The prior chair of the Florida Republican Party (2006–2010) and former governor Charlie Crist (2007–2011) have both told the Palm Beach Post that they didn’t push voter ID laws and the like in order to reduce fraud (there is none)—they did it to suppress turnout. The more people voting, the better Democrats do. They invented the fraud concern as a “marketing ploy.” Both men are on the outs with Florida Republicans, and this probably isn’t helping them make up. →
Approximately 437,237 Philadelphia residents will not be able to vote under Pennsylvania’s controversial new voter ID law. Statewide, it’s 1.6M people, or one in five voters. This law was pushed strongly by Republicans and—damnest thing—it’s mostly Democrats who are disenfranchised by this law. It’s no wonder that the U.S. Attorney General is investigating whether the law violates the Voting Rights Act. →
Pennsylvania is defending their voter ID law in court, and they’ve just dealt themselves a serious blow. In a filing, they’ve admitted that there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states,” as well as that “in person voter fraud is [not] likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.” They’re preparing to disenfranchise 750,000 voters for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Well, not NO reason—those 750,000 folks are liable to vote for Obama. →
- CJR: The Shorter-Form Journal
This clever analysis of Wall Street Journal article lengths over the years shows that, under Rupert Murdoch, articles have gotten quite a bit shorter.
- The Washington Post: Five myths about voter fraud
There are some important and interesting facts about voter fraud here. A member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform figures that requiring that voters show ID will prevent between 1,000–10,000 legitimate votes from being cast for every 1 illegitimate vote that is stopped. 25% of African Americans do not have valid photo IDs. In Wisconsin, 55% of black men do not have valid photo ID. Fraudulent voting is stunningly, stunningly rare.
- mental_floss: 14 More Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent
In Tagalog, "layogenic" describes somebody who is beautiful from a distance, but unattractive up close. In Thai, "greng-jai" is the feeling of not wanting to put somebody out by taking them up on an offer to do something for you. I love these.
- Chattanooga Times-Free Press: 96-year-old Chattanooga resident denied voting ID
Dorothy Cooper even managed to vote under Jim Crow, but the Tennessee Republican Party has proved to be one obstacle she can't overcome. She's never driven, so she has no driver's license. She tried to get a photo ID, but she has to present her marriage certificate, and she got married a long, long time ago, and doesn't know where to find that. I guess the new photo ID laws are working just as intended.
- Flickr: Fed Up with Lunch
A Flickr stream of nothing but photos of what passes for school lunch in the Chicago Public Schools. Parents never see what the kids get for lunch, but this teacher did. I'd love to see somebody do this in area schools. Heck, the schools should be willing to do it themselves.
- New York Times: After Ruling, Hispanics Flee an Alabama Town
Alabama's new immigration law has left crops rotting in their fields, farmers unable to find workers. Business at grocery stores and restaurants has evaporated. Hundreds (thousands?) of people working perfectly legal have gotten the message loud and clear: Latinos are not welcome in Alabama. So they're packing up and moving.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: 1,100 felons regain rights in McDonnell’s first year
Color me surprised. I would happily have put down $50 saying that McDonnell wouldn't restore the civil rights to but maybe 10% as many felons as Gov. Tim Kaine Kaine did. He's on pace to match Kaine. This is still a terrible system—we're one of just two states in the nation that still give only the governor the power to restore rights.
- PolitiFact Virginia: Virginia lottery claims all profits since 1999 have gone to education
Turns out that this is basically true. I'd wondered.
- Washington Post: In Utah, Sen. Hatch courts tea partyers one by one in quest for survival
I'm not what you'd call a fan of Sen. Orrin Hatch, but it's depressing to see how low he's stopping to kowtow to the most extreme elements of his party. He's taking to swearing in his speeches because it makes the tea partiers happy. He's been consulting a muscle car builder on his votes several times each day, apparently because he wants to make the guy feel special. He's having to apologize for his decades-long friendship with Sen. Ted Kennedy, because this bunch sees cooperation or even friendship with Democrats as failure. This article neatly summarizes everything that's wrong with politics. While claiming—weakly—to have (silently) opposed President Bush's policies, they're reproducing President Bush's scorched-earth politics.
- Pinboard: Anatomy of a Crushing
I have come to the conclusion that my future projects must include a revenue stream. It's swell to create a service for a community good, but without a revenue stream, that's committing to doing something forever because it once seemed like a good idea. That'd just dumb. The low-priced social bookmark service Pinboard (which I'm using to post this right now) has a great model that illustrates how a revenue stream can make a service significantly better without significantly reducing the accessibility of it. Also, I just love every detail here about how Pinboard is designed and how it was created, because it's precisely how I develop, for better or for worse. I thought I was the only one!
- Washington Post: In states, parties clash over voting laws that call for IDs, limits on where college students can cast ballots
New Hampshire Republicans are trying to prohibit college students from voting in their state because students are "foolish" and they tend to be "voting as a liberal."
