9/24/2007

09-24-07 - 2

Most of you are probably aware of the Republican schemes to disenfranchise poor voters across America. The one that's strongly going forward these days is the requirement of picture ID; roughly 20-30 million people who are eligible to vote are estimated to not have a valid photo ID (the claim of "fraud" is a preposterous insult, sort of like claiming that the Bush tax cuts are for economic stimulus). Another one that's passed in some states is requiring people to fill out their voter registration themselves, making illegal a long-standing Democrat procedure of having volunteers fill them out on people's behalves who were either not very good with the language or writing or just not motivated enough to do it themselves. Yet another one that's passed in many places which is a bit more subtle is making absentee ballots available over the internet. This doesn't technically disenfranchise anyone, but it makes it far far easier for the lazy rich to vote than the lazy poor, and ease of voting is a major issue in this society where nobody gives a fuck. The other one that's happened a few times lately is the cleansing of voter rolls of people who shouldn't be allowed to vote and "accidentally" cleansing lots of people who have the right to vote.

The latest crafty play is underway in California. A Republican group is pushing a proposition which would make California a proportional electoral college state in Presidential elections, rather than winner takes all. It's unlikely that this prop will pass in CA because we do have a reasonably politically aware population, but it could pass somewhere else. Oddly, it's up to each state whether it is winner take all or proportional electoral college. The only states that aren't winner-take-all at the moment are Maine and Nebraska. There's nothing wrong with proportional votes in general (in fact it would be a much better system), but selectively switching democratic states to proportional is a nasty scam. Say you have two states, both with 20 electoral votes, and they are 51-49 democratic in one state and 49-51 republican in the other state. Both winner-take-all or both proportional is okay, but if you make the democractic one proportional, suddenly you have a 30-10 republican win. Propositions like this can also easily pass at the state level if not enough people understand or care how nasty it is.

In fact, these sort of crooked local voting laws bubble all the way up. Throughout the country you have really twisted crooked systems for electing state representatives. Nobody gives a rat's ass about the laws controlling how an incumbent state rep can campaign, they figure it's irrelevent. Well, the state reps get elected, then they get to make the state laws that control the election of the congressional reps and the government, draw the voting districts, etc., and rig the shit out of their stat's voting as much as they possibly can. This might get a little more attention, but it still doesn't really raise people's hackles enough to do anything. Before you know it the entire system is distorted. It's not that people are "stealing" votes - it only takes small distortions to skew things enough one way or the other.

It's interesting to think of the electoral college historically. It was really part of the general system in early America which was designed by the founding fathers to be a plutocracy. In most states only landowners were allowed to vote, which of course was just rich, educated, white males. The poor and uneducated were essentially serfs and certainly not considered fit to make decisions about the country. The electors were of course from the educated class, and gathered in the "electoral college" (a term coined later) to choose the president and vice president. In many states the electors weren't even voted for, but chosen by the state legislature. I don't mean that as a diss on the founding fathers, it's just important to remember where our system came from, and how these weird structures from darker days hang around and screw things up.

BTW it reminds me of another odd thing I always think of. America has toppled countless governments and set up new governments all over the world. To my knowledge, we have never once set up a government that's at all similar to our own. If they're democracies, they're always more European style, with a single parliament and various ministers led by a relatively weak prime minister (relative to our president).

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old rants