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Kurt Onstad

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I admit it, I'm stumped... [Feb. 18th, 2004|10:20 pm]
Kurt Onstad
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Can someone explain to me how our primary system works? How is it that Dean never beat Edwards in any of the primaries, and yet he was still ahead of Edwards in total delegates when he dropped out? And if he was still ahead in delegates, why did he drop out?

Our election process is fucked up. Ways I would fix it:
  • Have all the primaries on the same day. No more having one or two states (that in no way represent the rest of the country) affect the entire election.
  • Get rid of the delegates and the electoral colleges. Simple majority rules.

I can kind of understand why these processes were necessary when the country was smaller and communication was only as fast as a person could be moved, but it's a different time, and our electoral process should catch up.

Of course, as can be inferred from my earlier statements, those ideas are based at least partially in ignorance (or at least lack of understanding...). If someone can tell me intelligible reasons why we should continue the process as it is, I'm more than willing to hear them.

[User Picture]From: shironiku
2004-02-18 10:34 pm (UTC)

Don't feel too bad.

I don't know a thing about delegates or electoral colleges or any of that stuff. In a perfect world, an ignoramus like me wouldn't even be allowed to vote.
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[User Picture]From: jeanlucpikachu
2004-02-18 11:01 pm (UTC)
If you went by majority rules, the farm states would never have any say. Not saying that's right or wrong, just saying that's why the electoral college is there in the first place, and why we all must pander to farm states for votes.

Primaries are held at different times in different places because those states have different rules. Most of them are still based on how long it would take for a farmer to reach the capital from where he was and what the harvest conditions were like way back when. You'd be trampling on states rights if you tried to change that, not very useful in a federal government.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-18 11:30 pm (UTC)


This too makes sense.

Though, modern technology does allow us to weigh each state's influence without requiring that we give delegates the power to violate the wishes of their constituency if, say, their own interests conflict.

Likewise, if a state's clinging to outdated traditions that don't serve anyone anymore, perhaps a campaign of public ridicule might persuade them to get with the times?

(The choice would still be theirs, of course. And if valid arguments come out to keep things the old way, the campaign ends. I mean, I'm not sure that asking states to stop abusing their rights is quite the same as trampling on those rights. And if it comes from the people rather than the federal government? Even less conflict.)

Actually, I think if the states received their share of the countless dollars saved by shifting to one day, or paid their share of the difference, that might also convince 'em.

Just a thought. =)
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[User Picture]From: jeanlucpikachu
2004-02-18 11:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Hmm.

Dunno if you've been staying abreast of this stuff, but technology is kinda the enemy here. Computerized voting systems == hackable voting systems, these companies have rap sheets so long, I cry whenever I remember that their CEOs aren't rotting in jails.

You're asking Iowa and New Hampshire to give up alot of influence for the good of others. It's highly unlikely ^^;;

In all honesty, I don't mind the primaries dragging out this long. The republicans don't know who to target just yet and all of the news reports are focused on the democrats hammering it home to the white house. The press is finally starting to pay attention.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-19 02:58 am (UTC)
That which can be hacked can also be verified for integrity. Technology is it's own solution in this case - the enemy is complacency. More to the point, the enemy is the lowest bidder.

But, yes. No one wants to give up any influence. Or their election-year tourism, for that matter. But where "the good of others" is concerned, I think the majority needs their say here.

Regarding the press, I'm not sure how much this negative publicity can do here. Those who would vote to re-elect Bush have heard it all before, and stand firm in their support. Meanwhile, the Democrats are targetting each other, which is ultimately going to let the Republicans take notes and coast on the pre-established mudslinging campaign.

Nor, I should add, will that make any difference. It's going to come down to one group of people voting for Bush because, no matter what attrocities he might be responsible for, he's not a Democrat. And then, another group will vote for whichever Democrat is left standing because that's the most likely candidate to defeat Bush. Neither group particularly cares who their candidate is this time - they'll deal with that once he's in the White House.

