This is the day the Canvassing Board will announce their decision in the Minnesota senate race, and since he is ahead by 225 votes, that means Al Franken will be declared the victor.
Expect 5-alarm histrionics from the right wing, howls of outrage on talk radio, and the wing nut blogs to go ballistic. Also expect the Coleman campaign to charge the state supreme court and demand to be handed the office. It will be very entertaining. The freakout is only warming up.
Finally, a victor! So the Dems basically have a 59 – 41 advantage, not quite veto proof, but quite a mandate.
For a Monday, it’s a hell of a great day!
A win is still a win, and a loss still a loss, no matter how much the wingnuts howl. Three cheers for Al!
I totally support Franklin over Coleman (wished I lived in Minnesota to vote for him), but I would bet good money that if Coleman had won by the same number of votes that your quote would read like this (if you were so inclined to write it):
“Expect 5-alarm histrionics from the left wing, howls of outrage on the Daily Show and Colbert Report, and the liberal blogs to go ballistic. Also expect the Franken campaign to charge the state supreme court and demand to be handed the office.”
huh, hadn’t really expected him to win. I suppose I’m happy?
Not really sure how I should feel about Franken though to be honest. After all, he got an endorsement from our best friend Ben Stein. :P
I largely support the things he supports, though I vaguely recall him saying a few things in the past that made me go “wtf?” Haven’t been following him for years though so for all I know he’s completely changed.
PZ Myers says
Actually, we know from history what would happen if Coleman had won the recount. See Gore/Bush.
So… wait… I thought the “Al Franken Decade” had come and gone. Do I have to change all my calendars again?
And Kerry/Bush, just to a lesser extent.
Right now, Gore is reading news of Minnesota’s senatorial race and thinking “Oh, THAT’S what I did wrong.”
Matt Heath says
Did either of those shows ever do howls of outrage (excepting the mock-right-wing howls on Colbert)? Wouldn’t it be more like “a few sarcastic comments (at most) on the Daily Show and maybe some ironic approval by Colbert”?
Dave H says
I am going to have to watch The O’Reilly Factor tonight just to watch what Bill will say…
#1 Nick, You need 67 Senators to be veto proof. I think you mean filibuster proof.
And only 57 of those are actually Democrats. Bernie Sanders is an independent on the left, and Joe Leiberman is an independent on the right. But both of them tend to vote with the Democrats.
I’m looking forward to the debut senatorial speech. Freshly minted senators make a debut speech don’t they?
The Minnesota senate race recount was conducted as publicly and transparently as it is possible to imagine, including on-line display of each disputed ballot as the canvassing board made its decisions. One can quibble about details in some instances, but sensible people like the Pharyngula regulars would know that there is no legitimate basis to scream about “fraud”, “manufactured votes”, “double counting”, etc., etc. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who regards the world and reality to be a vicious left-wing plot trying to destroy America’s sacred right-wing heritage, then you hang out at Free Republic and scream hysterically. And don’t forget to post over and over again the photo of Franken from that comedy skit in which he wore a diaper, because doing that on television disqualifies one from public office (while doing it in private with a prostitute means it’s okay to be the Republican senator from Louisiana).
Check it out for yourself if you have a strong stomach and are in the mood for a bit of schadenfreude. [Free Republic Franken threads]
Cuttlefish, OM says
This season has been good for Al (and thus, for all the Earth);
His gift to Minnesota’s golden: Franken’s sense and mirth.
Pete Rooke says
With a margin that small could anyone be too aggrieved if Coleman did manage to successfully fight his case in the courts?
“I am going to have to watch The O’Reilly Factor tonight just to watch what Bill will say…”
Thanks for taking the bullet for the rest of us.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
If that margin is the actual margin, yes.
I seem to recall at least one time when Stewart was quite a bit more angry than just “snarky” and was clearly barely able to contain a true “howl of outrage”. Can’t remember the exact issue and it was relatively recent (age creeping up on me I guess).
Anyway, I doubt that Franken losing would produce much more than a snarky comment.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
The difference being that, in Gore v. Bush, the court stopped the recounts.
Nerd of Redhead says
Pete “well meaning fool” Rooke, still visiting what for you is a porn site I see. Time to show us some cojones and remove us from your bookmarks. Your imaginary god is watching you visit this porn site. TSK, TSK.
Another reason for unconfined joy: Robert “stinking pile of racist filth” Byers will be foaming at the mouth over this fresh evidence of the power of the Jewish Conspiracy!
My only direct exposure to Coleman was seeing George Galloway dismember him in debate at a Senate committee hearing on the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, and scatter the pieces to the four winds. Not that I’m a particular fan of “Gorgeous George”, whose head is so swollen it’s a wonder he can manoeuvre it through doors, but he does do a nice line in forensic argument combined with carefully-controlled but splenetic invective.
225 is well within the margin of error.
Your Mighty Overload says
Pete Rooke at 16 said;
Well, the voters might be a little annoyed, one might think.
You mean the margin of AWESOME.
I don’t care if the margin was thinner than H.W. Bush’s bush, it’s a great day for freedom when Norm Coleman is unemployed.
“Margin of error” is a concept that only applies to statistical samples, where you don’t actually count (or assess, or measure) the entire “population” of a given value, and so the statistic you produce is necessarily an estimate of the true value. In the case of elections, there is no margin of error, because you are counting all the ballots. (This does not mean that ballots cannot be challenged or that a voter’s intent may not be clear, but that it not an issue of “margin of error” in the technical statistical sense.)
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
@lukas #23: True, the margin of difference between the two is the same now as it was at the beginning of all this, it’s just swung the other way. All else being equal, I’ll take the results of a long, painstaking count over the initial, rushed count.
Yes Pete. I would be very aggrieved.
Emmet Caulfield, OM says
Thus spake KnockGoats:
Aha! I knew I recognised Norm Coleman from somewhere and that’s it! He was chairing the Senate committee that cross-examined Galloway. I remember watching it at the time. I’m never quite sure what to make of Galloway, but he took no shit from Coleman that day, and it was very entertaining indeed. Thanks for the reminder.
Zeno @14: “Check it out for yourself if you have a strong stomach and are in the mood for a bit of schadenfreude. [Free Republic Franken threads]”
I dunno, I kinda liked that link. Its fun to watch them whine and stomp their feet. Though the best part is the broiling hatred for the GOP that you hear there… what I hear is that the far right wing-nut contingent is being disaffected by and is disavowing the GOP. For example: “This is one of the many reasons I switched from being registered as GOP to being registered with no political party. I can’t be represented by a party that lacks the courage to fight.”
Yes! Those cowardly Republicans don’t represent your values, so you should vote for someone who does… like Ron Paul…. or maybe you could Ross Perot to run again! Or some other creepy elf-like dude from Texas with the initials RP.
Thanks, NickG. I admit to having spent some entertaining time perusing the exploding heads forums at Free Republic where (a) Obama’s election is the end of the universe (and he’s not eligible for office anyway), (b) the Minnesota recount is Satan’s plan to destroy any part of America not covered under (a), and (c) when is the prayed-for revolution coming? I hope that Free Republic is actually a good place for the brain-impaired wackos to let off steam and unwind. (I hope.)
The level of reasoning there is abysmal. These are the people who don’t understand that a correction in the hundreds place of a Franken vote tally can mean an increase in Franken’s total only, without affecting Coleman’s count. It’s clerical, not probabilistic, folks. But only seeing it in person can do it justice. Really.
