congress reacted to Virginia passing the Amendment, and it could well become a campaign issue in 2020 if the Trumpers fight it.

  2. The one thing about the Bevin defeat that makes me believe that it WAS a referendum on Trump and/or his impending impeachment as much as Bevin is that, If I heard correctly and the reporting was accurate, the number of voters that turned out for this election in Kentucky was almost DOUBLE the number that turned out for the last election. That seems like a pretty strong indication that people are pretty fired up on both sides.

  3. Voting machines like the ones you describe have some potential advantages over paper ballots.

    They are usable by some voters who have physical limitations that prevent them from filling out a paper ballot. You can bring somebody to assist you to the polls or get help from a poll worker, but the machine eliminates the need for that.

    A properly programmed machine can also eliminate the possibility of overvotes (ballots where more candidates are marked than are allowed), unintentional undervotes (ballots where an office isn’t marked at all), and poorly marked ballots where reading them might produce an ambiguous result.

    As with all voting systems, the devil is in the details. A well implemented machine could be a legitimate improvement. A badly implemented one is a step in the wrong direction from paper.

  4. I sometimes (like every day) wonder if George Carlin was right to say “Fuck hope.” If hope’s an affliction, I’ve still got it. Feel a warming of hope about next year.

  5. In Austin, the same voting machines got their debut. I set off a failure condition when I put my ballot where the label on the scanner said to do so, and got “error: bad scan” or similar. There is another, unlabeled, smaller, orifice and that worked fine. The scanning part also has some other failure modes, more in the human-interface division: the woman in front of me at the scanner got her ballot scanned, then waited round for the machine to spit it back out so she could take it home. And I heard tell, third-hand, of people who skipped the scanner part altogether because they did not read the instructions on the screen, and thought the ballot was their receipt and that the machine had already counted their choices, so they just walked out with the ballots.

  6. John, I’ll disagree with you on one point:

    This was an off-off election cycle, so I wouldn’t read too much into it, but what I do think is important to see is that conventional wisdom out of Washington doesn’t seem to have that much connection to reality. There was some muttering/hand-wringing that the current impeachment proceedings would have an effect on voting, but… probably it didn’t?

    But turnout was up from last year, which was in turn up from previous off-year elections.
    Something has changed when you get record turnout in odd-numbed years with no national offices at stake and in many States no headlines like Governor either.

  7. Other advantages of those new voting machines over a pen are they allow for provisional tallies to be provided much more quickly while still having the authoritative paper trail as a backup, and they cut down on uncertainty in interpreting the voter’s will, such as if they don’t fill in a circle completely or have some other stray marks or other such ambiguous signals from the voter. It’s an improvement.

  8. The ballot marking devices + printed receipt are — if properly implemented — better than the touchscreen only machines. Because they give you a possibility of auditing the results using a paper trail a human has actually reviewed for correctness. But THAT relies on training all users to review the paper correctly — a task they perform for five minutes once every two years that seems useless at first glance. Early studies indicate users are, unsurprisingly, not good at that part.

    Meanwhile, why don’t we offer the simplicity of hand marked paper ballots + ballot marking devices for voters who choose to use them (for accessibility or other reasons)? There’s a lot of reasons thrown up but I strongly suspect it has to do with the regulatory capture of government decision making bodies by election equipment manufacturers.

    (The BMDs are important for allowing all voters to have equal access to a private voting process. I’m saying that it is not necessary for all voters to use them to achieve that. And an all-BMD system is less secure and more expensive than a hybrid one.)

  9. Every time I hear “Washington”, I think “Yay! That’s me! Washington State!”

    Then the disappointment sets in when I realize it’s “DC”, not Washington. XD

  10. Two points: Virginia’s results may not be a total surprise, but they are important, as redistricting will happen after the 2020 election, and no more Republican shenanigans here. (And if you are taking the opposite side, it is too close for Democrat shenanigans, OK?)

    Don’t know if it is true, but Joe Scarborough mentioned in passing – just a time or twenty – that before Trump’s election eve rally, Bevin was five points ahead. Afterwards, he lost.

  11. Canadian and IT guy here. We use paper ballots for everything. If any level of government in this country proposed switching to voting machines, I would join and/or start a riot. Someone mentioned that voting machines are more convenient for people with various physical limitations. Maybe so, but Elections Canada offers an comprehensive array of accessibility aids. Blind and can’t read Braille? Vote with an audio ballot.

