02 November 2008

This is no ordinary election

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 35% of Georgia's registered voters cast early ballots. That's early ballots folks. They stood in line on Halloween night, some of them with their kids still in their trick-or-treating costumes until nearly midnight just to cast their votes. And it's not just Georgia. It's Florida. It's Nevada.

From the NYT:
In 2004, 22 percent of voters cast an early presidential ballot, and the number is expected to climb to 30 percent to 35 percent this year.

Enormous lines in Florida led Gov. Charlie Crist to issue an executive order extending early voting hours statewide from eight hours a day to 12, while in Georgia an elderly woman in Cobb County stood in the sun so long to vote that she collapsed.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
A disproportionate number of Georgia’s 194,138 early voters are African-American, in what could be an encouraging sign for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

As of Wednesday, about 39 percent of those voters — 74,961 — are African-Americans, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office said.
Also from the AJC:
“I have not seen anything like this in America,” U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat, said as he viewed the long line at the Fulton County Government Center Friday evening. “To me, this is incredible.”

Mark McShane, the last person in line late Friday night at the George Pierce Community Center in Suwanee, said this election “is a choice of two roads,” between “some serious socialist leanings and some conservative values.”

The 52-year-old Lawrenceville man began his journey in line at 6:45 p.m., with a wait time Gwinnett County elections officials estimated at five hours. About 11 p.m., there were about 100 people in line. The last Gwinnett vote was cast at 11:45 p.m.

No two ways about it. This is an historic election, and for more reasons than are obvious. The sheer number of early votes cast cannot and should not be overlooked. 2008 is a de facto referendum on early voting. Thirty-two states allowed some form of early voting in this election. Those other 18 states should take notice, especially those that are considered swing states. Neither Pennsylvania nor Missouri have early voting. Personally, I'm a big fan of early voting. I've already cast my ballot. I dislike lines of any sort. But for voters to show up in droves to vote early should be speaking to American political leaders. In fact, it says a few things to me, which could be any and all of the following possibilities that I have considered.
  1. Voters are enthused about this election and can't wait to be part of process.
  2. Early voting is more convenient.
  3. Voters are concerned about long lines preventing them (for whatever reason) from casting a ballot on Tuesday.
  4. Tuesdays are a stupid day to hold elections.
  5. Voters are concerned about being turned away from the polls or otherwise having their registrations challenged when it is too late to do anything about it or to mount a meaningful protest.
  6. Voters want to feel like they are part of a community for change and therefore desire to stand in line--the longer the better.
  7. Voters just wanted to make the campaigning stop.
If early voting means that the number of people voting increases substantially, what real excuse do state's have for preventing it?


  1. Hm. No reason for preventing it... won't necessarily stop them from doing so though =]

    I need to be working like WOAHHHHHH but my mom has C-SPAN on in the background, Rick Shenkman is on, wrote some book like "How stupid are we?" or something like that. Now, I'm highly against the "people are idiots" meme for several reasons, but nevertheless, surveys keep saying only 2/5 americans can identify that a) we have 3 branches of government, and b) can name them.

    Really. It's things like that that make me feel like we don't even have the raw material to turn things around -- not because people are naturally dumb, but because people going through a crappy and unequal education system end up being dumb. But changing both people, which is doable, and the entire education system, which is doable, at the same time, which is less so -- that's what makes me want to wash my hands of it and go abroad. Judas Priest.

  2. One question for you? What in the world makes you think abroad is any better?

    OK, maybe not so much influence of religion in daily life. And in the abstract I support the idea that the less religious a population, the more likely they are to buy into scientific explanations for phenomena, BUT....

    that doesn't mean that Europeans are any brighter than Americans. In fact, I think you'd find just as many people unable to explain simple concepts there as here. Like...how does evolution work, who are your elected representatives, etc. Clearly, I'd LOVE to see some background to support your theory that life is all rainbows and daisies in Britian or wherever abroad means to you.

    But not now. You have to work.

    I'll wait.

  3. I *do* have to work. Good call -- but you should realize I can't resist the siren's call responding to snark. =p

    So, miss Mockaret McMockeran, if you would kindly recall my previous comments on the issues, it's not rainbows and daisies elsewhere -- that really was an impressive amount of snark in a paragraph =] It's that a) a number of things are quite arguably better in terms of governance and public discourse, and b) I'm ready for a *new* set of problems, at least. Oh, sure the shape of most of them will be the same, but it will at least be a variation, and some are quite very different, giving me a break from the entrenched arguments of the US and some of the intellectual polity variety I crave.

