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September 17, 2008

Register to Vote
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:40 PM *

We’re about a month-and-a-half out from Election Day in the USA.

Register to vote. Help someone else register to vote. If you’re already registered, make sure that you’re still registered and no one’s pulled any hanky-panky.

Know where your polling place is.

If you’re going to vote absentee, make sure that you know what your state requires, and don’t miss the deadlines.

Comments on Register to Vote:
#1 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 01:57 PM:

And consider volunteering to work as a polling attendant, etc.

I'm registered to vote. In a swing state even! Yay!

#2 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 01:57 PM:

I've been trying to figure out if I'm registered. We moved a couple years ago, and I hadn't registered at our new address till a month ago; but I've never received any confirmation at our new address.

#3 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:00 PM:

One more thing: I heard on the radio this AM that in Michigan (perhaps other places as well), party operatives are culling foreclosure victims from the voter rolls, based on their now-invalid addresses. I leave it to the reader to guess with party a. stands to gain from removing these folks from the rolls and b. which party would even consider this as a legitimate reason for it.

So if you know someone who has recently changed residences, voluntarily or otherwise, remind them to check that they are still listed as eligible to vote.

#4 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:14 PM:

#3 paul, so the derailment of the economy was just a tactic to help with the next elections? I could actually believe that.

I've had the uncomfortable suspicion ever since the SUV became so popular that very powerful people wouldn't really mind running out of oil and the collapse of technological civilization. *They'd* still have technology. Think how easy it would be to control the masses when those masses lived like extras in the Safety Dance video.

#5 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:15 PM:

I wonder whether I could actually go and work as an election observer...

What with me not being eligible to do much other stuff connected to the election and all...

(note: I'm a Swedish national, in the US on an exchange visum, and nowhere NEAR eligible to vote)

#6 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:19 PM:

Scraps - our county clerk has an online site where you can validate your voter registration status. You might see if yours does as well.

#7 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:35 PM:

Mikael @5: Unless you can manage to be assigned by the UN or whoever regulates such things, and approved by the State Department of the US or whoever regulates those things, I would not even go near a voting location on or immediately before election day. You would even need be very careful if you helped with campaigning. Real or perceived international meddling with elections is a very serious thing; four years ago I was very, very strongly discouraged from even considering to make a donation or going out to help take voters to voting locations or anything of the sort, not being a US national. Of course I can take part in political discussions, because the First Amendment covers everyone as far as I know, not only citizens---but anything that would concretely count towards influencing the outcome (or anything people would think would concretely influence the outcome) I would steer clear from.

I might be entirely wrong about this. Corrections appreciated.

#8 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:46 PM:

Not only are the adults in the house registered, but Sarcasm Girl, having attained the lofty age of 18, is registered too, and itching to exercise franchise.

#9 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Info for Americans wishing to vote absentee from abroad can be found at Absentee ballot requests need to be sent by 9/27, since speed of regular mail tends to vary, and it's a three-step process.

Link lifted from Group News Blog.

#10 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:51 PM:

For Scraps @2, and everyone: can help you check to see if you are registered for your current address, and give you information about registering and your polling locations.

Yes, it's sponsored by the Obama organization, but the goal is simply to get more people registered, of whatever political persuasion.

#11 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Zeynep @ 7: Thanks for the cautions. Figures that you'd know about this. ;-)

#12 ::: Manon ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 02:53 PM:

oliviacw, that URL is bringing up a parked domain generipage for me.

#14 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 03:19 PM:

Google searches are quite useful for finding the government office you need. It will be a government office, and it is best to speak *only* to them.

Here in Wisconsin, it is *very* easy to register. You can do so as a walkup, at your polling place, on election day. I did so for the primary, and it was very easy. If you wish to register in advance, you need to contact your City Clerk's office.

