Election Day (OT, obviously)

Cidu Bill on Nov 6th 2012

Last week we were told that Election Day could only be postponed by an act of Congress, and it was taken for granted by everybody that this would be impossible.

Um, no it wasn’t. We’re not talking about forcing a Congressman to ride his horse from Atlanta to Washington: there are government planes at their constant disposal, supplied at government expense, and there was no reason these men and women couldn’t have shown up to do their job. It’s true that they don’t treat this as a full-time gig — though they’re certainly being paid enough — but for something like this, I expect them to get there.

Maybe everything will work out fine today: but if, say, everything hinges on the Ohio numbers, and it’s close, and a great many Ohioans were not able to vote… well, we’re in for a mess that will make the Chad nonsense seem like a piece of cake.

Filed in Bill Bickel, Election Day, politics | 38 responses so far

38 Responses to “Election Day (OT, obviously)”

  1. Mary in Ohio Nov 6th 2012 at 06:19 pm 1

    We are having generally fine weather all across Ohio today - though Ohio is one of the most contentious/repressive states in the country (I found out on The Newshour last night. Figures. We are 48th in funding education, ahead of MissHippy and Tegsis.) However, I voted a month ago, the first day you could vote early, because the city was closing the street past the board of elections the next day for a week or so or 9 or 12. Whatever. I haven’t looked too deeply into which political party controls the City Streets Department, though I can guess.Anyway, the TV stations are reporting a large, though calm, turnout throught the state.

  2. Elyrest Nov 6th 2012 at 08:07 pm 2

    Gorgeous weather in northern Ohio although I do know a few people who still don’t have electricity back from the storm last week. I don’t know that it would affect the voting though. I didn’t do early voting as I like to go into the hustle and bustle of the polling place. It was very busy and there were lots of people when I voted after work today, but it went smoothly and quickly. Everyone I work with voted - they all went before work and had their “I voted” stickers on. I always feel good after I vote and don’t understand people who don’t appreciate their right to vote.

    If the election had been last Tuesday I don’t know what would’ve happened as it was a mess here. And on a crazy note: I had a women tell me, over the week-end, that the government was responsible for the storm - it was started and controlled out of Alaska.

  3. Kilby Nov 7th 2012 at 01:32 am 3

    As I recall, Congress doesn’t control the date of the election, it’s specified in the Constitution. Even though running an election on any workday is silly (virtually every European country holds elections on Sundays), it would be virtually impossible to get 37 state legislatures together to pass an amendment to change this quaint tradition.

  4. Kilby Nov 7th 2012 at 01:36 am 4

    P.S. I should have done the three seconds of research before posting rather than after. It’s a law, not a constitutional issue, but it nevertheless would require a supermajority in the Senate, which is still unlikely.

  5. James Pollock Nov 7th 2012 at 03:25 am 5

    I think this posting is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. It’s not that you couldn’t get all the Congress-critters to Washington. It’s that you couldn’t get them to do anything once they got there. THAT’S what’s “impossible” about it.

    House Speaker Boehner was already staking out a position before they even called the election for Obama (although the writing was on the wall.) That position was, roughly “just because you won doesn’t mean we are going to consider raising taxes to balance the budget”.

  6. Meryl A Nov 7th 2012 at 03:30 am 6

    Why do we hold elections on Tuesdays?

    In colonial times voters (white, free, landholding males - in some states owning tools of a trade could substitute for land and in all but a few colonies, members of the official church of the colony) had to travel to the county courthouse to vote. Depending on the county this could take a day. One could not vote on Sunday, the sabbath or start one’s trip then. Monday was a problem as not every voter could get there in time to vote, so Tuesday was chosen. Often it was done by dropping a white or color ball in a box.

    That is why we vote on Tuesday from the 1770s’ reenactor.

  7. Blinky the Wondcer Wombat Nov 7th 2012 at 08:00 am 7

    Adding to what Meryl A wrote- Tuesdays were also often market day in the county seats, for the reasons previously stated, thus early voters could combine two tasks in one trip.

  8. Lost in A**2 Nov 7th 2012 at 09:57 am 8

    I’ve heard that Michigan’s counties were sized to allow a man to walk to the county seat and conduct business on the same day. He did have to leave early in the day, and he probably would have to stay overnight after visiting the courthouse.

