18 February 2015

5 minutes

Yesterday was the nonpartisan primary voting day in my town.  Because of the arctic cold, my wife and I drove rather than walk the mile-and-a-half to our local community center.  I took note of the time when we arrived:

12:42 - park car
  • walk into Community Center
  • give my name to ladies at the table, receive a number
  • take the number to the lady at the next table, receive ballot
  • enter booth, mark ballot
  • inset ballot into Marksense optical scanner, wait for beep
  • take "I voted" sticker, walk out of polling place
12:47 - back in car

Five minutes to complete my civic duty.  Can't complain about that.  There are many arguments for revising/updating/computerizing the voting system in this country - all of which are well beyond the scope of this post -  but shortening the time required to vote is not in my view a pressing need (even granting that this was just a primary).

If I could make one change, it would be to make the November presidential election a national holiday, so that more people could vote.  To placate the business owners who want employees in the workplace, I would compensate by deleting the February President'sDayLet'sGoShopping holiday and tell people to honor their presidents by voting instead.


  1. I don't know why Tuesdays were chosen for election days in the US. (I've read an explanation, but it didn't make it clear to me). In Australia Saturdays were chosen because at the time most people didn't work on Saturday. Shops closed by midday, so even shopkeepers could get to the polls in the afternoon. But here it is compulsory to vote, so choosing a day when the vast majority of people could get there was pretty important. I'm not sure when postal voting was introduced, but it allows people who can't get there on Saturday (orthodox Jews, for example) to cast their vote.

  2. In the U.S. they're trying to cut down on the number of people allowed to vote by requiring photo identification and restricting the kinds of photo identification permissible. This effectively eliminates large numbers of people who are either too old or too poor to have driver's licenses from voting, including a lot of second-generation immigrants or blacks. There is also a restriction requiring you to vote in the district in which you live, so that if you have moved to a different district you must re-register to vote and you must change the address on your driver's license or you are ineligible to vote. All these requirements favor the wealthy and place an unfair burden on the poor and effectively disenfranchise the poor.

    I love this blog. Not only does the Gentle Author provide us with fascinating information, but he is also a spokesperson for the middle-class and poor of this country. We need more people like him, speaking out for those who are unable to speak out for themselves. Thank you, Gentle Author.

    1. Do these same old people you speak of lack a bank account, credit card, or many things that require and ID, the same ID that would allow you to vote? Do Poor lack ID when they get their welfare checks or us state welfare debit cards for buying their groceries?
      This "lack of an ID" is a poorly constructed lie.
      Keeping in mind that we have 20% or less voter turnout, it is not a lack of ID that keeps voters away, it is that we feel our vote doesn't matter... Without ID fraud is widespread. Looke ar James OKeefes documentaries as one source of proof...

    2. I Googled James OKeefe + voter ID and found this:

      Further doubt is being cast on conservative activist James O'Keefe's latest undercover video after a ThinkProgress report finds that another of the film's alleged fraudulent voters is actually a U.S. citizen who is eligible to vote.

      O'Keefe and his Project Veritas group have been on a mission to uncover the supposed perils of voter fraud in an effort to make a case for voter ID laws. Critics have claimed that such legislation is a hysterical reaction to an incredibly rare problem that would end up denying thousands of eligible Americans the right to vote...

      Beyond these issues, the supposed proof of a "dead voter" ploy was already been debunked earlier this week. It turned out that O'Keefe's video had been edited to remove an interaction between a poll worker and Veritas "investigator" indicating that Michael Bolton -- the deceased voter in question -- had been survived by his son, Michael Bolton, Jr. In the raw footage, the election official asks if the man asking for the deceased Bolton's ballot is Michael Bolton, Jr., who is registered at the same address.

      and this -

      O'Keefe and colleagues were arrested in New Orleans in January 2010 during an attempt to make recordings at the office of United States Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat...O'Keefe was sentenced to three years' probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine...

      O'Keefe was exposed in Colorado in October 2014 after soliciting Democratic campaign staffers for Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Jared Polis, as well as independent expenditure organizations to commit voter fraud...

      Nobody has EVER documented or proved the hysterical claim that "without ID fraud is widespread" (in the United States).

  3. Vireya, it has to do with america being a farming country. it took time (up to a full day) to travel from the farm to the place of votership. sunday was out - church. wednesday - market day. that left tuesday.


    1. But wouldn't it make sense to change it to sunday now? How many more people could vote then, without having to take a day off? Whoever manages to get to a church on sunday should in these days very well be able to get to the next polling station as well.

    2. That's the explanation I read, but it didn't make sense to me. Why not Thursday? Why not Friday? Why not Saturday? Why Tuesday?