The McCain campaign has been mailing out registration forms to WI voters that are addressed wrong. There is a real risk that if you use one of those forms, you could end up in trouble for voter fraud. (the Clerks' offices haven't managed to figure out the relevant law when the local news have contacted them about it... so no one is quite sure what the legal situation would be) Similar things have happened in other states, but I'm not sure how serious the situation is there.

WI's Attorney General has also filed suit to force a purge of the voter rolls. It appears to be politically motivated, and may affect anyone who registered for this year's primary. I'm rather expecting to need to reregister on Election Day.

So yes, get out and register, but make sure you're doing it with the part of your local government in charge of elections. The Obama campaign hasn't done anything nasty here that I know of, but I would rather not have my vote ignored because the paperwork wasn't right.

#15 ::: Rulial ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 03:22 PM:

Where I live, all elections are conducted by mail. In some ways, it's a nice system: you don't have to go to a polling place, and you have a long time to think about your decision. Also, there is a guaranteed paper trail! One drawback, of course, is that there is a potential of voter intimidation by family members.

Zeynep @ 7: I am pretty sure (although I'm not a lawyer) that only U.S. citizens are allowed to make political donations. I recall a member of my union saying he was confronted by the INS (or whatever it's called nowadays) because he gave money to the union's political fund.

#16 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 03:33 PM:

#14 Torrilin

Register on election day? Is that even possible in most states?!

(Hmm. I voted in the primary yesterday, meaning that I OUGHT to still be on the voting rolls.... alas, it's too late to do anything about a campaign for "make sure you're eligible for the final election voting, check your status before the primary and vote in the primary election, for the track record...."

It would bother me more that I wasn't asked for anything except "what street do you live on, what's the number, what's your name?" when asking for a ballot, and then before depositing the ballot exiting the polls, if I weren't in Massachusetts which is highly unlikely to provide electoral votes to the Christian Dominionist forces this year. ["Massachusetts--the one and only" -- bumper sticker after Tricky Dick got the other 49 states, and was getting less and less popular....]

#17 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 03:38 PM:

I'm making connections with the local Democratic org to go out and register folks; though it's under the Dem's umbrella, I hope to register as many as possible regardless of party choice. We'll see what happens (and I need to check as to whether my new registration here in WA has gone through).

#18 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:00 PM:

I spent last Saturday helping folks vote in my local council elections (in Sydney, Australia).

The nice thing is, voting is 'compulsory' here (I can hear the Libertarians hissing, but practically, it works pretty well). If you don't vote, you get a letter from the [independent][state or federal] Electoral Commission, asking why. Any excuse will do really (sick, out of town, forgot etc), especially for local elections where there isn't absentee voting. If for some unlikely reason, your answer isn't satisfactory (you've been forgetting for 5 yrs in a row perhaps), there is a potential $50 fine, but it's not enforced much.

But the idea that voting is mandatory, even if not enforced, means that we get about 95% turnout for state and federal elections [a bit lower for local ones]. So the polling officials know pretty much how many people to cater for, and we don't get Shenanigans from hacks trying to disenfranchise the other side's voters.

Also, we have preferential voting, so those not inclined to either major party can put a small party 1st, without throwing their vote away. Then they just choose whichever major party they dislike least, and place that one above the other.

Or you can do a traditional donkey vote, and write in nothing at all; or write in something creative. Sorting votes from Saturday's election, one person charmingly wrote "f*** your mum" on their mayoral ballot, and "your dad sucks b***s" on their council ballot. "Fix the roads" also got a couple of mentions (as did the ousted Prime Minister John Howard).

Some polling stations you can get a bit of a queue, and one of the nearby wards had a wait of up to an hour, but at the majority of polling stations people will wait for 5-10 mins, if at all.

Both the preferential system and the low waiting times are probably necessary conditions for the public to accept compulsory voting, so it acts as a good incentive for the politicians to ensure elections are run smoothly. The Liberals (Australian Republican Party) do mutter about scrapping compulsory voting from time to time, but it never really goes anywhere. The public seems to accept it as a necessary annoyance.

