Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Vote ...

If you're in a Super Tuesday state, then, to borrow from Robert Heinlein -- there may be nothing you want to vote for, but there's sure to be something worth voting against.

I'm voting for Hillary Clinton, which, given my distaste for her husband, is something of a surprise to me -- but I'd be perfectly happy with Barack Obama, so no problems there, regardless of what happens. I have a post coming about how and why I ceased being able to vote Republican. I used to occasionally (though I always voted Democratic more often), but over the last decade I simply can't bring myself to cast a vote for Republican candidates. The last Republican I recall voting for was Dick Riordan for Mayor of Los Angeles -- who offered me a job once, so there's that, but I didn't vote for him in when he ran for his first term, so there's that too. But he did a very good job as mayor, and a decade or so back, whenever he ran for his second term, I was still willing to cross the aisle to vote for the right candidate. Seems like a long time ago.

But regardless of how you feel about my politics, if you're able to vote today, do. Encourage others to vote. There's not much these days that my conservative friends and I really agree upon ... but if you're left, right, center, or off on some axis all your own (and good for you if so) ... this is one of them. Participate. It pays off, at least in the long term.


Sean Fagan said...

I voted!

Admittedly, I am a permanent absentee voter, because of the voting machine debacle. That looks like it's changing, so I may actually vote in the "real" election in November. We'll see.

I voted for Obama, but I'll vote for Hillary in November if she wins the nomination. I don't really care for her, for reasons I've mentioned in the past, but she's still a far better fit for me than any of the Republicans.

Khyron said...

I don't get to vote until next Tuesday. I honestly hope that the nomination is set in stone by then and my vote wouldn't matter, but if it does still, I'll be there. Time to get beyond the (party) internal struggle into the (national) internal struggle.

I disagree with a fair amount of the Democrat's views, but the ones that I disagree with are things that I can live with either way; whereas my disagreements with the Republicans are over things I'm less willing to compromise on.

Anonymous said...

Well I voted today too, but I'm on the other end of the spectrum of most of you here and voted for Ron Paul. I really can't stand anyone else in the running be it republican or democrat.

Dan, I wanted to ask you before but why are you choosing to back Hillary? I ask because I find it very hard to see her having any redeeming qualities at all?

I pretty much abhor the ideas of; "It takes a village", two years mandatory national service (slave labor), and now mandatory health insurance that if you can't pay for it she wants to garnish your wages. A lot of US citizens (especially with the increasing recession) can not handle that kind of theft.

Personally I'd rather just live my own life with just about no government involvement at all and I believe we'll just slip further into a fascist police state with her at the helm. (just my two cents)

Just curious as to how you view it. Thanks, and I hope I don't ruffle to many feathers with my assessment of her.

J.D. Ray said...

I'm with Shawn, except I don't get to vote until May. By that time, really no one will care.

Michael, your synopsis of Sen. Clinton covers things that bother me as well. Not sure what to expect from her as president. At this point, it's obvious that Ron Paul can't win, but I sure like a lot of his ideas. Unfortunately, he's way too sensible to get a lot of support (and therefore votes).

I'm waiting to see if (hoping that) Michael Bloomberg throws his hat in the ring. With the increasing size of the "moderate" vote in both parties, plus the huge (and growing) number of independents, I think he could make a good run at it. And I like what I see that he's done in New York City. Of course, my vantage point is from Oregon, so it's a little blurry from here.

Rob said...

The longer I work in electronic voting security, the more I realize voting is fundamentally pointless. Working in this field is absolutely great for your sense of cynicism, let me tell you.

Duverger's Law is alive and well and methodically killing off political representation. When the overwhelming majority of elected candidates represent the same narrow political interests, the political tails are left disenfranchised to wither and die on the vine. This used to concern me a lot more than it does now, mostly because my sense of give-a-damn has withered and died on the vine.

This post is entirely my own opinion. I am not speaking for the National Science Foundation.

J.D. Ray said...

Ah, voting security, it's alive and well...

Rob said...

