Category Archives: news

Alex Keyssar on “How Not to Choose a President”

Alex Keyssar (professor of history and social policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government) recently published an op-ed called “How Not to Choose a President” for the LA Times.

The article was originally titled in a misleading way by LA Times editors (as “Dump Winner-Take-All”) that incorrectly suggested the Keyssar was a supporter of the Republican proposal to distribute CA electors by congressional district. Keyssar is not a supporter of that plan as is clear from a careful reading of the article.

The article discusses the history of electoral college shenanigans through the US’s history.
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Revived attempt to ‘fix’ CA electorial college votes

I guess that I spoke too soon. The partisan Republican attempt to change the way that California distributes it’s electoral votes is back in action.

The Ballot Access News reports:

According to this story in the Riverside, California Press-Enterprise, wealthy Congressman Darrell Issa of San Diego County has agreed to pay to get an initiative on the California June 2008 ballot. That initiative would provide that each U.S. House district elect its own elector. The initiative already collected 100,000 signatures in August, then had been abandoned for lack of funding.

Here is Jack Santucci’s take on this development (Jack was an analyst at Fairvote.org and I’ve disagreed with him frequently on other matters. Here I am nearly full agreement with him.):

CA Congressman Darrell Issa (R-49) will help bankroll the effort to split California’s Electoral College votes by congressional district (CD allocation). And he’s defending it as a move to “proportional representation.”

“This is about making people’s votes count,” he said. “It’s about proportional representation.” […]

Issa insists that he has not endorsed a candidate for president and said the effort is not motivated by politics, but by a desire to increase voter turnout in the state.

“If Florida had proportional representation [in 2000], Al Gore would be president today,” he said.

In another post I highlight some problems with CD allocation. The biggest (in my opinion) is that doing so would drastically raise the stakes of redistricting wherever the system were implemented. Bluntly, gerrymandering would affect presidential elections.

Colbert’s presidential bid

Colbert running for president

Comedian Stephan Colbert (host of fake personality-driven pundit shows ‘the Colbert Report’ on Comedy Central) had announced that he was running for president.
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transcript for Texas legislature clip

Regarding the remarkable clip of rule breaking Texas legislators voting for their colleagues, here is the transcript, including a statement from Alexis DeLee, Spokesperson for House Speaker, Tom Craddick:

There’s been a lot of debate at the State Capitol on bills relating to voter integrity. Some lawmakers are pushing for measures such as requiring voters to show a photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.

Another bill would criminalize anyone who delivers a ballot for someone unable to drive to the polls.

With so much emphasis on one vote for one person, you’d think lawmakers would make sure they follow the rules, too.

In this CBS 42 Investigates, Nanci Wilson found many don’t.

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Texas Legislators vote multiple times?

This is an astounding video showing Texas legislators voting for absent members.
Such votes are against the rules of the Texas legislature but are apparently common practice.

Open questions:

  • Does willfully violating the rules mean that the legislators are violating their oaths of office?
  • Are these votes courtesy votes done with the consent of the absentee member or are a mad mercenary attempt to get as many votes as possible in the rule-breaking voter’s favor?

[Update: here is the transcript]

I’ve been part of a lively debate about some of the issues raised by this video in this forum. I have a number of comments there, so be sure to check it out.

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ITIF’s eVoting report: point-by-point

Here is my point-by-point review of Daniel Castro’s ITIF eVoting report.

This is a long post. I recommend that you first read a summary of my views.

I am basic agreement with the thesis of the report which is that the debate about eVoting should move beyond voter-verified paper audit trails to include systems that can prove to a voter that their vote was counted as cast. However, I found the tone and focus of the report disagreeable and I disagreed with much of the material in the report advocating for eVoting and against voter-verified paper audit trails.

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summary of ITIF’s eVoting report

I’m writing up a full point-by-point review of the ITIF eVoting report. [Update 9/20/07: It’s written. Here is the point-by-point review]

For now, here is a quick summary of my impressions.

I agree with the basic premise of the report that the debate about electronic voting needs to be broader and include other verification technologies than voter-verified paper audit trails. I am in basic agreement with the policy recommendations of the paper but I feel that these recommendations need some caveats. I discuss the recommendations below.

I disagree with much of the setup of the report. The susceptibility to fraud of electronic voting machines is downplayed too much as is the ability of voter-verified paper audit trails to mitigate that. The tone of the report when talking about organizations promoting voter verified audit trails or promoting distrust of eVoting is absolutely poisonous and Mr. Castro should be ashamed. I suspect that much of the poor reception this paper is getting is due to that.
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Buzz about ITIF’s eVoting report

[Update 9/20/07: I have read the report and review it here: summary and points-by-point]

I just got an interesting comment from Daniel Castro, the author of an Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) report on electronic voting. Castro’s comment:

I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the report we just released on electronic voting. We discuss the limitation of paper audit trails, alternative technologies (to paper) that can be used for audit trails, and suggest that we should focus the national discussion not on whether or not we should have paper trails, but rather on how to implement universally verifiable (or end-to-end verifiable) voting systems.

From the report’s teaser:
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Update on Modesto and CA voting rights act

Speaking of the case by Modesto disputing the CA voting rights act, the Ballot Access News reports this update:

Both Sides Have Now Filed U.S. Supreme Court Briefs in Modesto Case

The city of Modesto, California, is trying to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate a California election law that will force Modesto to elect its city councilmembers by district. The California law is somewhat like the federal voting rights act, only it is stronger. Modesto will be forced to use districts to elect its city council because under the at-large system, virtually no Hispanics have ever been elected. Here is the brief of the organization opposed to the city. The case is City of Modesto v Sanchez, no. 07-88.

CA voting rights act only applies to at-large voting systems

(Yes, yes, I know that I still need to research the federal voting rights act and it’s impact on gerrymandering. Now I’ll also need to be aware of it’s impact on proportional representation systems.)

California has a voting rights act enacted in 2002. You can read about it at fairvote and at National Demographics Corporation (NDC) Research (and here is a pdf: NDC Research).

The act can cause local governments that use at-large methods of elections (as opposed to single-winner districts) and that have under-representation of minorities to have court enforced remedies imposed on them. The act implies that those remedies are typically the imposition of a single-winner districting solution.

The city of Modesto was sued in 2004 under this act and lost. They have a 25% Hispanic population but since 1911 one Hispanic city council-member has been elected for their at-large 5 member council. The city is counter suing and argues that the California Voting Rights Act violates the U.S. Constitution. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

The CA voting rights act seems to have a bias that at-large elections are the only source of distorted representation and that single winner districts is the preferred remedy. These assumptions should be questioned.