  4. We've been voting by mail for several elections now. Given my work hours, it helps a lot not to have think about in on the official day. Which still leaves a lot of people in some difficulty. Voting online at libraries could help some.

  5. I don't vote by mail because I really enjoy going to the polls. Sadly, not nearly enough people are voting. And for Class of '65, it's only a few states, mostly in the south, that Th photo IDs are required. They seem to be living up to their old racist traditions, sad to say.

  6. In Australia all state and federal elections are held on Saturdays, and because the independent electoral commission oversees elections, there are always plenty of polling booths, so there is usually not too much lining up, especially outside peak time. I live in a city and there are 3 polling booths within an easy 10 minutes walking distance of my house. It is also pencil on paper and then into the sealed box sort of thing and does not vary across the country or in each electorate, so there are no hanging chads as per the US presidential election of 2000. People can also vote via postal voting or go to the Electoral Commission office and vote early.
    In Australia, voting is also compulsory, or more correctly, it is compulsory to go to a polling booth and get your name crossed off the electoral role. Many people oppose this, saying that they should have the right to not vote, but I think this comes from the angle that it is a civic duty, just like serving on a jury. Compulsory voting also makes parties aim for the swinging voters (those who change their mind every election) rather than vocal minorities or groups who can rally their members to get out and vote (NRA and the gun lobby for instance). It also keeps parties o the reasonable straight and narrow in terms of being more aware of what ‘average’ voters want, rather than the just the big end of town or vocal minorities.

    We also have preferential voting, which means that when you vote, you don’t just tick your favourite candidate, but put a one against your favourite candidate’s name a two against your second favourite and so on. This means that when the votes are tallied the candidate who received the least number of votes has their votes distributed to their voter’s second candidate and so forth until one candidate has more than 50% of the vote. I’m not sure about the US, but in the UK, it is still first past the post (where the candidate with the most votes wins). This means that a candidate could only get 10% of the vote and be elected. Preferential voting means that while your first preference might not get in, your vote will still go on to count towards the outcome; your second or third choice can still be in the running.

    Here in Tasmania (and Ireland) we have the Hare-Clark system, where each electorate has five (it used to be seven) candidates elected in each electorate, so not only is there a battle between different parties, but also within parties to get elected; the focus just as much on the candidates as it is on the party and it is not unusual for parliamentary members to not be re-elected, but to be replaced by a candidate from the same party who was elected. Once a candidate gets enough votes to get elected, then their voter’s second preferences are redistributed. I think that this moderates the extremes of parties, such as your Tea Party, as these members are less likely to be elected. It thought to also better reflect the people’s will, which was the idea behind it. Also, because each candidate needs to get just 16.66% of the vote to be elected it makes it more likely that independent and smaller parties will be elected. This is actually why the number of candidates in each electorate was dropped from seven to five by the two major parties, in the hope of getting rid of a third party, the Greens; it didn’t work (their vote went up), but it has created all sorts of governance issues. Parties are listed across the ballot, and the names of the candidates on the ballot are rotated, that is there are an equal number of ballots printed with each candidate’s name at the top, under their party. This stops parties from putting their favourite candidate at the top and other ballot shenanigans.

    Anyhow, these are just some thoughts and it is good that you voted; one should vote, regardless of whether it is compulsory or not.

    1. Another interesting system is the mixed member proportional representation system, which is common in Europe and is also found in New Zealand. In this system, once the votes are tallied in each electorate, parties are then assigned extra members based on how many votes they received nationally and/or how many electoral seats they won. In the case of New Zealand, people vote for a local candidate and then a party. This allows good candidates who failed to get elected to remain in parliament and again it helps parliament to better reflect how people voted. For instance if a party received 10% of the vote across the nation, it makes sense that they should have some voice in parliament as 10% of the people voted for them, even if they did not win any electoral seats. Finally, in the Westminster system, where cabinet (the executive arm of government) is selected from the party (or coalition) with the most members in the lower house, it allows this part to bring in policy experts to become ministers (in theory at least). For instance, in Australia the current minister of health, studied tax and accounting and her predecessor was a former policeman; what knowledge, expertise or understanding would these people bring to a portfolio as complex as health? This is also possible under parallel voting systems.

  7. What would happen on Presidents Day for non-election years?

  8. In my country India, local and national election days are declared as holidays. Still the turn out varies between 40-60%. The requirement of casting your vote in your own constituency is a reason for low turn out among the youth who migrate to other cities for jobs.

  9. Voting is a suggestion box for slaves.

    "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." - Emma Goldman

    "A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years." - Lysander Spooner



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