I Think I'm Dumb, or Maybe Just Happy

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The New York Times edit board is suddenly very concerned with the North Carolina ballot, as 1) long ago, Dixiecrats exempted the presidential race from the button that lets you vote straight ticket and 2) Obama is narrowly ahead in the polls there.

This year, North Carolina's flawed ballot could again result in tens of thousands of votes being lost. That is particularly worrisome since polls indicate a very close presidential race in the state. And as we saw in 2000, a presidential election can be decided by a mere 537 votes.

The problem isn't with North Carolina. The problem is democratic. Any majoritarian system is, by its nature, going to rely on the involvement of masses of dumb people who can't read or understand rules very well. Any ballot tweak meant to increase voter choices or simplify one part of the process is going to accidentally disenfranchise people who don't understand the rules. In 2000, this literally cost Al Gore the presidency. Not old people misreading butterly ballots, that is. People who didn't get the rules.

The results of Duval County's vote left Democrats here shaking their heads. More than 26,000 ballots were invalidated, the vast majority because they contained votes for more than one presidential candidate. Nearly 9,000 of the votes were thrown out in the predominantly African-American communities around Jacksonville, where Mr. Gore scored 10-to-1 ratios of victory, according to an analysis of the vote by The New York Times.

… Local election officials attributed the outcome to a ballot that had the name of presidential candidates on two pages, which they said many voters found confusing. Many voters, they said, voted once on each page. The election officials said they would not use such a ballot in the future.

Rodney G. Gregory, a lawyer for the Democrats in Duval County, said the party shared the blame for the confusion. Mr. Gregory said Democratic Party workers instructed voters, many persuaded to go to the polls for the first time, to cast ballots in every race and "be sure to punch a hole on every page."

"The get-out-the vote folks messed it up," Mr. Gregory said ruefully.

They probably did, but there's only so much you can do with voters who think "if I want Bush to lose, I have to vote for Gore AND Monica Moorehead of the Workers Party."  When an election law huckster like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. throws around facts like "black voters' ballots are disqualified at nine times the rate of white voters' ballots," this is the story behind them.

What can states do about it? As simple as you make a ballot (and "vote once for president then hit this button for the rest of the ticket" is not rocket science), you're going to have voters who can't grok it.

NEXT: John McCain: We Must Stop Coddling Criminals

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  1. If people are too stupid to figure out how to vote, I don’t have a problem with their vote not counting, even if you believe democracy can possibly be effective.

  2. There are probably a good number of rednecks who can’t figure it out, either, so it cancels out the inner city black folks that can’t figure it out. It’s a wash.

  3. There were better ways to phrase that sentence, but that’s what three hours of sleep gets you.

  4. Yes, but the sentiment is perfectly agreeable Nigel

  5. I like the title, btw Dave.

  6. Any voting system that cant pass a 6-sigma test shouldnt be used.

    I dont think ANY system currently being used qualifies by that standard.

  7. What can states do about it?

    Hand voters a blank piece of paper and force them to actually know the names of the people they are voting for. Spelling and legibility count too.

    All I know is that I have never been able to vote for more than one candidate in a given race using the electronic voting machines in Floriduh.

  8. If the outcome of the election comes down to 500 possibly spoiled ballots cast by the functionally retarded – I’m ok with just flipping a coin.

  9. There are probably a good number of rednecks who can’t figure it out,…

    Believe it or not, a lot of those rednecks are voting for the same party as those inner city black folks, so I’m not sure how much is getting cancelled out.

  10. Isaac–

    I meant roughly the same demographic that thinks Obama is in an “arab” probably can’t figure it out.

  11. I’m in favor of making ballots as complicated as possible to weed out the morons who can’t figure them out.

  12. Mr. Weigel is quoting none other than Kurt Cobain … from Nirvana’s best album, In Utero.

  13. For any who care, my idea (which isnt totally original to me, I stole bits and pieces from others) which I think would pass 6-sigma muster, if built properly:

    Computerized voting, touch screen or whatever. Prints out piece of paper with two sections:

    A. Race – Votee list. Lists every race and who you voted for, so you can verify before turning in ballot.
    B. An encoded section with scannable info on who you voted for.

    You then take valid ballot to scanner and insert it. The scanner reads and counts votes via the encoded section. A random selection of precincts are hand counted to make sure vote total from section A matches scanner count form section B.

    I would have at least 1 randomly selected race per precinct hand counted. Also, some randomly selected precincts completely audited.

    There are still issues, but they seem to be fraud related more than system related.

  14. but he is an arab

  15. Polling places should all be located at the end of a fairly complex maze.

  16. swillfredo – if you still want to vote electronically in Florida, you have to claim a disability.

  17. Try putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute.

    Imagine being 83-years-old, half blind, and arthritic.

    Gee, why can’t they just read the ballot and punch the right hole?

  18. In many ways, my idea isnt too different from what I do now. I get a paper ballot and bubble in next to the name of the person Im voting for, then run it thru a scantron type machine. The only thing Im changing is eliminating the 2-votes per candidate and erasure and misbubbling errors by having the computer print out the form.

  19. Imagine being 83-years-old, half blind, and arthritic.

    Thats what 51-years-old, fully sighted, healthy children are for.

  20. The New York Times edit board is suddenly very concerned with the North Carolina ballot, as 1) long ago, Dixiecrats exempted the presidential race from the button that lets you vote straight ticket

    Wonders how many comments will indicate a failuer to grock that statement.

  21. Along the way would be one-way exit doors marked “Free Psychic Reading,” “American Idol Auditions” and “Hot Female Welders.”

    (That last one’s for Guy.)

  22. I’m in favor of making ballots as complicated as possible to weed out the morons who can’t figure them out.

    I’m in favor of forcing people through multiple gates where they have to answer questions (such as “What is the airspeed of a unladen sparrow?”) before being allowed to touch a ballot.

