Those Election Maps

Pretty much every news website has one of those maps of the United States for the presidential election on their main page. You know, the ones that color a state red if they went for the Republican candidate, and blue if they went for the Democrat.

Those maps have so many problems. They don’t give you any idea of how many actual votes – electoral or popular – a state contributes to the total, or the margins of victory in each state. I get it; all the ‘good’ maps that show that extra information are clunky or require special explanations. The basic Red – Blue Map is understandable at a glance. Leave the fancy stuff for after the election is really over.

But in a protracted election like we have now, the maps have been really terrible.

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After Election Day

Here’s something that troubles and angers me.

Yes, we’re seeing record turnount this time around.

But there’s still several millions of voter registrations that do not correspond to a ballot being cast.

It is conceivable that more than a few of those belong to dead people that have yet to be removed from the rolls. Others can belong to people who have moved to another state and haven’t updated their registration (or are duplicates because an old, invalid registration hasn’t been removed). It is also within the realm of possibility that some belong to people who, do to illness or some other mitigating factor, are physically or mentally unable to vote. For example, I can see the many residents of senior centers, hospices, etc. being too mentally “out of it” to be even aware that there’s an election – but they are still registered to vote.

But there’s no way all those perfectly valid reasons can account for the millions upon millions of eligible voters that we are talking about.

So, to those who had the opportunity but just couldn’t be bothered:

WHAT
IS
WRONG
WITH
YOU
?

In a typical year, one could understand if it was too difficult for someone to get to their polling place. But this year was unbelievably exceptional. Communities had plenty of in-person early voting. Many states offered “No excuse needed” absentee ballots; some even sent ballots to every single registered voter. And you could mail them in or drop them off in person.

There’s no excuse this year for not voting when you had the opportunity.

Options

With Mitch McConnell determined to ram through a vote if not a confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice in spite of his saying back in 2016 that “the people should decide”, the Democrats are readying their weapons should he actually go through with this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they have “many arrows in their quiver”, and Senate Minority Leader has said that if the Republicans go through with it, then when – as is likely – the Democrats take control of the Senate, “nothing is off the table”.

What does that mean? There are quite a few things the Democrats can do in response.

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In Case You Were Wondering

The “Roll Call” turned out to be the highlight of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Viewers, even those who don’t intend to vote Democratic, got to see the amazing diversity and beauty of our nation (and a bit of Prague).

But who were all those people in the clips announcing the votes?

I dug up about half of them before I thought of going to the DNC’s own website, where they had a nice convenient list.

Sigh.

Anyway, if you’re interested…..(my comments included)

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Mailing It In

Voting by mail is all over the news these days. Rightfully seen as both a way to counter Republican efforts at vote suppression and the problems involved in conducting an election during a pandemic, it’s coming under fire recently, from people challenging its security to the president’s undermining of the Postal Service.

While nice if you need to do it, I don’t think it’s really the panacea that it’s made out to be. There are still issues of ballots being intercepted and delayed or lost, or damaged to the point of illegibility. And that assumes that people follow the instructions properly when filling them out and sending them back. I am aware that several states have been voting entirely by mail with no significant problems, but they’ve had years of practice. And they haven’t had chicanery at the scale we’re facing.

Yes, there are problems with the normal voting in person at a designated polling place, too. Machines can be hacked, and all that. But those flaws are known and anticipated, and any decent Election Commission is taking steps to be prepared.

One key advantage that in-person voting has is that the results are known extremely quickly, almost always the same day. With mailed ballots, you have to give time for them to be delivered and collected, and then counted. In any election that’s expected to be close, the longer you wait for results, the more opportunities there are for the prospective losing candidate to challenge them.

We can’t afford that this time around; the “worst case scenario” is Double Plus Ungood. It could be 1876 all over again, but, given the rabidity of the president’s “cultists”, with more violence.

The best option for the individual voter?

If you have the day off, go to your designated polling place and vote in person. Wear a mask and shower before and after with sanitizer if you have to.

If you don’t, but your designated polling place is close enough so that you can stop by before or after work, go there and vote in person. Wear a mask and use sanitizer.

