A tie in the Electoral College?

One possibility in the election:  Both candidates get 269 electoral votes, resulting in a tie.  From Napp Nazworth:

In a Thursday blog post, University of Virginia political scientists Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley point out that a tie in the electoral college, 269-269, is a real possibility.

For the Electoral College to end in a tie, Romney would win Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. Obama would win Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Given recent polls, this scenario is not hard to imagine. It shows each candidate winning states where polls show them polling slightly better than their opponent, with one exception — Nevada. Sabato, Kondik and Skelley point out that of all the states on the 269-269 map, Romney winning Nevada is the least likely.

According to Article II, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution, if the Electoral College is tied, the newly elected House of Representatives will choose the president with each state delegation getting one vote.

Given current projections for the U.S. House races, Kondik predicts that in a tie race Romney would become president. He would receive the votes of at least 29 state delegations, while Obama would receive the votes of at least 15 state delegations, and six state delegations would either be tied or too close to call.

via Presidential Race: Electoral College Outcome Could Be 269-269.

Theoretically, with an even 50 states, under those rules the House could also split 25 to 25.  We need to admit a 51st state fast.

Is voter fraud a problem, or not?

Democrats are calling attempts, usually led by Republicans, to try to prevent voter fraud as racist attempts to suppress the vote.  Democrats complain that voter ID laws and similar proposals are tackling a non-existent problem.  But John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky say that the issue is more complicated than that:

Voter fraud is so rare that “you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than find a case of prosecutorial voter fraud,” asserts the liberal Advancement Project. An August study by News 21, a group of journalism students, claimed that to find only 10 prosecutions of in-person voter impersonation nationwide since the year 2000.

If state legislators worried about voter fraud are just imagining the problem, then it’s that much easier to block laws requiring voters to use photo ID to prove they are eligible voters. But that’s not quite the whole story. Evidence used to dismiss the problem turns out to be thin.

A large number of the nation’s 3,031 counties never provided data, and the News21 researchers report that they sent out only 2,000 queries. Nor did the study mention the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding voter ID laws, which found an “extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” if ID isn’t required. While voter impersonation is hard to detect, it is easy to commit. Earlier this year, James O’Keefe released a video of a 22-year-old undercover reporter who obtained Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot in Washington, D.C., and could easily have voted if he had chosen to.

Chaotic voter registration rolls make it too easy to commit voter fraud. A February study by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States found one in eight voter registrations were inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicates. Nearly 2.8 million people were registered in two or more states, and perhaps 1.8 million registered voters are dead.

Critics of voter ID laws also fail to note they are designed not just to stop voter impersonation but also multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.

Examples of fraud are plentiful. Three non-citizens were arrested in Iowa last month for voting illegally in the 2010 general election and 2011 city election. A Democratic nominee for Congress resigned in Maryland last month after allegations that she had voted in two states at the same time. A 2004 New York Daily News study found that 46,000 people were registered to vote in both New York City and Florida, and that 400 to 1,000 had voted in both states in the same election. Florida decided the 2000 presidential election by 537 votes.

via Column: Underestimating our voter fraud vulnerability.

What I want to know is, simply, this:  If there is no voter ID law, what is to prevent me from showing up at the polling place, telling the poll worker that I’m you, and taking your vote?  (When you show up, the poll workers will think you’ve already voted, and you might get charged with fraud!)  Policies need to prevent abuses, not just punish them after the abuse takes place.

Who profits from campaign spending?

The presidential campaign will cost some $4 billion.  We worry about so much spending and what special interests contribute so much money.  But another question, Michael Wolff points out, is who gets all of that money?  The answer:  Television stations, despite the way this flies in the face of modern marketing principles:

Presidential campaigns (and statewide races that ride the national political debate) are expensive in the extreme because they’re tactically focused on convincing the people who are the most difficult and, hence, most expensive to convince. And, arguably, the more money that is spent by both sides trying to convince the undecided helps keep them unconvinced — hence, requiring more resources in this illogical quest. The two main principles of marketing — not spending more than the sale is worth; focusing the most resources on the most susceptible buyers — are thrown out in presidential politics.

Billions are spent not only on the few, but on the diffident, bored, resistant and dumb. (If you haven’t made up your mind by this point, you probably aren’t capable of making up your mind.)

Who most directly benefits? Local television stations, and the large media companies that own them. (Among them is USA TODAY parent Gannett, which owns 23 television stations.) Also benefiting are the consultants who buy this media and whose fees are a reflection of the amount of media they buy. Politics is a large and lucrative business offering a clear payoff to a small set of players, who are almost never singled out in the debate about campaign finance reform.If rich men such as Sheldon Adelson ultimately earn some advantage from backing a winner, theirs is a vastly more indirect and uncertain gain than that of station owners and political operatives.

Curiously, nobody asks the most obvious question. Why do campaigns continue to buy, almost to the exclusion of all other media, local broadcast television? It is more costly and less efficient — that is, less targeted — than cable, digital, or even newspapers, all of which attract scant political dollars.

The answer is probably simple. Broadcast television, with its vast audience and quick reach, is not only the most expensive option (not least because its space is most limited), but its use most efficiently perpetuates a seesaw effect. One candidate’s media buy must be balanced by another candidate’s media buy. The strategic goal becomes about trying to raise more money to spend more money to achieve a minor edge.

The exact people each campaign should be spending less on end up, to the enrichment of media and consultants, getting vastly greater attention and dollars. The cheapening of the debate is an inevitable side-effect. It’s all about, in 1950s mass market advertising, repetition. It’s a beautiful, and old-fashioned (think selling soap in the 1950s), advertising loop — the more repetition, the more market share — benefiting media companies.

via Michael Wolff: Give campaign ads free TV time.

