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Silly Voters, — Why Now?
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Silly Voters,

Decisions are for the media and party insiders, not common “people.”

CBS’s Kathy Frankovic wastes everyone’s time by looking at what voters want: Scrap The Primary System, Polls Say

For nearly 20 years, seven out of 10 have said the same thing — that it would be better to have one national primary day with all states holding their primaries at the same time.

Probably what makes voters want a national primary is, most of all, a sense of fairness — that everyone should have a chance to participate equally. The public takes similar positions when it comes to the general election. They object to the projection of election returns before polls are closed, and have long supported a uniform poll closing: 73 percent across the country told CBS News in December 2000 that they favored setting a single poll closing time on election night, to make all polling places across the country close at the exact same moment. In that same poll, 71 percent supported having a single method of voting so that every polling place in the country would have the same rules and would conduct elections in the same way. Just 25 percent thought that voting process should be determined by states and counties.

If we hold a national primary we would never know about the same coffee shops in the same towns in New Hampshire and Iowa, every four years. The town cranks would never get national exposure. Candidates to have to address the issues of all Americans and not just the special interests of a few small states. Voting in large states like New York, Florida, Texas, and California would actually have meaning. What about tradition? Are we all to forget about Dixville Notch?

Come on, people, we can’t just freak out and start acting like the republic envisioned by the dead white guys who wrote the Constitution.


1 hipparchia { 08.08.07 at 6:38 pm }

quite the population boom there in 1988.

2 Bryan { 08.08.07 at 7:14 pm }

As an unincorporated area, the voting rules are not apt to be stringent, and voting at midnight is not exactly an optimum choice, as noted by the absentee ballots.

3 Michael { 08.08.07 at 8:49 pm }

I’ll go even farther and lift a page from most countries in the European Union. There should be a very short election season (six weeks, no longer). Voting should be done on a weekend, so no more of this BS about not being able to make it to the polls because of having to work. Anyone registered to vote and not voting should be fined, and the fines should go toward paying for the elections themselves. Candidates would not be allowed to collect any money themselves, nobody would be able to exceed or work outside of the spending limits, the networks would have to provide free airtime to all major parties or party candidates, and the exact same amount of time to each party. There would be a total blackout of advertising and polling in the 72 hours leading up to the election itself. If no candidate wins an absolute majority, there’s a runoff between the top two or three candidates, following the same rules as for the initial contest.

4 Bryan { 08.08.07 at 10:13 pm }

Sorry, Michael, but that sounds entirely too much like democracy to be acceptable. The media would lose entirely too much money and I wouldn’t be able to hear my Mother complain about the blankety-blank Alabama station that replaced a network television show that everyone she knew wanted to watch with a Mattlock re-run so they could run extra political ads.

The media corporations would never allow their Congresscritters to vote for it.

I would think you would see the problem that it makes too much sense, would reduce the costs to a pittance of the hundreds of millions now wasted, would reduce roadside litter, require people to actually do something other than complaining – it runs totally counter to the American ideals of waste, fraud, and abuse.

5 whig { 08.09.07 at 5:26 am }

Non-voting is also an important right. To have no acceptable choices, and to decline to express a preference for one or another, to remove one’s consent for delegation of authority. This is also a sovereign right.

I absolutely do not promise to vote as a general principal. Only if I can give my vote to someone who deserves it will I do so. Since I am happy to have Barbara Lee representing my district, I would have little difficulty giving her my vote at the very least.

I will not vote if I feel ignorant about the candidates or choices. It is an obligation not to vote when you are not informed enough to vote intelligently. I might accept the recommendation of someone I trust as a sufficient proxy for being personally informed, but playing “which name sounds better eenie meenie minie moe” is irresponsible.

I absolutely will not vote straight party line as a general principal, unless I approve individually of each candidate on that line.

6 whig { 08.09.07 at 5:32 am }

Also, I want to encourage former Republicans who are not ready to trust Democrats that they should absolutely, positively not vote for Republicans.

7 whig { 08.09.07 at 6:13 am }

I think a general principal might be like the national head master, but whatever. At least I spelled it consistently (wrong).

8 Anya { 08.09.07 at 7:41 am }

Hey, wait!

I’m one of those NH town cranks who hangs out in that coffee shop….

(Note to self: Have breakfast before going down to the VFW — the pancakes suck regardless of who’s serving them…)

9 Steve Bates { 08.09.07 at 12:14 pm }

whig, many of the (lower-case-l) libertarians I knew long ago advocated a “none of the above” box on the ballot, allowing people who feel as you do an opportunity to participate.

I could see merit in that ONLY if it were combined with, say, instant runoff voting, so that a substantial vote for “none of the above” could serve as a spoiler ONLY if it garnered an actual majority of the votes cast. (And… no implied votes for “none of the above”; you’d have to show up and explicitly cast a vote.)

Otherwise, the “none of the above” tally would only change the ratio among votes cast for actual candidates. That’s not right. One has an intrinsic right to cast a protest vote; one does not have a right to wreck an otherwise legitimate election by doing so.

