Local shenanigans

We can’t have those darned kids voting! The Morris city council met to discuss shutting down half of our polling locations, and of course the one that they singled out for closure was the one on the university campus.

City Manager Hill stated when he came to Morris he was surprised to see there were six voting precincts. Hill indicated is it hard to staff a voting place and believes the future of voting is that less and less people will come to the polls. Hill suggested getting rid of the University as a polling place because a polling place should be readily accessible and comfortable to get in and out of and they have no parking. Hill stated the Armory would be a good option. Hill noted after the 2020 census takes place the city can look at some redistricting. Hill pointed out that there needs to be a better job of getting people to register before Election Day.

You see, the university doesn’t count. There are 1700 students here, out of a total population of 5000, so it would be more convenient to make the students walk into town to vote, rather than having an accessible location on campus. Also, this university has a heck of a lot of parking.

If they are concerned about staffing, we have a lot of motivated young people here, and I’m sure some of them would be willing to volunteer at any of the six polling places. I’ve worked at them before. Rather than resigning themselves to fewer people coming to the polls, maybe our city officials ought to be working harder to tap into the pool of democratic activists that can be found at any university.

Local people have put together a response. The letter can be signed online by other locals who are concerned (I’ll refrain from posting a link to that here, but if you’re a Morris resident and don’t know where to find it, email me and I’ll send you a link.)


  1. =8)-DX says

    6 for 5.2k people is about right depending how spread out the town is. We have 1 polling place per each 1.2k of our local population, but it’s a rather compact town (small US towns tend to be more spread out, right?).. I’ve never lived further than 5 mins on foot from a local polling place.

  2. Usernames! 🦑 says

    Why not shut down the polling places in the affluent areas? After all those folks have cars and vacations to get them to the other places?

    I want to see some kind of scheme that makes it harder for privileged people to vote. You know, for payback.

  3. says

    It’s kind of nice that the Republicans have had to be such open cheats about voting in the oligarchy. It really clarifies certain things for people.

  4. davidnangle says

    Politics used to be so boring to me. Now it’s increasingly clear that it’s a straight up contest between Americans and anti-Americans.

  5. johnniefurious says

    I’m surprised there are that many poling places in Morris. I only voted there once when I was 18 (at the Legion), but if his suggestion is that the college students can walk to the Armory, there’s no reason the surrounding community can’t walk to the Campus.
    And yeah, there’s plenty of parking. Try getting a spot at UMD or the TC Campus and complain about parking. Routinely walking from your -parking spot- the distance it would be to walk to any poling place in Morris.

  6. tmink128 says

    I’ve become involved in and more aware of city level politics in Stillwater, OK. and have been surprised (for some reason) at the level of incompetence and/or corruption.

  7. nomadiq says

    Token Australian here, to remind you we have compulsory voting in Australia. You have to be registered so no fuss with on-day registering. Our participation rate is about 98%. The idea that local authorities would try and make it harder to vote is unheard of partly because local authorities don’t decide these things but mostly because everyone votes so elections are well coordinated and the people le well served.

    Just saying, we don’t always elect the good people, but no one complains about not being able to vote. Instead we have a small minority complaining about having to vote. It’s a much healthier balance.

  8. rayceeya says

    The solution we decided on here in Oregon was to simply make all voting vote by mail and everyone with a state issued ID is automatically registered. It automates the process, costs less than staffing polling places, and makes voting vastly more accessible to everyone. I don’t see why more places haven’t gone this route.

  9. jrkrideau says

    I am not sure if this applies in Morris but in some Canadian cities with a significant university presence students are regarded as transients and thus don’t need/deserve the same level of service “permanent” residents should get.
    I have seen this range from a disregard for student housing in the community to snow removal standards for the city streets surrounding a local university.

    What is the party make-up of Council versus how the majority of students are likely to vote?

    I have no idea of how American voting works, is this election for everyone from dog catcher to president or just a federal election?

    BTW, I looked up Morris on Google maps to see if I could see all that university parking. I am not sure about the parking but is that PZ’s drone in the picture over the campus farmland?

  10. says

    Token Australian here, to remind you we have compulsory voting in Australia.

    You also have banned guns. And you have things that can eat an alligator and leave only the head, and spiders the size of garbage bin lids. Australia is an impressive place all around.

  11. monad says

    My experience is that universities usually don’t have much parking because the spaces tend to be full. But that’s not so much “people can’t go there” as “people are already there”.

  12. nomadiq says

    @ Marcus Ranum

    True, but we also have the worst record on treatment of asylum seekers, so it’s a mixed bag.

  13. jrkrideau says

    @ 7 nomadiq

    The idea that local authorities would try and make it harder to vote is unheard of partly because local authorities don’t decide these things but mostly because everyone votes

    Check out the fine old tradition of gerrymandering in the US. I think PZ had a recent post about a flagrant example in Pennsylvania. Ah yes, https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2018/03/22/for-all-the-political-nerds-out-there/

    From there, you might want to go on to “voter suppression”. American politicians, especially it seems Republican ones, will go to great lengths to exclude anyone that they think may vote against them.