Just saying, technically this is a draw, and has always been. Whether you like Franken or not, at this point it’s basically a coin toss plus a tug of war match. Not a pretty sight.
On the statistics side, the term “margin of error” is appropriate here. The sample size is close to 100% in this case, which is unusual, but the theory still applies.
SiMPel MYnd says
Jon was really upset at Sarah Palin and the Republicans for the whole “This is what Real America is…” thing. That and the Mumbai bombings. My favorite Jon “angry moment” was the Crossfire incident, but that was 2004.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
lukas if I sat 5000 apples in front of you, what would be the margin of error when counting them all?
lukas, if you have ever taken a stats course, perhaps you can get your money back. The sample size is the population size, and “the theory” does not apply at all.
On the plus side, you have given me an excellent example to use for my stats students this semester; I do thank you for that.
Just saying, technically this is a draw, and has always been. – lukas
Just saying, this is crap. What does “technically” mean? Not what you seem to think it does.
First off, I like Al Franken and what I’ve read of Coleman leads me to believe he’s a slime ball. I’m glad Franken is going to get the seat. However, all I had read for most of December said that Franken would probably win by a very, very small margin. I read anywhere from 5-50 votes. I admit I haven’t read the latest recount news since the holidays, so I’m playing catch up here but I’m surprised by the 225 figure. Is this based off of the lizard people/He-Man ballots? In which case, Coleman’s team will never shut the hell up. I just want to be certain that Coleman doesn’t have a stitch of rock to hold on to.
Dr Benway says
I can’t understand why Franken didn’t win by a landslide. Is half of MN on crack? The opportunity for entertainment like this comes along once in a lifetime. I’m firing up the popcorn maker now…
Incumbents are hard to beat.
@Anon #35: The sample size is not the population size (not even those that have turned out): some ballots have been declared void/invalid. So if you want to use the ballots as a sample to determine voter intent, you’ll never quite get to a 100% sample size: you’ll never know the intent of the voters whose ballots have been determined to be invalid.
Just can’t get excited over Franken. What am I missing other than he’s “not Coleman?”
Dr Benway says
Perhaps lukas is talking about inter rater reliability rather than sampling error.
Imagine 5000 apples which must be sorted into either “red” or “green” groups. Ten different people sort the apples and their counts are compared in order to establish the reliability or repeatability of the results.
Tulse @26, RevBigDumbChimp @34, Anon @35,
Even when you tally every ballot (or every apple), the “margin of error” concept applies when there is a non-zero chance of miscounting (and there is always a non-zero chance of miscounting). The margin of error is calculated using measurement error theory, not sampling theory (…but both calculations end up using normal approximations).
But in light of the legal wrangling about which ballots get to count, the whole concept of random errors is also inappropriate. It’s probably best to just go with the final vote tally because both sides are pulling just as hard as they possibly can on that number.
Even if margin of error does not apply in the strict statistical sense here, this whole counting process does have a degree of uncertanity to it. The only place you get to work with perfect numbers are in text books and in pure mathematics.
If you think you got a perfect count of 3M+ ballots now or ever, you’re kidding yourself. Add to this the inherently subjective standard of judging disputed ballots — what was the clear intent of some of these ballots anyhow? — and there will always be enough uncertainty to say that either side should win.
And yes, Minnesota I think did about as good a job of transperency, fairness, and so on as any state could. Stil, the process is not perfect, and never will be.
The election is decided by who received the most valid votes. Validity is determined by the election officials, whose decisions may be challenged in the courts. Ballots determined to be invalid do not count, and should not count.
@KnockGoats #45: I agree with you. With a result this close, however, no one can be sure that the result reflects actual voter preferences.
I seriously doubt the courts would give the election to Coleman after the U.S. Supreme Court intervention that paved the way for the Bush debacle. A look at the Coleman court campaign is revealing however.
1. He fought hard to keep wrongly disqualified absentee ballots from being counted. Why, because Democrats were encouraged to vote early or by absentee ballot so as to avoid election day shenanigans. The latter voting method is the only available choice of these two in MN. It was understood by everyone, and borne out by the count, that the majority of early/absentee votes would be democratic party votes. And it was by about 200 votes.
2. After Coleman lost this case, he has filled two more court protests, one to stop the count because it was not carried out with a ‘uniform procedure’ and a second to stop the count and create a state level procedure- how long would this take? Since representatives from each candidacy were present at all recounts and had to agree on every ballot, both these protests are frivolous.
2. Both campaigns had vote challenges. Coleman always made sure he had twice the number of challenged ballots as Franken. Stats is not a Coleman campaign strong point. The Franken challenges were honest protests and they counted out roughly 50/50 with +2 (I think) in favor of Franken. The Coleman challenges, and his campaign was under the misapprehension that more challenges meant more votes for their guy, fell out in favor of Franken as the Coleman campaign’s challenged ballots (sample population) were a biased cample and then Franken led by roughly 50 votes.
Colemans’ campaign of ‘fairness’ to voters is remarkably similar to creationist’s calls for ‘Academic freedom.’ The Framken campaign did not pay for this post and I am not a Minnesota resident.
Mark Smith says
A win is a win, and “more votes” is not an ambiguous concept. Point is that a narrow margin is still a margin of victory, as nearly as we tiny blobs of sentient meat can determine it.
A candidate who objects to the outcome based on a narrow narrow is demanding the chance to win by a similarly narrow margin. It isn’t as if a slim Franken win is going to turn into a Coleman landslide, whatever else happens.
I’m probably being boringly obvious to anyone who thinks about this stuff more than I do.
Franken won because he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, people like him!
@Zeno #14 – I don’t follow Minnesota politics and know too little about Coleman to support or oppose him, but I’d like to tip the hat to Minnesota, who have an extremely impressive recount process. Zeno is correct: there is little to challenge in court, because every ballot worthy of challenge has been discussed publically and is available for you to view if you have any doubts.
For weeks I’ve been reading about the system (much of that time while Coleman was still in the lead) and I was happy to say that I’d accept the outcome regardless of who came out ahead in the end, such was the clarity of the process. It’s obviously well thought out and perfectly detailed, to the extent that if the recount and challenges had resuled in a tie there would still have been a recourse (specifically, a coin toss).
Compare this to Florida and Ohio and I think anyone who values democracy more highly than their own favorite pary will agree: Minnesota should be put in charge of the entire country’s electoral system. The only remaining issue is a lingering cluster of ballots that could be challeneged in court, but given the transparency of the recount you can expect a lawsuit from Coleman only if the numbers make a challenge worthwhile.
I disagree. Try taking 3M+ pennies to a bank. They will count them, and ensure they have counted them perfectly, before they will credit your account with their value.
Banks and accountants count and add numbers all day long, every day of the year, with checks (e.g. double-entry bookkeeping) to make sure the numbers are correct, and audit trails so they can go back and double-check the results if anyone questions them later. And they get them exactly right with more than “6 nines” reliability.
Even with the financial mess that we’re in now, all the money (and its disappearance) will almost certainly be completely traceable eventually.
To claim that “adding up a few hundred thousand integer votes reliably in the real world is too hard” is demonstrably false.
 “6 nines” (99.9999%) is a number pulled out of my ass, but I’d be very suprised to learn that banks and/or accountants failed to add up correctly more than one time in a million. Reliable figures welcome, of course.
Coleman’s hopes lie in somehow convincing the courts that the vote counts were illegitimate and must be either overturned to give him the victory, re-counted again, or the election must be re-done.
