Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Voting Stories

As regular readers know, I love election day, and I love stories about how crazy it is to vote in the USA.  I'm expecting a pretty easy election day; we in Texas have the magic button that allows us to vote a straight ticket with one touch, and I believe, although I'm not certain, that it's a 100% partisan ballot.*  We don't have any ballot measures.  We do have judges, but they're partisan, so that's helpful. 

But I know some of you will be faced with several, and perhaps dozens, of decisions to make on your general election ballot without the benefit of party cues.  If you do have any good voting stories this year, please let me know!  I'll start a thread for it on election day, and maybe one a week before for early voters -- of if you've already voted, feel free to comment here.  How many decisions were you asked to make?  How many of them didn't allow for party voting?  What are some of the goofy offices you're voting for?  Impenetrable ballot measures?  How did you figure out which candidate or which side to support?  (On the obscure ones; I'm less interested at least in this context in why you're voting for Rand Paul, but I'd love to hear how you made the choice in a nonpartisan coroner election). I'm sure frequent plain blog commenter and political scientist Matt Jarvis will let us know how many choices he has on his California ballot -- can anyone top him? 

*Texas's version even allows you to go back and edit individual races..at least in the touch-screen version they've had in my polling place for the last few cycles, the magic button automatically lights up every candidate affiliated with the party, but then you can go through and add or delete any of them without affecting the others. 


  1. Here in Chicago, the hardest part of the ballot is by far judicial retention. There's just dozens of names, too many for anyone to keep track of even with the Bar Association voter guides. It's a little easier for me since I'm a practicing attorney, but even still, mostly it boils down to, "Oh, I know them, they're alright." No kind of sophisticated reasoning. For others, it's pretty common to hear, "Just vote for the women and the Irish."

    And the worst part is, it's mostly meaningless- you need something like 75% "No" to get rid of a judge. It just never happens. If anything, it's a false choice.

  2. An IL judge needs a 60% "YES" vote to be retained-unless something has changed recently.

    I used to like elections. Now I hate them. First-past-the-post combined with modern mass media campaigns yields a far from edifying result. I think PR combined with Approval Voting would improve matters more than anything. To me it seems obvious, but apparently to no one else.

  3. I just got my absentee ballot in California yesterday. It has 39 things to vote for, including 10 judgeships. There's just no way to know everybody on the ballot. I'm a political science PhD student at one of the half-dozen or so best political science departments in the country, and in addition I'm a bit of a political junkie (one of those guys who has to check 25 blogs every day), and I still didn't know how to vote for about half of the positions on the ballot. For the judges, I'd decide whether to retain them or not based on whether I liked the governor who appointed them. For non-partisan races like superintendent of public instruction, where there were going to be two democrats, I relied on endorsements. For the ballot measures I didn't know, I tended to look at who contributed to each side, and then vote against the side that got money from people like the chamber of commerce. For some other positions, the process became even more frivolous. For "county assessor," one guy's occupation was a "taxpayer's advocate," so I voted against him. For school-board, I strangely had to vote in two districts, neither of which were races I had followed (I don't have children, and I just moved into this town), so I voted against the CEO in one race, and wrote in "Jesus" in the other. For a slate of candidates, I just voted for whoever the latino was (I'm not latino, but I figured that the latino was probably the liberal in most races. This confusion and irresponsible voting comes from a guy who opened his ballot knowing who he would vote for for Senator, Governor, state assembly, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner, treasurer, controller, attorney general, and board of equalization (which is already more positions than a person should vote for), and most ballot measures. I personally think that California would be MORE (small d) democratic and representative if we ditched some of our hyper-democracy bullshit, and just elected like a few positions. We should vote for a governor (Who runs on a ticket with a lieutenant governor, and chooses all the other statewide offices), a member of the state assembly (I'd prefer a unicameral state legislature), a city council member, a mayor, and then federal positions (congress, senators, and president). I'm much more confident that I'm going to get an Insurance commissioner who does what I want if he's appointed by a governor with a 95% name recognition, instead if being elected by the few people who bother to vote for insurance commissioner in the majority party's primary. Interest groups will always have power, but I feel like, under a "hyper-democratic" system with 50 offices on the ballot, it is incredibly easy for interest groups to get their preferred candidates in office. I want one governor who I elect, and if somebody screws up, I want it to be his fault, because he appointed everybody. I think this would also get rid of the problem of every major elected state office being held by a person whose main qualification is ability to be elected.

