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Tuesday, 04 November 2008

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Here in Canada, we have a professional civil service bureaucracy called Elections Canada. They are a permanet agency responsible for the proper running of elections, including managing electoral lists, overview of campaign spending, etc. It came as a shock to me recently to find out that the running of US elections is done by elected officials, and that different areas of the country use different voting methods, including machinery that has had problems in the past. I realize that managing 300 million people is different than 30 million people, but shouldn't that mean that your system should be more standardized and error-proof, not less.

Fired up!

Ready to go!

I know this comment won't make it to the blog, but I'm going to send it anyway ;-).

Robert,

Each state votes its electoral college votes. The federal government doesn't tell each state how to vote them - most states vote all of them for one candidate, though a few states divide them proportionally according to the popular vote. The electors are typically chosen by political parties, so if a given state votes Republican, you expect the electors to actually vote for the Republican team, but an elector *could* go against that - a technical possibility but an unlikely one. All of which goes to show that it's supposed to be the responsibility of each state to handling its own votes. Government being government, that doesn't keep the federal government from trying to get its fingers into things, between attempts at congressional legistlation and law suits brought before the supreme court. Voting equipment is not paid for by federal tax dollars; it's funded at a local level. Typically when local taxes pay for services, local governments don't like higher governments telling them how they have to spend their money. The demographics of Vermont don't demand the same procedures as Florida.

Robert, people who are not citizens of the USA often forget that we are the UNITED STATES of America. Our states are self governing - our Federal division often can only make rules by using money as bait. Money for roads, schools, etc. The Federal division usually controls what they can via a section of the Constitution called the Commerce Clause which defines federal control if it involves INTERSTATE commerce. The feds are actually given specific powers and the rest belongs to individual states. The idea is that its a lot harder to take control over the whole country that way. The founding fathers were well educated and understood a great deal about the nature of power and control. Too much power in the hands of too few is the real danger. There is a lot more to it, but this is the general idea.

Yes.

But it's not.

;-)
Adam

May the best man win (or rather, the least worst). Although we might never know which of the two it is, unless one of them returns to unseat the other in 2012.

"Here in Canada, we have a professional civil service bureaucracy called Elections Canada. They are a permanet agency responsible for the proper running of elections, including managing electoral lists, overview of campaign spending, etc."

That would be just darn sensible. :)

Question:
Has it always been that way in Canada? If not, how did you ever get the elected folks to give up that bit of potential power?

New York is pretty much wrapped up for Obama, but we've got a tight little State Senate race in our district that could have national implications. If Democrat Joe Addabbo can oust 20-year Republican incumbent Serphin Maltese, it will likely produce a Democratic majority in the New York State Senate, which will give Democratic control to the Governor, State Senate and State Assembly, which could clear the way for major reforms in areas ranging from gay marriage to emissions control to education funding to banking laws.

This description seems pretty accurate based on my experiences voting in New York, even in elections that had much lower levels of voter turnout: http://www.davebeckerman.com/blog/2008/11/04/election-morning/

I hasten to add, however, that I never minded and that it's worth it to have your vote count. I understand that people are frustrated by our voting system, but I don't understand people who use that as an excuse not to vote.

According to "tradition," we vote on Tuesday because James Madison said that "Mondays are for recovering from Whoreing over the weekend."
(I'll bet that Dolly was NOT amused!)

Thanks, Mike. Nice summary. Now the wait.

Today's was the last election in Seattle in which you could actually go to a polling place and vote. From now on, it will all be by mail. It's a ritual I will miss.

Some of us think of ourselves as citizens of the United States of America. My rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These are federal documents. Frankly some states, in the past, have not had such a great record of guaranteeing the right to vote for example. So I'm for balance. And I do think that the mishmash of voting procedures and rules is goofy at best and just damn stupid at worst.

"According to 'tradition,' we vote on Tuesday because James Madison said that 'Mondays are for recovering from Whoreing over the weekend.'"

I'm no expert, but that has an apocryphal vibe to me. Congress set voting day as the first Tuesday in November in 1845, and Madison died in the summer of 1836. I really don't know, however.

Mike J.

I have a different approach to election watching. About 8 PM I curl up with a good book until I fall asleep. (Tonight it will be "Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography," by Ferrell McCollough, recommended by some guy on the Internet who even provided a helpful Amazon link for it.) In the morning I get up, amble out to the front stoop to pick up the paper and find out who won. And the result is the same whether I do that or stay up until 1 AM watching the TV and biting my fingernails.

Another Dennis wrote:
"And I do think that the mishmash of voting procedures and rules is goofy at best and just damn stupid at worst."

That's because you choose the word "mishmash" for what others might see as "variety". Why is variety bad in a nation that supposedly values diversity ? What a mishmash of presidential candidates we had in 2008 ! Presumably there are good & bad ways to do things ... are they the same for all states ? Does a state with 60,000 people in its biggest city require the same levels of fraud protection, assistance for multi-lingual citizens, access to polling places as, say, Los Angeles ? (Or should the federal government be tasked with creating a complex set of guidelines that fixes all problems without imposing undue expense on those that don't have the problems in the first place ?) Manhattan is 10 square miles. My town is 60 square miles. Yet we need only a single polling place (in the town hall) and it doesn't need to be open long hours; enough to reasonably allow people with various schedules to work, and an absentee ballot system to accomodate those who can't be there. Our schools is in session while in neighboring New York (at least in parts of it) schools are closed because schools are used as polling places. Some coworkers are taking the day off to take care of their kids. Are you so confident in the federal government that they would choose a way that makes it no worse for any state ?

