Saturday, November 13, 2004

State Elections Boards

To keep things moving along, your SBS moderator is compiling a list of the various states' election board web pages. As a starter, a rubric, or scoring method suggests itself. I've furled a starter set under my home state of New Jersey. Here's a brief outline:

  1. prominence (or lack thereof) the governor
  2. ease of access (from "")
  3. how customer-focused is the page (tell me what I need to know, not what you do)
  4. is the content fresh, lots of useful data, local services
  5. does the site raise partisan (bi, non, ...) issues
  6. quality metric of the election site itself (web style points)

In this regard, in my first half dozen sites, the state of Wisconsin fails miserably in the "web quality" metric department: too splashy, too "HOT Topic", ... Cheesey background, ... Also, the state of Maryland gets off to a good start on the state Home page, but the navigation metaphor is "search the folders", and the state agencies are in buckets by letter of the alphabet. Imagine looking for "Department of Elections", where the first folder is A-D! The people who do this stuff must never use their work.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Blue and Red, Red and Blue

Here's an idea: if you want to listen to someone from the other side, pick a Republican from a Blue state or a Democrat from a Red state. This evening, on the News Hour, former Sen Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Vin Webber (R-MN) seemed most reasonable in discussing the future of bi-partisanship in the next four years.

To have any hope of dialogue in the body politic, we have to be prepared to leave our issues at the door, but not surrender our identity either. It occurs to me, when watching these two men, that they have proven it's possible to elect someone from the other side; what do they know, how do they know it; how do they show it?

A few years ago, I had the occasion to support a young man for our party's congressional primary who had been able to get elected to township and county office while being in the strong minority. Interestingly, or curiously, this had no impact on the local king-makers and their selection of the party endorsement. You see, our congressional (and well-gerrymandered) district has counties strongly identified with both parties. In full disclosure, your moderator lives in NJ, and at this juncture (McGreevey retirement -11 days), you can expect quite a bit of jockeying for the next re-apportionment (though still six years off, unless we adopt the TX/CO formulae: any reason to re-apportion is a good reeason).

To summarize: pay attention to the "out" party in which ever district you choose to notice; they've got the fresher ideas.

We Stand Corrected

Correction: the good news is from Maine _and_ NEBRASKA.

Both states (not just Maine) select presidential electors by Congressional district, reserving two for the state. What a concept? Are we proceeding to a parliamentary system here? Imagine. We elect congressional representatives every two years, a president every four, and senators every six. How can we merge the results of "presidential elector" with the house/senate representative vote? Couldn't the representative be the elector? That's an easy answer. Not according to the constitution. And the last thing we want to meddle with in this person's life is the constitution. You might as well amend the Bible!?

Let's not amend the constitution. But let's think of ways, at the state level, of compelling our representatives to link themselves to the district's presidential outcome. We'll obliquely take this up in another post.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Morning After

OK, this all may be a little naieve. On reflection, the American necessity of winning is what gave us the two-party system. So, ... a state by state remake of the national election process may be the last thing to change. While it looks like the Colorado initiative has gone down, the news from Maine is encouraging. Maine is the one state which casts its electoral votes by congressional district, with two votes reserved for the state. This makes sense to YM, but not yet the type of reform we're talking about.

Thinking about the possibility of more than one similar candidate on any state's ballot runs square into the advantage of the incumbent. Imagine a presidential race with, say two conservative candidates on the ballot against one liberal. The reverse of this happened in MD in 1966, when Spiro Agnew won the governorship. In the Democratic primary, two equally liberal candidates were pitted against a "Home is Your Castle" conservative. Splitting the vote nearly equally three ways the radical conservatived polled 35%. Clearly 65% of the electorate didn't want this person, but in the winner-take-all result, he became the Democratic nominee. His general election totals were no higher than his primary totals. Even an unbiased journal such as the US News and World Report could hardly call the support for Agnew "bipartisan". They had to acknowledge it was in reaction to something much worse.

This is the prospect we are facing today. We need to find ways to give expression to those other voices. State By State is not promoting an electoral overhaul. We are in need of creative ideas to reward significant, yet non-winning contributions.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Ohio Turns

It's happened.

In a cynical moment, an
Ohio federal appeals court overturned earlier rulings
barring partisan challengers in today's polling in Ohio.

Your moderator, as revealed earlier, is a partisan challenger, simply for the purpose of picking up the vote totals in the local races. Having just voted, there was no line at my precinct, but the flow was continuous. A person had just exited when I walked up. Another was walking up as I pushed the button. Our history teacher, Brian D, whom I just checked with had a 15 minute wait at 6:20. His "threshold" is 55% turnout is a Kerry victory.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Election Eve

On Election Eve 2004, the news is rife with the Ohio Poll Watcher challenge. This is certainly a partisan effort. As such, your moderator identifies four levels of partisanship (in order of our acceptance):
  • non-partisan
  • anti-partisan
  • bi-partisan
  • (just plain) partisan.
At State By State, we prefer, NON partisan. It would be nice if partisanship were not necessary to treat us all as equals. To the extent identified earlier by Chomsky, and labeled by the SBS editor, as ANTI partisan, let's be frank, the effort to deny voters in Ohio is frankly partisan. So here, it's appropriate to be anti-partisan and side with the judge who denied the partisans an opportunity to be present in the polling places. As a complete populist (if that's partisan), your moderator (YM) observes the polling places are staffed by dedicated citizens whose spend the whole day certifying people showing up to exercise their civic obligation. In full disclosure, YM will act as a partisan challenger tomorrow, but only as the polls close to collect the results for the party which YM serves as a precinct committee person.

BI-partisan is more objectionable than ANTI-partisan, because it pre-supposes the _two_ party system. As a lifetime confirmandi of one of those parties, it is now well past time to open ballot expression to ideas not well-represented in the BI nature of the American Political System.

(Simply) partisan is the most objectionable mode of behavior here. YM is perfectly willing to invite partisan members, since (s?)he is one such. But, let's face it. Partisanship has at its core preservation of the party. While this is a laudable goal, it's not the necessary goal. YM fully expects the major parties to survive the challenge we pose here, so we needn't be overly partisan. Let's do this: identify the blatant partisanship when and where it occurs, shun it to the extent required by a healthy democratic republic, and work to provide access for more ideas, candidates, and citizens.

Invitation to LiberalsLikeChrist

My friends at LLC, thanks for stopping by.

Please consider joining our mailing list at Yahoogroups: where the discussion will be of a non-partisan nature, to the extent that extending ballot access for ideas, candidates, and citizens can be non-partisan.

While I speak of "we" and "us" here, it's yet only in the eclesiastical sense. For the time being, it's just me, Marty McGowan here. But, in the larger sense, I know there are many who can get very passionate about allowing the full expression of ideas. Not that we don't on LLC, but here the paramount issue, subservient to all others, is that for me, the idea that matters is _your_ idea, and not mine. At the risk of a partisan observation, that's what my liberal and christian values call me to.

So, thanks for stopping; I hope to turn this into more than discussion.