Also, no electronic machines, just paper and pencils, and flexible rules whereby if the voting intention is clear, that vote will be counted.

#19 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Rulial, Obama's donation form says "U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted permanent resident". So some non-citizens can contribute.

#20 ::: Avedaggio ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Kate @ 18: What a fantastic idea! Mandatory voting for whose who are eligible. Why don't we have this in the United States?

No, really-- why isn't it like that here?

#21 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 04:57 PM:

was reminded yesterday, catching up on bitch, phd, that i need to register. did it through votefromabroad, mailed it today, that, hopefully, is that.

of course, the last time i voted, it was (very publicly stated that it was) not counted, but maybe since ohio swung blue in 2006, they'll enfranchise us deserters absentees again.

#22 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Zeynep and Mikael -- I think Zeynep got some bad information, probably from a campaign that didn't have the manpower to find out the exact rules, and didn't want to take any chances. I'd suggest getting in touch with the Obama campaign (or another campaign) in your area. There are definitely tasks non-citizens can do both on Election Day and before, and this campaign is savvy enough to know which is which.

Here in Virginia, for example, the only campaign activities that require you to be a registered voter are registering other voters and being an observer *inside* a polling place. Everything else is fair game, and I'm sure your help would be welcome.

#23 ::: robert west ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Redshift: there's a difference, however, between being ok legally and being ok politically. Which is to say: in some parts of the country, even if it's legally OK for a non-citizen to help a campaign, doing so may actually inflict a political price on the campaign.

It's far better, IMO, to err on the side of cautio on this one.

#24 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 05:54 PM:

Register on election day? Is that even possible in most states?!

Oh *hells* no! WI never had to implement the Motor Voter Act, as their rules were already more permissive (and more strict!) than the Act required. Shocked the hell out of my Pennsylvanian self, since PA's laws are much more convoluted. If the PA AG pulled what the WI AG is *trying* to pull, odds are I couldn't reregister in time for the election.

This is why you must must *must* check with *your* local authorities. There is a lot of variation in voting law, and the campaigns can (and rather obviously *do*) make mistakes.

(I am trying womanfully to not scream about McCain trying to disenfrachise people... but it feels horribly suspicious to me.)

#25 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Don't be this guy and continue to vote in the district where your farm is even if you live in another county. Especially if you are a state senator.

#26 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:26 PM:

I'm registered, and I vote. But I vote in the District of Columbia, where I get one (1) electoral vote -- two less than Alaska or Wyoming. And I don't get to vote against the automatic-weapon-of-the-month bill that Congress is about to impose on us.

#27 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Oh, and I'm a federal civil servant, so under the Hatch Act I can't raise funds, make phone calls or organize for the candidate of my choice. I can canvass on election day, and I'm allowed to be present at fundraisers held in my own home. But I can't wear an Obama button (whoops -- nearly gave the game away) at work.

#28 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 07:48 PM:


Actually DC has 3 electoral votes.

#29 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:36 PM:

Another Sydneysider here -- just to make some USians even more jealous, Australia has a legally independent and neutral statutory authority called the Australian Electoral Commission which conducts all elections, does the research and makes the decisions on electoral boundaries as populations change (redistricting) and cannot be interfered with by politicians of any party. It is in demand to advise on the conduct of elections in new democracies around the world. It uses the latest technology to transmit accurate count numbers directly to media on election nights, so it's rare for wrong predictions of the count to be made. And yes, with compulsory voting, and paper ballots, our elections are easily able to be recounted.
To my knowledge there has not been a case of electoral fraud in decades, as a result, and Australia's electoral boundaries are fair and equal as they can reasonably be. We are lucky.

#30 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 08:46 PM:

Nice graphic! A small town full of good people.