    We do have the advantage of a single authority that organizes and regulates the vote across the entire country. I was a bit stunned when I learned that county election officials in the US are themselves elected. Here they are appointed, and the Commissioner of Elections is the one adult in the country who is legally barred from voting.

  12. There’s one last gasp of electoral stuff to happen: Louisiana has its runoff gubernatorial election on Saturday, November 16; the only Democratic governor in the Deep South is running for re-election against a business-owner first-time candidate (though he has been behind the scenes for a while) who bear-hugged both Trump and the policies of good-riddances-departed Bobby Jindal…

  13. Personally, I am dreading the next year. I always hate the election year hoopla. I know what matters to me… personal safety, freedom to be who one is, healthcare and public education. A post remedial foreign policy that supports those that fight by our side (for instance the Kurdish people, or even NATO) as well as our own soldiers and intelligence community.
    I just see the opposition party doing its best to mobilize the right wing. Reparations, mandatory gun buy backs, basic income allowances and the perception of socialized medicine (some of which I would love to see someday) are more effective in whittling support in purple states than uniting those that stand against the right wing.
    Incumbent presidents start with an advantage, and the Democrats are going out of their way to alienate all but the ideologically pure.
    At this point, the only hope that I can imagine, is that the impeachment probe convinces more people than what the Democrats have been saying to win the nomination.

  14. We got those same machines here (Idaho) but alongside the regular paper ballots. I went with the paper; I’m not comfortable with computers being involved (beyond scanning the ballot) at all. I did ask if there was a paper trail with the new system and was told there was, but I still don’t like it.

    Looks like we’re getting a badly-needed new fire station, which is good.

  15. Sadly, Kentucky Republicans are already planning ways to keep Beshear from taking office. If Bevins contests the election then it goes to the KY House, which is controlled by Republicans. Once again, Republicans find new ways to subvert the voters.

  16. My county introduced new voting machines this election that are a bit different from the ones you described. When you check-in, they have a machine to validate you are on the roll, mark you as having voted, and spit out a small barcoded slip denoting which ballot you get (needed for cases where multiple ballots are used in the same polling place). You take that over to another machine (not connected to the internet) that will scan your slip and print a paper ballot on-demand. This ensures that they don’t give you the wrong ballot or run out of ballots. You go mark the paper ballot by hand (with an electronic alternative for people with disabilities) and then take it to a final machine (also not connected to the internet) that will scan your ballot. If it detects over-votes or under-votes it will warn you and allow you to take the ballot back; otherwise it records your vote and keeps the ballot.

  17. Let’s not forget there were a couple of elections that, once lost to democrats, emergency sessions were held to limit/strip powers because of sore losers. I fully expect that to happen soon enough.

  18. As noted above, in Canada we have paper ballots for every election; no computers involved. It probably makes counting the ballots more time-consuming, but as we have one-tenth the population of the States it’s not much of an issue, and we get timely results. During the federal election last month, the final results were pretty much in by 10 p.m. PST, two-and-a-half hours after the polls closed here in British Columbia.

    Elections Canada, which oversees federal elections, is an independent, non-partisan body that ensures (amongst other things) that the vote takes place in the same way whether you’re in Nova Scotia, Nunavut, or B.C. You can quickly and easily register to vote on the day of the election. Provincial/territorial elections are overseen by similar non-partisan bodies in all provinces and territories; here in B.C. it’s Elections BC, which also oversees all municipal elections in the province.

    Also, you don’t have to register with a particular party. Is that compulsory in the States? I hear of people saying ‘I’m a registered Democrat/Republican’, and I don’t think they mean they’re a member of that party. In Canada I can choose to pay a nominal sum to become a member of one of the federal parties, but all that really gives me is the opportunity to vote in a leadership race. What’s the purpose of registering with a party in the States?

  19. In my city, all the local city office candidates were Democrats or independents who ran unopposed, so there was no real reason to vote except to make a foregone conclusion official. I voted in the primaries in May, of course.

    Also, my shoulder hurts a bit.

  20. @Barbara Roden
    Elections in the United States are run by the states with very little required by the federal government, so everything varies quite a bit state-to-state. For party registrations, they matter in primaries for states that have “closed” (or “semi-closed”) primaries, which means only people registered for a party (or not registered for another party) may participate in primary elections. The idea is that primaries are internal to a party and you don’t want people of the other party going in and trying to mess up the results. But you don’t have to pay a fee to register as a member of a party; it’s just a field on your voter registration form (and you can change it, but there’s usually some requirement about needing to change it some number of days before the election to be allowed to vote).