  9. Judge Mental Nov 7th 2012 at 10:51 am 9

    @Kilby #4. In my part of the country, over 90% of the polling places are churches, because they have large rooms that are not being used on a Tuesday. (I’ve had European friends shocked that we let the church “run” the election, and most seem unable to wrap their head around the concept that the church is just donating the use of the facility) If the USA were to hold elections on a Sunday, schools could take up some of the slack, but I’m not sure what kind of obstacles there would be to accommodate all districts.

  10. Rasheed Nov 7th 2012 at 11:22 am 10

    We use schools here all the time (Suburban Dallas). Don’t know about early voting school facilities, but election day has used the gymnasium all day, after lunch crowds have taken over cafeterias and libraries.

  11. Elyrest Nov 7th 2012 at 12:19 pm 11

    In Ohio I voted at a junior college - they had a huge conference center and tons of parking. A guy I worked with voted at a retirement center. In one place I lived our voting place was at the rec center of our townhouse. I’ve voted in city halls, church basements, fire halls, and community centers too. Whatever works is fine with me - I’m just glad that I get to vote.

  12. Keera Nov 7th 2012 at 04:37 pm 12

    Elections are held on Mondays in Norway, with schools and liquor stores closed that day. Schools and libraries are used as voting facilities. I’d like to try voting in a liquor store some day.

  13. Cidu Bill Nov 7th 2012 at 04:57 pm 13

    James, if the storm’s aftermath was bad enough that both Obama and Romney asked for the delay (and that’s the only way it would ever happen anyway), it would be a non-partisan issue.

    My issue is not whether Congress should have postponed the election, but rather the way we take for granted reports like “Millions of people will lose their benefits on January 1 unless Congress acts, but they’re leaving for their Christmas recess today.”

    No. If there’s something this important pending, you stay and take care of it. It’s called “doing your job.”

  14. Cidu Bill Nov 7th 2012 at 04:59 pm 14

    I see there was in issue in several states this year about bars being closed on Election Day. Seems to me the solution is obvious: bars remain open, but you can’t buy drinks unless you show proof that you’ve already voted.

  15. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Nov 7th 2012 at 05:43 pm 15

    As usual, the election disaster was confined to Florida…

    I believe that at 9PM, one polling place in the Miami area still had over 1000 voters in line (with a nominal 7PM poll closing) - reports are that the last voter finished about 1AM. This was partially due to screw ups with early voting (in part due to voter suppression efforts forced by the Republican governor and legislature, but…), partially due to bad balancing of people to polling places (the one with the long line apparently had 2000-3000 voters assigned to it, while another polling place nearby had 400), and partially due to a very long and complex ballot (aside from various races, there were 11 state constitutional amendments - all fully written out over 4 double sided legal sized ballot pages - and quite a few local questions). Given that too many voters actually read this stuff at the poll rather than bring a marked up sample ballot with them (and the fact that the whole ballot had each item presented in 3 languages, making it even longer and more complex to go through), many voters took a very long time to vote, making the problem even worse.

    The 3 south Florida counties (Dade (Miami), Broward (Fort Lauderdale), and Palm Beach) all had teacher work days scheduled for election day so that schools could be used as polling places. A lot of churches (and a few other religious places) are used, but I think an explicit attempt is made to use alternatives where possible (whether schools, other public buildings, or non-religious private buildings), as complaints have been raised by voters (and in cases by the religious institutions who were not happy with the restrictions placed on them if they were to be polling places).

  16. Elyrest Nov 7th 2012 at 06:05 pm 16

    “you can’t buy drinks unless you show proof that you’ve already voted”

    I didn’t know that in some places bars still closed on election day. What if you have no intention of voting?

    Keera - I think I’d like to try voting in a liquor store too.

  17. James Pollock Nov 7th 2012 at 06:34 pm 17

    “James, if the storm’s aftermath was bad enough that both Obama and Romney asked for the delay (and that’s the only way it would ever happen anyway), it would be a non-partisan issue.”

    There’s no such thing as a “non-partisan issue” in today’s Washington. If one party’s for it, the other’s against it, by reflex.

  18. Winter Wallaby Nov 7th 2012 at 06:43 pm 18

    Bill, where have you heard anyone say that it would be impossible for Congress to do it because the transportation would be difficult? That would indeed be a strange excuse, but I’ve never heard anyone say that. Like James said, the reason this would be impossible (under most realistic circumstances), is political, not logistical. I’d understand if you were complaining about how political gridlock prevents good things from getting done, but your actual complaint seems to be addressing an position I don’t think anyone has taken.