Wolff goes on to propose a solution:  Since television stations are publicly licensed, let’s require them to provide free air time for political campaigns.

What do you think of that?  It seems rather tyrannical to force companies to give away their products for free.  And wouldn’t free ads just continue the dysfunctional marketing strategies?  It would seem that the solution would be for one or perhaps both candidates to refuse to take the bait, to concentrate their spending on targeted advertising, online and elsewhere.

Debate post-mortem

Thanks to everybody who live-blogged the debates with me.  As has been said, “that was fun.”  The instant back-and-forth in real time made for a lively online conversation.  We’ll have to look for other opportunities to do that sort of thing.  (Any ideas for that?  Live-blogging the World Series?  The Oklahoma/Notre Dame game?  The Oscars?  American Idol?  Or maybe we’d better just wait four more years.)

At any rate, what did you think of the debate as a whole?  Who gets the advantage?

Let the children vote

Our politics are polarizing, to the point that, at least in Washington, D. C., little kids are getting into fights on the playground over politics.  Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak quotes a letter to parents sent by a school and cites her own 5-year-old’s political dilemma:

“A gentle reminder: As a Quaker school and as an inclusive community, I am reaching out to you, the adults, to talk to your child about respecting others’ views and seeing the Light in each classmate and colleague despite differences of opinion. We in Lower School have found our students at times judging one another harshly for each other’s political views or party preferences.

“This is relevant, of course, in relation to many issues in school life, not just the election. Our children do mimic our adult behavior, and this is an excellent opportunity for each of us to express our views in a manner that is not insulting or demeaning of others.”

Or you could just label it: “Stop Teasing the Republicans!”

My 5-year-old is all in pieces because some of his playground friends like Mitt Romney and others like President Obama. He is torn.

“I just don’t know who to vote for,” he said.

Meanwhile, an idea is being floated that would let children vote!  Actually, their parents would vote for them until they gradually transition into maturity.  Semyon Dukach explains:

Three major extensions of voting rights have been implemented since our republic was founded. The 15th Amendment extended suffrage to former slaves after the Civil War. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. And the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, to match the draft age during the Vietnam War.

There is one clear path for our nation to navigate today’s crisis of political deadlock, growing debt, and under-investment in infrastructure, core science and education. We must lead the world by expanding our democracy and amending our Constitution. We should include those who remain unrepresented in our democratic process: children.

The most straightforward solution to reasonably represent the interests of children younger than 13 is known as “Demeny voting,” after the demographer who raised the issue in the 1980s. Under the Demeny system, the parents or guardians of these children split the vote of each child. In cases in which legal custody is shared between a father and mother, both would control an additional half-vote at the polls for each of their children age 13 and younger.

For example, if a couple has two children, each parent would wield two votes (one each for themselves and a half-vote for each child). A family of four would have four votes. In a family of five, with two adults and three children, each parent would have 2.5 votes (one for themselves and 1.5 for the three children). Again, this adds up to the total number of people in the family. If a single parent had sole custody, he or she would get the entire extra vote.

For adolescents, a simple variation of the Demeny voting scheme could allow them to be gradually emancipated. They could cast 20 percent of their vote at age 14, 40 percent at 15, 60 percent at 16, 80 percent at 17 and 100 percent at 18 (as they may today). The remaining diminishing percentage of their vote would be split each year between their parents or legal guardians, just as in Demeny voting, so that the total number of votes eligible to be cast in the nation will always be equal to the total number of citizens of all ages.

This voting scheme has drawbacks, including that it gives excessive power to parents of large families. And some parents might vote to protect their own interests instead of their children’s. But it would still be a crucial improvement over the status quo. Giving people younger than 18 indirect political representation will result in a more forward-looking balance of power among Americans. It would enable more political investment in our children’s future. Most important, by completing our national journey from a country ruled by landowning white men to one run on the principle of “one person, one vote,” we would lead the world in securing the inalienable universal human right to democratic representation.

via Giving children the right to vote – The Washington Post.

Well, this would give families greater clout.  Counting chads for fractions of votes would be rather challenging.  This would make universal suffrage more universal.  And it would indeed encourage large families and give them a bigger say in the body politic.  It still, though, strikes me as insane.

Reactionary liberalism

Do you remember how liberalism used to be idealistic and ambitious, taking on big problems with boldness and confidence?  Liberal presidents were always proposing vast new programs to solve our social ills:  the New Frontier, the Great Society, the War on Poverty.  Now, points out Michael Gerson, liberals seem bereft of new ideas and new programs.  They are simply trying desperately to hold onto the old programs, oblivious to their problems.  And instead of idealism, all they have is anger.  Read Gerson’s whole column, linked below.  An excerpt:

The Obama agenda also reflects a broader shift in American liberalism, which has become reactive. Liberals often defend unreformed, unsustainable health entitlements — even though these commitments place increasing burdens on the young to benefit those who are older and better off. They often defend the unrestricted right to abortion — even though it represents a contraction of the circle of social inclusion and protection. They often defend the educational status quo — even though it is one of the nation’s main sources of racial and economic injustice.

Others have termed this “reactionary liberalism.” It is more the protection of accumulated interests than the application of creative reform to new problems. In the place of idealism, there is often anger. When Obama failed in his first debate, liberals were generally not critical that he lacked idealism. They were angry that he wasn’t sufficiently angry.

via Michael Gerson: Liberalism’s shrinking agenda – The Washington Post.


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