- New York Times: Fox and Glenn Beck Stare Into a Dark Future
Glenn Beck's ratings have dropped off a cliff. He's discovered that people start ignoring Chicken Little before long. As David Carr puts it, "the problem with 'Glenn Beck' is that it has turned into a serial doomsday machine that’s a bummer to watch."
- Balloon Mapping Materials
A list of parts to build your own helium balloon photography platform, for taking aerial pictures. I am *so* doing this. I wonder where I can buy helium in Charlottesville?
The Roanoke Times editorialized today in favor of the Know Campaign’s guilt-based GOTV campaign, and I couldn’t agree more. That was the conservative group who was looking to send out mailers telling people which of their neighbors have voted in recent elections. The SBE was upset, as were many citizens, who complained that whether or not they vote is a private matter. The group didn’t send out in the mailing, after the SBE bristled, and they’ve filed a lawsuit in the matter. The Times editorial board writes:
Maybe Virginia wants to keep those records secret. There is a good argument that whether someone chooses to vote is no one else’s business. If so, keep them secret from everyone.
There is also a good argument that they should be public. They are state records and do not reveal how someone voted, only whether someone has participated in our democracy.
The current system tries to have it both ways by elevating political parties and politicians into a class better than the rest of us. They alone may annoy residents by contacting frequent voters with polls and campaign pitches.
I think that’s absolutely right. Note, by the way, that the Times hit a nerve in early 2007 when they published a listing of every Virginian with a concealed weapons permit. While public data, and perfectly legal to reproduce, that was something that some gun owners just weren’t comfortable with having in the public eye. About the same situation that the Know Campaign has found themselves in.
Our current concept of privacy in the voting process is very new. In this country’s formative years, voting was an intensely public, social, nasty affair. Voters would go to their crowded polling place, where they were to declare loudly, for all to hear, the candidate for whom they’d be voting. The crowd might cheer or jeer them accordingly. Violence was common, and voters were expected to show courage and fortitude to get to the polls; there was no right to vote without being beaten. For most of our history, voters had to bring their own ballots. The idea of having ballots provided was seen as profoundly anti-American—voters ought to remember the names of the candidates, the logic went, and if you couldn’t spell the candidate’s name correctly, then your vote shouldn’t be counted. By the 1830s, courts had come around to the idea that it was OK for people to show up with printed ballots and submit those, and parties started printing up their own (which we now call “sample ballots”) for people to submit. Then came the movement to allow secret ballots, so that a man could cast his ballot without his preference being known. Virginia Congressman John Randolph (a Democratic-Republican, from Roanoke) objected to this proposal strenuously, arguing that it “would make any nation a nation of scoundrels, if it did not find them so.” The “Australian ballot,” as it was known—for it was invented in that country—was first adopted in the 1890s, in part a response to the widespread phenomenon of vote buying, but also as a way to keep blacks (frequently illiterate, in the south) from voting.
Should it be a secret whether or not each of us voted in a given election? I suspect that would be a bad idea, for reasons that we have not yet sufficiently considered, but I’m open to the idea that there’s some sense it. Such a change would certainly fit into the trend of the past 250 years. But there’s no argument to be made that political operatives should have access to that information, but not the unwashed masses.
For more on the history of ballots in this country, see Jill Lepore’s excellent “Rock, Paper, Scissors: How We Used to Vote,” from the October 13, 2008 New Yorker, which is my source for the information here.
After last year’s historic voter participation, what is being done to ensure that every vote is counted and make voting more accessible to everyone, particularly students and people convicted of felonies? Amongst the many pieces of legislation that are being considered during the 2009 session of the Virginia General Assembly are several aimed at electoral reform, including a bill to make the redistricting process bipartisan. But now that Democrats control the state senate and the upcoming redistricting process, are they still in support of this reform? With only 46 days in the legislative session, we need to make our voices heard now in support of these critical electoral reforms.
The featured speaker will be Joe Szakos, Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project, a member of the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia.
Come on out, have a drink or two with friends, and learn about efforts to improve on democracy in Virginia.
Turnout here at the Stony Point precinct of Albemarle County is off the charts. Normally we’d have somewhere between zero and five people waiting when the polls open. Today it was 49, with another half dozen walking from their cars to the line at the moment that the doors opened. We had over 200 people by a little after 7:00am. The voters are considerably a) younger and b) blacker than we’ve ever seen before. It’s like a whole new precinct. It might be selection bias, but I think we’re seeing considerably more people supporting Democrats than the even split we generally observe.
Back to the polls…
12:20pm Update: As of ~an hour ago, Stony Point has broken the 50% mark for turnout. Amazing.
Item the first: The FTC has barred prerecorded sales calls, effective September 1, 2009. (Political calls are not covered by the limitation, since they’re not, strictly speaking, selling anything.) Item the second: States across the country are tossing out electronic voting machines as it dawns on them that these things are grossly insecure and generally a bad idea. With Ohio registrars taking voting machines home for “sleepovers”, perhaps everybody will soon recognize that we’ve got a national security problem here.