    It is mindboggling but common behaviour in the USA.

  14. says

    From there, you might want to go on to “voter suppression”. American politicians, especially it seems Republican ones, will go to great lengths to exclude anyone that they think may vote against them.

    For example, they have taken away voting rights for 2.2 million American citizens simply by busting them for a petty crime like having some weed. That, by the way, also means you’re no longer allowed to buy guns – which is funny when you realize that it’s republicans promoting those laws, and they’re all pretending to be big 2nd amendment nuts.

    Guess the color of 80% of those 2.2 million Americans.

  15. nomadiq says


    Actually the state of Queensland used to be gerrymandered quite badly for a while (in favour of rural areas). I believe this has been corrected now.

  16. mareap says

    Winona State is a poll site. We simply block off some parking for the public on election days.

  17. microraptor says

    rayceeya @8:

    And vote-by-mail is so convenient. You can get everything done and over with weeks before the actual election, then not have to worry about it afterword. They should just switch to vote-by-mail nationally.

  18. jrkrideau says

    @ 17 microraptor

    They should just switch to vote-by-mail nationally.
    Good idea but can the US Post Office handle the logistics. Are not the US elections held in November just as the Christmas season is ramping up?

  19. vucodlak says

    @ jrkrideau, #18

    The answer to your question is “yes, but not for long.”

    Despite Republican attempts to sabotage and privatize the United States Postal Service, and despite the claims of right-wing propaganda, the USPS remains a competent and reliable semi-public institution. If, however, voting were to be carried out by mail on a national level, you can bet that the Republicans would crank their sabotage attempts up to 11. Soon we’d find that the USPS would only be reliable (and affordable) in wealthy, white areas of the country. Areas that tend to vote Democratic would see their mail “lost” until after election deadlines, and would also lose all mail pickup and delivery anywhere near their homes.

  20. numerobis says

    USPS certainly works better than Canada Post.

    In Quebec, the elections commissioner is independent and their mandate is to increase voter turnout. It makes the status quo warriors unhappy when they do treasonous things like helping students vote, or helping the elderly vote, or helping prisoners vote. Voter turnout among registered voters is rather higher than in the US, and the US just refuses to even register a pretty big part of its population.


  21. cartomancer says

    In the British Isles the great universities once actually counted as their own constituencies and returned their own MPs to Parliament. There were university constituencies right up to 1950. The system began in Scotland in the later Middle Ages, where members of the Scottish parliament were elected for the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews and Aberdeen. When James I was crowned King of England he extended the system to Oxford and Cambridge in 1603. Each of the two English universities returned two MPs, voted for by the graduates of that university. Isaac Newton was on of the MPs for the University of Cambridge for a brief while. The University of London and University of Wales were added in the 19th century, getting one MP apiece, and all the other English universities (about ten of them) got two MPs between them in 1918. The Empire brought this system to Ireland and India, and in fact there are still two university MPs in the Irish Senate today.

  22. Matrim says

    At least in Iowa the Republicans have yet to effectively fuck up early voting, so I basically never go to my polling place (which was “conveniently” moved from a public school to a church a few years back for no adequate reason). Give them time, though.

  23. unclefrogy says

    all politics is local is a cliche that happens to be true. the strategy for a long time starting with the politicization of the “silent majority” christians has been increased local participation and representation. The the leadership republican party has recognized the success with that and has elected loyal followers into the local positions. With the tools of resentment, high moral posturing, hidden self interest (backhanders) and thinly veiled racism has managed to get us into the position we find ourselves today.
    The democratic leadership has managed to appear to be focused on the long range noble goal while squabbling over how to get there and who will lead, tend to neglect the day to day all politics is local all to often. Take issues as they are framed and described by the reactionaries and fail to convince.
    uncle frogy

  24. billyjoe says


    Token Australian here, to remind you we have compulsory voting in Australia. You have to be registered so no fuss with on-day registering. Our participation rate is about 98%.

    That makes two of us (token Australian).
    But, unfortunately, your statistics are not correct, and it’s a little more complicated. This is the relevant graph from the AEC’s report on the last election in 2016


    The graph shows the following:

    The percent of enrolled voters who turned out to vote was about 91.8%
    This was actually the lowest turnout since 1925 which has peaked at just over 96%

    But some people who are eligible to vote don’t enrol to vote (in fact, 5.9% of the population who were eligible to vote had not enrolled to vote). So, the percent of the population who were eligible to vote (VEP) and who actually turned out to vote was 86.5%.

    Also some people vote informally (hand in blank voting form). So, the percent of people who were eligible to vote, and who turned out to vote, and didn’t vote informally (effective participation rate) was only 82.1%

    So the Effective Participation Rate was only 82.1%
    This still compares favorably to the USA where about 65% vote, though I’m not sure which of the above categories this fits into.