  23. Do most states have mail-in ballots like I filled in in AZ and sent in 2 weeks ago so I don’t have to bother with waiting in line?

    The retarded (and blind/arthritic) should use those and have someone help them

  24. Until a year ago when I moved, I voted at a retirement center. The 83hbas didnt seem to be having much trouble.

  25. Citizen Nothing to two, count’em two, in before I could finish my post.

  26. kinnath,
    African or European swallow?

  27. CN,

    I don’t fall for that one any more ๐Ÿ˜‰

    kinnath,

    Are you shure you don’t mean “unladen swallow” or was that not supposed to be a MP ref?

  28. Citizen Nothing got in two, count’em two, in before I could finish my post.

  29. Not only am I slower than Citizen Nothing, but I fucked up the joke as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. wait, I mean…

    arrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaahhhh……

  31. Upon further review, I got it right the first time, so I’m just going to quit while I am ahead ๐Ÿ˜‰

  32. To continue the theme:

    I think we can successfully weed out moronic voters via the “What is your Favorite Colour?” question.

    A: Nineveh!

  33. swallow . . sparrow . . AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH

  34. [Socialist voice]

    Oh, Dave, thanks for bringing the election chatter back to the inherant racism that infects this country from top to bottom. We need social justice. We need a new system that promotes equality by allowing minorities to be the only voters in the next few election cycles.

    [/Socialist voice]

    [My voice]
    No, Dave, I was not accusing you of that nonsense, I was talking about the Times.

  35. Do most states have mail-in ballots like I filled in in AZ and sent in 2 weeks ago so I don’t have to bother with waiting in line?

    The retarded (and blind/arthritic) should use those and have someone help them.

    I’m sure some civic-minded community organization would be happy to help them on a door-to-door basis.

  36. Wow, this discussion is rapidly spiraling downward (sideward?) to one of my favorite Slashdot articles.

    Or are we going to hit the SciFi tangent before the vote selling tangent?

  37. People who {em}cannot handle simple instructions{/em} should not be allowed to vote.

  38. I’m not sure if I’m laughing with PC or at him, but I sure am laughing.

  39. Linked below is a local ballot from NC. As you can see, the following statement is printed DIRECTLY above the presidential selections. It is repeated again above the “straight party” section. They also tell you explicitly that you have to vote separately for the presidential candidates when they hand you the ballot- this has been the case in every presidential election I’ve voted in here, including this one.

    “The offices of President and Vice President
    of the United States are not included in a
    Straight Party vote. This contest must be
    voted separately.”

    http://www.nhcgov.com/AgnAndDpt/ELCT/Documents/8GNEWH05sample.pdf

    This shouldn’t even be a fucking story. Anybody that can’t figure this out is a waste of perfectly good oxygen.

  40. Guy, what does socialist voice sound like? In my head it’s a mixture of a smooth baritone with someone strangling a cat in the background.

    The thing I don’t get is that when a ballot is too complicated it disenfranchises minority voters. We could call it like it is and accept that if you can’t figure out how to vote, then you shouldn’t vote. It’s not overly complicated.

    To the arthritic, blind, alzheimers folks, I’m sure you are aware of your condition and ought to be able to plan ahead to outwit that crazy ballot machine despite your deficiencies.

    Offtopic, how do we measure literacy rate? I would bet that there are plenty of folks who are literate in census terms, but are functionally illiterate. I would bet there are more than three but less than 30 million folks like that.

  41. JLM,

    [Ron Kubie voice]

    Just because you vote in Whitelandia does not mean that everybody else does, or gets the correct instructions.

    [/Ron Kubie voice]

  42. Guy, what does socialist voice sound like? In my head it’s a mixture of a smooth baritone with someone strangling a cat in the background.

    It sounds like that guy who had the painting show on PBS forever. It is the “happy fluffy cloud” Socialist who lulls unsuspecting Liberal Arts students into the web of social justice.

  43. Why is it always people who rail about “elitism” who are so eager to declare large swathes of their fellow citizens unfit to have their voices heard at the ballot box?

  44. Try putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute.

    Imagine being 83-years-old, half blind, and arthritic.

    Gee, why can’t they just read the ballot and punch the right hole?

    Because they are too fucking proud, in delusional denial of their waning abilitie or just too pathetically stupid to ask for advertised available assistance.

    Nope joe. Those lame excuses don’t cut the mustard with me.

  45. Who rails about elitism?
    Hell, I’m a proud elitist.

  46. joe,

    I havent seen anyone doing both. At least not in the same post.

  47. Boy this is really bringing out the “libertarian as asshole” stereotype.

    Sure, there are limits to how far to bend over to make everybody happy. And sure, I take Weigel’s point that no ballot is gonna be perfectly understood by everyone equally well. But if one type of ballot is losing a significantly larger number of people than others, one may safely assume it’s probably more complicated than it needs to be.

    As for eliminating the dummies, watch your glibness. You may need those dummies on your side sometime.

  48. CN,

    Who rails about elitism?

    Frequently it is elitists trying to distract people from their authoratarian ideas.

    However, as of late it has frequently been the fair minded folks who are sick of the elitists.

  49. Why is it always people who rail about “elitism” who are so eager to declare large swathes of their fellow citizens unfit to have their voices heard at the ballot box?

    I’m proud to call myself an elitist, and I firmly believe that large segments of the population are too dumb, ingnorant, or lazy to be allowed to vote.

  50. fyodor,

    Are you sure you are in the correct thread? This one is about voting in NC.

  51. I have always thought it was interesting that Democrats will say that voting difficulties will disproportionately affect their party. That means Democrats think their party contains more idiots than the Republicans.