The problem is that the transparency of the recount makes it unlikely that Coleman will be able to find offenses large enough to convince the court to invalidate the counts. He might be able to say, “Here are 20 votes that we think should’ve gone to us,” but the courts won’t agree that that’s grounds for overturning the election.
As I’ve read elsewhere, the real danger for Coleman is that a long, drawn-out legal battle is going to end with him losing anyway and tainting himself in future elections as “That dick who fucked up the last election then whined about it for months.” Not a good way to get into the governor’s mansion…
David Marjanović, OM says
Wrong. Invalid ballots were deliberately marked in an invalid way by people whose preferences can’t be shoehorned into any single one of the categories offered by the ballot.
At least if the voting was done in ink on paper. Of course, we’re talking about the USA here, the country where all manner of voting machines are used and regularly fail…
Unless the voting was done in ink on paper.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
Given Coleman’s record, that’s sufficient for me. Why would anybody be excited about voting for any politician? I just don’t get that. Maybe I’m too cynical.
Thanks for pointing that out, I knew there were only 57 dems with 2 independents, I just got my filibuster/veto numbers confused.
Peter Ashby says
Yes that was perhaps Georgeous George’s finest hour, for a start he had the balls to face up to them when he was under no stricture to attend. Then there was how he went about deflating those stuffed shirts so full of their self importance.
I very much doubt I will ever vote for his crowd, but it is good that that constituency has a voice. Now all we need is a decent PR voting system for Westminster elections, well overdue.
If only. Ballots get declared invalid for all kinds of reasons… have you ever counted ballots? In some cases it’s reasonably clear what the voter’s intent was, yet the ballot is declared invalid because of a technicality. It’s a fine line: What about this one, for example? Most probably not deliberately invalid, but can you determine the voter’s intent based on it?
Unless the voting was done in ink on paper.
As I understand it, it was. Minn uses paper “fill in the circle” ballots. The description of the review process was looking at ballots and deciding whether a dot in one circle meant anything compared to a completely filled circle for the other candidate. Or a filled circle with an “X” over it with a filled circle (and no “X”) for the other candidate.
Given Coleman’s record, that’s sufficient for me.
OK. But, well, that’s generally the case in modern elections. People vote against someone.
Why would anybody be excited about voting for any politician? I just don’t get that. Maybe I’m too cynical.
It’s impossible to be too cynical.
I can understand a “Yay, Coleman lost”, but some of the “OH BOY! SEANTOR FRANKEN! OH! OH! OH! I’M COMING!” reactions have me backing away slowly, and looking for a rock or a good solid club.
I’d say that ballot is a pretty clear franken ballot, actually. the holes seemed to be consistantly filled above the desired dot–even if the voter seems….a bit fuzzy on what “write in canidate” means.
…i’d also say that the voter needs to have his eyes (or his brain) checked. the marks were so consistantly off i’d be worried about damage in either the optical or neurological systems.
Janine, Vile Bitch says
Sooner or later, you’ll be communists.
(Old SNL joke. Almost as old as ‘Jane, you ignorant slut.’)
Cliff Hendroval says
Dr Benway writes:
There was a third-party candidate, Dean Barkley of the Independence Party, who took about 15% of the votes. Had he not been in the races, a majority of those votes probably would have gone to Franken.
Naked Bunny with a Whip says
Franken has always been a “meh” comedian in my book, but a lot of his humor is self-deprecating, and I do appreciate a guy who can take himself a little less seriously than most politicians do.
lukas seems to be confusing election day with Groundhog day.
There is little, if any, doubt that Franken won this trial. He won a clear plurality of the valid ballots cast in that trial, and that is the only trial that matters.
#57. I would say that that ballot you linked shows clear intent for most of the races. The voter appears to mark above and to the left of their choice. As I can see on several items where they have voted just above and slightly overlapping the top entry in a column. I also see no cases where the voter marked below and slightly overlapping an entry. So for this person I would count that as an overvote for president, as s/he appears to have chosen both Obama and McKinney, but a clear vote for Franken.
No, it doesn’t. There is no sample. They counted the entire population (of votes they called valid).
“I disagree. Try taking 3M+ pennies to a bank. They will count them, and ensure they have counted them perfectly, before they will credit your account with their value.”
Close. But with any mechanical process, there is always some margin for error in the process. For banking it is very, very low albeit.
Also, in your case we have perfect or damn near perfect units. A penny is a penny in a penny. Even then you have the rare question of whether an excesivly worn or damaged penny is still valid currency.
As has been mentioned previously in this thread, what is a ballot? What is a vote? When is the intent clear? This adds a degree of uncertainity to the process that will never be perfectly answered. Also one election judge kept some ballots unsecured in her car for over 24 hours. Should these votes be counted or not? Put these questions together and you get uncertain numbers.
Also given that we have a hand recount going on, people will make mistakes. That, and how well mainted are the optical scanners adds another wrinkle to the mix.
Too. Much. Excitement at Franken’s win. I have been on pins and needles this whole time, and I don’t even live there!
Careful, Janine. You don’t want to summon Brenda von Hysteria, now do you?
Janine, Vile Bitch says
Watchman, I would love if she came back. That was pure entertainment.
It’s not a “margin of error,” you are talking about an “uncertainty in the measurement”. These are not the same thing.
Matt Heath says
I used to take pennies to pay into my building society account when I was a kid. They would only take them bagged up in bags of a pound which they verified by weight. Presumably they allowed some tolerance on the weight for ordinary dirt or wear.
Michael Hawkins says
Now if only Rick Warren could go away.
Bob of QF says
That’s just fantastic!
I rather considered Frankin to be a sort of joke candidate, to lampoon the right.
That he actually won? That is just fantastic.
I totally enjoyed reading Lying Liars and The Truth, with Jokes
While I’m happy that Franken won the election, I would prefer that anything less than a victory by one percentage point be considered a tie and the election redone. There are many non-voters out there, who might be motivated to vote in the face of a near tie. The result could change considerably.
This is priceless.
I fail to see the logic of your proposal. It’s not going to do away with the need for recounts – they will just shift to the cases where the margin is just about exactly 1%.
While it might bring out some extra voters:
1) If they are too unconcerned or lazy to vote the first time, why do they deserve to have their opinions taken into account?
2) Some of those who voted the first time may not vote the second.
3) What if the margin is still less than 1%?
Too. Much. Excitement at Franken’s win. I have been on pins and needles this whole time, and I don’t even live there!
Yeah, but… why… where… but… pffff…
(QD clicks away to Cute Overload)
papa zita says
John, fortunately you don’t make the rules. If a candidate wins by one vote, he wins. That’s as it should be, otherwise the bromide “every vote counts” means nothing. They have runoffs in some elections if a candidate doesn’t get 50% of the vote, but not in a general election for U.S. Senator.
Nerd of Redhead says
Since there was a third candidate, it would have been nice if the ballot allowed for Instant Runoff Voting, where without someone getting >50% of the votes on the original ballot, the third candidate is eliminated, and his/her second round votes (if present) are added to the two remaining candidates. If a majority of Barkley’s original votes had Franken as their second preference, Franken would have received sufficient votes to preclude the need for a recount.
Naked Bunny with a Whip @ 54: “Why would anybody be excited about voting for any politician? I just don’t get that. Maybe I’m too cynical.”