    In some states there’s open primaries where your party registration doesn’t matter, just which ballot you ask for when you go to vote. And where I live and a few other places, there’s “top-two” (apparently also called “blanket”) primaries, where all of the candidates from all parties appear on a single primary ballot and the general election is a run-off between the top-two, no matter which party they are affiliated with. (Although presidential primaries can’t be run that way.)

  21. Barbara Roden: The language you hear from US voters on this subject tends to be confused because they themselves are confused about it.

    1. Registering to vote ‘as’ Party A doesn’t make you a member of that party in the Canadian or Westminster sense. The party gets no membership fee from you, you have no say in its leadership races, and the party cannot expel you. Likewise, Party A has absolutely no power to prevent a candidate it dislikes from self-designating a Party A candidate. (The most Party A can do is decline to provide financial support, and throw money towards a competitor.)

    2. Registering to vote ‘as’ a specific party isn’t compulsory in any US state to my knowledge (I’m a Californian), because the government’s bodies take almost no notice of political parties in the first place, deeming them private political associations. Starting about a decade ago in my state, as part of a reform to eliminate confusing language, phrases like ‘party membership’ were expunged from voting materials, and replaced with the more accurate term ‘party preference’. Someone who declined to specify a political party during registration was formerly called an ‘independent’ voter, causing no end of confusion, so that was amended to ‘no-party-preference’.

    3. The purpose of registering with your county registrar of voters as a Party A-preference voter (which datum is then listed as a matter of public record visible by anyone including without preference officials of your state’s Party A apparat) relates primarily to the rather loopy US-specific concept of primary elections. A primary election is one whose ballot for any given voting citizen includes various non-partisan offices and issues, but also for each _partisan_ office a list of candidates running ‘as’ the citizen’s chosen party. Among them, the winner at the primary stage then becomes the party’s official candidate for the subsequent general election, running against primary-winners of all the other political parties. (Yes, there are more than two parties. In California, six have lately been qualified for listing on the ballots, but sadly only two get significant voting support and are able to win anything. Blame FPtP and Duverger’s Law.)

    Near as I can tell, this odd situation where the state budget pays for an election (in part) to let the parties, even though the latter are private political associations and not public bodies, pick their candidates arose as an only somewhat tawdry bit of pragmatism: ‘Hey, Secretary of State: Since you’re putting together the upcoming June election ballot, would you mind adding the roster of candidates declaring Party A affiliation, and sending that variant of the ballot to Party A voters only? And the same for all the other qualified parties? It won’t cost significantly more.’

    The outcome is that when I started voting and declared Democratic Party affiliation, the primary-election ballots handed to me at the polling place were the variant that permitted me to vote among candidate who’d declared themselves Democratic Party candidates. A Peace & Freedom Party-affiliated voter would get one showing only P&F candidates for the partisan offices, etc. A no-party-preference voters (what until recently was misleadingly called an ‘independent’ voters) got a ballot with no candidate listed for partisan offices. (Why would a voter voluntarily register that way, you ask? Good question. Part of the reason for California’s reform is that studies showed that a depressing number of voters had failed to understand that they were shooting themselves in the foot, that way.)

    Above is a whole lot of election geekery, and I hope it’s not overload. Anyone wishing to read more, I oblige you, thus (link).

    — Rick Moen
    rick@linuxmafia.com

  22. While, as an almost life long Kentucky resident, I was glad to see a significant increase in the number of votes cast in this year’s election, it should be noted, however, that the increase fell short of the “almost DOUBLE” that Cindi Lynch reported earlier today. In the last gubernatorial election (2015), official voter turnout was 978,767 or 30.6% of registered voters. The unofficial turnout last night was 1,455,161 or 42.16% of the registered voters. While it was a major increase, it was closer to a 1 1/2 times increase than a doubling.

    While I think that the two last (off year) gubernatorial elections provide the most valid comparison, I’ve also looked at the 2018 general election, which featured some federal contests and more local races. Turnout that year was 1,617,840, or 47.5% or registered voters, or a larger turnout than last night.

    There was more than double the turnout that voted in the May 2019 primary (664,738) last night, but I do not think that comparing a primary to a general election is a valid comparison, especially since Kentucky has a closed primary that excludes anyone who is not registered as a Democrat or Republican.