  19. Cidu Bill Nov 7th 2012 at 07:00 pm 19

    What I heard was”of course that would be impossible.” Since this action would be unthinkable unless both candidates had called for it, meaning it would be non-partisan from the git-go, the only “impossibility” remaining would be getting our public servants off their butts.

  20. Winter Wallaby Nov 8th 2012 at 01:16 pm 20

    It was considered impossible because it was near-impossible that it would be non-partisan. It’s sort of weird for you to create a scenario that never happened in which the near-impossible thing happens, and then conclude that some stuff that no one ever saw as a problem must be the real problem. You could just as well say that the action would be unthinkable unless it was non-partisan and our public servants got off their butts and got to Washington, so the only “impossibility” remaining was the incompetence of our representatives in figuring out how to use their push-buttons to vote.

  21. Cidu Bill Nov 8th 2012 at 02:10 pm 21

    As I said, Winter, the specifics of this case is just a detail: my real point was that members of Congress consider this job something they can do whenever it’ s convenient, and member of the public just accept this.

  22. Boise Ed Nov 8th 2012 at 04:35 pm 22

    In an ideal world, the congresscritters would agree to eliminate the Electorial College intermediary and also to move Election Day to Sunday. Those few who still have religious objections to that could vote early or absentee. Or even eliminate Election Day and have entirely mail-in ballots, like Oregon now does.

    Another good but unlikely change would be to ban primaries before, say, July. This whole rigamarole goes on way too long.

  23. Cidu Bill Nov 8th 2012 at 05:23 pm 23

    I’ve always been against the Electoral College, and mostly still am, but recently I did finally hear one good argument in its favor: in a very close statewide vote, there could be a statewide recount: but if the national popular vote is very close, and there are possible irregularities, you could have to recount a hundred million votes. So basically the Electoral College quarantines any problem.

    Still not a good enough reason to keep it, but it’s better than nothing.

  24. jp Nov 8th 2012 at 08:20 pm 24

    I don’t think the Electoral College is necessarily bad; however, the “winner take all” method that has been adopted by most states *is* bad. What I’d like to see is that, in the Electoral College, each Congressional district would get one vote for the Elector that pairs with their Representative, and that the state’s two “senatorial” Electors are, perhaps, winner-take-all for the state.


  25. Lost in A**2 Nov 9th 2012 at 12:01 am 25

    CIDU Bill, the problem is not MY congress-critters; the problem is YOUR congress-critters. So if you would be kind enough to elect someone reasonable to replace your people, MY people would work with them to get the job done.

    (Why is my cheek sticking out so far?)

  26. Kilby Nov 9th 2012 at 12:06 am 26

    I agree with JP (@24) that “winner take all” is the primary problem. However, basing the electors on congressional districts would only intensify the issue of gerrymandered districts. I think a better way would be to award each state’s electors on a proportional basis, based on the vote percentages within the state. The method is already used by two states.

  27. James Pollock Nov 9th 2012 at 02:41 am 27

    Proportional allocation is better, but still not perfect. Take, for example, a state with three electors in play. The guy who gets 51% of the vote gets 67% of the electors… but so does the guy who gets 80% of the vote. In a state with an even number of electors, whether 4 or 40, the result of a close election is to split the electors… so no advantage to actually winning.

    What you really need is a system wherein the electors could select the person best able to actually do the job, rather than the person who ran the most attack ads. It’s elitist, of course, because the people are entitled to pick the Harvard-educated wealthy person of their choice. But if you insist on having a system where the citizens select the President, well, we’re stuck with who they picked. OK, the guy 50.1% of them picked, anyway.
    Good news for Republicans… although their best efforts to make President Obama a one-term President proved unsuccessful, I’m almost 100% certain they WILL be able to limit him to two.

  28. Winter Wallaby Nov 9th 2012 at 12:16 pm 28

    Kilby #26: The main problem with that solution is that no swing state would ever implement it unless they were stupid or shockingly altruistic.

  29. Kilby Nov 9th 2012 at 12:34 pm 29

    @ Winter Wallaby (28) - I think it’s even less likely that the entrenched states would vote for the change (@26). A relatively solid (60:40) state (no matter whether democratic or republican) would effectively be granting 40% of their electors to the “undesirable” side.