I was very excited to vote for Obama, and not just because he’s the first ever African American president. While I disagree with some of his methods and see that they are politically motivated (and due to the fact that the people of the US may not be ready for true single payer) I do believe he ultimately truly wants universal health insurance and sees it as a social justice issue. He’s also POTUS at a time when most Americans want some sort of guaranteed universal access. Within a year I might never again have to see a sick kid who would have been fine but for access to a pediatrician two days prior. Within two I might never have to have a conversation with an uninsured person with acute appendicitis that they will die without the surgery they need which will financially ruin them. Its the perfect storm and enough to make me wet myself.
Just that made me excited to vote for a candidate for the first time in over a decade.
Bill Dauphin says
Quiet Desperation (@41):
If all you know about Franken is his SNL career, movies like Trading Places, and the titles of his political books, it’s easy to write him off as a wise-ass dilettante… but if you’ve actually read his political books or listened to his Air America show (i.e., effectively his entire body of work in the years since he turn his main attention from show business to politics), you get an entirely different picture: He’s a guy who’s genuinely committed to progressive issues, and whose approach to same is tirelessly well studied and evidence based. He’s a guy who gets the facts, and who is willing to actually alter his position when the facts he gets points that way. During his career as a political radio host, he actually listened to the people whom he interviewed, and engaged meaningfully with their ideas, as opposed to treating them as either yes-persons or targets-for-screaming (as his counterparts on the right are wont to do).
Not quite the raving Nooo Yawk hippie-commie-pervert libruhl his rabid wingnut critics portray him as, he is nevertheless a solid progressive, good on unions, gay rights, women’s issues, reality-based education (and separation of church and state generally), government regulation of “the markets,” and most of the other issues we hold dear. Some on the left are suspicious of his early (and extremely brief) support for the Iraq war, but he has been very open about why he made his early comments (which he now considers it to have been a terrible mistake) and how his position has evolved. For most of his tenure on Air America, nobody in the country was giving war critics a bigger soapbox than Al Franken.
He’s also possessed of great generosity of spirit: Yes, he’s spent much of his life as a satirist, and that naturally leads him to a certain mocking style of humor… but if you pay attention (always a wise choice!), you’ll notice that the mocking is far gentler and more good-natured than you might guess (and he’s as quick to mock himself as others), and underneath it all is a deep humanity that I find very appealing.
Oh, BTW, though he was born in New York, and his performing career took him back there (AFAIK he’s never lived in Hollywood for any extended period of time), he was raised in Minnesota and has deep roots in the state: He’s far from the seat-shopping carpetbagger that his opponents have made him out to be.
In short, with everything I know about him (including having listened to nearly every hour of his radio show and having read all of his books), Al Franken is someone I’d be proud to have as a friend or, if I were a Minnesotan, as my senator.
Pardon me, but that’s bullshit. Who are these orgasmic people? This is one of those emotional strawman arguments, along the lines of whining about all those (nonexistent, as far as I can see) people who think Obama’s the messiah. It’s trivially easy to criticize people for hyperbole when you’re the one putting the hyperbole in their mouths.
Oh, but perhaps, given my comments above, you would place me among the people who should be rummaging around in their underwear drawers for a clean pair of shorts. But look again: I said, based on a significant amount of observation, that Franken seems to be a person of exceptional quality and one with whom I agree on most issues. How is it orgasmic hyperbole — or, for that matter, in any way irrational — for me to cheer when someone like that gets into government?
(Not for nothin’, but what’s so wrong with COMING! anyway? Are you Walton all the sudden?)
All that said…
Word up! I don’t see this as a lesser-of-evils result by any stretch of the imagination, but if it were, Coleman is a sufficiently massive douchebag to make it worth cheering (perhaps even orgasmically) nonetheless.
Karellen (@51… and elsewhere?):
Cool nick… takes me back to a book I once read, back at my childhood’s end.
FWIW, the last time I took rolled coins to a bank (not 3 million pennies!), they actually broke open the rolls and fed the coins through a counter… and then admonished me not to roll them next time (which leaves me with a stock of utterly useless coin rolls… but I digress). I can’t say for sure how accurate those machines are, but apparently technology has advanced beyond the old count-by-weighing method of verifying coin deposits.
Dial phones, 8-track tapes, and now coin rolls… what’s next to go?
MN law does not allow for a runoff election, in the case of a tie vote, there is a coin-flip by the governor!
Not quite the raving Nooo Yawk hippie-commie-pervert libruhl his rabid wingnut critics portray him – Bill Dauphin
And there was me, all ready to get enthusiastic about his election! *Sigh*
Rey Fox says
“Right now, Gore is reading news of Minnesota’s senatorial race and thinking “Oh, THAT’S what I did wrong.””
What Gore did wrong was not having allies in the Florida governor’s office, the secretary of state office, and a majority in the Supreme Court.
Doesn’t matter if the Dems are filibusterproof or not.
So far they’ve done nothing but exclaim “Aw, shucks!” and then roll over to get bellyrubbings from the Publans. Have you seen any filibustering? Nope – the Pubs say “We filibust” and the Dems just go “Oh … Okay”.
Wimps. Fuckin’ wimps!
No run offs for Senators? Ahem, we just had one in Georgia.
State Law determines how a Senator is chosen. Not national. A state could choose to select their Senator with a pie eating contest, or let a proven corrupt Governor choose one of his or her buddies.
Franken could take Coleman in a pie eating contest, or just about any kind of contest except maybe “whitest teeth”
Bill Dauphin says
papa zita (@79):
Actually, this varies from state to state: Most states do not require runoffs in senate races, but some do. For example, Georgia just returned the execrable Saxby Chambliss to the Senate in a runoff after neither he nor his Democratic opponent got 50%+1 votes. (Coleman almost looks like a good guy by comparison, but Chambliss was up against a far less fascinating opponent, and in any case, it’s fuckin’ Georgia.)
Similarly, most states fill Senate vacancies by gubernatorial appointment, but that’s not mandatory (and in the wake of the Blago scandal, many states are considering special elections instead). Personally, I think it’s just a little bit crazy that we have a patchwork of differing state laws governing election to federal offices, but that’s just me.
The thing about runoffs is that they don’t replicate the conditions of the original election, for a variety of reasons. It’s hard to get people to pay any attention to them, for one thing: The engaged, politically active people are suffering from election fatigue and the apathetic ones are still apathetic… meaning that runoffs are more likely to be determined by relatively small numbers of passionate advocates… probably less representative of the general public than the group that showed up on the original election day. In the current case, runoffs would have almost universally favored Republicans (as the Georgia runoff did), because it would’ve been nearly impossible to replicate Election Day’s Obama coattails. In other cycles, the advantage might go the other way, but in most runoffs you won’t see the same distribution as you would have if there’d only been two candidates on Election Day.
That would fix the not-Election-Day problem I describe above, and would help avoid the Nader2000 effect, and might have helped elect Franken without all this tsuris (though I’ve heard divergent opinions about how the Barkley vote would’ve broken)… but it’s no guarrantee against runoffs: I don’t see why the final one-on-one tally arrived at after an instant runoff would be any less likely to be a dead heat than the initial head-to-head vote. In fact, it’s just as likely that an instant runoff would make the final tally closer (i.e., suppose the Barkley voters’ second-choice votes had broken for Franken… but by exactly 215 votes).
Regardless of how we count the votes, there will always be the chance of a “photo finish”; I think Minnesota has done an awesome job of carrying out this recount in a robust, transparent, accountable way.