    I mean, to whit: most other industrialized countries in the world get equal or better educational results (at least in terms of testing and I think, number of advanced degrees per population, though I could be wrong there). We are, along with what, like Namibia and Swaziland and Libya that don't have extended paid maternal leave, and we're rapidly becoming as far behind in terms of non-existent paternal leave? We are, as we've discussed, one of the very few countries with only two parties? We have the worst health results per dollar spent in the Industrialized World, AND the HIGHEST inequality in the Industrialized World? And it's not just that other countries, say, have universal health care -- it's that universal health care is quite established as ok abroad, where here, it's not just that it's opposed by some, but that a significant part of the counterargument is pure fabrication (i.e. we'll all be worse off, with Soviet-style lines for basic care), yet you hear that same argument repeated, ad nauseum, with little correction or questioning from the media, who admit that they don't see it as part of their jobs to call something materially untrue when they know it is. It's our self-congratulatory triumphalism, our not just inconsistent-with-our-ideals not-franchised territories (Guam, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, etc) but the fact that almost no one knows of them. And, perhaps most significant of all, it's our not only ability but absolute solid-frigging-history of screwing everyone else on the planet for as hard and as long as we can... which plenty of other countries did, and still do to some extent, but they have the deceny to have the wages of colonialism as part of the discourse (oft times, though of course not always). It's the fact that socialists are a political faction, not a boogeyman and that opposition to malfeasance in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran is stronger; that, as my friend Mike says, in other countries (much of Latin American, France) the government is scared of the people, not the other way round -- when something goes wrong or people disagree, there's still mass mobilization and student/blue collar solidarity to some extent, and it can still topple governments. Unions aren't viewed by so many people as an anachronism but by rather more people as vital. It's the memory of the people and the press for things like the US' support of fascism in Greece (which made the Greeks "surprisingly" less happy to see us in the 2004 Olympics than many Americans thought) and various other parts of the world; recognition of the need for multilateralism, and a post-world-superpowers mindset. It's the fact that we're one of the most obstructionist countries in terms of Global Warming.

    Now, given this extended list of bitching and moaning, one might be excused for thinking that I DO think Europe or elsewhere is all peaches and dogshit that smells like fresh popcorn (sorry, that popped into my head and I had to write it!). I wouldn't excuse one, but one might be excused. No, the thing is -- many of the items I point out are established facts and non-trivial. So even assuming that I'm wrong and over-rosy on half of them, that still leaves a tidy list remaining. And there are numerous US benefits I'm not highlighting. But the thing is, when a country is the largest polluter, the richest in absolute terms, the consumer of 5X their proportion of global resources, has the highest inequality, has one of the less sophisticated election systems of any functioning democracy in the 1st or 3rd World, and has one of the scantiest safety nets -- unless one is an absolute relativist, one must admit that it is at least possible that the US is not #1. It's at least possible. (And I guess if one is a relativist, it doesn't matter since no where's better than anywhere else.) I don't have a country in mind, but it's rather that I figure if I end up making a life somewhere, by, say, my field work abroad, or a sabattical at a school abroad, I'd be tempted to give it a go there for a while. Maybe it would make me appreciate the importance of the fight here and more optimistic on what's to be done, or more pessimistic about the rest of the world. But there aren't scales on my eyes (what does that even mean?); I know I'd trade one set of problems for a different set of them, perhaps of equally bad ones. But I'm ready for some more diversity and experience in them, and of course, I always find learning about another culture or system intimately gives one certain insights and clarity not possible from "being intimate with" only one system. So it's even arguable that going away would make me a better US activist.

    Of course, this is moot. I have no immediate plans to leave and agree with you about the importance of activism here. But I reserve the right to be not knee-jerk election night fed-up, but long-simmering, thought-out, ready-for-a-change fed-up with the shenanigans here, and seems to me hardly unreasonable to do so. Some of the greatest Americans, to my mind, have been "Citizens of the World." I might like to try that when I grow up.

    Back to work... --J

  4. 1. If you think that was snarkworthy, you are easily impressed.
    2. That's MS. Mockaret McMockeran to you.
    3. There you go again knocking that two-party drum again. Don't you EVER tire of that. *exaggerated eye roll for effect*
    4. Interesting you should bring up the media as I led a seminar discussion today on science and the media, pointing out to my unsuspecting classmates the endless deficiencies of the media and its inability to actually communicate with its consumers. FYI, if you ever need the script to convince some prof that the topic that interests you lately pertains directly to the seminar you are taking and therefore demands attention, talk to me. I'm the master. Or mistress. Oh, yes. Just call me Mistress D. *weg*

    So answer me this Snarkman Mcfartski. How is it that a fellow who isn't married, presumably hasn't sired children or ventured far from the university gates gets his shorts in a knot about just about everything about American society and governance? I'm actually going to chalk about 73% of it up to fed-the-freak-up with thesis writing and the rest to youthful exuberance. That said, you have a point about gaining a fresh perspective by traveling and as we both know, it isn't enough to look out the train window at the landscape, you've got to get out there and rub the dirt in your hands. Now, not knowing what sort of research you actually do, but suspecting (or was it that I read somewhere) that you work/ed in S America, I can imagine you picking up some insight in those parts, especially since I have noticed you seem to be fluent in Portuguese. Have no idea how you managed that, but Bravo! I'm one of those insufferable Americans who speaks pigeon French supplemented by skills: Pictionary skills....charade skills. Remind me to tell you one day how I learned that Parisians use Crest. But I digress.
    Ok, where was I. F**K, I hate when I do that.