Meanwhile, I used to register voters, and I was shocked to learn how many of them register with the other party each election so they can vote for the weakest candidate and give their guy a fighting chance. They don't get a say in who their guy is, but that's okay - it doesn't matter. So what if the other side is doing the same thing? So long as my worst choice beats your worst choice, it's all good.

The whole process needs a good working over...
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[User Picture]From: jeanlucpikachu
2004-02-19 11:35 am (UTC)


I disagree that technology is the solution, but you're right on both counts (the enemy and the whole process).

Kurt, did we answer your questions?
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[User Picture]From: ideaspace
2004-02-19 04:09 pm (UTC)


But who will verify the verifiers?

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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-19 04:39 pm (UTC)
I was tempted to say "the losing party", since that would doubtless be the case. But, really, it's all of us.

We need look no further than the p2p community for this one. MD5 tags ensure that a downloaded file has not been tampered with. Trasfer protocols going back to XModem ensure that lost packets are re-sent. You don't leave the voting booth until your vote is received and confirmation sent to your screen.

Once we know that each vote is accurate and accounted for, anyone who's interested can download the lot of 'em and tally for themselves.

Assuming they don't just trust the news agencies, who'd be maintaining their own tallies independant of each other throughout the day.

Any discrepency would be noticed. That's kind of the point.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-18 11:07 pm (UTC)
Those seem like decent suggestions to me.

But then, I don't have an irrational bias against all things which reflect poorly on the current administration. (whoever that might be at any given moment)

Those that do might oppose the idea.


It's a source of constant frustration for me that I can reduce most political discussions down to "two wrongs don't make a right", only to find that the other participant feels good about perpetuating a corrupt system as long as it doesn't give an inch of leeway to the other side.

There are exceptions. sencollins and I disagree on a lot of points, but it's obvious he's coming from a place of logic, at least when ethics don't dictate otherwise. So, I'm able to learn from him, and the conversation is valuable.

Likewise, you with this.

But most people, I can't deal with anymore. I'd only hurt one of them, or make a fool of myself trying. And, how would that change anything?
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[User Picture]From: seonsaint
2004-02-19 02:01 pm (UTC)

Voting Daze

Well, here's a good thing, and many people should use such tools as a foundation...


As to majority ruling, while, I wish that had been the case in 2000, there are major issues out there. Do you realize how stupid some of the people who vote are? These are people who can't reason themselves out of a burning boat when the water is shallow enough to stand in!

For instance, there is my favorite example of asking a hairdresser who she was voting for, when asked why, she said because her husband told her to.

On this issue I swing totally in another direction, I want Jay Leno's jay walking to be the litmus for the right to vote. If you can't answer questions roughly right half the time, your vote isn't counted. I mean these are easy questions, and easy answers, but if someone thinks that the civil war took place in 1776, or can't identify which continent a permanent member of the UN Security Council is on, they should NOT get to vote.

And Self will disagree, along with everyone else, but someone's general awareness of their world has everything to do with their ability to influence it, we've stripped this limitation in our voting methods and it kills us all the time.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-19 04:24 pm (UTC)
Not sure who this 'Self' you speak of is. 'self' is lowercase. =)


There's a rather big difference between "awareness of the world" and "command of trivia".

I actually do agree, to some extent. I don't think that being born here should necessarily qualify a person for full citizenship. We should all be forced to go through the same Immigration process an outsider would before we're allowed to, say, own property. That would cover voting as well.

But then, our views split fairly sharply because the current tests don't judge anything useful!

Just understand... Your way puts Bush back in office by an unprecedented landslide. Not because Democrats are stupid, but rather because your bias here favors those most thoroughly indoctrinated in the system.

Also, knowing how smart I am, you need to understand that I would not pass this test. I am very much aware of my world, but recognizing patterns and remembering details are very different things.

