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Posts Tagged ‘elections

“That most potent of all sheets of paper, the ballot”*…

 

800px-The_County_Election,_Bingham,_1846

The County Election,” George Caleb Bingham, 1854.

 

Before there were paper ballots in America, there was the human voice. Per the viva voce system, a practice with roots in Ancient Greece, eligible voters would call out the names of their preferred candidates to a government clerk, who registered votes in a pollbook. Sometimes bodies would suffice: in Kentucky, until the early nineteenth century, some elections were decided by counting the number of supporters lined up on opposite sides of the road. In some colonies, people would cast their votes with corn and beans—corn for yea, beans for nay.

Though voting “by papers” gained in popularity during Colonial times, state governments made little effort to standardize ballots until the early nineteenth century. Ballots often required voters to write their preferred candidate’s name on a scrap of paper, which might only be counted if the name was legible and correctly spelled. By the end of the eighteen-twenties, the sheer number of elected offices became too much for a scribe to list, paving the way for the legalization of printed ballots provided by party workers and candidates themselves. As political parties grew and the lists of candidates became longer, the ballots began to resemble the timetables on railway tickets—hence the term “party ticket.”

Despite regulations in some states that required ballots to be printed in black ink on white paper, parties would use distinctive graphic layouts and production methods that allowed party enforcers to monitor voting by visually determining the allegiance of the voter…

On Election Day in nineteenth-century America, party enforcers actively sought out citizens to bribe or coerce. Campaigning often took place in the local taverns that doubled as polling locations. Votes could be bought with ready cash, a ladleful of rum, or even a set of plates. Party enforcers often employed a kidnapping strategy called “cooping,” in which drunk and indigent men were rounded up, locked away in a room until Election Day, and forced to visit polling sites to repeatedly vote for a candidate. Fake or counterfeit party ballots with some or all of the names of another party’s candidates were distributed to mislead the inattentive voter. When interrogated about election fraud, the infamous Boss Tweed once remarked that it wasn’t the ballots that rendered the result. It was the counters

Technological innovations have reshaped the secret-ballot system many times in the decades since. By 1920, gear-and-lever machines with privacy curtains were serving a growing, post-suffrage electorate as the official voting method in several states. From the late fifties to the early seventies, the struggle against discriminatory voting practices and a newly enfranchised youth population further increased the size of the electorate, creating a wider demand for punch-card voting machines, which allowed votes to be counted by a computer. In 2002, after the so-called hanging chad scandal of the 2000 Presidential election, federal funds helped spread the use of electronic voting machines that are still in use today

In this age of recrimination and recount, a look at the history of the ballot– with lots of fascinating pictorial examples: “This is what democracy looked like.”

* Philip Loring Allen

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As we fortify our franchise, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Margaret Sanger, fresh back from a stint in the Raymond Street jail, reopened the Brownsville Clinic in Brooklyn, NY– the first birth control clinic in the U.S.  Sanger had been shut down and arrested before for obscenity (she offered a booklet called “What Every Young Woman Should Know,” explaining the female reproductive system and several contraceptive methods).  This time, the police leaned on her landlord to evict her, and the clinic closed almost as soon as it reopened.

Sanger (center) at the Brownsville Clinic

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Written by LW

November 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Things on the whole are much faster in America; people don’t ‘stand for election’, they ‘run for office.'”*…

 

density

If you want to find a Republican member of Congress, head out into the country. To find a Democrat, your best shot is in a city. But to find a competitive election this fall? Head to the suburbs, where control of the House of Representatives will likely be decided.

More than 40 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives is composed of predominantly suburban districts, according to a new CityLab analysis that classifies all 435 U.S. House districts according to their densities. These seats are currently closely divided between Democrats and Republicans. But that balance could be washed away by a “blue wave” in November. There are 28 Republican-held suburban districts that are competitive1 this fall under FiveThirtyEight’s projections—close to 40 percent of Republicans’ 74 suburban seats. The number of suburban Democratic seats in play: 1 out of 90…

The fascinating analysis in full at: “Density is Destiny.”

* Jessica Mitford

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As we get out the vote, we might note that today is International Moment of Frustration Scream Day– one is encouraged to go outside at twelve hundred hours Greenwich Mean Time and scream for a solid thirty seconds.  The occasion was created by Ruth and Tom Roy, who have a long suit in this sort of thing.

scream_21 source

 

“It’s not opinion polls that determine the outcome of elections, it’s votes in ballot boxes”*…

 

This Nov. 8, even if you manage to be registered in time and have the right identification, there is something else that could stop you from exercising your right to vote.

The ballot. Specifically, the ballot’s design.

Bad ballot design gained national attention almost 16 years ago when Americans became unwilling experts in butterflies and chads. The now-infamous Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, which interlaced candidate names along a central column of punch holes, was so confusing that many voters accidentally voted for Patrick Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

We’ve made some progress since then, but we still likely lose hundreds of thousands of votes every election year due to poor ballot design and instructions. In 2008 and 2010 alone, almost half a million people did not have their votes counted due to mistakes filling out the ballot. Bad ballot design also contributes to long lines on election day. And the effects are not the same for all people: the disenfranchised are disproportionately poor, minority, elderly and disabled

More– with some encouraging examples of remedies– at “Disenfranchised by Bad Design.”

* Nicola Sturgeon

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As we pull the lever, we might spare a thought for Rex Todhunter Stout; he died on this date in 1975. A writer of detective fiction, he created master sleuth Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin, who were featured in 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975– earning Stout the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award.

But as importantly, Stout had a vital career as a public intellectual and activist: he was active in the early years of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founder of the Vanguard Press. He served as head of the Writers’ War Board during World War II, became a radio celebrity, and was active in promoting world federalism, and was the long-time president of the Authors Guild.

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Written by LW

October 27, 2016 at 1:01 am

Democracy in action…

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Alvin Greene came (literally) out of nowhere to win the Democratic primary race to face Tea Party champion Jim DeMint for the honor of representing your correspondent’s home state in the Senate.  Wonkette reports on the result achieved last Tuesday by the candidate who never really campaigned, raised funds, hired a staff, nor for that matter, explained who in the world he is, and whose most news-worthy achievement during the campaign was to be indicted for showing pornographic pictures to a college student, then asking about going back to her room:

Presented without commentary, here are some of the Senate candidates who received fewer votes than Alvin Greene did yesterday, according to the most current AP numbers:

Senator Harry Reid: 361,655
Senator-elect Mike Lee: 360,050
Alvin Greene: 358,069
Sharron Angle: 320,996
Senator Mike Crapo: 318,468
Senator-elect Joe Manchin: 281,661
Senator Blanche Lincoln: 280,167
Senator John Thune: 227,903
Senator Daniel Inouye: 276,867
Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte: 265,967
Senator-elect John Hoeven: 181,409
Senator-elect Chris Coons: 173,900
Senator Patrick Leahy: 145,486
Senator Lisa Murkowski (Total Write-In): 81,876
Joe Miller: 68,288

Yes, yes– your correspondent appreciates that the states in question are not all the same size… still…

As we wonder when someone will get around to investigating the functioning of the electronic voting machines used in the primary in which Greene emerged, we might recall that it was on this date in 1968 that Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority” strategy paid off:  after losing to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and then Pat Brown (in a run for Governor of California two years later), he defeated Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to become the 37th President of the United States.  It was one of the closest elections in history, decided by under 500,000 votes.

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