#31 ::: David W Schroth ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 09:15 PM:

#16 Paula Lieberman

I don't know about most other states, but as an election judge in Minnesota, I can affirm that it is possible to register to vote on election day in Minnesota (one doesn't actually need ID to do so, although ID makes the whole process easier).

#5 Mikael Vejdemo Johansson

In Minnesota, any election observing by other than a certified challenger would have to be done at least 100 feet away from the polling location. And I'm pretty sure one would have to be a citizen to get certified as a challenger.

#32 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 10:29 PM:

# 4

the derailment of the economy was just a tactic to help with the next elections?

I wouldn't put any money on that but taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the disruption? Absolutely. Unless you mean a systematic effort to pump money into the top tiers and force everyone else down, but that's nothing new.

Imagine: there are some people out there agonizing over the prospect of an Obama presidency and a possible return of the Clinton years. All that peace and widely distributed prosperity . . . the horror.

#33 ::: Manon ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 11:02 PM:

#13: der, I should have thought of that! Thanks.

#34 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2008, 11:31 PM:

I registered to vote 35 years ago. What I've been working on lately is absentee voting for Luke, since he may not be walking by election time. It turns out that once the city gets the application for the absentee ballot, he can't vote otherwise. While I was explaining the problem to the registrar, she suggested he plan to come in on the Saturday before the election with his absentee ballot and vote then, because she thinks the lines on election day will be too long for him (which means too long for me, but I'll just mark my spot in line and sit down).

Spherical Time, #1, to be a poll attendant here, you have to be there from when the poll opens until the vote cartridges have been taken away for the day. I can't sit up that long.

#35 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:20 AM:

after Emma @29 "Australia has a legally independent and neutral statutory authority ... and cannot be interfered with by politicians of any party."

I'm curious to hear some local opinions. As an Aussie myself I was shocked to the core to hear things like "Republican Secretary of State", "Democratic Attorney General", "Green Party Dog Catcher". I mean, obviously officials will be part of/appointed by some administration, and have their own interests or biases, but to stick it right out there like that? Plus it seemed, at least with Katherine Harris and Kenneth Blackwell, to be accompanied by an understanding that of course they'll favour 'their side'.

Reflecting, I can see how 'our way' of expecting people to serve the institution rather than your own side might seem.. charmingly naive. How do we know the AEC is neutral and 'cannot be interfered with'.

Is this a new thing, or have US government jobs always been partisan? Is this a bug or a feature, is it better to have declared allegiances?

#36 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:26 AM:

Western Australian here. One thing which is worth mentioning as a result of the Australian system is the high level of participation which results from the compulsory turnout[1] rules. This means the election of officials is much more representative than in nations where voters aren't required to receive their ballot paper[2]; it also means there's a far greater effort made to make voting accessible to everyone.

This means there's more attention paid to things like making polling places easy to reach (generally, it's the local primary school); making certain people in hospital, nursing home or respite care on election day are able to vote; ensuring that people who have impaired vision are able to cast their ballot in secrecy; making certain that people who aren't able to be in their correct district on election day (for example, those who are working on the day) are able to cast a valid vote for their district no matter where they are[3]; and finally there's a great effort made to ensure that Australian voters in remote areas or in foreign lands are able to vote postally. Oh, and the single biggest difference to the US system I can see: no matter what level of government you're voting for, be it federal, state or local, the polling day is generally a Saturday. Our compulsory turnout laws mean our electoral systems have to work to ensure everyone is able to participate in the process of democracy, rather than just the rich, powerful, or dedicated.

Can I also put in a good word for preferential voting? Our political system is primarily two-party, but our preferential voting system means a vote for a minor party isn't "wasted". To use the example of my own voting a couple of weeks ago (WA state election) - I didn't so much wind up voting for the Greens candidate as voting against all the others. (I'm living in a cast-iron safe Liberal seat, so I wound up with my least favourite candidate being elected anyway, but I still figure it's worth making the point.)