I heard somewhere that a simple majority in the Senate could change the filibustering rules – back to what they used to be – so that the filibusterers [?] would have to actually stay in the chamber, pissing where they sat, to keep the filibuster going. Anyone know if this is true?
I don’t see why the final one-on-one tally arrived at after an instant runoff would be any less likely to be a dead heat than the initial head-to-head vote. – Bill Dauphin
There are ways of ensuring that it would make runoffs far less likely in any election with more than 2 candidates. For example, if using the Alternative Vote system (where voters rank as many candidates as they wish, the lowest-scoring candidate(s) are eliminated and their votes redistributed until you have a 50%+1 winner), you can say that if you end up with a dead heat, the one who was ahead at the earliest stage wins, so the two would have had to be tied at every stage for the election itself to be tied. This method is used in Irish Presidential elections. However, ties can easily happen at the bottom of the poll in the first round (and less easily in subsequent pre-final rounds); there are various ways to deal with this – best might be to look at how many second, third… preference votes the tied candidates got, but I don’t know if this is used anywhere.
Give it a little more thought, John. Your proposal is not a remedy. It merely moves the goalposts slightly without changing the nature of the game. If the leading candidate were ahead of the trailing candidate by 0.99% of the vote, there would need to be a recount (with lawyers lining up on both sides) to ensure that it wasn’t actually a 1.01% outright victory, obviating the need for a costly runoff. (And what if they tie again?) Draw the line wherever you want, but there will always be boundary issues in close counts. You can’t avoid it, so suck it up and create a transparent system for carefully conducted public recounts.
I hope he shaves his head, puts on the robes and takes his oath of office as a Hare Krishna devotee.
I would find it more fitting than Rick Warren’s invocation for Obama.
I’ve been practicing saying it for weeks now, “Senator Al Franken! . . . SENATOR! Al Franken”
David Marjanović, OM says
– It’s unfortunate that the image is black & white. Saving it in grayscale might have made it possible to see if, for example, the vote for McKinney/Clemente for Prez/VP was stricken through.
– It is very strange that almost all marks on both sides of the ballot are a bit above an oval. How is this at all possible? Did the voter use a template that lay above the ballot and had slipped?!?
– Because of this latter fact, it appears that the mark for senator was intended for Franken and slipped upwards — even though I’d have liked to see a grayscale photo that might have told if the extension of that blob that reaches down into the Franken oval was a slippage of the pen or deliberate.
I suppose that’s why we don’t use optical scanners here — we make crosses instead of filling anything in. Sorry for moving the goalposts; by “in ink on paper” I actually meant… :-]
I’d say it’s a mistake: the voter put the pen to the paper, immediately noticed the mistake, and filled in the circle for the intended candidate.
Same: one circle was erroneously filled in, then crossed out, and then the other circle was filled in. Of course the scanner isn’t going to understand that, but the intent is still clear enough.
Well, I don’t know what the law of Minnesota says, but what should be done is dead fucking obvious: the ballots should not be counted, the election should be fucking repeated in whatever precinct/district/whatever the ballots come from, and that election judge should be fucking flogged in public. But most US states, and the laws for federal elections, seem to have a bizarre horror of ever repeating an election.
Have enough people counting the ballots, and observers from all* parties watching, and there won’t be any mistakes. Here‘s how it works in Italy, for example.
* Not “both”. All.
That’s what I’m saying.
Bill Dauphin says
Really? Even if that means that the original (albeit not originally considered decisive) result overturns the final (presumably more decisive) result? Remember that by “tie” we don’t really mean precisely equal numbers of votes, but instead a margin that’s within some arbitrary but extremely small percentage of the total votes cast (e.g., 215 votes out of [IIRC] ~3 million, in the Franken-Coleman case), and thus could potentially be accounted for by errors in counting.
In the current case, Franken’s final(?) margin of 255 votes is no larger, in statistical terms, than Coleman’s initial Election Day margin of 215… but because it’s the result of a careful, transparent hand review of the ballots, it is presumably more accurate, and takes precedence over the initial result. If, OTOH, Franken’s -215 to +255 swing had been the result of an instant runoff/Alternative Vote calculation rather than a recount, applying your rule would give Coleman the election (because of his initial lead) despite Franken’s final total being higher. Does that really strike you as more democratic than what’s been happening in Minnesota?
Unless by “tie” you mean an exact numerical tie, this doesn’t seem unlikely. In a close election (say, 46%-47%) between two evenly matched major party candidates with a multiple very minor candidates on both ends of the spectrum, an election could easily swing back and forth several times, without the margin ever exceeding the statistical standard for a virtual tie, as you worked down through second, third, and fourth choices. If you let the original plurality override a final result that, though a majority, might be just as close or even closer, what have you gained?
Since the point of a recount is not to resolve “ties,” but to check the accuracy of the original count, Alternative Voting as you’ve described doesn’t take the place of a recount: Unless you physically recount the ballots at each stage, the final result of an Alternative Voting election, no matter how many iterations it takes to arrive at, is still based on the original (and possibly flawed) dataset.
In all these discussions, people have tended to mix up recounts and runoffs, despite the fact that they serve two distinct goals: Recounts are intended to identify and correct errors in counting, when the race is close enough that such errors might change the outcome; runoffs (whether instant or otherwise) are intended to eliminate races won by plurality. Two different problems; two different (and noninterchangeable) solutions.
Personally, I don’t find plurality results all that problematic, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t support some sort of instant runoff voting: While pluralities don’t bug me, spoilers (e.g., Nader 2000) do, and instant runoffs would help avoid that effect by allowing people to “vote their conscience” without actually trashing the election. But every instant runoff scheme I’ve heard of still boils down, at the end, to a contest between two candidates… and there’s no saying that contest won’t be a statistical tie in any given case. So we’ll still need procedures for recounts and challenges.
BTW, having done a little bit of voter education, voter registration, and GOTV work, I despair a bit at the prospect of actually getting people to list two or more candidates in a preferential ranking: It’s hard enough to get people to vote for one candidate. Yes, I know other countries manage to make it work… but I’m damned if I understand how. I don’t think Americans are really that much stupider, as individuals, than the rest of the world, but…. [sigh]
I love it because just the mention of the name Senator Franken drives the wingnuts like O’Reilly and Coulter absolutely crazy.
Bill Dauphin@82: Exactly on all counts.
David Marjanović, OM says
Regarding the term “special election”, I’ve never understood why all elections of a two-year period are crammed into a single day in the USA. Must have seemed very convenient at the beginning of the 19th century.
Nope. It’s you and probably every non-US citizen who knows that any country has such laws.
Nice local tv interview of Al in SNL days here.
In the beginning, I never thought this would actually be the result. I was optimistic for a bit, then I was pretty pessimistic.
BTW word is that Colman is going to be challenging this ruling. ODD seems to me just a couple months back when he was slightly ahead he was encouraging Franken to concede because a recount would be too expensive, even though the recount was so close it was considered an auto recount. Funny thing about that is everyone who wasn’t defending Colman tooth and nail were saying that if the tables were switched, Colman wouldn’t concede either.
Anyways Great news!
If you want to hear Norm Coleman being taken apart by George Galloway, the (rather long) url is here:
Political theatre at its best. Coleman was a bit rubbish in his questioning it must be said. I believe the phrase is “attack mouse”.