Meanwhile, you've got a limited number of questions, and nothing stops us from compiling a list as the day progresses. Anyone can memorize a list by day's end. And four years later, they can purchase a "for dummies" book to get through it, since you won't have a whole lot of new material to draw on.

So, yeah. That's not gonna work.
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[User Picture]From: seonsaint
2004-02-19 05:12 pm (UTC)

You need to thank me...

I want a big thanks for helping give you another opportunity to display your cert there.

Look, I'm the first to stand up and say you are extremely intelligent. But I also very much believe that most of those who conciously vote could pass the test, those who wanted to abuse the system could get cheat sheets, but they'd still be learning.

Proving you basic competency provides a way to demonstrate whether you have reasoning capacity to make such a decision. And admittedly self, while you have some weak areas on this, you would likely pass such a test more than easily.

For instance -
A. Is the State of Maine east or west of the Mississippi?
B. The mass of the sun is greater than that of the Earth, true or false?
C. World War 2 occurred in which century? A-19th, B-20th, C-21st
D. Which is larger, a pint, a gallon, or a fifty gallon drum?

There are people who cannot answer these that believe they should hold some influence over how we collectively live? Do you want this?

As to Bush winning hands down in such a situation, I dispute that. I know far more Republicans currently that would find such a thing trying, than Democrats.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-19 07:58 pm (UTC)

I make my own opportunities.

You say this every time the subject comes up, and then provide by means of example questions I assure you I'd get wrong.

But this time when called on it, you made the questions easier. You must be desperate to resolve this.


Multiple-choice? That's a new twist. Let's give it a shot.
  • Is the State of Maine east or west of the Mississippi?
    With a clearly labeled map of the US in front of me, I probably could answer your geography question. Assuming no time limit, anyway. Without researching the matter, I'll have to go with West, because you listed it second.

  • The mass of the sun is greater than that of the Earth, true or false?
    I believe the mass of the sun is greater than that of the earth, because we're caught up in it's gravitational field and not the other way around. But it took me a minute to think of that. The sun being gas and the Earth solid matter, I would probably guess the other way just as often.

  • World War 2 occurred in which century? A-19th, B-20th, C-21st
    World War 2 didn't actually happen. That's just a big lie perpetuated by the Jews.

    Whoops. Sorry. That'd lose me my voting rights, I hope?

    I know this one's B, but still protest the question. Most people will tell you the correct decade, but get the century wrong because of that stupid offset. They can't be blamed for the counterintuitive naming convention.

  • Which is larger, a pint, a gallon, or a fifty gallon drum?
    I'm going to say that 50 gallons are larger than one. (That much would never be on your test, and you know it) And I'm pretty sure a pint is smaller than a gallon, because alcohol is sold by the pint, and milk by the gallon. Unless I'm mistaken. (are they still shipped in Galleons?)
I hope you can see, if I scraped by with a passing grade, it's because I have decent reasoning skills. As opposed to the actual knowledge you're testing for.

If there's a human interviewer, they might credit my wrong answers because of this, or they might disqualify me because I didn't do it right. But with so many voters, I'd expect it to be Scantron. At which point, I probably get enough right for all the wrong reasons, and walk into the voting booth with a foul taste in my mouth because it felt like I cheated to get there.

Are you testing for Knowledge, or Understanding? Your test isn't optimized for either, which means false positives for both. This needs to be clear, because nobody wants to be a false positive. And nobody wants false positives walking into the voting booth. So, you probably ought to re-evaluate your test.
    "There are people who cannot answer these that believe they should hold some influence over how we collectively live? Do you want this?"

    I don't believe that anyone should hold that much influence over how we collectively live. That's for us to decide, collectively. But as individuals, we should all be given input on the decisions which affect us. If those who fail your test are exempt from the law, it's a fair system. Though, not a good one.

      That more along the lines of the disagreement you were expecting?
Re: Republican vs. Democrat test scores... Do I need to point out again that you've changed your system?