(In general, I find discussions of alternative voting systems enjoyable but often frustrating. Many who engage in them have not done their homework, and those who have often have an ax to grind other than accomplishing a more democratic system. YMMV.)

10 Steve Bates { 08.09.07 at 12:23 pm }

Anya, I’ve experienced pancakes that suck syrup; is that what you mean? 🙂

I’d love to be a crank in a Texas coffee shop, interviewed on TV etc., but no one in Texas coffee shops talks about presidential primaries at all, because generally the selection of major party candidates is a done deal by the time our primary comes around. Speaking (as I was earlier) of things that aren’t right… that isn’t right.

I vote in the Texas Democratic primary in presidential years only because in Texas, voting in the primary is how one establishes party affiliation for the record. No one state (not even Florida! 🙂 ) or small group of states should have the power to choose the candidate while voters in other states sit back and watch.

11 Bryan { 08.09.07 at 12:36 pm }

Whig, in the Soviet Union and Australia people used blank ballots to protest. I always write in my choices when they aren’t on the ballot, which is probably what I’ll be doing a lot of in 2008.

Of course you are, Аня, it’s an old family tradition to be a crumudgeon and rabble-rouser. BTW is amazes me how they can manage to screw-up the standard breakfast. Anyone can make a decent pancake. Even I can make a decent pancake and I have never discovered how they turn scrambled eggs rubbery.

Steve, I would argue that if a majority votes for “none of the above” it can’t really be discribed as a legimate election though I perfer to write in the name of the person I feel should have the job.

12 Michael { 08.09.07 at 12:51 pm }

I’m sorry to have to state that no, in fact, not everyone can make a decent pancake. I’ve had some truly awful ones over the years, and in commercial eateries no less, where you’d think they’d have gotten the kinks worked out by now.

I can’t agree with whig that not voting should not be punished. It’s a civic duty, no less than showing up for jury duty when called is. (And if you try to duck out of that, they come and arrest you. I’m not proposing anything that radical. Just something like a $50 fine, like Australia uses.) I don’t even insist that you mark any entries on the ballot–just that you show up and get one once every two years. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but there’s never just one race on the ballot when I go to vote. There’s always someone I want to vote for, or at the very least a few people I want to vote against.

13 Bryan { 08.09.07 at 1:28 pm }

Actually, down here it is a tried and true political gambit to schedule initiatives and other slight of hand for off year elections in hopes that no one votes. We have an awful lot of bad law in the Florida constitution that got there during odd year elections that are normally for small local, non-partisan [ignore the elephants on the signs] offices.

This garbage happened in California when I was out there.

This is how Repubs raise taxes user fees without being responsible for the increases because the voters approved them.

14 whig { 08.09.07 at 1:35 pm }

Steve, I’d be glad to see changes in the ballot to allow ranked choices, though I’m more partial to a Condorcet method (like ranked pairs) than Instant Runoff. Of course having an open, honest and fair election is more important than anything else, and we don’t have that where DRE voting machines are used. Human countable paper ballots should be used regardless of how we determine the eventual winner.

Michael, I’m afraid we’ll have to disagree on this, and enough people would resist paying any fine to make it unenforceable.

15 whig { 08.09.07 at 2:36 pm }

As a former Republican myself, had I not stopped myself from voting, and abstained from a third party throwaway, in the year 2000 I would have cast my vote for someone I would have forever regretted.

I advocated abstention and I advocate abstention to Republicans who cannot bring themselves to vote for Democratic candidates. A protest ballot would not have been abstention, it would have been a compelled deference to the process which was clearly rigged in Florida and the Supreme Court anyhow.

16 whig { 08.09.07 at 2:41 pm }

Most of all, I was convinced upon the evidence of the Clinton administration that a Gore administration would be as likely to have a nice war as a Bush administration.

17 whig { 08.09.07 at 2:42 pm }

I did not wish to be party to it, to authorize it in any way. And you would fine me for that?

18 Bryan { 08.09.07 at 3:53 pm }

The problem is that we are parties to it no matter how unwilling. You can’t send a message by not voting, because they view not voting as acquiescing with the status quo, not a protest against it.

BTW, I always put the names of real, qualified people when I write-in a candidate.

19 Steve Bates { 08.09.07 at 5:07 pm }

whig, you’ve clearly done your homework, nor did I for even a moment think otherwise.

Voting systems aside, every election I’ve experienced in Texas… even one in which we use the rightly criticized eSlate machines… has some method of entering a write-in vote. I’ve actually done a write-in vote on an eSlate; it’s messy but not all that difficult. whig, what objection do you have to Bryan’s approach? are you saying that there are offices for which not only is there no listed candidate for whom you would vote, but no legally qualified individual whatsoever for whom you would vote?

I have strong reservations about fining people. You cannot browbeat people into participating in the democratic process. I’d prefer to see such strong social disapproval of not showing up to vote (even if only to cast a symbolically blank ballot) that no qualified adult would even think of staying home. But I’m obviously in the minority… and not just on this thread… in feeling that way.

