voting in the America – epic FAIL

I gave a 11 minute talk on voting in the US and it’s issues last night at the Urban Hive in Sacramento. This was to a very small audience and was something I threw together at the last minute.

These are my notes for the talk:

voting in America - epic FAIL

 * not well prepared speech - expect a very bad talk on a very important topic
 * goal is to make people think about democracy in US and whether it
    works / could be improved

principals of democracy
 * choice by people
   "Democracy is a system of government in which people choose their rulers
    by voting for them in elections."
   root demos = people
   FAIL: $ in politics, single winner districts, gerrymandering,
         2 party system due largely to plurality voting
 * representative democracy (vs direct democracy)
  * communication more effective (direct democracy does not scale)
  * specialization (reps are knowledgable about issues)
  * delegation
  * representative
  FAIL: unrepresentative representatives, in pockets of large special interests,
     gerrymandered to get reelected
 * consent of governed
  FAIL: see representative democracy list
        current #s: 26% approval rating for congress, 49% for president
 * accountability
  FAIL: unrepresentative representatives
 * transparency
  FAIL: voting machines, lack of publicly observed counting, vote by
        mail to a degree, blind trust in election results
 * US specific concepts:
  * federalism for national powers
    FAIL: In my view this is inappropriate; people should be
          represented nationally rather then states
  * Separation of Powers - legislative vs executive vs judicial

 * majority rule vs minority rights
 * - democracy not necessarily enough and/or need for compromise
   *unless* people moderate their views to respect the minority

problems with US system:
 * single winner districts => unrepresentative representatives.
   In extreme only 50%+1 represented
 * gerrymandering => representatives choose voters instead of vice versa.
   In extreme only 25%+1 represented
 * money in politics, money as 'speech', corporate personhood under the law
    => corporate money as speech
   "A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the government may
    not ban political spending by corporations, labor unions or other organizations
    in elections. The court’s majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
    swept aside a century-old doctrine in election law, ruling that the campaign finance
    restriction violated the First Amendment’s free speech principles"
 * national government is a federation in which *states* are represented NOT people
  * eg. senate weighs each state equally
  * house of representative does not weight states fully equally - rounding errors,
    formula for # of reps, etc...
  * president elected by electoral college - not national popular vote
 * single winner election systems - plurality voting.  lesser of 2 evils.
   Bush v Gore v Nader
 * => 2 party system - systemic issue

we can do better
 * takes political will
 * understand that there are proposed reforms and that some have obstacles
   or are contradictory
 * some are worse then what we have currently!

what you can do:
 * donate to relief efforts in Haiti - not strictly related but important :)
 * read and be aware of the recent news on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
 * sites and organizations to check out:
   $ in politics: "" ""
   and "Center for Political Accountability"
   voting systems: "score aka"
   general: "" - my site
 * terms to research:
   "election reform"
   "asset voting"
   "approval voting"
   "score voting" aka "range voting"
   "delegatable proxy"


3 responses to “voting in the America – epic FAIL

  1. nice! wish i had been there :)

  2. Under the current system of electing the President, presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
    Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

  3. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

    The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,659 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware –75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 81%. Support is strong in every partisan and demographic group surveyed.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


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