What you described earlier was a series of questions derived from US History and International Relations, regurgitating answers from memory. Questions of Knowledge rather than Understanding.

What you were identifying are people who dutifully memorized everything they were told to back in High School, because going to a good college and finding their place in the system was everything to them. They have a strong belief in the status quo, and they've worked hard to achieve their present status.

Am I wrong in my belief that these people aren't split evenly over party lines?

Anyway, you're fast on your feet, and changing tests in midstream did go a long ways towards addressing the bias. But I won't pretend it wasn't there before, because it becomes impossible to hold a linear conversation if you're yanking continuity out from under me.
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[User Picture]From: ideaspace
2004-02-19 04:19 pm (UTC)
The delegate thing is due to the fact that some states are not "winner take all" competitions. Instead, if you get the majority in a certain city or county or whatever, you get those delegates. Then, when the Party holds its convention, those delegates will vote for you until you get what you want in the party platform.

Dropping out or staying in seems to be about money, and money seems to flow towards the perceived "victors." Doesn't matter what the real situation is.

I hate majority rule, by the by. I use the minority OS, I listen to underground bands, I like cult movies, I eat foreign food, my sexuality is all over the map - if I don't agree with the majority on any of those things, why should I let them dictate my politics?
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-19 04:48 pm (UTC)
I tend to agree, but when a few govern over the many, majority rule is probably the lesser of all evils.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-19 08:01 pm (UTC)
Hey, umm.. Sorry to hijack your thread.

I didn't mean it.
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[User Picture]From: speedball
2004-02-20 12:27 am (UTC)


Please, have at. I'm enjoying it. It reminds me of driving around Ventura with the two of you back in high school...

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From: sencollins
2004-02-20 09:17 pm (UTC)

Sorry if I ruin your thread by actually getting around to answering the question you pose...

Mwaa Haa Haa... This Poli Sci B.A. I will have wrapped up in less than a month will pay off for probably the first and last time...

The primary system and the caucus system actually have nothing to do with the electoral system which is instituted in the Presidential election. Each state develops its own rules for how those electors are represented with California being a winner take all state. But all of that is neither here nor there, because you want to know about the primaries.

Unfortunately, the primaries are much more convoluted, with each party determining how it will pick its own representative. So the Republican and Democratic conventions are different from each other, as are the Green and Libertarian conventions. For example, the Republican system assigns votes based upon the Congressional distribution of electors, then throws in a few extra seats for those states who voted Republican in the last Presidential election, a few extra for those with Republican executive officers, etc.

The Democrats took that ball and ran with it. They assign extra delegates to represent minority interests, women's interests, and youth interests. They also have what are known as "Super Delegates", which I will get to in a moment. Due to all of the extra votes the DLC gives out, there are over 4000 convention delegates voting, with the winner needing well over 2000 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for President.

Unlike the what some of the posts here have said, most states now have very strict laws about how both convention delegates and Presidential electors can vote, forcing them to vote in the manner in which they were nominated as electors. Hence, those electors who represent states which Howard Dean wins are, more than likely, mandated by state law to vote for Howard Dean.

Part of the problem in the Dean/Edwards issue you address is the site you are looking at. You may notice that it has assigned Dean seats from California, despite the fact that we won't vote for another 2 weeks.

The other problem is one of money; Simply put, Dean no longer has the resources necessary to try to fight it out in the rest of the states. Edwards is getting money for doing better than expected. If Edwards can't put together a few wins or at least keep it dead close, he will also drop out and the last states voting will have to vote for Kerry (or Kucinich, but come on...).