20 Bryan { 08.09.07 at 7:03 pm }

Actually, Steve, there are a number of countries where not going to the polls is considered very much outside the the norm. In Switzerland, not only is not voting considered gauche, but not being allowed in the National Guard is considered a serious punishment. I bring up Switzerland, not merely because of family ties, but because their constitution is modeled on ours.

Imagine a country in which almost every male between 18 and 55 is a member of the National Guard and has a fully automatic assault rifle at home, but they have an extremely low crime rate and avoid wars. Perhaps it is the fact that every family will be affected if there is a war, that makes war a less than desirable option.

If you are looking for a contrast: a Swiss unit accidentally crossed the border into Lichtenstein. No one in Lichtenstein was aware it had happened, but the Swiss immediately apologized for the error.

The US has accidentally entered Mexico on multiple occasions, and has been taped doing it, but all you get is stonewalling.

Some countries know how to act in public, and others don’t.

21 Anya { 08.09.07 at 8:30 pm }

((A pancake can suck if it’s not cooked all the way through. It’s not possible to make pancakes for a couple hundred people and cook then thoroughly. On the other hand, folks are just there gawk at the candidate (who was helping to cook said sucky pancakes), not to eat a decent breakfast.))

People in New Hampshire take their “First in the Nation” status very seriously because, as a liberal, elitist, urban East Coast state, our concerns would otherwise be ignored in favor of the Holy Heartland and Bible Belt. Nobody really cares who the folks in Dixville Notch vote for — the concerns of the average New Hampshire voter are not represented. The Primary is the only way we ever get our voices heard. The rest of the time, it’s just “Fuck you!” New Hampshire.

22 Bryan { 08.09.07 at 9:05 pm }

I will agree that one of the requirements of a pancake is that is actually be cooked.

The thing is that some of us never get our voices heard, especially when the Synod decides to steal our elections. I have achieved epic political martyr status by being a Florida voter in 2000. No other group has ever been so totally disenfranchised after winning the right to vote. 😈

You have to understand that those of us who don’t even get the minor sop of having a primary vote count, can get a little testy.

23 whig { 08.09.07 at 10:50 pm }


The problem is that we are parties to it no matter how unwilling. You can’t send a message by not voting, because they view not voting as acquiescing with the status quo, not a protest against it.

I disagree. The message I send is very clear and is intentionally misinterpreted and disregarded by those who do not want to acknowledge it. That we have blogs now means that we can speak for ourselves and not allow ourselves to be ignored. But it is false to say that you can’t send a message that someone else will pretend to view as acquiescence when it is actual rejection.

Don’t tell me how to vote please. You may make suggestions, and I’ll be glad to consider them. But I have no obligation to vote in the fashion you think I should, and I won’t criticize your strategy of using write-ins to protest even though I know poll workers who resented it when people did that and it was never reported on any media that I’m aware of.

24 whig { 08.09.07 at 10:55 pm }

The only way to protest a silly, sham election is not to participate at all.

25 hipparchia { 08.09.07 at 11:34 pm }

mmm… raw pancake batter!
pancake griddles are for hitting people over the head with, not for cooking pancakes on.
[count me among those who cook sucky pancakes]

i’m torn on this issue. i always vote [help! i have opinions and can’t shut up!].

i prefer turning in a blank ballot to not showing up at all, but i agree with whig that voting shouldn’t be compulsory. on the other hand, i’m always happy to have the chance [though i seldom actually do so] to engage in civil disobedience, if voting were compulsory, staying home [and fighting the resulting fine] would certainly send a stronger message than it does now.

i’ve got much stronger reservations about using social disapproval against non-voters than i do about fining them, but i’m against using social disapproval for most things.

what i do like about our present system is that people who don’t vote would probably just vote frivolously if we forced them to physically go to a polling place. this way they can just stay home.

26 hipparchia { 08.09.07 at 11:36 pm }

also, i agree with you, whig, about blogs giving us alternate voices.

27 whig { 08.10.07 at 11:55 am }

I would also point out that the media spends a lot more time talking about the turn-out in the election (and mourning how poor it has been) than they do talking about the write-ins.

That the media thinks what I do is wrong is one thing. The media is often wrong, and clearly it is self-serving of them to mourn that which is opposed to their hegemony.

There is an apathetic population, yes. I don’t know what its numbers are, they probably wouldn’t care enough to respond if you tried to survey them. There is also an abstaining population. We’ll tell you we exist, you could count our numbers, and the media will still pretend we don’t.

I’m likely to vote in 2008, certainly in the primaries. I am not ashamed of having not voted in a long time, in fact it’s something I am entitled to feel proud of because I did not enable or authorize this bullshit. I have been in opposition.

28 hipparchia { 08.10.07 at 11:47 pm }

There is an apathetic population, yes. I don’t know what its numbers are, they probably wouldn’t care enough to respond if you tried to survey them.


There is also an abstaining population. We’ll tell you we exist, you could count our numbers, and the media will still pretend we don’t.

i know y’all exist ’cause i can count some of y’all among my best friends. has anybody done a census of those who are purposely abstaining from voting? i’d be curious to know what the numbers are in the general population, as opposed to the percentage among the people i know.

[and i approve of protest actions, whatever their percieved accuracy]