[1] It isn't compulsory voting. You're required to turn up and receive the ballot paper. You aren't required to cast a valid vote - Australian voting is by secret ballot.
[2] A candidate who is elected through obtaining 50% + 1 vote of the preferences of +/-95% of the eligible voters in their electoral district is much more likely to be a true expression of voter choice than one who was elected through obtaining the greater number of votes from approximately 40% of the eligible voters in their district.
[3] Every single polling place I've ever been to in nearly 20 years as an Australian voter has had a separate queue for absentee voters. Generally, the people who handle it sit idle, or they'll start dealing with locals if there's a long queue building up.

#37 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:35 AM:

Myrthe - as a former federal public servant (I worked on the IT helpdesk for Centrelink) I can remember when we wound up supporting the AEC for one federal election. We had to sign legally binding agreements not to speak about election issues for the whole period of the campaign right through to the end of polling - and all we were doing for the AEC was standing by to answer questions along the lines of "my email isn't working" from the staff. We weren't even going to be *speaking* to the general public. But I was still required to refrain from expressing my political preferences in any public arena, and if I'd breached that requirement, I could have been fired.

Public servants in Australia are expected to remain politically neutral while they're at work as a matter of course. A public servant can be a member of a political party (although if they decide to stand for election, they'll usually resign). Those working for the AEC are held to a stricter standard - I'd be willing to guess they'd be expected to abstain from all party political activity.

#38 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 01:13 AM:


The Onion echoed your thought with Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.

Which is funny, until you google the Annotated Version from a few years later, detailing how he has indeed achieved most all the failures and disasters they joked he would. (Anyone got the link? I can't find it).

#39 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 02:13 AM:

myrthe @ 35: As an Aussie myself I was shocked to the core to hear things like "Republican Secretary of State", "Democratic Attorney General", "Green Party Dog Catcher".

Secretary of State and Attorney General are both cabinet positions in the US. Aren't cabinet members party politicians in Australia?

#40 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 02:37 AM:

Raphael, Secretary of State and Attorney General are cabinet positions in the federal government. In state governments they're often elected positions, in some cases theoretically non-partisan, and the role of Secretary of State is completely different—in the federal government, the Secretary of State is responsible for our dealings with other countries, while in state government, the Secretary of State handles elections.

Ken Blackwell, who Myrthe referenced, is a notorious example of a partisan Secretary of State. He's the one who made sure Democratic polling sites in Ohio in 2004 didn't have enough voting machines, so voters in many precincts faced (literally) ten-hour waits.

That's why I donated to the Secretary of State Project in 2006 and again this year. By helping to replace some of the most corrupt Republicans with reform-minded Democrats, they've made the election process a lot fairer in five states.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 02:41 AM:

Raphael: They are Cabinet Offices at the federal level. At the state level they are often elected offices.

One of the things which made the Ohio numbers suspect in the 2004 election is that Ken Black (the elected secretary of state) was not only a Republican, but the head of the Ohio committee to re-elect Bush.

It gave the certain appearance of a conflict of interest, even if Black wasn't conniving to help throw it to Bush.

#42 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:09 AM:

Thanks for the info. You're right, partisan election-organisers-in-chief are a completely different level.

#43 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:26 AM:

Raphael @39
Perhaps my question has the wrong focus. Yes, cabinet members are party politicians, but they don't have nearly the access to delicate machinery of elections that e.g. Blackwell and Harris seemed to exercise as a matter of course. Or that actually using it would be a resigning offence. It seems that sort of[1] biased refereeing, of favouritism, is unremarkable in US elections. Am I misunderstanding?

[1] I'm hoping my "that sort of" is clear shorthand. I don't mean it to be inflammatory.

#44 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 05:51 AM:

myrthe@38: This looks like it.

#45 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 06:25 AM:

re # 37 Meg Thornton.

When I've worked for the NSW Electoral Commission, I've had to sign a similar form declaring that I'm not a member of a political party, and that I wouldn't be publically advocating for any candidates, under my own name.