  23. Thanks, Niles, for saying you didn’t go to the polling place due to a hurt shoulder. It gives me a chance to promote my favorite thing about living in Oregon: Vote by Mail!

    It gives us weeks to study up on the ballot measures (which are much more complex than just candidates). And my spousal unit travels to a conference in South America in November every year, but there’s no need to make arrangements for an absentee ballot.

  24. JoelZakem: When you say a closed primary election like Kentucky’s ‘excludes anyone who is not registered as a Democrat or Republican’, you mean that you those voters’ ballots exclude the partisan contests, right? A no-party-affiliation voter would still be empowered to vote for all non-partisan offices and all of the other votable issues. Also, to clarify, the reason the ability to vote partisan offices in Kentucky is limited to those specific two parties is that they’re lately the only two that lately meet Kentucky’s legal standards for ballot access. (The rules are complex but not party-specific.)

    To my knowledge, no US state shuts no-party-preference voters entirely out of of primary elections, just to varying degrees out of those elections’ partisan contests, deeming those to be party-specific functions. (I could be wrong. As noted, each state is a different story.)

    California attempted as part of its reforms to switch to a fully open (“blanket”) primary, which change the voters resoundingly approved in 1996. But then a lawsuit brought by an utterly hilarious alliance of enemies (the CA Democratic Party, the CA GOP, the CA Libertarian Party, and the CA Peace and Freedom Party) asked the US Supreme Court to enjoin this change as violating party-preference voters’ (and parties’) 1st Amendment freedom of association. The court in 2000 agreed; California then adopted a ‘modified closed primary’ scoped to satisfy the court’s concerns.

    A further (and IMO highly successful) change in 2010 introduced the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary, levelling the playing field and helping ensure that partisan gridlock cannot return, by permitting any primary voter to choose from among all candidate for an office irrespective of party, and the two highest vote-getters then proceed to the subsequent general election. This was opposed by all six of California’s qualified political parties, but we voters were highly unimpressed with their objections, and passed the proposal (Prop. 14) with 54% of the statewide vote. All CA primaries have thus been under Top Two rules since 2012. And handing redistricting over to a nonpartisan citizen’s commission has been equally helpful, getting rid of gerrymandering. (Excellent 12-page history downloadable here, for more details.)

  25. I’m heartened that the northern counties of Kentucky went for Beshear. These counties are in the same congressional district as me. Our congressman is one of the worst. I wouldn’t be shocked if he was getting back-channel funds from the Russians like Pete Sessions. There may now be a small hope that we can get rid of him.

  26. The Kentucky Governor election showed something that could have been expected. Republican playbook when they lose an election.
    Refuse to concede, refuse to accept the result, claim election irregularities, delay as long as possible then try to get the decision into a legislature your side controls.
    So noted.
    If you people do succeed in voting out Mister Trump next year, you will truly be blessed if he goes quietly. I’d expect Bevins squared plus childish tantrums. Good luck to you all, for everyone’s sake.

  27. This is from the previous politcal thread, but since it also fits in this political thread, ill post it here:

    Ctein: “Try thinking about a role reversal and who you would vote for. Imagine we live in a mirror universe where President Pmurt is in office. He’s a total cesspool of a human being,”

    Thats not the issue and thays not why i cant empathize with trumpers at this point.

    This scenario would be closer:

    Pmurt(D) is in office. He believes every left wing conspiracy he finds and responds to them with the full force of government. He hates racism so much that he separates racist parents from their children and keeps them in some sort of detention center. Thing is all you have to do to be “racist” in pmurts eyes is be white. And these detentions end up killing a bunch of these children and parents via neglect. Pmurt shrugs it off saying things are fine, the centers are fine, and if they hadnt been racist they wouldnt be dead.

    Pmurt is so hardcore to save the planet that he outlaws all fossil fuels in the nation effective immediately. This bankrupts several large companies. But also since the country isnt ready for an all electric energy system for 350 millin people, people cant get electric cars cause there arent enough and because tgey cost $80k. Large swaths of the economy are tanked. But pmurt keeps unemployment down by creating a nationalized human bicycle powered tuk tuk company so everyone who lost a career job can get a minimum wage job pedaling people around. Unemployment is at a histpric low because half the nation is pedaling the other half around.

    Would you votd for THAT? I wouldnt.

    Second ammendment extremists cling to their guns because they think they are going to have to overthrow the evil governement which collects evil taxes and gives evil services. Its a conspiracy theory bubble thats armor plated.