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Really? Even if that means that the original (albeit not originally considered decisive) result overturns the final (presumably more decisive) result? – Bill Dauphin
No, you’ve misunderstood me. The earlier totals are taken into account only if there is an exact numerical tie at the final stage. Maybe I misunderstood you, since it was an exact numerical tie I understood you to be talking about. Very rarely happens, of course, in elections with a lot of voters. I’m not sure why Americans seem to have such trouble counting votes accurately.
And Al’s statement from today.
Nerd of Redhead says
The election laws in the US are real dated, and a lot go back to the concept of rural America. Where I live we have a city election coming up (primary, then general) shortly so the local affairs don’t get caught up in national trends. It also helps the incumbents due to lower turnout.
A cautionary note on human fallibility: Tens of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of words have been written decrying ostensibly absurd decisions by the bipartisan Minnesota canvassing board in allocating disputed ballots to one candidate or the other (or neither), but not always about real situations. The Star Tribune got a data entry wrong last month and displayed a contrary result for a particular ballot, creating a little firestorm of protest over the board’s obviously incorrect “anti-Coleman” decision. The great “researcher” John Lott wrote an angry article for FoxNews about the blatant “fraud” (and then quietly revised his article after the Star Tribune made a correction — but left in the “fraud” claim).
So be very careful in second-guessing supposed ballot decisions. You might not be seeing the actual ballot that the canvassing board saw, you might not be seeing the actual decision the board made, and you’re certainly not seeing the ballot in physical reality — just an image. Be careful! (Unlike John Lott and his ilk.)
Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com had the full story, of course.
Bill Dauphin says
Hence my clarification…
…which I reiterated in other words several times in the course of my post. In an election of any significant size, I don’t consider a precise numerical tie likely enough to really worry about. Virtual ties — within the automatic-recount threshold — OTOH happen fairly frequently. Your clarification does eliminate the most ludicrous implication of the system you propose… but I still don’t see why you’d ever go back to the initial tally after once concluding it was not decisive. Further, an actual tie after a single physical count (even in an instant runoff system) ought to trigger a physical recount for exactly the same reason a virtual tie does: To find and correct any errors in the original count.
Oh, nice. You know, I try to be honest about my country’s flaws (and FSM knows, there are plenty of them) and generous in evaluating other country’s idiosyncracies; I don’t know why so many people here seem to think it’s open season to crap on the U.S. over every little thing.
It’s not that Americans are uniquely incompetent to count stuff; it’s that any human system for counting millions of things in any reasonable amount of time is subject to some nonzero number of errors. Anybody who tells you that their system can guarantee zero error in the counting of millions of votes is either deliberately lying or fatally infected with hubris.
The important thing is not to pretend (arrogantly) that your system is immune to error, but rather to have a robust and transparent system in place to reduce the effect of error as far as humanly possible. If you think your people, or some other nation’s, are uniquely better able to do that simply because they’re not American, you can just bite me.
In fact, I think the Minnesota recount is a shining example not of what’s wrong with U.S. elections, but of what’s right. Sorry it’s taken so long; as with instant replay in sports, it’s more important to get the call right than to provide the spectators with instant gratification.
Posted by: David Marjanović, OM | January 5, 2009 5:42 PM
” ‘Personally, I think it’s just a little bit crazy that we have a patchwork of differing state laws governing election to federal offices, but that’s just me.’
Nope. It’s you and probably every non-US citizen who knows that any country has such laws.”
Although it’s easy to dismiss as US idiocy it’s actually far more complicated then that and its roots go back to to the original colonies who had to agree to federalize. The smaller colonies were concerned that the larger ones would control the agenda with impunity and the issue of independent states rights was the one of the foremost issues to overcome in order for the union to be ratified. That is why each state has 2 senators even though it has nothing to do with population. California and New York are greatly underrepresented in the senate and that less populous states which are often more conservative have far more power than their numbers present.
Another result is that the federal government would not have power over an individual state’s method of choosing it’s representatives. This was enshrined in the Constitution to guaranty that it could not be oveturned unless all states agreed. To this day all states have to agree for any constitutional change to occurr.
This is why rightwingnuts are always claiming that federal power should be reduced to virtually nothing except self-defense and all laws should be state laws and not federal laws. They believe if a state wants to execute homosexuals or imprison married couples for a little 69 action they should be able to and have applied the same “logic” to slavery, segregation, taxes, abortion, etc.
In any event, it would take all 50 states to agree to amend the Constitution to federalize voting procedures and that just isn’t ever going to happen.
Sorry to have offended your patriotism – a mere throwaway remark, but you do seem to have these prolonged squabbles over exactly which votes should count more than most countries. You’re not usually so touchy – and the US has had plenty of (well-deserved) praise from around the world in the last couple of months, for electing Obama by a clear majority, and so comprehensively “throwing the rascals out”.
The reason for “going back to the initial tally” is simple – and to do with pluralities, not recounts. Let’s say there are three candidates, for simplicity. Looking at first preferences, A gets more than B, who gets more than C. C is eliminated, and their second preference votes given to A and B. If either candidate then ends up with even 1 more vote than the other, they are elected. If they end up with exactly the same number, it makes sense to give the election to A – rather than tossing a coin or having a rerun – because A got more first preference votes.
Incidentally, I’m not endorsing AV: different systems have their pluses and minuses, and AV’s minus, IMO, is that it pushes candidates to be as bland as possible: a runoff between the top two if no-one gets 50%+1 does this less, but obviously is more expensive and retains, although in less drastic form than the “first-past-the-post”, the problem of “spoilers”.
anyone who would vote this worthless scrap of flesh into office has a screw lose.
What’s the matter stan? Impending reality got you down? Poor baby.
KnockGoats @ 22 wrote:
“Another reason for unconfined joy: Robert “stinking pile of racist filth” Byers will be foaming at the mouth over this fresh evidence of the power of the Jewish Conspiracy!”
Actually, both Norm and Al are Jewish–and Norm didn’t make the mistake made in a earlier Minnesota election of accusing his opponent of being “not Jewish enough”! (Sen. Rudy Boschwitz tried that on Paul Wellstone the first time they ran against each other-it’s considered a major factor in putting Wellstone over the top in the 1990 election.)
Of course, that might not stop Byers–but it will make him look even stupider…
stan man says
uh, well, considering this know-nothing 2nd-class actor gets voted into the U.S. Senate without even a shred of qualification, yea.
Nerd of Redhead says
Anyone who would vote Coleman in has several screws missing, not just loose.
anyone who would vote this worthless scrap of flesh into office has a screw lose. – stan
No need to put yourself down stan! I’m sure you’re not fit for elected office, but referring to yourself as a “worthless scrap of flesh” isn’t healthy. Get yourself into therapy, I’d advise – you can be helped with those self-esteem issues!
Thanks, I wasn’t aware Coleman was Jewish. Byers was certainly whining about Franken’s Jewishness on a previous thread – I wonder if he realises about Coleman. Whether or not, he’d still interpret events as part of teh Conspiracy!
I see poor depressed “stan” had to let us know he was a “man” in his followup.
Apart from a couple of small details concerning age and residency, the only serious “qualification” for elected office is getting more votes than whoever came in second. I would be more impressed by the anti-Franken arguments of the conservatives (who apparently don’t even recognize how long he’s been a political pundit and author) if conservatives hadn’t lined up behind Ronald Reagan when most of his record consisted of reels of celluloid, George Murphy when the biggest entry in his vita was still song-and-dance man, and Sam Hayakawa when his claim to fame was a tam o’shanter and a dyspeptic tenure as a college administrator. Murphy and Hayakawa were one-term senators from California, mercifully (and Sam slept through most of his), but we never learned our lesson with Reagan.