On election day, we're not allowed to talk to the public about the candidates, we can only talk to them about how to vote.

I think the main reason our system wouldn't work in the US [apart from the Republicans refusing to contemplate this kind of change] is that for people to be ok with a system of compulsory voting you have to have:

a) preferential voting, so people have a better chance of finding a candidate they like, without throwing their vote away

b) neutral and well organised elections- held on saturday;short wait times; no bullshit about purging people from the electoral role etc

incidentally, the tactic of challenging people whose houses have been foreclosed wouldn't work here- if you change adress in Australia, you're meant to notify the electoral commission, but if you forget, or it happens too close to an election to be updated, then you simply vote in your old district, even though you don't live there anymore.

Strictly speaking, it goes against the idea of voting for candidates who represent the area where you live, but practically, it all evens out, and no-one gets their knickers ina twist.

#46 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 10:04 AM:

"Attorney General" is a position which both the US Federal Government has one of, and most if not all states in the USA have one of each.

Saying "Attorney General" requires context as to precisely whom one is referring, a state, or the federal, official (and past or present. E.g., Bobby Kennedy, Ashcroft, and the current lout could all be called "Attorney General" due to their tenure in the federal position).

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 11:51 AM:

Meg Thornton #36: That's very thorough, but you could have added that Oz uses both types of preference voting: Alternative voting (which you describe) for the federal House of Representatives and single transferable vote (which produces proportional results) for the federal Senate.

#48 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:07 PM:

#15: vote-by-mail elections are potential disasters for democracy and public safety. Here's a illustration:

(It's a stupid story and longer than it ought to be to make a little point)

Several factors came together to make a recent vote-by-mail election come out so as to strip the funding from a necessary and popular service. Here's how it goes:

First, thirty years ago my state (California) voted in an initiative -- "Proposition 13," against their own interests, in that it changed the rules for the funding of local government and services in order to lessen the taxes for established property owners (it actually accelerates the rate at which taxes rise with each exchange of property).

My city (Santa Cruz) had been contributing its share of the 911 costs from the general fund. This is not strictly kosher under the Proposition 13 rules, but nobody cared . . . except a few people who quite suddenly and without discussion took the city to court to make them desist.

So the city had to put to a vote, under Proposition 13 rules, a brand-new tax to support 911 services. A shoo-in, right? There was not even a campaign against it.


The rules called for a special election. California had decided to try to make itself matter in the presidential election by holding our presidential election four months earlier than the already pushed-back April elections, but the state primaries and local elections did not move with it, which meant that local governments -- with no extra funding from the state -- had to hold at least three elections this year. And Santa Cruz city had to hold another one. There was simply no more money, and by-mail is a lot cheaper than polling places. They thought, too, probably, that people would simply not come out for an election that was on one issue only.

Quietly, behind the scenes, the same people who forced the election were campaigning among local businessmen to defeat the measure because they didn't like the type of fee that was being proposed, which was a few cents more on the property tax and which was supposed to be approvable by simple majority. They said they would have approved it if it had been put forward as another type of tax that needs a two-thirds majority.

Did I mention that the ballots were not postage-paid?

So the measure to fund emergency services, which the right wing claims to approve of, failed by about two percent of the vote.

911 was still operating in the city last month when I called for my nice fellow, and it will continue, but the word from the City Council is that they will take the money from parks and recreation and from the police budget.

#49 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 12:39 PM:

myrthe @43:

You missed the explanation above -- the US Federal government has a Secretary of State, who is responsible for dealing with other countries, and an Attorney General, who is the head of the Federal Justice Department.* These officials are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and they usually are of the same political affiliation as the President.

Each State in Union also has a Secretary of State, who is in charge of that State's Board of Elections, and an Attorney General, who is responsible for that State's Justice Department. Both of these are elected positions, so of course they belong to one of the political parties -- but it may not be the same party as the Governor of that State.