  4. I stand corrected on the exact set up, then. But I still hold that requiring anything more than a simple majority muddies up the waters quite a bit.

  5. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Anonymous' school: are you, perhaps, in the Travers' Department?

    It's not just the hint about the ranking of the program, but also the general anti-progressive mood. I'm from the program, but having a job, I don't have to hide my intense dislike of the CA constitution. In fact, I've published on the subject!

  6. Oh, and I mean Progressive as in the Progessive Movement, not Glenn Beck and the modern liberal movement's decision to call themselves progressive.

  7. It is a bit confusing, isn't it. There's the actual Wilson era Progressives; there's Glenn Beck's cartoon version of those Progressives; there's the contemporary group of mainstream Dems that sometimes uses progressive and sometimes liberal to describe themselves; and then there's Beck's use of all of that to tag contemporary mainstream Dems with whatever cartoon version of Wilson he's come up with.

    All of which really stinks for those of us who are strongly "bad government" anti-progressives but don't want to be associated in any way with Beck's junk. We need a war to make the world safe for hating Woodrow Wilson.

  8. In Wisconsin, we do our non-partisan races in the Spring so the ballot was almost entirely partisan. The races on the ballot were Governor (run as a ticket with Lt. Gov, although they primary separately. Weird), AG, Secretary of State, Treasurer, State Assembly, Sheriff, Congress, and Senate.

    I voted for Democrats in every race, though I didn't do straight ticket voting. Secretary of State and Treasurer in WI are both kind of do nothing positions without a lot of power, and both the incumbents are shady Dems. The Treasurer went to conventions in Vegas and billed the state for it, hired political appointees for non-political positions (including her niece), and has been known to throw around racial epithets, so there's no way I was voting for her. The SoS isn't as bad, but he occupies an office that holds no formal power, and sits around and does nothing all day and collects a $60,000 salary. Plus, his name was LaFollette when he was born (in Iowa), but he had it legally changed to put a space in so people would confuse him with the La Follette family. For both of those offices, I wrote in their most recent Dem primary challengers.

    There were two referenda on the ballot as well. The first was a non-binding advisory referendum asking the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana and the second was asking for bonding authority for the Technical Colleges. I voted no on the first, partly because I can't stand BS referenda that are all about political posturing but don't actually change anything, and partly because I disagree with the policy. I voted for the second, just because it gives money to schools, and I'll pretty much always vote for referenda the give more money to schools.

  9. I sent in my absentee ballot to Michigan last week. We have straight ticket voting, but I don't trust it. I know, it's a neurosis, but I feel like if I don't fill in the bubble next to someone's name, it won't be counted right.

    I voted with the Democrats on almost everything. I had no information on candidates for state legislature, state Board of Ed., or any of the University trustee boards, but I went with the Dems on those. I went with the Republicans on two elections: Governor (Rick Snyder) and Kent County Commissioner. I voted for Snyder because I like him and can't stand the Democrat (Bernero). I voted for the Republican for County Commish because I actually know the guy and, hey, he's a nice guy.

    For the judges, all the local ones were running unopposed, so I just voted for them for the Hell of it. For State Supreme Court, I had to choose between 2 of 5 candidates... I took a quick poke at all their websites; 3 of them for full of strict constructionist musings and Tea Party rhetoric ("Let's restore the republic! Go back to the Founding Fathers!), so I voted for the other two. Easy-peasy.

    Two proposals, but they were pretty easy choices for me. Proposal 1 was to convene a new constitutional convention, to which I voted no. Waste of time. Won't fix what's ailing MI at all. Proposal 2 was to bar certain felons from holding elected office, to which I also voted no.

  10. Kind of a disappointingly short ballot here in LA County this year -- only the 8 statewide races, 4 legislative races, 16 appellate-level justice races (yes/no on each), 3 county judge races, 2 other county races, and 9 initiatives (all state, no locals this time).

    The most interesting twist seems to be this: Prop 20, "Redistricting of congressional districts," transfers redistricting authority from elected reps to a 14-member commission. Prop 27 (not adjacent on the ballot) eliminates that same 14-member commission and "consolidates" redistricting authority with elected reps. I wonder how many people are going to vote "Yes" on both. :-)


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