  52. It sounds like that guy who had the painting show on PBS forever.

    “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross. Required cultural knowledge.

  53. Because they are too fucking proud…for us to want their votes to count.

    robc,

    No, they don’t do it in the same post. Yippee.

  54. Thanks for the backup, guys.

    Yup.

  55. I have always thought it was interesting that Democrats will say that voting difficulties will disproportionately affect their party. That means Democrats think their party contains more idiots than the Republicans.

    Not to mention the places where the “difficulties” emerge are run by them anyway.

  56. Why is it always people who rail about “elitism” who are so eager to declare large swathes of their fellow citizens unfit to have their voices heard at the ballot box?

    Joe, because elitists are people who think the masses are too stupid to do things by themselves, and want to hold their hands to do things they are sure they would want if they are smarter. People like me who think dumb people spoiling their ballots is ok don’t presume to know what the hell the masses need or want and don’t care, because if they don’t vote right it’s not my problem.

  57. Head – your definition of “elitism” and mine must differ.

    I think the masses are perfectly capable of running their own banal little lives without my help.

  58. Let’s face it. People are too stupid to vote. Even if you find a way to make the ballot fool proof, 98% will still vote for either the giant douche or the turd sandwich.

    No one who actively seeks political office should be allowed to hold it. I say we go back to the original democracy and choose our representatives in government by random lot.

  59. joe | October 28, 2008, 10:54am | #
    Try putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute.

    Imagine being 83-years-old, half blind, and arthritic.

    Gee, why can’t they just read the ballot and punch the right hole?

    You can ask for assistance at anytime.

    You are also asked on screen to double check your selections before sending the ballot off to be cast.

    At least the NYT admits it only gives a shit about this ‘problem’ out of paranoia that there is a slight possibility it may cause their man to lose a few votes.

  60. I’m proud to call myself an elitist, and I firmly believe that large segments of the population are too dumb, ingnorant, or lazy to be allowed to vote.

    The best part is we don’t need to “not allow” them to vote. They self select themselves for stupidity by being unable to perform a simple task. In the early days of our democracy, you had to handwrite the name of the person, and misspelling it invalidated your ballot. I’m not suggesting anything nearly as draconian. But if you think “anyone but McCain/Obama” means “vote for everyone else”…

  61. My mother works at a polling place in North Carolina. Her instructions are to tell people that you have to vote for president separately from the straight party option. However, some people are insistent about voting straight party and disregard the comment about voting for president separately.

    There’s not much you can do. The Democrats have even given out little cards with this same instruction, and people still don’t understand.

  62. Joe, because elitists are people who think the masses are too stupid to do things by themselves, and want to hold their hands to do things they are sure they would want if they are smarter.

    Oh, I get it. You don’t actually know what “elitist” means, beyond its use as a political insult.

    e?lit?ism? ?/??lit?z?m, e??li-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [i-lee-tiz-uhm, ey-lee-] Show IPA Pronunciation

    -noun 1. practice of or belief in rule by an elite.
    2. consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group.

    Talking about how much smarter you are than some group of people, and how you and not they should be allowed to participate in politics, is elitism.

    Its opposite is not.

    Why should people who can’t read a dictionary be allowed to debate politics, anyway?

  63. Mmmmm … butterly ballots.

  64. So, if one person states that people spoil ballots because they’re too stupid, that is elitism.

    If a different person states that they spoil ballots for some other reason, and argues that plenty of non-stupid people could make that mistake, that is the opposite of elitism.

    If one person argues that people who are “stupid” shouldn’t have a say in the political process, that person is an elitist.

    If another person argues the opposite, that every person whould have an equal say in the political process, that person is the opposite of an elitist.

    elitist: one who believes in rule by an elite.

    You either think everyone should count and be counted, or you don’t.

  65. Why is it always people who rail about “elitism” who are so eager to declare large swathes of their fellow citizens unfit to have their voices heard at the ballot box?

    Just because some of our citizens are arrogant elitists doesn’t mean others aren’t idiots, joe.

  66. joe,

    Talking about how much smarter you are than some group of people, and how you and not they should be allowed to participate in politics, is elitism.

    This isnt necessarily true, using your definition.

    Lets break it down:

    Talking about how much smarter you are than some group of people

    does not necessarily imply consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group. Acknowledging the truth can be just that. Who says the smart people are select of favored?

    how you and not they should be allowed to participate in politics

    Is it elitism to not allow those under 18 to not vote? Or noncitizens? Or felons? How about the dead? How about slaves? Okay, the last was a bad idea, but not necessarily elitist – property shouldnt vote (it was elitist to think certain people could ever be property, but thats a different issue).

    Deciding on what groups can or cannot vote may or may not be an elitist issue. The assumption that it is elitism is wrong.

  67. OK, people, this is NC we’re talking about. There are lots of functionally illiterate rural voters, mostly black and older who grew up under segregation with limited access to education.

    I’m not personally happy about any illiterate, ill-informed bloc of people voting, but rule or law and equal protection require that voting be accessible to all.

    Many posters here may be unfamiliar with the long history of deliberate disenfranchisement techniques used in Southern states. The literacy test was one such, and no the test was not fairly administered (white voters always passed, blacks never).

    Due to this shameful past we can never implement voter qualification tests even if just and fair.

  68. Joe,

    Lets see: elitists are people who think the masses are too stupid to do things by themselves, and want to hold their hands to do things they are sure they would want if they are smarter.

    seems functionally pretty close to

    practice of or belief in rule by an elite.

    while if they don’t vote right it’s not my problem

    doesn’t seem that similar to consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group.

    Unless you consider the group ‘anyone who can punch a ballot’ to be favored or selective.

    Nope – doesn’t really wash. nice try though.