And I must mention Schwarzenegger, too, the great non-political messiah from the GOP who was going to save the state from the budgetary excesses of the evil Gray Davis?
This is our political history in California, so I hope no one in this state thinks we should lecture Minnesotans about their “unqualified” new senator. Ha!
I’m wondering what role Blotto Branken played in all this…
Bill Dauphin says
But I’m not patriotic… at least not in the typical flag-waving nationalistic sense that word usually conjures. I’ve spent the last eight years being mostly ashamed of my country; I’m not going to start pretending it’s perfect now. In this case, though, what you see as a…
…I see as a bunch of diligent, committed people working very hard to make sure they count as many votes as humanly possible, and do so as accurately as humanly possible. To me, it looks like an occasion for celebration, instead of snark.
Now, if you want to have a serious, substantive argument on that point, that’s fine with me… but…
…to the effect that Americans don’t seem to be able to count quite as well as the other kids in the kindergarten sounds to me rather more like prejudice than like a proper argument [cue Monty Python].
As to whether we have these problems more often than other countries, I’m not so sure. The “problem” in this case is nothing more than a razor-thin election, and any election (or any sort of contest) can turn into a photo finish, no matter what systems you have in place; that’s no uniquely American failing. The reason it appears to be a “prolonged squabble” is that the solution is being worked out with both great care and great transparency… IMHO that’s a Feature, Not A Bug™ in any democracy worthy of the name. Do other democracies really never have close races or recounts? Do they really never have instances of machine or human error in counting the votes? Or do we just not hear quite so much about it when they do?
Yeah, well think of it in family terms: Suppose you had a brother who was, to your certain knowledge, a totally worthless lying sack of shit. Even so, you might eventually get tired of hearing everyone else in the world call him a lying sack of shit, every single day. Further, if just once in his misbegotten life said brother actually did something good, and people continued to dump on him anyway, you just might be tempted to stand up on your hind feet and defend him. Jus’ sayin’….
As to the specifics of AV…
It’s not that I don’t understand how the system works… but even after the AV reallocation, your final result is still based on a single count (presumably by machine) of the ballots. Unless you’re 100% sure that count was 100% accurate, a 1 vote margin (or any virtual tie) still demands a recount. And since I don’t believe any system of counting a sizable number of votes (say, 5-digit totals or more) from multiple polling places can be that perfect, AV would still not fix the “problem” everyone seems to see in Minnesota: A close final result after the first physical count, whether in an AV election or a “straight” contest, will always demand a hand recount, with all the “sausage making” that entails.
As for using the initial, unallocated tally as a tiebreaker, it seems to me that reverting to that count at any point, for any reason, throws out all the supposed advantages that lead you to AV in the first place: If the initial tally had been the “right” result, you wouldn’t have gone through the allocation cycles in the first place… so how can it become the “right” result after the fact? It seems to me that if an instant runoff doesn’t produce a clear winner, the only recourse is to a recount, and then to a “real” runoff. Of course, the question is moot, because an actual numerical tie is so vanishingly unlikely.
Actually, that’s not true – just 3/4’s of the states would be required.
The procedure to amend the constitution is a little less absolute than requiring unanimous agreement and a little more complex than just requiring the states to agree.(there are two ways to propose an amendment and two ways that they may be ratified – see details here) The details of how exactly each amendment was made is fascinating…
Of course I am assuming that you haven’t already amended the constitution to alter the amendment process. Yes, that’s right, even the amendment process could be amended.
Pardon me, but that’s bullshit. Who are these orgasmic people?
It was an obvious exaggeration, Bill. Don’t be so sensitive. I asked a simple question and you answered it. Done.
Thank you Mr. Jefferson. I stand humbly corrected. Because I was aware that many major amendments had been finally ratified by all 50 states years after they were proposed, I jumped to a conclusion without doing my homework.
AV wasn’t offered as a fix for recounts, but for multi-candidate elections where no candidate gets an overall majority. I can’t be bothered to go through the rationale for counting earlier totals in the case of a tie again.
Recounts? Sure, we get them in the UK. Can’t think it’s ever taken more than a few days, even when there are multiple recounts. Admittedly, this is tens of thousands of votes not a couple of million, but hell, get more people in – what’s democratic about leaving the electorate unrepresented? Another problem may be the complexity of the ballot paper or voting form due to multiple simultaneous contests, increasing the chances of unclear voting intentions. We had a serious cock-up in Scotland in the last lot of elections for these reasons. It would make sense to:
(a) Agree a national method and set up a national electoral commission, stop farming this out to state (or even county?) level;
(b) Separate the important elections from those for chief state dog-catcher etc., to keep the ballot paper or electronic form simple for the former.
(c) Minimise postal/absentee voting, which is a thoroughly bad idea except for those who really cannot make it to the polling station. sounded like it was some of these votes getting mislaid that caused a lot of the trouble.
(d) Make sure there are enough polling stations everywhere, so people are not knackered and/or rushed when they get to vote.
Bill Dauphin says
Jebus, I said “pardon me,” didn’t I? ;^)
Seriously, with the wild, profane (not that that’s a bad thing), hair-on-fire screaming that goes on sometimes around here, I think it’s hilarious that I’m getting tagged as oversensitive because I politely called bullshit on something.
Also seriously, I understood that you were exaggerating… but it’s a particular type of exaggeration that I’ve noticed becoming something of a trend, as what I think of as a special type of strawman argument: Exaggerate your rhetorical opponent’s emotional response to his own argument, then use that supposed exaggerated emotion to discredit your opponent’s position as irrational. We’ve seen this same trope employed as a tactic against Obama supporters, first by Clinton partisans during the primary season, and then by right-wing blowhards during the general election.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting you’re an egregious offender, but the trend itself is egregious (and when the Good Guys start casually falling into the Bad Guys’ habits, somebody has to speak up). Particularly pernicious is the implicit suggestion that any actual passion for the ideas and candidates one supports somehow renders one’s support irrational and illegitimate. This tends to discredit committed activists, and leaves the field open for cynical opportunists.
Right, I get it. I always got it. But what appears so messy to people about the current process in Minnesota (i.e., what this conversation is about) has nothing to do with getting to a majority. Minnesota law — like most U.S. states’ laws — doesn’t require a majority to declare a winner. (Personally, as I’ve said, I’m fine with that… but that’s a separate conversation.)
Thus, when you brought up AV as a way of getting to a majority, I said, in other words, “that’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t solve this ‘problem’.” Since you seem to agree that it doesn’t solve this problem (see quoted text above), I’m not sure why we’re still arguing.
Sorry to try your patience so sorely! Look, it’s never been that I don’t understand the rationale; I just don’t like it. Sorry if my occasional use of rhetorical questions to make my point actually obscured my point (no snark intended).
As to your suggestions:
We actually have a federal elections commission (called, oddly enough, the Federal Elections Commission [g]) that governs most aspects of campaigns for federal office… but it’s states that control the actual administration of elections. I strongly agree with you that a conisistent set of national standards for election mechanics would be a wonderful thing, but given our peculiar brand of federalism and our century-and-a-half (if not more) of bitter politics around the question of “states’ rights,” I don’t see things changing any time soon.