    The main problem I see in granting each elector on the basis of the vote in the respective district (@24) is that it would encourage the presidential tally to mirror the current state of affairs in Congress. This would increase the probability that two branches of government would be in the hands of one party. I dislike a dictatorship of the majority (no matter who is in power): one big problem in American politics is that the parties no longer feel the need to talk to each other. When the power base is split, they both have to come to the table.

  30. Winter Wallaby Nov 9th 2012 at 01:11 pm 30

    Kilby #29: Good point, perhaps I should have said that few if any states would implement it unless they were stupid or shockingly altruistic. (I’d be curious what induced the two proportional states to adopt their system.)

  31. Bob Nov 9th 2012 at 01:58 pm 31

    “When the power base is split, they both have to come to the table.”

    If only they would accomplish something instead of continually arguing about what shape the table should be.

  32. Boise Ed Nov 9th 2012 at 07:47 pm 32

    Winter Wallaby #28: California thought about it a few years ago, but the effort fell prey to what Kilby #29, paragraph 1, said. Kilby’s last sentence, though, is belied by the current teabagger upstarts. With them, it’s “our way or no way,” and Boehner has been forced to accommodate them.

    The good thing about a popular vote is that everyone’s vote actually counts, not just those in Ohio or Florida. Whether in Alabama or California, only the state and local races really matter, because your Presidential vote has no effect whatsoever.

  33. James Pollock Nov 9th 2012 at 07:52 pm 33

    The problem with handing control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency to one party is that that party is very likely to overreach, based on historical experience. If you win 49 states, you have a mandate. If you won 50%+1 of the popular vote, you don’t. If you lost the popular vote but won in the electoral college, you REALLY don’t. The problem with having one party in power and the other without is that the party in power will be tempted to use the power of government to preserve its own power (that’s how we get twisted districts in the first place.) Is that satisfactory when one party doesn’t want to play nice? Well… yeah.

  34. Elyrest Nov 9th 2012 at 11:30 pm 34

    ” your Presidential vote has no effect whatsoever.”

    That’s not true. Your presidential vote has an effect and matters wherever you vote. It only feels like it doesn’t matter because there are so many people either agreeing or disagreeing with you. My vote counted whether I voted in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, California, or Ohio - and I’ve voted in all these states.

  35. Kilby Nov 10th 2012 at 07:03 pm 35

    @ Elyrest (34) - Even though you defused the issue in another thread, that last clause about “all these states” reminded me of the time-honored campaign motto: “Vote early, and vote often.”

  36. guero Nov 10th 2012 at 07:39 pm 36

    I have no great love for the Electoral College, but it does have some good points. Say there is a 3% margin of error in counting votes (I don’t know if this is true or not - I have heard figures of 1% to 4%, but I think we can concede there is a margin of error), with national elections having a popular vote difference of less than 2% (2000, 2004 and apparently 2012) how legitimate is a count that falls within the margin or error? But a 332 to 206 Electoral vote at least has the appearance of a decisive win. I believe some studies were done of the 2000 and 2004 elections where electoral votes were divvied up proportionately, and the results did not change anything.

    The problem is that all electoral votes are not equal. States like Wyoming have one electoral vote for each 190k citizens, while California has 1 vote for each 685k. Why should a Wyoming voter have over 3 times the clout of a California voter (partisan political snark aside)? I personally think a lot of issues could be resolved by lifting the cap of 435 members in the House of Representatives. Instead, base the representative count purely on population - say one rep. per 250k population.

    There are other advantages to this system besides equalizing the population ratio to each House member. Representatives would answer to a smaller constituency (in most cases), and presumably be more responsive to local needs. Big money’s influence would be diluted, at least in theory. Most polls use around 1200 participants as a random sample providing a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. While the members of the House would hardly be random, they would be more representative of their constituency, so Congress would more likely reflect the opinions of the population in general (assuming you believe polls do that now).

    Okay, I’ve donned my asbestos suit - have at it. (And if you think this is crazy, wait’ll you hear my ideas about determining members of the House a la (grand) jury selection instead of elections.) ;-)

  37. Mark in Boston Nov 10th 2012 at 07:45 pm 37

    The last President to win 49 states was Richard Nixon, and we all know how that turned out.

    (Don’t blame me; I’m from Massachusetts.)

  38. James Pollock Nov 11th 2012 at 02:10 am 38

    (Psst, Mark… Reagan).

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