  69. Why should people who can’t read a dictionary be allowed to debate politics, anyway?

    Oh, snap! I get why this gets on your nerves, though. It is the same smuglies MNG gets when he is feeling particularly socialized in the world of academia (been there too, buddy, I have so been over it for years now), except it is the Libertarian version of that attitude in drag.

  70. Joe,

    You are intentionally omitting additional dictionary definitions of the word elitism to make your point. FAIL.

  71. You either think everyone should count and be counted, or you don’t.

    I think everyone should get a fair and reasonably easy chance to be counted. I don’t believe we should go around tallying up votes of incapacitated, dead, or disinterested easily influenced people who don’t care enough to vote on their own. What the elitists don’t get is some people just don’t care and that’s ok. Maybe they would if the elitists did better than silly patronizing pandering.

    See, people might be to dumb to punch a card correctly, but they know when someone holds them in disdain.

  72. I belong to joe’s definition #2.
    I am conscious of, and proud in belonging to a select group of non-idiots.

    I don’t believe we non-idiots should rule, however so I guess definition #1 doesn’t apply.

    Perhaps we need a new word. (Or maybe, as fyodor suggests, “asshole” will work just fine.)

  73. robc,

    Talking about how much smarter you are than some group of people

    does not necessarily imply consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group.”

    Yes it does. Proclaiming yourself and those like you to be smarter than some other other people is precisely a statement that you consider yourself better than them.

    “Acknowledging the truth can be just that.” I see this from racists all the time. I’m not racist, it’s just true. Whatever.

    “Who says the smart people are select of favored?” The people who proclaim themselves smarter, and who make statements about only smart people like them rightfully having a say in governing.

    Is it elitism to not allow those under 18 to not vote? Or noncitizens? Or felons? If you are arguing that they should not have the righ to vote because they are inferior and cannot be trusted with the responsibility – if your argument is that such people are just too stupid to vote – yup, textbook, dictionary-definition elitism.

    How about the dead I’ll pretend not to notice this, because it’s beneath you.

    Deciding on what groups can or cannot vote may or may not be an elitist issue. Right. It’s only when people make the argument that some group shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they’re too stupid that it becomes elitism.

  74. Eric S,

    1. Go to dictinary.com

    2. Enter “elitist.”

    3. Copy the results into a comment.

    4. Apologize to me.

  75. “if your argument is that such people are just too stupid to vote – yup, textbook, dictionary-definition elitism.”

    So joe, does that mean you are an elistist in some cases?

    Surely you must grant the fact that three year olds are to stupid to vote (which is fortunate, since, in my home, they could deadlock every ballot).

  76. Head, flailing:

    Lets see: elitists are people who think the masses are too stupid to do things by themselves, and want to hold their hands to do things they are sure they would want if they are smarter.

    seems functionally pretty close to

    practice of or belief in rule by an elite.

    Sure, if you pretend that helping someone case their vote as THEY wish is the same thing as voting for them, or denying them their vote at all.

    Which is to say, your argument makes sense, as long as you pretend that a cabbie who drives where his passenger tells him is “holding his hand and taking him where he would want to go if he knew better.”

    You know, like, not at all.

  77. alan,

    I’m sorry you can’t understand anything about politics except which sort of persons you don’t like.

  78. Go to dictinary.com

    I just got a bunch of ads.

  79. joe,

    Yes it does. Proclaiming yourself and those like you to be smarter than some other other people is precisely a statement that you consider yourself better than them.

    This is bullshit. I am smarter than a vast majority of the people on this planet. This is a true statement that it would be stupid of me to deny. I dont think smarter people are better people. I think they are smarter. I think you are an elitist for thinking that smarter == better.

  80. I don’t believe we should go around tallying up votes of incapacitated, dead, or disinterested easily influenced people who don’t care enough to vote on their own. What the elitists don’t get is some people just don’t care and that’s ok.

    Um, people who make it to the ballot box are neither dead nor disinterested, and there’s no reason to think they’re any more “easily influenced” than anyone else. Not sure what you mean by incapacitated. They had the capacity to get to the ballot box, but apparently not to understand a particular kind of ballot. Wouldn’t take much “going around” to make the ballot as easy to understand as it is in other states.

  81. Smarter is better than dumber.
    Prettier is better than uglier.
    Kinder is better than meaner.
    More peaceful is better than more agressive.

    Yep. I’m an elitist.

  82. I don’t know about election law in other states, but I do know it in Texas. If you cannot functionally use the voting machine, election workers are required to provide you with assistance so you can vote. We used to be able to let your family members assist you. That led to Mom bringing her retarded 18-yo son in to “help” him vote. Now it’s all election worker assistance. It’s fun, believe me. Half-blind, arthritic, 83 years old, drooling on the floor, and palsied? Yeah, I helped that guy in the primary. He’s a nice guy, too. Apologizes for drooling.

    At some point people have to take some ownership of the process. I understand people who have physical and/or cognitive limitations. But otherwise capable adults who won’t read the instructions and won’t ask for help? Fuck ’em. If your pride won’t let you admit you don’t understand the process, don’t show up and waste everybody’s time.

    7 years of working elections has also convinced me we have the government we deserve because most people are fucking idiots. Yet another reason I’m a libertarian. I don’t want the collection of people that show to up vote to be the ones telling me how to run anything, much less a nation of 300 million people.

  83. So joe, does that mean you are an elistist in some cases?

    No.

    Surely you must grant the fact that three year olds are to stupid to vote

    Not too stupid, too immature.

    But that’s a telling remark – you consider adults to be like children, or at least the ones you don’t want voting. And you’re willing to lump them into the ineligable to vote category based on attributes (disability, for example, or not having a poll buddy to help them overcome it) that have nothing to do with intelligence, responsibility, or wisdom.