Various states have had various problems. Florida and "hanging chads" comes to mind. Do we really want to run and hand control to the federal government every time a local government doesn't do something right ? Who do we turn to when the fed doesn't do it right ?

Anyway, I won't be watching TV tonight ... I expect to wake up tomorrow and find out that... [edited...sorry].

Jon Bloom,
Wholly admirable restraint.

Mike J.

Here in Australia, we have an extremely important event every "First Tuesday in November" It's a HORSE RACE called the Melbourne Cup. We have a PUBLIC HOLIDAY (!) here in Victoria, and the event knocks everything else off the front pages and TV news. Including the US election. Ya gotta get ya priorities right!!!!

Not to be too picky (hey, that's what the internet is for!) but the election is held on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, which could be the second Tuesday.

As to why a Tuesday, I'm not making any claims.


Patrick

One thing I like about the Canadian system (and I'm not even voting there) is that apparently the "bureaucrats" at Elections Canada handle the federal elections, while the provinces handle the local elections.

This makes sure (at least in theory) that everybody can vote in the same conditions for the elections that impact everybody (ie federal). Which makes sense when attempting to keep people "equals in rights".

Question for B.Smith or anyone else who can answer. Does this mean that the richer constituencies are less likely to have problems like malfunctioning machines because they can buy better ones? Has there ever been talk about electoral reforms resulting in elections overseen by one regulatory body? Just wondering about the historical perspective. Also, makes sense for a federal election to be standardized federally.

Personally, I'm very annoyed that we no longer have an election "Day." Instead, due to all the early voting--very early in some states--we now have an election "Season," and people are allowed to vote before the campaigning is officially over! I doubt this is what our Founding Fathers had in mind.

North Carolina

You called it Mike.

Big love from Europe.

"I have a different approach to election watching. In the morning I get up, amble out to the front stoop to pick up the paper and find out who won.
Posted by: Jon Bloom | Tuesday, 04 November 2008 at 02:48 PM "

As they said in the Chicago Tribune: "Dewey beats Truman." Now you know.

Jay,

I can't answer your question, I don't know enough about it. But this site "http://www.elections.ca/home.asp" contains some historical links that may be useful. After a quick look, it simply appears as though it evolved that way, no immediate evidence of any major power struggles, but that may be whitewashing, who knows what happened in the backrooms 80 years ago.

Robert

Even knowing the outcome I couldn't sleep worth crap. I've decided to put my cynicism to bed for awhile, though, and see what I can do to actually help.

"Various states have had various problems. Florida and "hanging chads" comes to mind. Do we really want to run and hand control to the federal government every time a local government doesn't do something right ? Who do we turn to when the fed doesn't do it right ?"

Well, maybe. There's an argument to be made for variety and diversification in many aspects of life. Too bad our leading bankers skipped that lecture in their MBA course. But when it comes to matters of procedure and process, isn't it good that we all basically believe in sterilizing medical equipment, and that we all use 60 Hz, 110 volt power, and that we all drive on the right side of the road?

I don't see how having an entire country use the same ballot format, same kind of box to put them in, same procedures for counting, same rules for determining who is eligible to vote, I don't see how abiding by a common set of rules for such mundane procedural matters limits anyone's freedom.

Why is it that our culture is ok with some monopolistic practices (computer operating systems, oil companies, pro sports, etc.) but not with others. Seems kind of arbitrary. I get that individual states are autonomous in some areas of jurisdiction, but what made sense 250 years ago may not make sense now. And since electing a president is a federal process, I don't see what is wrong with federally-mandated rules on how to go about it.

Btw, we have similar federal vs. provincial jurisdictional debates here in Canada. But, there is only one taxpayer.

As a European I must congratulate all you Americans with a stunning election. Looks like democracy is back in the US after a few years of hiding. McCain lost gracefully and Obama seems like a charismatic, intelligent and optimistic fellow from what I can gather through the media. Good luck to him and you all - these are uncertain and gloomy times.

Somebody once said: "All men are created equal". If that is correct, don't these men (and women) have the right to expect that their votes can be given and counted on equal terms? And since the whole election is about who is going to be the head of state, shouldn't it then be the responsibility of the same state to secure this equality?
Well, since I'm not a US citizen, this is mostly a theoretical issue for me. But then again: with the present position of USA in the world, I sometimes think that it would be only fair that US citizens got 2 votes for the presidential election - and we in the rest of the world got one wote each ;-)
Anyway: congratulations with the result. The grassroot support that Obama was able to mobilize was truly impressing, and might turn out to be the biggest achievement in the long run...

Dear Pat,

What the "Founding Fathers had in mind" was officials elected only by land-holding (and often slave-owning) males. Plus a Senate that was not elected but appointed by the Government to counter the influence of the voting masses. Do you desire to return to that? I don't.

The FF were not gods. I feel no particular obligation nor desire to honor their original intents, let alone vague ideas of what they might have 'had in mind.'

pax / Ctein

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