As a resident of the State of Ohio, I hope and pray that former Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell rots in Hell...

*Do not confuse the Justice Department (Executive branch) with the Judicial Branch, which is composed of the Supreme Court and the Federal Court System.

#50 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Is this a new thing, or have US government jobs always been partisan? Is this a bug or a feature, is it better to have declared allegiances?

It is a new thing. The actions of Harris and Blackwell were shocking to a lot of people (one reason why they're both out of office now.) There have always been corrupt officials who favored their party (and probably more at the more local levels), but most of those elected or appointed by elected officials took their duties and the laws they were to enforce seriously.

In my experience, it's only been recently that a shameless attitude of "of course I'm going to use my office to benefit myself and my party" has emerge. At the federal level, there are laws against this sort of thing, and this is the first administration in my adult life to openly ignore them.

#51 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 02:55 PM:

"Each State in Union also has a Secretary of State, who is in charge of that State's Board of Elections, and an Attorney General, who is responsible for that State's Justice Department. Both of these are elected positions, so of course they belong to one of the political parties -- but it may not be the same party as the Governor of that State."

Actually, it depends on the state. Virginia's Secretary of State is appointed, not elected.

#52 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:02 PM:

robert west:
Redshift: there's a difference, however, between being ok legally and being ok politically. Which is to say: in some parts of the country, even if it's legally OK for a non-citizen to help a campaign, doing so may actually inflict a political price on the campaign.

It's far better, IMO, to err on the side of caution on this one.

And I would say that political judgment is better left to the campaign, rather than pre-emptively taking yourself out. They know what they're doing, really. As long as you're clear with the campaign about your status, and let them know you won't be offended if they can't use you, they can decide whether it will cause them any problems. Despite the anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner demagoguery in certain quarters, there are lots of places where this would be no problem.

It's way too easy for people to convince themselves they shouldn't volunteer. Let's not add to them.

#53 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:28 PM:

As to observation at the polls: I really don't know a thing about other states, but in California I've been an election clerk four times and I know that anybody can observe the polls without qualification. They are allowed to check the register to see who has not voted yet, and they are allowed to watch the opening and closing procedures and to check to see if the number of ballots used -- cast or spoiled -- match the number of ballots taken from the ballot pads (the way the electronic ballots are accounted for is with paper tokens that the voter gets from the clerk at the sign-in desk and takes to the voting machine attendant). They are not allowed to talk about the election and they are not allowed to approach the voters. That's it.

In California, we wouldn't know if an observer was a foreign national, much less care.

#54 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Redshift @ 52: I believe it was David Hartwell who said to an author -- "Don't reject yourself; that's my job." A useful phrase in many contexts.

#55 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 09:41 PM:

paul@3: the version I saw in print was that they were removing some people as soon as foreclosure was started, rather than waiting even to see whether a judge granted an eviction order, let alone when it was effected. There's got to be some law about tampering with voting rolls that the removers are violating -- and I hope they wouldn't get away with a reasonableness defense, because it isn't reasonable.

myrthe@35: any job which is electable is almost by definition partisan; at least half the question is why some jobs are put up for election at all. Here in MA this has become especially heated recently as a register of probate had to reason after the videotapes of him taking money from government coin-op'd copiers were published. At least MA doesn't elect judges....

Lucy@48: \any/ electoral method can be made into a disaster, as Ken Black* is described above as doing in Ohio. Mail-in takes care of a number of problems, starting with holding elections on work days. With a sane federal government, even the semi-private Postal Service might be ... persuaded ... to cut a deal on mailing prices (considering how much less work a ballot would be than the average piece of first-class mail); the remaining cost should be coverable by the savings in not having to staff masses of poll sites. ISTR that CA is uncommon (at least) in the range of issues that can be brought to special election instead of going on the next scheduled ballot?
Would people have been any more likely to go to the polls for this issue than to find a stamp? Minor votes tend to get little attention; our "primary" two days ago had mostly trivial turnout despite having been scheduled long ago.