  84. And the assholes come out in full force on this thread.

    All the people railing about too stupid to vote and can’t do it right — you basically are saying that there should be a literacy test required before you vote. That’s some pretty impressive company you are now keeping.

    This is absolutely wrong. The ballots should be made in a way that even the dumbest person in the world should be able to vote without requiring assistance.

    And all you smug douchebags who think that people too dumb to follow arbitrarily convoluted directions don’t deserve their vote to count are the problem, not the “stupid” people.

    It’s not always that people are too stupid. My mother needs me to help her vote. She can’t see very well, and can’t read the ballot all that well and is prone to making mistakes.

    Does she not deserve to have her vote count? Should bad eyesight disqualify her? Should she have to rely on myself or a poll worker for help ?? Can she even trust the poll worker to not mislead her??

    An my polling place, we use optical scanners (touch screens are also an option but no one uses them). Once we are done voting they run the scanner through a validator. This validtaor will indicate if you have spoiled your ballot by over-voting for any offices. If so you are given the opportunity to vote again and validate it again until you get it right

    Why shouldn’t every polling place have something like that? Unless your goal isn’t to actually get as many valid ballots as possible.

  85. I do wonder why is it that I, who agree with T and believe that no one is smart enough to “run” the country, can comfortably cop to the label “elitist,” when someone who believes we just need the correct smart, well-intentioned folks in charge to make things better, can not.

  86. Sure, if you pretend that helping someone case their vote as THEY wish is the same thing as voting for them, or denying them their vote at all.

    Fine, except that I never said anything of the kind. It’s been pointed out that people get help if they ask for it – that’s dandy. Your cabbie analogy presumes the person actually asked to be driven to the Obama camp – which is why I think you are being willfully ignorant.

  87. I think T’s statment boils down the differences on this question:

    But otherwise capable adults who won’t read the instructions and won’t ask for help? Fuck ’em.

    Some people believe that if Group X isn’t able to participate in the democratic process, it only hurts those people. Fuck ’em.

    Some of us believe that cutting Grouop X out of the process hurts our democracy as a whole.

  88. Some of us have also copped to being assholes, ChicagoTom, so what’s your point?

  89. Proclaiming yourself and those like you to be smarter than some other other people is precisely a statement that you consider yourself better than them.

    You overstepped your case there, joe. By itself, considering yourself (and other smart people?) smarter than others doesn’t inherently mean that you think you’re better than others. And hell, what if it’s true?

    Though personally, I consider the whole “elitism” thing a red herring, whatever the point being made (and for those who don’t know me, I’ve got a pretty good right to my decoder ring!). It’s tautological and reeks of ad hominen.

  90. joe,

    If you are arguing that they should not have the righ to vote because they are inferior and cannot be trusted with the responsibility

    I think “cannot be trusted with the responsibility” is exactly why we dont let those groups vote:

    17 years old – not mature enough
    felons – too criminal
    non-citizen – may vote against the best interests of the nation

    it is in fact, entirely a matter of lack of trust. Its stereotyping, Im sure many young kids are mature enough to vote, many felons shouldnt be IMO, and many immigrants would vote to help America, but there is enough doubt to withhold the vote from all of them. Does the same apply to those who cant follow simple ballot rules? At least in that case we are doing a better job of separating out those that are and arent trustworthy.

  91. joe,

    joe | October 28, 2008, 12:14pm | #
    alan,

    I’m sorry you can’t understand anything about politics except which sort of persons you don’t like.

    I’m sorry I don’t have the free time to pontificate at length as you do all day at leisure on this board.

    BTW, I happen to like MNG, but he has a serious flaw that bleeds out from time to time.

    I’m most sorry about attempting to be reasonable with you, my bad, it wont happen again.

  92. Citizen Nothing | October 28, 2008, 12:21pm | #

    I do wonder why is it that I, who agree with T and believe that no one is smart enough to “run” the country, can comfortably cop to the label “elitist,” when someone who believes we just need the correct smart, well-intentioned folks in charge to make things better, can not.

    Translation: I’m a libertarian, so I get a Get Out of Elitism Free card. I can shit on as many people as I want, hell I could argue for disenfranchising all the black people, women, and renters, but if I support libertarian policies, I’m not an elitist.

  93. joe, do you have a constructive suggestion? We cannot go back and “fix” those votes. Most changes to ballots are “close a door, open a window” kind of changes, in that they clarify things for one set of voters and simultaneously befuddle another group.

    And I really don’t see how you’re “cutting people out” of the process if they cannot follow the instructions on the ballot. They’re cutting themselves out.

    Am I happy about it? No.
    Do I see a solution? No.

  94. Head:

    Fine, except that I never said anything of the kind. that is, never said anything about helping people vote being elitist.

    Let’s go to the tape: elitists are people who think the masses are too stupid to do things by themselves, and want to hold their hands to do things they are sure they would want if they are smarter.

    The above comment was written in response to a statement that voting should be made easier.

  95. “And you’re willing to lump them into the ineligable to vote category based on attributes (disability, for example, or not having a poll buddy to help them overcome it) that have nothing to do with intelligence, responsibility, or wisdom.”

    Tut, tut, joe. You’re making unverifible assumptions. (And I know how they make your skin crawl.)

  96. Try putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute.

    Imagine being 83-years-old, half blind, and arthritic.

    My father is a poll worker in Va.

    This nearly describes the median poll worker as well.

  97. fyodor, robc,

    OK, proclaiming yourself to be smarter than some other group based on something that may or may not have anything to do with intelligence is prima facie elitist.

    It is the assumption that the problems other people face come from their stupidity that is elitist.

  98. When an election law huckster like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. throws around facts like “black voters’ ballots are disqualified at nine times the rate of white voters’ ballots,” this is the story behind them.

    Whoa Weigel, you are treading on thin ice here. To suggest that “black voters” are not intentionally being “disenfranchised” by a vicious cabal of pasty-white Republicans is just a little bit over the top, don’t you think?