For most of us, I think something like this is already true. In my state, most folks’ 2008 ballots had choices for only President/Vice President, U.S. House of Representatives, State Representative, and State Senator, plus two ballot questions (these are placed on the ballot by statute or legislative action, rather than public initiative as in states like California, and there are usually few, if any, of them). All in all, a very uncluttered single-page ballot. In nonpresidential election years (e.g., 2010), we elect the executive officers of the state (Governor/Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, etc.), and in 2 of every 3 election cycles, one of our U.S. Senators is up for election… but our ballots are never crowded or confusing.
Our local officials (mayors, town councils, boards of education, justices of the peace, etc.) are elected in non-federal-election (i.e., odd-numbered) years, so those offices never clutter up our federal-year ballots. (And we don’t have elected dogcatchers!)
Of course, other states may do things differently (see [a] above). ;^)
I strongly agree with you on this… but sadly, the U.S. trend is in the other direction, toward early voting and “no-excuse” absentee voting, and many states are thinking about doing much or all voting by mail (one state, Oregon, already does all its voting by mail). Many of the most vocal supporters of this are progressives and voter-protection activists. They have strong arguments that I find difficult to rebut… but I confess I favor keeping things to a single Election Day, to the greatest extent possible.
By all accounts, we actually did very well on this score in the recently completed election. There were reports of very long lines during early voting in some states (esp. Georgia, IIRC), but (despite all fears related to the projected heavy turnout) very few reports of burdensome lines or other polling-place problems on Election Day itself. In my own state, the election went off essentially without a single hitch, and the results were published so quickly that by the time I got to my candidate’s victory party, it was almost over.
In fact… and maybe this is why I’ve been a tiny bit testy in this thread… IMHO, we did a great job with the 2008 election. There were no serious abnormalities or process problems and essentially no controversies (note that appointments to fill vacated seats is separate from elections), and only a handful of recounts and runoffs, all of which have been completed without incident except in Minnesota. The only reasons Minnesota has looked like an “incident” are [a] one of the candidates was already famous for other reasons and [b] they’ve been so excruciatingly careful to make sure the recount process has been deliberate and public (i.e., not a bad thing).
In short, to me the 2008 election looks like a win-win-win-win, and Minnesota (leaving aside its poor judgment in reelecting the horrifying Bachmann) looks like the poster state for Democracy Done Right™… so I find all the arm-waving about how “broken” the process is just a bit mystifying.
YMMV, of course.
Many of the most vocal supporters of this [absentee voting] are progressives and voter-protection activists. They have strong arguments that I find difficult to rebut – Bill Dauphin
Presumably, they don’t know why we had secret ballots in the first place, as I find is usually the case when I argue this with people here (the trend in the UK is the same as in the US I regret to say). For those who don’t know, it’s partly to prevent coercion, but primarily so you can’t sell your vote. Some “libertarians” are fine with vote-selling, but no democrat (small-d) should be.
Bill Dauphin says
KnockGoats (no relation to Nick Gotts, are you?):
Yah, I don’t know what, if any, protections Oregon has built into their mail-in voting system to ensure ballot privacy and prevent vote-selling. Maybe someone will chime in with more info… but then again, the only regular here I can think of who I know is from Oregon is one of those libertarians you mentioned. [sigh]
Advocates of early and mail-in voting are generally trying to maximize access by removing the obstacles to convenient voting. That strikes me as a laudable goal, as far as it goes… but I share your concerns about ballot security/vote integrity. In addition, I think the the performance of democracy, in the form of personally going to the polls, shoulder to shoulder with your fellow citizens, is important to the character of a democratic society. Finally, if virtually all voters vote at effectively the same time, you know they’re all basing their votes on the same current facts (presuming they’re paying attention to facts at all); if voters fill out mail-in ballots over a period of weeks or months, there’s the chance that conditions will change after you vote, but before your neighbor does. (For example, the current financial crisis hit very close to the election, potentially after some early/absentee voters had already cast their votes, and couldn’t change them.)
Isn’t Patricia from Oregon? (Or is it Washington?)
Bill Dauphin says
I’m bad at keeping track of that sort of information (aside: I’d make a lousy politician, a job that seems to require you to remember every single thing about everyone you’ve ever met); I only know about one Oregonian because “from Oregon” is part of his nickname. (I’m trying to avoid saying the whole name, lest I thereby conjure him from the depths!)
KnockGoats (no relation to Nick Gotts, are you?) – BallDolphin
Who? I only started posting here recently ;-)
Bill Dauphin says
It dawned on me after I posted that that I might be inadvertently outing someone. Forgive me: I’ve been mostly absent from these hallowed (virtual) halls throughout the holiday break, and I may have missed a Magical Transformation here and there. ;^)
Emmet Caulfield, OM says
Someone said the magic words, hoc est corpus capri and lo! — transubstantiation.
You’re a wise man, Mr. Dauphin. And whatever you do, don’t say THIS:
“Egons cotfro mor, egons cotfro mor, egons cotfro mor”
What exactly is wrong with someone who dislikes Al Franken?
I could care less about him dressing as a baby, but there are a few things from his SNL days that I do find concerning.
For Example: His idea for a skit about the Holocaust, or the sketch he wrote for “Tarbrush” the toothpaste that blackens African Americans “white shiney teeth”. How about the skit about a man who laments the loss of his wifes breast due to cancer. The man explains how he can’t stand to have sex with her.
Obviously this will be dismissed as poor judgement a long time ago while he was young and under the influence of narcotics.
I don’t see how that excuses it.
Besides, this stuff only scratches the surface.
Please don’t waste time assuming I support Coleman just because I am critical of Franken. I’m just NOT prepared to take pride in the election of Al Franken as a U.S. Senator. This is the year Obama will be sworn in as the president. His charachter was an asset, a sourse of pride and an important factor during the election. Why place the same support behind someone like Franken. He is an embarassment to the party. It’s one thing to be glad another seat is filled by a Democrat, but it won’t be long before Franken will start to build a collection of remarks that require an explanation.
Nathan. We’re well aware of your “concern”. It’s boring. Franken rocks!
Please don’t punish us with your babbling.
Bill Dauphin says
Let me ‘splain you a little something about satire: Satirists often create (and portray) characters who are objects of ridicule and scorn specifically because of the obnoxious and hateful ideas they (the characters, that is) embody.
It does not follow that the satirist himself endorses or agrees with his characters. In fact, the precise opposite is almost always the case.
Thus endeth the lesson… dork!
PS: I don’t know how to break this to you, but Stephen Colbert isn’t really a right-wing nutjob, either. Sorry ’bout that.
I am well aware of the purpose of satire. Sacha Baron Cohen’s for example, exploits anti-semitic people and ideas thru his charachter Borat. Franken on the other hand caused two African American technicians to walk off the set of SNL in protest of his “Tarbrush” idea, and what point was being made by the husband who can’t stand to have sex with his wife after she lost a breast to cancer again?
I appreciate the heads up as to the treatment I can expect for any ideas that deviate from the norm on this blog.
Deviate from the norm? How about deviate from interesting or relevant. You’re boring. That’s what you’re guilty of. Seriously, a comedy writer who had satire that was misunderstood or perhaps went too far? That never happens!!!! OMFG.
Franken in the Senate will be great because he’s done a great job as a writer and as a radio broadcaster on calling the Republican’s on their lies and absurd bullshit. He’ll be a great supporter of Obama and will stand proudly for the left.
I will releave you of my boring comments.
And my horrible spelling. (Relieve)