#56 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 09:57 PM:

#55 CHip: we should have only had two elections this year: one in the spring and one in the fall. The extra one in the spring and the extra one in the summer were forced on us by politics not in our interest.

#57 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2008, 10:17 PM:

Lucy @ 48 - IMO, what you're describing is a problem with a special election, not voting by mail.

Oregon has been all vote-by-mail for years, and Washington is trending that way. When I lived in California, I switched to permanent absentee voting. The whole process is simpler, although I agree that family pressure is possible. Since I've been voting by mail, I've voted in EVERY election. When I had to go to the polls, I voted in every primary and general election but sometimes skipped things like school board elections if they were on special days.

It would be nice, however, if the ballots were post-paid. Sometimes the ballots in King County are over 1 ounce and require extra postage, which some people forget to affix. Last time this happened, the county said they'd cover the postage due.

#58 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2008, 08:42 PM:

Larry Brennan @ 57

At least in the counties around Portland there are dropoff locations for Oregon ballots available up until 8 PM on election day, so you don't have to mail your ballot before the last minute. I can usually find one a few minutes drive off my commute so I don't have to pay postage.

#59 ::: suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Yes, I love Oregon's system. It's the only one I've ever used, so when I hear these horror stories from other states I'm always briefly confused, "what do you mean you have to wait in line to vote??"

And yes, there are plenty of drop-off locations so you don't actually have to mail it in.

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Even when we voted in the gym of the school our kids went to we rarely had to wait in line unless we couldn't get there before 5 or 6 in the evening. I used to stop on the way to work in the morning, and never had to wait more than a couple of minutes. Given the number of ballot initiatives we usually get it took longer to vote than to wait to get into the voting booth. And the precinct registration books were easy enough to use that it never took more than a minute or two to verify I was registered.

#61 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2008, 03:06 AM:

When I lived in Arlington, which is a liberal county right outside DC, we frequently had lines all day. But here in Manassas, a conservative small city further out, I've never had to wait behind more than two people. So I don't know if the registrar is right or not. It would be interesting to see so many people out. I don't think Manassas has ever voted for a Democrat.

#63 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Tony has left the building.

#64 ::: Earl Cooley III wonders how to say "spam" in Russian ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2008, 12:18 AM:

Various online dictionaries came up empty on that one.

#65 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2008, 12:26 AM:

It's spam for an art site.

"This gift is easy to manage, and we were delighted, look at the art, and the portraits here."

At least it's straightforward in presentation.

#66 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2008, 04:57 AM:

[Spam from]

#67 ::: Mary Aileen sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2008, 09:54 AM:

At least this isn't in Russian.

#68 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2008, 09:56 AM:

Incidentally, Jim, your Election Day countdown thing appears to be counting down to Sunday, November 2, rather than Tuesday, November 4.

#70 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2008, 08:09 AM:

[Spam from]

#72 ::: Mary Aileen sees something slightly spammy ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2008, 08:12 PM:

Perhaps not spam, exactly, but something this off-topic in a quiescent thread makes me suspicious.

#73 ::: Carrie S. sees symbol-filled spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2008, 09:05 AM:

Looks to me like it's in Cyrillic, which I can't even read aloud, let alone translate.

#74 ::: Michael I sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2008, 07:07 PM:

Possibly from the same spammer

#75 ::: Vicki sees soam, largely in the Cyrillic alphabet ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Spammer above.

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2008, 10:53 PM:

The first says to follow the ads to get free stuff:

The other says to click on the map to see a large photok.

Spam all of it.

#77 ::: P J Evans sees Cyrillic spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:05 AM:

looks like the same as the previous one.

#78 ::: Carrie S. sees Cyrillic spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2008, 11:05 AM:

They're trying to do font colors, too, and screwing it up.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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