  99. “Translation: I’m a libertarian, so I get a Get Out of Elitism Free card. I can shit on as many people as I want.”

    I thought libertarianism was about NOT shitting on people. (Oh well. Sometimes I can almost sympathize with Guy’s filter policy.)

    I’m outta here for now.

  100. Translation: I’m a libertarian, so I get a Get Out of Elitism Free card. I can shit on as many people as I want, hell I could argue for disenfranchising all the black people, women, and renters, but if I support libertarian policies, I’m not an elitist.

    Well joe, to a certain extent this does reflect a genuine difference of opinion on the sacrosanctness of voting. Not caring how easy it is for marginal folks to vote is different from thinking people should have their lives run by a centralized authority. Which is more elitist? As I’ve already said, who cares.

    Personally, though, I do think some libertarians undervalue democracy as a generally necessary means to maximize freedom. It’s imperfect, but as we all (oughtta!) know, it’s kinda the best we got. And just like rights for some means rights for none, democracy for some ain’t democracy.

  101. TAO,

    joe, do you have a constructive suggestion?

    About the North Carolina ballots? Lose the straight-party voting.

    About the issue in general, and about elitism in general? Get over yourself (not you personally, necessarily), and stop assuming that you’re better than everyone, or that whenever something bad happens or there’s a failure in the system, it’s the result of their not being as smart and good as you.

    I think my most constructive suggestion was “try putting yourself in the other guy’s shoe’s for a change.” When faces with story about something going wrong for someone…don’t be an elitist.

  102. The ballots should be made in a way that even the dumbest person in the world should be able to vote without requiring assistance.

    Unequivocally impossible.

    arbitrarily convoluted directions

    punch the box next to the name…

    Notice, nowhere in any of my remarks do I say that people should be able to read, walk, write, assess objectively who would be the best leader of the free world… It would be nice if they

    a) knew the name of the person they are voting for
    b) can punch the card, or ask for help to do so correctly
    c) realize they can only vote for one person

    I don’t think this viewpoint is especially “elitist” – but apparently it is not only that, but anti-democratic, racist, and a douchebag. And, I get called elitist by a guy who says he is smarter than the “vast majority of people on the planet”

  103. Tut, tut, joe. You’re making unverifible assumptions.

    Not at all. I am on very solid ground making the statement that people are lumping those with disabilities, or illiteracy, or some other problem together under the heading “stupid.” Just read the thread. The only assumption I’m making is that the thread actually exists.

  104. joe,

    Holding an exaggerated concern that there are large numbers of people who will be confused by simple ballots could certainly be considered “consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group” – the group of people who are competent to take care of their own ballot.

    Surely you can see that believing that large numbers of people won’t be able to complete a simple task without your personal intervention to change the system to save them from their inadequacy is in its own way an elite belief?

    With regard to the larger question, I’m not sure why ballot problems aren’t dealt with at the point of sale, as it were:

    Use paper ballots and optical scanners. For every office or ballot question, include a “Do Not Wish To Vote” bubble. Then pre-scan the ballots when the voter is submitting them, and if the voter has chosen two candidates/answers for any ballot item, or has “undervoted” without explicitly selecting “Do Not Wish To Vote”, have them fill out a new ballot until they get it right. This way there would be no overvoting and no ambiguous undervoting.

  105. do you have a constructive suggestion? We cannot go back and “fix” those votes. Most changes to ballots are “close a door, open a window” kind of changes, in that they clarify things for one set of voters and simultaneously befuddle another group.

    No, there’s nothing we can do about votes already cast. The future holds a lot more promise for reform than the past! And as I alluded to way up the thread, while I agree that no ballot is gonna be perfect, if one type is clearly creating a lot more confusion than others (as appears to be the case in NC, and nobody’s refuted that), then that would seem to suggest it would be more fair to do what’s reasonable to make the ballot less confusing. That’s all.

  106. Rodney G. Gregory, a lawyer for the Democrats in Duval County, said the party shared the blame for the confusion. Mr. Gregory said Democratic Party workers instructed voters, many persuaded to go to the polls for the first time, to cast ballots in every race and “be sure to punch a hole on every page.”

    These poor, disenfranchised voters were only following the instructions of their ACORN handlers.

  107. This nearly describes the median poll worker as well.

    Too true, Kolohe.

    But when ballots get spoiled, it’s because people are stupid, and shouldn’t be allowed to vote anyway.

    Thanks to CN for proving my point: I thought libertarianism was about NOT shitting on people. He can write as many posts shitting on people as he wants, declaring them inferior and unworthy of equal participation, but because he’s a libertarian, it’s not elitism, and he’s not really shitting on anyone.

  108. Fluffy,

    Holding an exaggerated concern that there are large numbers of people who will be confused by simple ballots could certainly be considered “consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group” – the group of people who are competent to take care of their own ballot.

    But that’s the point – I’m arguing that it could happen to anyone. It could happen to me. When did I say anything about their inadequacy, or my persona intervention?

  109. joe,

    the tape looks like this:

    Why is it always people who rail about “elitism” who are so eager to declare large swathes of their fellow citizens unfit to have their voices heard at the ballot box?

    Joe, because elitists are people who think the masses are too stupid to do things by themselves, and want to hold their hands to do things they are sure they would want if they are smarter.

    My point was that there is at least as much elitism in your assumption that the liberal agenda is the best thing for poor people, as there is in saying “if you screw up your ballot, there’s really not much we can do about it”

  110. Personally, I don’t think that people are too stupid to vote.

    I think that people are smart enough to vote, and if they have personal problems that make it difficult for them to vote, they are smart enough to ask for help. Asking for help is a very basic human ability that you have to be truly disabled to not possess.