If those aren’t possible, but you have “early voting” and can cast a vote at your Board of Elections a few days before Election Day, do that.

The fewer chances you give people to screw around with your vote, the better for everyone.

The Name Game

With the Washington Redskins once again coming under fire for their team name, the Cleveland Indians have taken the proactive step of announcing that they will be reviewing their team name. Apparently, they are concerned that the name might cause offense, and want to get ahead of any possible controversy.

The names of the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs are coming under scrutiny as well.

I am puzzled. Not that they are taking such a step these days, but that the names could be found “offensive”.

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Tearing Things Down

Christopher Columbus came up with a bold and daring idea to answer a well-recognized economic problem. He persuaded enough of the right people to give him financial backing, then personally led a team to a successful (at least to his backers) result. But as we all know, he was really a deranged, bloodthirsty, slavering, genocidal maniac who personally killed and enslaved every native he came across (even those he never met), so every statue and monument to him must be destroyed, and everything named for him must be immediately renamed for some celebrity du jour….

George Washington had the leadership skills to keep the Continental Army together and fighting through the entire Revolutionary War. And afterwards, when he was the unanimous choice to lead the infant nation, he was modest enough to refuse to be a king, instead choosing to become a Chief Administrator, thereby setting the precedent for all who would follow. But alas, he owned slaves, and before the Revolution, fought the Native Americans. So his statues must come down as well, and everything with his name on it must also be renamed (presumably with an equivalent to Boaty McBoatface)….

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Contingency Plans

As I write this, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is doign well in his battle with COVID-19. One wishes him a quick recovery, even if one doesn’t necessarily agree with his politics. It’s just the decent thing to do.

I don’t know if Great Britain has any plans or procedures to deal with the death or incapacity of their head of government, but the United States does. We have written rules to handle presidential succession.

But this is an election year…. And we’ve got a pair of septuagenarians running for the office. What happens if something happens?

I’m going to assume that each party has a plan in place for the situation where their nominee dies prior to the election. They had better. It probably involves the vice-presidential nominee moving up a level. It’s not unprecedented. There have been cases in state and local elections where a candidate died before the election – and the dead candidate even won. It won’t be easy, but if the parties have rules in place, we’ll have to go by their rules. It’s the party’s choice who they nominate, after all.

It gets weirder if it happens between Election Day and the inauguration. Given the rules for presidential succession, we’d probably just inaugurate the vice president.

The trickiest situation is if the president-elect dies after Election Day, but before the Electoral College votes to confirm the results of the election. Jeff Greenfield explored that situation in his novel The People’s Choice (1995). Are the electors required to endorse the vice-president, even if he (or she) is clearly incompetent? The matter is not entirely fiction. In December 1960, Richard Paul Pavlick planned to kill president-elect John Kennedy, but he got cold feet at the very last minute. The attempt happened one week before the Electoral College met…..

I think we had all better wish good health for all the candidates.

At least until the inauguration.

Iowa

So now that the dust has cleared and the smoke has settled (for the most part), what can we gather from the Iowa Caucuses?

Well, obviously, Iowa needs to work on its ballot counting system. A few kinks should always be expected, since no system is perfect – especially because no matter how foolproof you make it, some fool isn’t going to follow the perfectly clear instructions and screw things up. But when you’re making such a major change, you probably should do a dress rehearsal field test before the big event.

The news media ought to have a bit of patience, too. In situations like this, you don’t need to have the results yesterday, if not sooner. Wait a bit and give them the chance to get it right. You can spend more time speculating about the outcome, too!

The other major complaint I’ve been reading about is from political junkies buffs complaining about how the Iowa Caucuses are so “undemocratic”. Seems they don’t like this rural, low diversity, low population state acting as a sort of “kingmaker” in the nominating process.

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Random Thoughts on Impeachment

I’ve been following the proceedings so far, watching the hearings and reading the press reports and occasionally the comments.

And I’ve got a few thoughts.

I feel safe referring to “Republicans” and “Democrats” as the two sides, since it really is split along party lines. No Republicans have even hinted that they would consider the possibility of voting to impeach, and no Democrats have suggested with any seriousness that El Presidente just might be innocent.

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