    Bigots cling to every conspiracy theory they hear that reinforces their bigotry and ignore any facts that do not. Go to a tiny, all white rural community in an isolated part of the midwest. Find a bunch of islamophobes. None of them have ever met an actual muslim.

    I understand why trumps hard core extremist base still supports him: because they believe conspiracy theories and are immune to facts.

    And thats exactly what trump does everytime he appeals to his base. He throws them a conspiracy theory bone they like to chew on. Trumps policies have HURT most of his own base in some way or another, but they believe there is a larger conspiracy afoot and some sacrifices will have to be made to take it down. None of its true of course.

    The Biden/Burisma thing is all conspiracy theory. The deep state is all conspiracy theory. Immigrants are criminals is conspiracy theory. Muslims are terrorists is conspiracy theory. The government needs to be overthrown by gun extremists is conspiracy theory. All of it. Everything that appeals to trumps base about trump ties into some larger conspiracy theory that is nothing but nonsense. His base is hurt by trumps own policies but they welcome it because they believe in some conspiracy theory that there is some deep state at play that must be rooted out even if a few laws are broken.

    And THAT just boggles my mind. That is something I do not understand. And no counter example exists that would make me experience that. I am a huge fan of science, the scientific method, the importance of acknowledging when you dont kjlnow or understand somethign, the importance of learning new information to fill in those unknowns, and also admiting when that new information proves your own idea wrong.

    I cant think of any hypothetical situation that would put me in a situation that turns the tables, puts me in the shoes of someone who is not interested in facts, and is incapable of admitting they made a mistake, and spends all their time indulging conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, and my response would be “yeah, i get it now”.

  28. Rick Moen: In the state where I currently live (Maryland), the primaries are closed. There are two ballots available to voters in the primary: one for registered Republicans and one for registered Democrats. When you sign in to vote, you indicate your party, the registrar verifies your affiliation, and you are given the ballot for your party. There is no ballot for people who are registered to other parties or who vote as independents, and there is no reason why there would be. They are not eligible to vote for the Democratic and Republican candidates, and there are no non-partisan offices or other votable issues on the ballots in the primary. The primary is strictly to choose the general election candidates for the two major parties. Or maybe I misunderstood what you meant.

  29. Dear Greg,

    Oh, how kind of you to instruct me on what the point is and the issue is. Especially by jumping columns so that you can get in the last and authoritative word. You always know best.

    Not bothering to read beyond “Thats not the issue and thays not why i cant empathize with trumpers at this point.” because I won’t waste my time with you. Because it wasn’t me who missed a point.

    pax / Ctein

  30. Ctein: “Because it wasn’t me who missed a point.”

    Was your point the false equivalence of two completely different scenarios being posed as the same thing? Or was it the “Ah HA, gotcha! You didn’t oppose Pmurt, so you’re the same as the Trumpers, you hypocrite” you put there at the end? Cause I can get False-equivalency-therefore-hypocrite from Trumpers anytime. The “Biden withheld money from Ukraine and you gave him a free pass! You’re hypocrites!” even showed up on that thread.

    “Oh, how kind of you to instruct me on what the point is and the issue is.”

    Your hypothetical about Pmurt presents the problem as if the dems first issue with Trump is that he’s a “cesspool of a human being, despicable in every respect”, basically that the opposition to him is just a cult of personality thing. Personality isn’t the issue why I oppose Trump. Maybe that’s YOUR issue with Trump. But it isn’t mine.

  31. @Doubter and Barbara Roden:

    That’s no longer 100% the case. The last muncipal election I voted in piloted an online ballot (I used it mostly out of curiosity–it seemed to work just fine) and I know a few other cities did something similar. And while the last provincial election here in Ontario still used paper ballots, they were immediately fed to an electronic counting machine, which is why the results were confirmed less than 15 minutes after polls closed. The recent Canadian federal election was still all paper as far as I know.

    But it’s also a much simpler proposition for us. At the federal and provincial levels we’re only casting one ballot for our legislative representative. You might cast up to a half-dozen at the municipal level (mayor, councillor/alderman, school trustee, possibly a couple of regional/county positions), but that’s it. I understand Americans might be casting a dozen or more ballots in any given election–that’s a lot of paper and a lot of time that could be saved, especially if you plan to vote exclusively on partisan lines and can just press the “all Democrats/Republicans” button and be done with it.

  32. That’s great, as long as the company making the machines isn’t basically owned by one of the political parties.

Comments are closed.