    So if I don’t think poorly-completed ballots are the biggest problem in the world, it’s not because I think people are stupid. It’s because I think the opposite.

    I think there’s all sorts of skullduggery and vote suppression going on, but almost all of it is at the registration stage. I think a huge effort has been made nationally to make the actual act of voting pretty easy, and to provide help for people who need it. If even given all that effort, you still can’t vote, you’re basically like a guy standing in a room surrounded by tables covered in glasses of water, trying to tell me it’s somehow my fault or the system’s fault that you’re thirsty.

    If I thought people were too stupid to vote, I wouldn’t hold them responsible for failing to vote properly. It’s because I think they’re smart enough to vote, or to ask for help, that I blame them when they fail.

  111. elitist: one who believes in rule by an elite.

    I’m a hipocrat. I believe in hipocracy, the rule by the extremely cool.

  112. But that’s the point – I’m arguing that it could happen to anyone. It could happen to me. When did I say anything about their inadequacy, or my persona intervention?

    OK, if you want to argue that it could happen to you, too, that’s different.

    I’ve been taking away from your posts the idea that you’re saying that voting is really hard, and that people need lots and lots of help. And that would be a little demeaning, if you exempted yourself. Sort of like sitting in a class thinking about how everyone else in the class but you was about to really bomb on a test.

  113. … many persuaded to go to the polls for the first time, to cast ballots in every race and “be sure to punch a hole on every page.”

    These are people who DID NOT WANT to vote in the first place. They were bullied into it by political thugs pushing their own agenda. What is the fucking tragedy, here?

  114. If I thought people were too stupid to vote, I wouldn’t hold them responsible for failing to vote properly. It’s because I think they’re smart enough to vote, or to ask for help, that I blame them when they fail.

    I believe pretty much the same. It gets lost in this discussion, but the straight party line option was one of those measures taken to
    simplify the process that would attract more voters to the polling booths by making it easier for them to get in and out at a convenient pace. Unintended consequences, perhaps, but where have you been all this time
    NYT, or Charlotte Observer? Did your favorites in local races not benefit from straight line voting during those halcyon Dixiecrat days when old white guys could reliably be expected to vote Nixon-Ford-Reagan-Bush in the Presidential race but vote Democrat in the local races?

  115. Head,

    Unequivocally impossible.

    I agree with this.

    I was referring to computers, but more than a decade ago I said that building an “idiot proof” system just evolves bigger idiots.

  116. Head,

    I get called elitist by a guy who says he is smarter than the “vast majority of people on the planet”

    That was me, responding to joe. I dont think I called anyone an elitist. Unless you are pro-slavery. Then, I think I did.

  117. Fluffy,

    To expand on my point, one day, I’m likely to be half-blind and arthritic, if I’m lucky. Would it be elitist to say that I might need a cane?

    Also, if screwy ballot design means that 1/2 of voters mess up, that’s in the neighborhood of 600,000 votes. Anyone can space 1/2 of 1% of the time when doing a task. That’s why they have QC people at the end of assembly lines, even when those lines are staffed by extremely skilled, hand-chosen people.

  118. They were bullied into it by political thugs…

    Convincing someone to vote is bullying them?

    How can you write this shit?

  119. joe,

    That’s why they have QC people at the end of assembly lines

    You see my 6-sigma post above? 3 errors per million, I think.

  120. I did, robc.

    I think you’ve got a good idea there.

  121. Shorter version of this argument: do we design the voting process to be as simple as possible so that the possibility of voter error is reduced to a minimum? Some of us say yes. Next constraint: the voting system also has to comply with all applicable local, state, and federal laws and elections. This, in my opinion, complicates the “ideal” system.

    There is also going to be a non-zero percentage of error on the part of the voter that cannot be designed out of the system. What percentage is too large? Again, some would say any is too high, but let’s be realistic. Some people are going to screw this up. How many is too many?

    Me, I’m just happy I can have these discussions on a theoretical level since I don’t have to work the polls next week.

  122. elitist

    1: leadership or rule by an elite
    2: the selectivity of the elite ; especially : snobbery
    3: consciousness of being or belonging to an elite

  123. joe,

    I think you’ve got a good idea there.

    Dumb people would still find a way to screw it up.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  124. Shorter version of this argument: do we design the voting process to be as simple as possible so that the possibility of voter error is reduced to a minimum?

    A definite yes to that, but on the non abstract but applicable matter of this, as I’ve pointed out in previous post, historically the process of
    simplification (at least in the example that this post is about) has not been about designing a more fair system but a system that benefits a particular party.

  125. Can we come up with a system that benefits the LP?

  126. historically the process of
    simplification (at least in the example that this post is about) has not been about designing a more fair system but a system that benefits a particular party.

    Either way, I’m reasonably certain it won’t make it any easier for 3rd parties to get on the ballot.

  127. How can you write this shit?

    I grew up in Chicago. I saw first-hand the “get out the vote” machine in action.

    The implicit message in the NYT story was that the double voters really meant to vote for the Democrat. How do they know that? Why don’t they conclude that those voters really intended to vote Monica Moorehead of the Workers Party? Because it conflicts with their world-view that Democrats own the black vote.

    It is funny to see the calls to “fix the system” when a small percentage of voters mess up their ballots. I don’t recall anybody giving a shit when a supposedly Republican voter invalidates his ballot through bumbling.

  128. Polling places should all be located at the end of a fairly complex maze.

    Great idea! You could give votes to the republicans for those that solve it with the right hand rule, the dems get those that solve it with the left hand rule, those that solve it without a rule go to the libertarians, if you get lost you don’t get a vote.

