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Friday, October 26, 2007

The SuperDuperSecretVoterSecurity Plan

Hey, if you want economic news, go over to Calculated Risk. Just the name should tell you that they're done with their calculations, and I'll be working on mine for some time to come.

But because I love you, and it's Friday, and some things should concern us all deeply, I bring you this breaking news snippet from the great state of Pennsylvania, sometimes laughingly known as Pennsyltucky.

Concerned by the dire threat of terrorism against voters, the Pennsylvania administration has decided to keep its list of polling places a secret:
The Department of State made its decision as a result of terrorist bombings that occurred just days before Spain’s national elections in 2004, spokeswoman Leslie Amoros said. Election officials consulted with state police, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Homeland Security.

The agencies agreed it was appropriate not to release the statewide list to protect the public and the integrity of the voting process,” Amoros said.
Hmm. If I have this right, the Spanish bombings were in trains. I'm not sure how keeping the list of polling places secret would prevent a Spanish-type terrorist attack. It might make it hard for voters to figure out where to go to vote but reading further, we find out that this seeming snag in the SuperDuperSecretVoterSecurity plan has been addressed:
Registered voters can find polling place information on the state’s voter services Web site or by calling the state or their county elections bureau if they lack Internet access, Amoros said.
I see. My guess is that all the government workplaces would also distribute their own lists as well to those employees. So not-permanently-absent public-payroll voters would get information about where to vote. Determined ex-public-payroll voters willing to do a little research would also be able to find their polling places.

It would be rather hard to do an ID check over the phone or the internet, so I guess the theory is that a terrorist organization would be dissuaded from operations by this supremely secure barrier. Sure, wannabe terrorists would be willing to risk life terms and/or suicide for their cause, plus go through the hassle of smuggling explosives, building a bomb, all that jazz ... but no way would they actually go through all the work of looking up polling places on the internet or calling anyone. 'Cause that would be hard right? And we all know that splodey dopes won't work hard, right? No, shoot, if they can't get a list of polling places they'll just wander off to spend the evening in a pizza parlor, bemoaning their hard luck, right? Or maybe a strip joint, or a little gambling. Whatever. Just so they don't happen to drive past a polling place, see the lines of voters and decide to decimate them. Because splodey dopes are well known to be blind as well as having the attention spans of hyperactive kittens thrown into a bathtub.

You know what I think? I think the terrorism the PA admin is worried about is this here growing Pennsyltucky anti-incumbent terrorism. It's a problem. No matter what the hapless legislators have done to prevent it, like holding votes to vote themselves pay raises in the middle of the night, those sneaky, pesky voters keep finding out about it and punishing them by voting them out of office! Now that's terror! And what could more disrupt the "integrity of the voting process" than having incumbents voted out of office for such perfectly rational decisions in the public benefit? In the last election the losses were terrible - about 1 out of 5 state legislators got the axe. The casualties!

Not only did those voters act in a revolting and terrifying way in the last state elections, but they're preparing to do it again to the next batch! That must be stopped in order to "protect the integrity of the voting process". One thing state and federal legislators agree on - a voting process with integrity should function to get incumbents reelected every time, regardless of any petty, trivial discrepancies between what they promised during campaigns and what they did after being elected.

Now you may be thinking, "Hey, M_O_M, whaddya care? You aren't going to be voting in PA."

True, I'm not. But this post has two points:
1) The federal courts have some nerve ruling that requiring even free government-issued ID to vote in GA is somehow undue restraint whereas hiding the list of polling places in others is not.

2) If this plan succeeds in PA, voters in other states will find that voter security has abruptly become a pressing concern there as well.

In GA, we have already been through the GA version of the SuperDuperSecretVoterSecurity plan, and I can tell you it was beautifully designed. It put PA's cruddy little venture to shame. First the legislature changed all the districts, and then they carefully avoided making any information available about the composition of those districts. It was quite difficult for even a very determined voter to find out what voting district he or she was now in. Basically, the only way that you knew where to go was if you were on the "good" list of your incumbent, and got the mail. A better incumbent-protection plan could not have been originated.

Needless to say the voters' revolt in GA was epic, resulting in transfer of control from the Dems to the GOP. This was startling to say the least, because ever since Georgia voters got the right to vote back after Reconstruction, they had been voting for one party only. Georgia primary elections were the actual elections - the "final" was held for some bizarre federal reason no one could ever figure out and only a relative few participated dutifully in the meaningless ritual.

