Re: [OVC-discuss] draft of text for new OVC-sponsored bill

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon Jan 26 2009 - 17:30:15 CST

From: "Jim Tobias"
> I'd be careful about trying to eliminate all possible "anarchist"-type
> ballots. Not only here in the US, but around the world and throughout
> history voters have felt the need to stick their tongues out at "the
> system". Sometimes this has been sheer idiosyncratic pranking (of their
> own
> ballot only -- not an attempt to sabotage the election), and sometimes it
> has been an important political statement on behalf of large numbers of
> citizens who feel that the entire electoral process has been rigged.
> Remember -- sometimes that has been true!
>
I don't know about this. Maybe you have a point, maybe it's not much of a
point. There are plenty of ways for people to express discontent with the
choices before them. Giving them a place to write-in a vote that will never
been counted doesn't add much to free speech.

Some states do not provide this anyway. This is yet another thing that
varies from state-to-state, and very few people keep a list. In California,
the statute that requires the write-in vote line for each contest existed
long before the law that restricted tabulation of votes to qualified
write-ins. They stopped counting votes from non-qualified write-ins because
that capability was being abused (last minute spiking). In doing so, they
created a trap: voters could now write in a vote not knowing it would never
be counted.

> Any attempt to restrict voters from expressing themselves as they see fit,
> if they are willing to have their own ballots nullified, will be viewed by
> some as oppressive, whether that's a justified opinion or not. Many
> people
> don't like the "therapeutic state" trying to sand down all the sharp edges
> of life;
>
Again, many, if not most, ballots around the country did not have a place
for the a write-in candidate on various contests (especially down ballot)
because none was qualified.

> I'm sure most of us on this list have had such a reaction, be it
> motorcycle helmet laws, adult content restrictions, or food safety
> warnings.
> Elections are about who we choose to give power to in the first place, so
> this issue is already primed.
>
I don't think the restriction to qualified write-ins is comparable. The
change I am suggesting clarifies things -- it doesn't restrict much of
anything. A protest vote that will never be seen just doesn't do much. The
problem is that 90+ percent of voters (my estimate ... I'd love to see some
survey data on this, but it probably doesn't exist) don't know that
write-ins must be qualified in order for the vote to count. The change I
suggest would make that clearer to voters. Don't like any of the qualified
candidates? Write a letter or email somewhere. Even a 3x5 card posted to
the bulletin board at the local laundromat will have more visibility than a
write-in vote for an non-qualified candidate.

> I'd also be concerned about assuming that election laws have to change to
> reflect the technological system that's being put in place; it's supposed
> to
> go the other way.
>
You are clearly wrong on this point. Technology leads regulation. Lots of
election law was added or changed due to the introduction of various
technologies. Sometimes, the election code stays after the technology is
gone.

There is a whole section of election law in CA written to accommodate lever
machines. It's still there although the technology is gone. This is the
section where it says you have to post the counts at the precinct once the
polls close. This practice (posting results at the pollsite) is often
thought to be a good idea, regardless of the technology. However, it is not
enforced because it is considered specific to that technology.

Alan D.

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Received on Thu Jan 7 00:09:52 2010

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