  129. Why don’t they conclude that those voters really intended to vote Monica Moorehead of the Workers Party?

    Because they can compare the spoiled ballots to the voting patterns of similar voters. Absent some plausible reason why spoiling one’s ballot would indicate a stronger likelihood of voting for a communist – a plausible one, now “how do we know that…” – then it is extremely unlikely that there would be a marked difference between how the two groupos of similar voters would vote.

    I don’t recall anybody giving a shit when a supposedly Republican voter invalidates his ballot through bumbling.

    I can’t think of any cases where there was a higher incidence of ballot failure in Republican-heavy areas than Democratic ones.

  130. e?lit?ism or ??lit?ism (?-l?’t?z’?m, ?-l?’-) Pronunciation Key
    n.
    The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.

    The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
    Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/elitism

    I stand by my original statement. Quit telling people they don’t understand the definition of elitism.

  131. Only male land owners over the age of 30 should be allowed to vote.

  132. I want to go back to the beginning:

    Direct election of House of Representatives

    Senators appointed by the states

    President selected by a real electoral college

  133. Joe,

    You are intentionally omitting additional dictionary definitions of the word elitism to make your point. FAIL.

    Dishonest editing by joe? Our joe? I’m shocked. He’ll cut of a sentence in the middle and respond to it. Get used to it.

  134. JsD,

    ROFLMAO

  135. I think party labels should be banned from all ballots. For president, I think they should only put the the name of actual elector on the ballot. So NC is moving in the right direction.

  136. Only male land owners over the age of 30 should be allowed to vote.

    30 is silly. I have no problem with 18. I also dont have a problem with a landowner requirement. Like felons, children, and immigrants, renters are just inherently untrustworthy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  137. Citizenship and voting rights for military veterans only – and only after a full career. No pansy quasi-civilian career fields either. You are a veteran if you carried/rode a gun/weapon for a living.

  138. I can’t think of any cases where there was a higher incidence of ballot failure in Republican-heavy areas than Democratic ones.

    I wonder if we can suggest any reasons for this without being called an elitist?

  139. robc,

    Don’t bet on it.

  140. I definitely would agree with eliminating party labels from the ballot.

    The parties have absolutely no Constitutional standing. Individuals are eligible to be elected to federal offices and parties are not.

    The ballot should be a ballot, not an advertisement.

  141. robc, sure you can – because the evil vote repressing republican ground machine intimidates the honest hardworking democratic voter in their hometowns.

  142. Fluffy,

    The ballot should be a ballot, not an advertisement.

    Although, if we were willing to sell the blank spaces on the ballots, or a 30 sec flash ad for touch screens before starting, the elections could pay for themselves.

  143. robc,

    Good plan. I bet we could clear the most from porn and weight-loss.

  144. I bet we could clear the most from porn and weight-loss.

    And no kiddies to see the porn ads! It’s a win-win.

  145. I can’t think of any cases where there was a higher incidence of ballot failure in Republican-heavy areas than Democratic ones.

    Why is that? Are Dems just naturally dumber, or is there some sinister Rovian plot involved?

  146. Proclaiming yourself and those like you to be smarter than some other other people is precisely a statement that you consider yourself better than them.

    Nope. Only an elitist would think “smarter” = “better than.”

    I think I’m smarter than most people, in certain pretty narrow and, thankfully, well-paid ways. I don’t for a minute think I’m better than them, because I know all too well that there’s all kinds of shit that I can’t do that they can.

  147. joe, you honestly can’t see how libertarianism is a pretty good inoculation against “practice of or belief in rule by an elite”?

  148. Casting ballots correctly requires a minimum I.Q. and what that ceiling is depends on the design of the ballot.

    The pseudononymous mathematician, La Griffe du Lion, looked at the 2000 Florida election and the (at least) 12 voting systems used throughout. Very interesting:

    http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/elec2000.htm

    Here is a portion:

    “The best voting system was ‘L,’ an optical scanning system from Global Election Systems, Inc. Adopted by 17 counties, it required only an IQ of about 60 to use correctly. Before PC, people with IQs of 60 were classified as morons. ‘Mildly retarded’ is now more acceptable. They are capable of acquiring reading and arithmetic skills to about sixth-grade level.

    “The most difficult system was ‘A,’ from Sequoia Pacific System, Corporation. This punch-card system, adopted by 2 counties, required an IQ of about 75 to use. Though not qualifying for rocket science, 75 is enough to disqualify more than 25 percent of blacks and 5 percent of whites. Compare this to the Global Elections system which would stump only 3 percent of blacks and a negligible fraction of whites.”

    “Can you tell what the Florida outcome would have been if idiot-proof voting systems were used?” I asked.

    “Indeed we can,” said Mentor, retrieving another table to the screen.

    “Look here,” he said, “using cumulative data for all Florida, I computed the statewide IQ threshold to be -2.19 SD, and from this, calculated overall black and white error rates. Applying these to the turnouts, I found the number of uncounted ballots cast by each group.

    Black
    Turnout White
    Turnout Error Rate
    Black Error Rate
    White Votes Not
    Counted
    Black Votes Not
    Counted
    White
    STATEWIDE
    TOTALS 893,000 Bl 5,246,000 Wht
    11.73% Bl error
    1.43% Wht error
    105,000 Bl votes uncounted
    75,000 Wht votes uncounted

    “An 11.7 percent error rate for blacks caused 105,000 presidential votes to go uncounted. The white error rate of 1.4 percent resulted in a loss of 75,000 ballots.

    “From exit polls we know that 57 percent of whites supported Bush, with 40 percent backing Gore. Only 7 percent of blacks supported Bush, 93 percent going for Gore. Applying these percentages to the uncounted ballots, we find that Gore lost 127,000 votes to voter error. Bush lost 50,000. Had there been no voter error, with all voters recording their true intent, Gore would have picked up a net of 77,000 votes, enough to defeat Bush handily in Florida, and award him the presidency.”

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