So as a result of the SuperDuperSecretVoterSecurity plan there were nationwide headlines about GA suddenly becoming a two party state, every one of which missed the actual import, which was:

1) Even crackers know when they are being asked to bend over a barrel,
2) Even in CA and MA, the huge majority of voters will decline that sort of opportunity, and
3) They will do so by whatever means possible, regardless of whether those means would otherwise seem somewhat radical.

The latest crop of GA legislative delinquents seem somewhat cowed, so maybe we can let them lay for a while. Maybe. If they try to raise gas taxes, GA will promptly go Dem again. My theory about politicians is that they need to develop a healthy fear of the electorate.

Vote by absentee ballot so you don't have to search for your polling place.
Shucks, it appears the governor is feeling the pressure! The pennlive link now reads:

"Gov. Ed Rendell says he has rescinded a state policy that had kept Pennsylvania’s list of polling places hidden from the public because of terrorism fears... one day after The Associated Press reported on the policy. State officials have cited concerns that terrorists could disrupt elections in the commonwealth.

"Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo says the governor believes it wasn’t appropriate to keep the list secret because the information is already publicly available through county elections offices."


In my state, they publish the poll locations in all the newspapers.
Anon - but that was the staggering beauty of the Peach State SuperDuperSecretVoterSecurity plan. You didn't know which ballot to get, or where to apply. GA voting districts can meander a third of the way across the state and be the width of a highway at some points. It's not obvious at all where to go.

Old Grouch - Thus proving the wisdom of freedom of the press! Next the PA state government will get wise and decide that the location of the governor's office, plus any phone numbers, are a state secret. That should shut those disgusting peasants up!

I think publishing the poll locations in the newspaper is a very civilized thing to do. Score one for the press. Our local papers fought manfully to try to get information about the voting districts during our Triumph Against Anti-Incumbent Terrorism.
Here in CA they did such a good job of gerrymandering districts we have a 98% reelection rate for incumbents.And in SF inconvenient Ballots are sometimes found floating in the Bay.These folks in pennsyltucky should stop mixing their Bourbon with dehydrated Branchwater and hire Willie Brown to show them how to do it.
Tom, 98% does seem like a nearly complete victory over anti-incumbent terrorism. But is that something to be proud of? And, by chance, does it have any relationship to CA's other little problems?

Maybe it's paranoia, but I am afraid to vote with a ballot because of the chance of them getting "lost". I hate the new machines. The old way was much better. We had a ballot we marked, and then the voter would feed it through an optical reader so you knew it was counted. Then we put the ballot in a locked box. That was really hard to futz because anyone could ask for reconciliation between the paper ballots and the reader count.

The incredible ingenuity of the political class with respect to "integrity of the voting process" is such that double checks are genuinely needed. I think Congress made a huge mistake with the voting machines.
Pennsylvania is my home state, and it is totally, totally corrupt. Nothing surprises me anymore. Amy
Yes,the total lack of competition and systemic corruption is a big part of California's problem.To his credit the Governator did try to change the system,but he was quickly put in his place...oddly the incumbents are in no hurry to leave the public trough and Big Biz is quite comfortable with things as they are,or will be until CA goes Bankrupt in a few years.Any resemblance to a Democracy in CA is purely coincidental,it is a work of Fiction.

I find it interesting that you could write a post listing a series of racially motivated policies and never once mention race. I am a lifetime Tarheel (raised in Raleigh, live on the coast) and we both know the reason for ID's or hidden poll locations is to make it difficult for Blacks to vote. Same for the old tricks like poll taxes or reading tests.

I also remember a one party state government but I am confused about the timing of the change. In NC, the GOP became a real party when LBJ pushed through the civil rights legislation. The redneck vote punished the Democrats for being the black man's party as they had punished the GOP for Honest Abe and the War of Northern Agression. This change happened probably before you were born and I suspect the same happened in Ga (Newt was certainly not a Democrat) about the same time.

I need more understanding of Georgia politics.
NC Jim - I doubt that PA is doing this for racial reasons. I honestly believe it is to discourage tax revolters, and I don't believe that's got anything to do with race.

As for GA, it's hard to describe. Things just changed. And the ID bill has nothing to do with race, but with the concern about illegal aliens voting. (Although poll taxes and reading tests of yore were racially motivated.)

