Living on the fringe?


Why was I thinking that the top two states in population were California and New York?  Must have been an old thought because Texas is second.

A bit more wikipediaIzing and I learn that fully half of all Americans live in the top 9 states, about one of 3 of us in the top 4 states of California 36MM, Texas 23MM, New York19MM, and Florida18MM.

This is not just statistically interesting, it’s critically important to many things like economics and elections as we saw in the bizarre 2000 election where silly butterfly ballots *in a single region* in Florida very significantly shifted the balance of power in the country and changed history forever given the dramatic difference between a Gore and a Bush administration.

Contrary to what many argue about the 2000 Florida election it’s now pretty clear, based on a study by the Miami Herald that examined virtually *every single Florida ballot*, that Bush would have won Florida even with a recount of all the ballots using the most commonly accepted historical standard of “2+ chads detached is a vote, 1 chad is not”. HOWEVER and more importantly, Gore would have won the election if the confusing Butterfly Ballots of Palm Beach county had not been thrown out. It was logically and statistically obvious that Palm Beach voters intended to vote for Gore rather than Bush (disputing this is absurdly irrational given the vote tallies and ballot examination). The Palm Beach ballot design left many confused voters voting a second time for Buchanon. These ballots were not counted. I think this explains why exit polling was predicting a Gore victory – people in Palm Beach County had thought they’d voted for Gore when in fact their vote was not counted. The ballot design was from incompetence rather than a Rebublican hit job – the elections person was a democrat.

Also contary to much commentary the courts could have used some historical precedent to allocate those Palm Beach discarded votes mathematically rather than discarding them, though I think it is unlikely the Supreme Court would have allowed that to stand and would have thrown the election to the Florida legislature (which would have given Florida’s electoral votes to Bush).

So, Florida’s population prominence gave them the say in the election, and quirky circumstances took the vote out of the control of voters. Contrary to what many seem to think it’s not really reasonable to say the election was stolen – it was won and lost “unfair and square” on technicalities from our obscenely outmoded electoral vote system combined with bureaucratic and court incompetence.

Here’s a nice CNN summary of the real story.   Note the irony in that most Republicans still seem to think it was a “fair” outcome (WRONG since voter intention was clearly not the result) where most Dems think it was the chads (WRONG – Gore’s Tally was not affected enough by chad decisions to matter) or the Supreme Court Decision to bar a recount (WRONG – Gore would have lost the recount) or some form of vote tally conspiracy (WRONG – little evidence of this).

It was just good old bureaucratic incompetence and some voter ignorance that distorted the 2000 tally with one VERY IMPORTANT caveat – the Republicans have been very aggressive with methods to bar certain people from voting.   I’m unmoved so far by muckraker Greg Palast‘s claims about this type of manipulation in 2000 and 2004 Bush victories, but I just now found this Robert Kennedy piece that is far more thoughtful about the possibility that the Ohio vote in 2004 was not properly tallied.  It is critical to keep open minded since the stakes in US presidential elections are so very, very high.    We should all be ashamed of how casually we view our responsibility to have fair and impartial elections.
Wow, that sure diverged from my intended post!? I really need to get a regular job.

5 thoughts on “Living on the fringe?

  1. There is actually a rather lengthy history of rigged elections in this country, most often in the counting of the votes. Huey Long was best at it: he once had 25 cronies of his file to be a Dogcatcher. Then every candidate got to write three names on slips of paper that went into a hat and there was a drawing as to who would be the “neutral ballot counters”. Guess who won that election?

    Every school child learns about women getting the vote in this country but how many learn that the ‘end’ of the line was usually in front of any woman.

    Chads? That is the electronic equivalent of a pencil lead concealed in a bandaged thumb so as to make extraneous marks on the ‘incorrect’ ballots.

  2. That’s pretty cynical FG – so in your view is there rampant fraud in most elections and thus our precious “democracy” really is not a democracy at all?

    From a math perspective it seems to me that the key issue is whether irregularities, which are clearly rampant, systematically favor one group over another. My working hypothesis right now is that the system discarded so many votes in 2000 and 2004 that we cannot reasonably call this “democracy”. It was not so much a concerted strategy that caused the spoilage – rather the defects of paper ballots combined with casual voting habits, especially among poorer Americans. Paper ballots have effectively disenfranchised a lot of voters and this, to me, is unacceptable. Ironically I think many critics of electronic voting would be the likely beneficiaries of their accuracy.

  3. Delay so as to lengthen lines during prime turn-out hours for wrong voters.
    Pencil leads concealed to make stray marks so as to disqualify a ballot.
    Registration fraud (used to be massive in this country).
    Ballot box stuffing. (Some precincts reported more votes for one particular candidate than lived in the precinct).
    Zeroes written on a piece of paper so witnesses think the machine started at zero but as people vote the tumblers turn and preset numbers show up.
    Absentee ballot frauds. “Voting the Gravestones”.
    Swift retaliation for anyone not voting or not voting right. (One Chicago restaurant owner was sick on election day and didn’t vote: his restaurant had three inspections the very next week).

    Voting in America used to be really strange. And in the South it used to be that a county could require the voter rolls to be published which allowed employers to learn which blacks had registered.

    Now, things are a bit different. Sure.
    Women no longer need wear suits of armor to vote in NYC.
    Voters are no longer asked to read and interpret a passage from the Constitution when the polls open so as to create long lines for people enroute to a job.

    Now we just have The Myth of the Rational Voter.
    And we have a ‘two party system’ wherein there is precious little difference so it really doesn’t matter which jerk you vote for.

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