J.D., while I am not able to talk about some of the things I've seen (mostly because legal action may arise from them), I think I can safely say that the asleep poll worker is one of the least of my problems. :)

Voting security geeks like to use university elections as laboratory tests, mostly because they represent the highwater mark of what the real world can achieve--young, tech-savvy, politically active workers, everyone has at least some college education, and we can look at things very closely without running afoul of federal and state laws establishing election privacy.

In that spirit, you might find a report from a few years ago to be appalling reading. Every error in that report is one that I've also seen in a real-world election... and on balance, the voting panel at the university is in many ways better than most.

A couple of years ago a local county auditor published an editorial trying to assuage citizen concerns about the voting machines in use in my area. My response is also available.

The only response I ever received from the auditor was a terse email in which she said she disagreed with my conclusions, thought I was not accurately representing the views of the voting security community, and declined my offer to demonstrate these attacks for her.

I felt vindicated when California Secretary of State Debra Bowen released the University of California technical review of the same voting machines. Everything on that page is worth reading.

I wish I had more of my own stuff to present, but unfortunately, that's not possible right now. :(

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Rob, I've been inside the election machinery a few times -- worked polling places, worked on campaigns. My actual takeaway is that the American voting system is moderately accurate -- 90%, 95%, something like that -- with people in poor districts getting hosed the most. While there is fraud I'm skeptical that it's as bad as some people fear -- the most striking example in recent years, Florida 2000, wasn't hidden; it was right out in the open, daylight theft with the 5 conservative Supreme Court members' bare faces hanging out there.

But that aside, I do think most elections (including the Presidential election of 2004) are mostly honest, reasonably competent, and arrive at the correct result.

As to why I recommend people vote -- it's not the vote. Not the single vote any given individual casts, though in some cases that really can be a deciding vote. I could probably come up with a dozen one-vote elections with five minutes google time, but that's not really the point: the very act of going to the polling place, reading the voting guides and being forced to decide what's right and what's wrong (or what's sensible and what's wrong-headed, if you want to be pragmatic) -- produces better, more informed citizens. It gets some skin in the game for that individual voter, makes him or her likelier to inform themselves about what happened to their candidates, their issues -- and in a democracy (or republic) -- that's important.

Ideally people should educate themselves and then vote. But I have no objection to it going the other way, none at all.

Rob said...

I think it's probably better than 95% accurate. However, that's not much consolation given that many elections are decided by less than 2% of the vote. 95% accuracy just doesn't cut it, doesn't even come close.

The signal to noise threshold in elections is atrociously low. E.g., in Florida 2000, pretty much everyone involved in voting security agrees that Gore won by a few thousand votes. (Walter Mebane's research out of Cornell University is widely considered to be the gold standard, if you'd like to read up on it.) But due to errors in the election process, the signal of Gore winning by a few thousand votes was annihilated by the noise of statistical error.

If you want to say the Supreme Court stole the election from Gore, that's fine--that's a political judgment and is beyond the scope of what I can empirically talk about. However, assuming arguendo that you are correct, the Supreme Court was only able to act because the State of Florida had such abysmal and inaccurate election procedures--and in this respect Florida is not much different from other states.

Arizona has had an endemic 1% error rate in their optical scan ballot readers for the last couple of decades. At least one precinct in Virginia had a 4% error rate in optical scan ballot readers which had been certified for election use. These sorts of errors are categorically unacceptable in today's close electoral races.

J.D. Ray said...


Any idea what the rate is in Oregon? I'm nobody in particular as far as the election process goes, but both my wife and I have a lot of energy around things like this and would like to know if some cage rattling is in order.

Anonymous said...

I vote permanent absentee as well and record my votes on the stub, just to make myself feel better. My wife's been a poll worker and site coordinator, and I agree that I don't think there's deliberate fraud, but I know way too much about what can go wrong when computers get involved. :<)

Rob said...

J.D.: I don't know offhand, but I'll make a couple of phone calls in the community and find out. I'll know something by early next week.