Zell Miller's lottery and free tuition with the tech school drive probably really pushed the incremental changes into becoming a dominant mindset. GA was going through a transitional time with its economy (really, Carter sunk the old economy), and all of a sudden you had hoards of people in families that had never, ever gotten more than a high school degree - white, black and indians - going to school.

Also, there are a lot of black people in GA, so the effective procedure for every business that deals with the public is affirmative action. No one wants a one-color office. The bottom line is that people in GA don't seem to believe that James Watson knows what he is talking about. All of this worked and it worked well, and it has brought prosperity and happiness.

It's hard to explain how deeply and thoroughly the ethos switched, but take the case of Sanford Bishop. He is a US Rep Democrat who has been redistricted more times than just about almost anyone else, and every time he gets redistricted he gets reelected. The reason is that he is very Georgian. He believes that his job is to represent the people in his district. That is the sine qua non of GA politics. It is the kiss of death to be seen as representing your own career or outside interests.

To me it is a shock when I go up north. I have family in GA but also in other states and I have lived and worked in different regions. To me, the NE is the most racist. Every time I go up there I get reminded of this again. I think it is really elitism, but there just is not the common spirit that there is here. The vast majority of people here do not treat each other differently on the basis of race, and up there they do. It's amazing. You could be in a store, and black and white people just will not talk to each other. They act as if there are invisible lines separating them or something like that.
Tom - maybe it is because of the high population density? I have wondered if politics in areas of high population density might create that because of the higher ratio of voters/each elected official?

In GA in most of the districts you'd have a chance to go give your representative or senator a flea in his or her ear over something you were upset about. Exactly that happened over the immigration bill.
Amy - I bet our sheriffs are worse than yours! Ours have developed a habit of having a shoot-out with the new sheriff if they lose an election. It's quite the unique pastime.

Oh - NC Jim - no. I'm talking state/local government, now. Federal politics is something else. Basically most Georgians still seem to think that Washington is the habitat of dangerous lunatics so you just send in the one most likely to serve you at the time.

GA state government was Dem. There were a few Republicans in the northern urban areas, but in most places Republicans in local politics across most of GA were like two-headed chickens shown at an Ag Fair. Interesting oddities having nothing to do with real life, in other words.

Used to be, all the election coverage was on the primaries. On the night of the final election, there would be hardly any coverage. They'd be talking about high school football teams all night, and then they'd mention who won the school board elections.

Perhaps one reason NC changed to a two party state beginning in the late 60's was the very visable career of Jesse Helms who ran for the Senate as a Republican after changing parties. His political machine (the "Congressional Club" formed in 1972) was able to fund and organize other state Republicans. As an aside, the Club raised money nationally and it's techniques and strategies (developed by Carter Wrenn),IMO, were the basis of the modern Karl Rove tactics (after being copied by Nixon as his "Southern Strategy" - another sign of the South becoming Republican. Did anyone not know that the "Silent Americans" were whites?).

In Ga, you folks had Lester Maddox who , for those readers not familar with Southern political history, handed out axe handles to customers of his Atlanta restaurant in case a black asked to be served and rode the fame to the Governer's mansion.

Your comment about racism Up Nawth reminds me of the saying that Southern whites dislike blacks as a race but like them as individuals whereas in the North it is the opposite. Probably more than a little truth to that.
That was the "Silent Majority" of course. An Alzheimer's moment.
How can anyone like a race, and what does that mean if you don't think individuals of that race should be treated the same way as those of your own?

Oh, yeah, there were a lot of Lesters. It might be that things have changed so much now because there were. Once the big lie is exposed, you would expect a revulsion of feeling.

I had to do a lot of googling about Carter Wrenn. He's got a political blog with Gary Pearce.
1) Fla is much the same. All local politics are Dems, the GOP is only a national party, which is why I am so amused by idiots quesioning why northern FL counties tend to go wholly for the GoP while containing 90% registered dems. If you register GOP you don't get to vote in anything but the final election, so you register Dem no matter your overall politics.

2) "My theory about politicians is that they need to develop a healthy fear of the electorate."
Heinlein said it best:
"A Monarch's neck should always have a noose about it... It keeps him upright."
- Robert Heinlein, 'The Cat Who Walks Through Walls' -

I think that goes for all political hacks. This is why we have a second amendment (Federalist #46).

--- Obloodyhell
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