    I didn’t enrol to vote until I felt sufficiently informed and motivated to do so, which was at the age of about 21. I also had an issue with compulsory voting. However, I have changed my mind and, on balance, I think it is a good idea. There is the problem of the “donkey vote” where some voters just fill in the numbers sequentially from top to bottom (instead of just handing in a blank form) which provides an advantage to candidates at the top of the list.

    Also, there is one little quirk in compulsory voting: There is no fine for failing to enrol to vote. However, once enrolled, if you don’t vote there is a $20 fine. So, if you never want to vote and don’t want to get fined just never enrol to vote.

  25. billyjoe says


    all politics is local is a cliche that happens to be true

    This is not true in Australia.
    At federal and state elections, voters generally vote for the party not the local representative, except perhaps in some rural electorates; and some marginal seats where politicians offer everything and a degree of self interest comes into play.

  26. blf says

    billyjoe@25, The cliche “all politics is local” means the reasons a voter votes a certain way is frequently driven by (often very surprising and narrow) immediately-local issues, such as the state of the road outside their house. Yes, seriously, people vote for the federal representative based on how angry they are at the local roads or schools or whatever.

    A similar point was memorially made in a civics class I once had where each student had to present a letter they though should be sent to the President(? federal Senator? — I don’t recall now). Quite a few of the letters were astonishingly banal. Insufficient parking at the school and a local music venue closing were two particularly memorial ones. (Mime was on a proposed international change to wavelength allocations available to amateur (ham) radio operators.)

  27. billyjoe says


    Sorry, I misunderstood. I don’t think we have much of that either. But there is what we call “the hip pocket nerve” and it’s why politicians promise everything while electioneering but, thankfully, don’t carry through on their more ridiculous promises after being elected. But, no, I don’t think we vote for the federal opposition because we hold the federal government responsible for condition of the road outside our houses.

  28. DanDare says

    We in Oz do have a generally better electoral system. Still needs work.
    How are you folks in the US going to improve yours though?
    What do you have to do to bust up gerrymandering and voter supression while still putting a damper on populism and majoritarianism?

  29. billyjoe says


    I missed this bit:

    we also have the worst record on treatment of asylum seekers, so it’s a mixed bag.

    I have never voted for the Liberal Party (our conservative party), but I have supported their policy on refugees arriving by boat. However, I did have some unease about that support that I haven’t ever quite resolved. I was partly reassured when the Liberals actually came into power and instituted their policy. The result was zero refugees arriving by boat. And – more relevantly for me – no more drownings at sea of those refugees.

    But there is the question of the ends justifying the means. The “means” of achieving this end of zero boat arrivals was that the existing refugees would have to be permanently denied permanent residence and would, in fact have to be kept in detention centers unless and until alternative destinations could be found for them. The conditions in these detention centers are atrocious and I don’t see that this is essential to maintain the result.

    The dilemma was well illustrated in the most recent QandA on the ABC. I don’t know if you watch it, but it’s generally excellent – democracy in action! Here is a link to that episode:


    It features Harvard Political Philosopher, Michael Sandel. It is wide ranging and covers the recent ball tampering by the Australian Cricket Team (IMO: all involved should be sent home and banned for at least 12 months, the main characters should arguably be banned for life); the reason for Trump’s election (Sandel: the elite “looking down” on the common man); marriage equality and the broader question about whether some issues should be off-topic for public debate (Sandel: no).

    The bit relevant to the boat people begins just after 15 minutes (initially, more generally, about laws and sentences versus the moral dimension of those laws), but more specifically about the Australian situation at 27:15 (we are essentially punishing a group of innocent people – the refugees arriving by boat- for the greater good of preventing further refugees arriving by boat and risking drowning at sea as has happened in the past).

    He also touches on the morality of torture for a greater good; whether “philosophy is dead” (a ridiculous question really and Sandel gives an excellent explanation why it is an essential part of public discourse); and the problems with libertarianism – the individual versus the common good; and the perennial favorite, the trolley problem.

  30. says

    billyjoe @27: Either you’re not paying attention to the same politics I am, or you’re a bit on the naive side here, mate. We definitely have people casting national votes on local issues, and we have politicians campaigning on national campaigns promising to fix local issues as well. It’s what keeps getting them elected, after all.

    This is why the voters in the federal electorate of Indi, for example, were “rewarded” with the removal/de-funding of a few local initiatives (such as the loss of promised funding to the Wangaratta Public Hospital) in order to punish them for not voting in Sophie Mirabella (who just happened to be one of Tony Abbott’s factional mates) back in 2013. Incidentally, Ms Mirabella was voted out in favour of Catherine McGowan on purely local issues – she wasn’t doing much for the locals, being much more interested in promoting her own political career (and climbing the greasy pole).