Category Archives: calltoaction

I support CA prop 11 – redistricting reform

CA prop 11, ‘Redistricting’ is one of the 12 state propositions in this election cycle. This proposition is also known as the ‘Voters FIRST Act’.

I support it. Please vote yes on 11.

I’ve written a fair amount about redistricting approaches so I’ll reference some of these posts in my explanation for why I support prop 11.

The problem

Currently the legislature is responsible for drawing districts in which those same legislatures are elected. This creates a clear conflict of interest. This conflict currently occurs in that:

  • legislators want to protect their own seats
  • legislators want to maximize the seats that their party gets

In CA I would describe the current status quo as a ‘bipartisan gerrymander’ in that the problem is more characterized by seats being protected then by a power grab where one party has a disproportionate number of seats and controls the redistricting system to maximize the number of seats controlled by that party. (I may be wrong in this regard; If you have evidence to the contrary please leave a comment.)

The result of this gerrymandered system is that rather than having voters selecting their representative we frequently have representatives choosing their voters via partisan or bi-partisan gerrymandering.

See also:

My ideal solution

In my view the problem of redistricting is best handled in two ways.

1. Use a multi-winner election method with larger (or state-wide) districts. Election methods that do this are known as proportional representation systems.

2. Where districts are used have the method of creating the districts be automated by software without any human input once the algorithm is determined. This is called algorithmic redistricting.

See also:

Prop 11 – an ‘independent commission’ solution

Prop 11 proposes having an independent commission which is responsible for doing the redistricting. This is a considerable improvement over having the state legislators do it. Much of the proposition details how this commission is selected.

What I like:

  • The power to create and shape districts is taken out of the hands of people who have a direct stake in the outcome.
  • Prop 11 only addresses districts for CA legislators. It does not address districts for US House seats. This is important since other states (Texas notoriously) are known to gerrymander in favor of having more Republican US House members and some people opposed previous CA redistricting reform since they considered this to be ‘disarming’ relative to TX behavior. It is my view that national redistricting reform is needed to address how US house districts are selected.

What I dislike:

  • The independent commission that is created is designed to have a precise balance of Republicans, Democrats, and independents on it. I find it extremely distasteful to enshrine into law an assumption that there are two major parties and that the parties have an approximately equal power balance. This does not necessarily reflect future reality even if it closely resembles the current reality. (And it does not even represent the current reality in CA. The Pew Center reports that currently 39% of CA voters identify themselves as Democrats compared to 28% as republicans. (Pew Research citation) That is a 3:2 ratio not a 1:1 ratio.
    See also:

Conclusion

Prop 11 is not perfect. It’s not how I would design a solution. But, on balance, it is a clear improvement over the current perverse system. I recommend voting yes on prop 11.

petition to oppose IRV in NC

There is a petition circulating to oppose Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) in North Carlina.

Restore Election Integrity in NC by opposing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)

In 2006, North Carolina’s General Assembly approved a pilot program that allowed communities to test the use of the so-called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). IRV is a form of ranked-choice voting where voters casting a ballot to rank from one to three choices for each office in races with more than two candidates

RV advocates want IRV to be an option for the future, and are asking the General Assembly to extend and expand the IRV pilot. Many of their claims about IRV are simply not true once you look beyond the hype and the sophistry.

IRV does not ensure majority winners in one single election. The winner of our state’s single “instant runoff” contest took office with 1401 votes – less than 50% plus one vote (1512) of the 3022 votes cast. Our state’s current election equipment won’t tabulate IRV ballots, so the IRV ballots had to be tabulated by hand with workarounds that violated state election laws. And one small error in that tabulation cascaded info a recount that was done another day when the public could not observe it. In the 20 IRV elections in San Francisco held since adopting IRV, any elections going into an IRV “runoff” were won with less than a majority.

IRV only saves money if you consider nothing more than a single IRV election being cheaper than two elections (original plus runoff). While runoff elections are very rarely needed, IRV would require new & more expensive programming, additional voter education and training for poll workers and election administrators, and increased ballot printing expenditures. Candidates would need to spend time and money educating voters. We might need to purchase new voting machines. All those costs would have to be paid for even if no races ever required an instant runoff!

Although I don’t live in NC I’ve signed the petition and composed a comment explaining my reasons. Unfortunately my name no longer shows up on their list; Perhaps it is restricted to NC residents only?

See also Discussion on this petition.

going storage neutral

Ed Felton’s excellent post An Inconvenient Truth About Privacy has inspired me to go storage neutral as well. We’ll see how long I can last – I’m guessing that I will tire of it quickly. Probably by tomorrow it will feel like a stale joke.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from Al Gore is that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. We all like to tool around in our SUVs, but too much driving leads to global warning. We must all take responsibility for our own carbon emissions.

The same goes for online privacy, except that there the problem is storage rather than carbon emissions. We all want more and bigger hard drives, but what is going to be stored on those drives? Information, probably relating to other people. The equation is simple: more storage equals more privacy invasion.

That’s why I have pledged to maintain a storage-neutral lifestyle. From now on, whenever I buy a new hard drive, I’ll either delete the same amount of old information, or I’ll purchase a storage offset from someone else who has extra data to delete. By bidding up the cost of storage offsets, I’ll help create a market for storage conservation, without the inconvenience of changing my storage-intensive lifestyle.

support HR811 if you are so inclined

Electronic Frontier Foundation

I am nuetral / undecided about HR811. If you have decided one way or another, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an advocacy page for supporting HR811. You should be able to edit the message to indicate whatever view you have; support/rejection/something more nuanced.

From the the EFF HR811 advocacy page:

Along with requiring machines to produce a voter-verified paper ballot, H.R. 811 mandates random audits and many other critical reforms. For over three years, EFF has been helping Rep. Rush Holt move this legislation forward, and support from individuals like you has been crucial in garnering an astounding 215 cosponsors. Hundreds of activists joined EFF for Washington, D.C. lobby days in 2005 and 2006, and thousands of letters have poured in to Congress.

Now those efforts are paying off, and victory in the House is within reach — take action now and fight for fair, transparent elections.

The WhyTuesday pledge

The folks at WhyTuesday have caught my attention. Today I decided to sign their pledge.

WhyTuesday

I encourage you to do the same. Continue reading

Tell congress to investigate ES&S and Sequoia

Are you unhappy with the incompetence, poor quality, and allegations of fraud that are revealed in Dan Rather’s “The Trouble with Touch Screens”?

Then do something about it!

Go sign the petition demanding that Congress investigate the allegations made in the report.