    Oh, you know I'm one of those totally strange people who think I'd like to live in Canada simply because I went there and I liked it, but I know that I would miss the thrill of American politics too much. Of course, I believe I can make a difference here.

    And if I have to expand my horizons to gain some perspective on my own culture, I'm going to get it in Africa. One day my behind is going to be sitting on the edge of the African rift with the red dirt staining my legs while I watch the great migration.

    But when you go abroad, be sure to send me your address, because I collect overseas friends. There is nothing I love more than a free place to crash. I'll return the favor. =)

  5. I don't know that it has much to do with the thesis. I find outsized outrage occasionally refreshing. I also have been accused of being wildly more humanistic than is understandable by others. But I simply find the fact that there's the potential for so many people to have so much chance at making a go at it if freed from the wages of past and present inequality intolerable. John (my advisor) couldn't figure out why I "cared so much " about "people"; it didn't make sense to him until I said both my parents are social workers (essentially). Of course, I don't think that explains all of it -- it at least seemed a little weird to figure that as for the entire explanation of my research agenda and personal concerns, but there you are.

    If one wishes to be flippant about, which I don't, one could say that some people have football, some have horse fancy, some have frequent anonymous sex, I have outrage and passion about millions of people dying needlessly and/or at the hands of misguided selfish and ill-disclosed foreign policy. [shrugs] To each their own.

    Truthfully, I can't imagine being otherwise, people are what matters most ot me in the world, and the fact that I don't know most of them is to me somewhat rather immaterial.

    But, back to it. Cheers.

  6. By the by, what does being childless and unmarried have to do with it? Just curious... I kind of get the kids thing, but being married seems to me wildly uncorrelated with becoming angry about governance.

    I haven't spent much time away from university gates, but my mom got her PhD while I was growing up, and since that and her various other adventures with academe, I have a healthy distance I like to maintain with the womb of the higher institution.

    Of course, it doesn't hurt that I have an ex-girlfriend who is Puerto Rican -- my level of undies-in-a-bunch about politics is hardly abnormal for young people, at least, it's not abnormal in other countries =p (and territories, as the case may be).

  7. Apparently, you are under the impression that I think bunched undies are a bad thing. ;)

    My comments about fatherhood and marriage had to do with your concern for parental leave and something else, can't remember now. Most people don't get the injustice of those policies until they are sitting in the middle of the situation and realize how insane it all is. Actually thought that you demonstrated quite a bit of empathy for others and maturity for understanding the issues. Nor am I dissing you about your youth, either. Just an observation.

    Perhaps I should point out that people lacking thick skins sometimes get puncture wounds around me. Apparently, I have a sharp tongue and a cavalier attitude about using it. But trust me, I mean no harm. If I offend you can usually take for granted I never intended it. But I don't think that is the case here. Am I wrong?

    And trust me J. I so totally get the use in unloading a big steaming pile of outrageous indignation on an unyielding system. Preaching to the choir, friend.

    Anyway, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow is a big day for me. Party at my house to bring in the election results. Take the day off, take the train and come have some fun with the bumpkin folks in IL. =)

  8. Oh yeah. And I forgot to mention, I just like you. You just make me smile.

    Happy electioneering.

  9. If I offend you can usually take for granted I never intended it. But I don't think that is the case here. Am I wrong?
    Nope -- it just seemed a little, i dunno, condescending, but also I am not in my right mind from writing so you've got me there. My mistake on bunched undies! =O

    Anyway, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow is a big day for me. Party at my house to bring in the election results. Take the day off, take the train and come have some fun with the bumpkin folks in IL. =)
    Alright! See you as soon as I finish this little paper I'm working on. =}

    Oh yeah. And I forgot to mention, I just like you. You just make me smile.
    Me too -- I mean, you make me smile. I also make me smile, but that's beside the point.

  10. Hey D -- now that I think about it, I think my banner issue would be getting the ~40% of people who don't vote, to vote. That one is huge, of course, and is never really done -- there's always at least a percent or couple that you're not going to get -- but its important. For one thing, it's a laughable democracy where a large number of people don't vote. I'm interested in learning more about the reasons -- I've learned it's minorities and poor, and reasoned that it's because they feel that nothing changes for them anyway (not entirely unreasonably; what politician even TALKS about the poor or low-income as much or more as they do bout the middle class?). Then, on to addressing the reasons (many of which overlap you're pro-voting list). I also feel like proportional voting may help get these type of folks -- some of them -- on board, because if even half of them became voters -- 20% -- they'd get 20% of the representation in legislative bodies. This may end up making some Palins, but it also could possibly end up making some the next Naders, Kuciniches, and hell, some people I haven't even heard of because they're in the community working, not earning millions to launch a campaign. And if you're voted in by a constituency in proportional voting, seems like you'd better serve them, no?

    I know, I know, more multi-party stuff. What can I say? It makes me happy.