I, too, have thought that the problem is in desperate need of fixing, but almost all of the solutions would create even worse problems. A national primary would require even larger sums of money, the candidates would have to be everywhere at once, and because they couldn't be, would focus all of thier time and effort on the largest gain areas. So, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York would in effect be the de facto electors of our Presidents. But what is there to say that what is best for those 3 cities (or what they think is best for themselves) is best for the entire nation? In addition, it would be nearly impossible for a lesser known candidate to have a shot. Howard Dean and John Edwards were both hardly known outside of thier diminuative districts prior to this primary. What shot would they have if they had to immediately compete with the John Kerry's or George W. Bush's of the world? The little known governor of Arkansas never would have been elected if he wasn't able to spend time getting out his message and shaking hands along the way.

As for straight majority rule, the current election system (not Primary Conventions) were established to prevent sectional interests from overwhelming national interests. Honestly, it was established to protect slavery, but aside from that the worry is still legitimate. While the sectional interests are not geographically located anymore, there is still a large divide among big states and little states, industry states and agriculture states, etc. While pandering to the small states is wrong, pandering to the big boys is not necessarily better. (And in the typically elitist fashion I know some of you have been waiting for, what is to say that the majority has anymore clue than the minority?)

There is much more I would like to say, but I have taken up enough of your time and space. I hope this was helpful.

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[User Picture]From: speedball
2004-02-20 10:03 pm (UTC)

Yes, it was...

Feel free to continue to take up time and space, if it continues to be as thought-out and helpful as this was.

So, is there a good middle ground between "all in one day" and "spread out over many months"? How about one month, with one election for each time zone? (Approximately. Obviously, any state who's in multiple time zones would pick one...) There's enough of a build up that people have the opportunity to find out about the candidates, but it's done in mass enough quantities that one or two states don't decide the entire election.

And each presidential election, the order of time zones can switch, in order to prevent one time zone from taking over the whole thing each time...

Of course, this will never actually come to pass, but would things be better if it did?

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From: sencollins
2004-02-21 10:46 am (UTC)

Re: Yes, it was...

The "is there something that can fix this" question is one that boggles the mind. I've been looking, as has everyone else that has noticed the many problems you all have. But there haven't really been any satisfactory answers.

Some have proposed regional primaries, much like your timezone idea, but smaller and organized around geographic interests. So you'd have candidates campaigning only in the South in March, let's say, and then they'd move on to New England, etc. I'm not exactly sure what the problems with that are, other than again feeling undue influence from certian regions, and a lack of accountability. (If racism goes over big in the South, ham it up and back peddle later. Don't think that would work? The American public is damn forgiving.)

Others have thought about having laws mandating holding the results until a specified time. First, you have to wonder if people will really keep their lips buttoned. I mean, people are leaking thier own sex tapes... Second, what if there were like 3 people neck and neck? Would the backers of say Dean acquiese to Kerry because he held a 3 point advantage? Third, it may drive voter turnout even lower. Think about how disheartening it would be to have to vote and not know the answer for a week. Then again it would save us from the "Gore wins, no wait Bush wins, no wait..." fiascos.

My own thought is that they just pass federal legislation forbidding anyone from tallying ballots until after the last polling place in the United States has closed. This still has the second problem stated above. There is room for mischief and sucks if you're on the East Coast (although they'd probably have some results by morning).

The other problem is news stations making projections on exit polling. How the hell do you stop that? First off, it's rarely accurate. Second, if you don't have real results they'll start projecting those and influence the later states by that.

I wish I had a better solution. But it is much to complex for my muddled head. Take some solace in the fact that people are still looking to fix the problem, and so long as there are people around to agitate them into action, something may happen.
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[User Picture]From: self
2004-02-20 10:19 pm (UTC)

The truth hurts.

So, if I understand this correctly:

"Delegate" is to the Democratic Convention as "Associate Producer" is to Hollywood?

That... would be a bitch to clean up.
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From: sencollins
2004-02-20 09:21 pm (UTC)

On a shorter note

They used to have tests and "entrance fees" to vote. But since the South used those to disenfranchize blacks they went away. For example- White guy walks up, "What's your favorite color?" (Please, no Python responses)
Black guy walks up, "Please give a synopsis of this 24 page article by Plato in the original Greek."
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