Hey, hey, hey (Say what?): Slate and the 99% Invisible podcast survey the world-shaking importance of R.E.M.’s “Out of Time” longbox. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is why no album in the history of recorded music has had as large an effect on politics in the United States as R.E.M’s Out of Time.” Welllll…that sounds a bit hyperbolic, but I do remember sending in that Rock the Vote Motor Voter card back in the day.
A lot of people may dream of a new America, but artist Neil Freeman has actually drawn one up, with the aid of some number-crunching algorithms. “Keep in mind that this is an art project, not a serious proposal, so take it easy with the emails about the sacred soil of Texas.”
The US Census Bureau announces the newly-reapportioned electoral map for 2010, and it shows electoral gains for (blue areas in) red states and the Northeast and Midwest diminishing (in growth rate, at least. The only state to actually lose people was Michigan.) Since the GOP will by and large control the redistricting process in most states, this is further bad news for Dems in the short term. Nonetheless, the overall demographic trends are still working in our favor.
In related news, Robert Cruickshank makes the modest proposal of removing the 435-member cap on the House, first passed in 1929. “In the 1930 Census, which found a population of just over 122 million, this produced 435 House districts of about 282,000 each. By 2012, however, a US House district in a state with more than 1 seat will represent about 708,000 people. That’s an increase of 2260% from 1790.“
With the recount winding down and enraged Republicans frothing up — where was this outrage in Dade County eight years ago? — it seems that Democrat Al Franken is up by 225 votes, and is likely slated to be the next Senator from Minnesota. Several potential legal challenges remain in the arsenal of Republican Norm Coleman (who also happens to be trying to fend off an FBI bribery investigation at the moment), but apparently it’s hard to see any outcome from these proceedings that will avail him the needed margin of victory.
So, Franken it is, then. Great, another Dem in the Senate is always excellent news. That being said, perhaps we should view recent events in Minnesota as the umpteenth wake-up call for this country to get its voting infrastructure in order? If I go take out a hundred bucks from an ATM at the local 7-11, I never have to wait in line for hours. The record of my transaction never goes missing, get displaced, or ends up being double-counted. I’ve got a paper trail of the withdrawal, and my bank and/or creditors in their faraway lands know the score immediately — there’s no waiting two months to tally up my recent expenditures. Truly, this is an Age of Wonders.
While taking into account some system of anonymity that will maintain the secret ballot, perhaps we can find a way to apply this magical 21st-century technology to the voting process? Heck, at this point I’ll settle for applying 20th century tech to the problem.
“At the sprawling Riverside Park Community apartments at Broadway and 135th Street, Alician D. Barksdale said she had voted for Mr. Obama and her daughter had, too, by absentee ballot. ‘Everyone around here voted for him,’ she said.” City election officials find “major discrepancies” between the reported and actual vote totals here in NYC. In 80 of the city’s 6106 election districts — including the nearby 94th election district right here in Harlem (I’m in the adjacent 93rd) — Obama was reported to have the grand total of 0 votes. (Clinton now leads the 94th 261-136, which frankly still sounds off for this neighborhood.) “In an even more heavily black district in Brooklyn — where the vote on primary night was recorded as 118 to 0 for Mrs. Clinton — she now barely leads, 118 to 116.“
Local party officials here in Sen. Clinton’s home state are calling the mistakes a result of human error. “‘I’m sure it’s a clerical error of some sort,’ Mr. Wright said. ‘Being around elections for the last 25 years, no candidate receives zero votes.’” (Hmm. Funny how these poll officials, instead of transposing a few numbers or somesuch, just accidentally wrote down a big fat zero.) In any case, the official count is what really matters in the end anyway, and — if this trend keeps up — there’s a possibility Sen. Obama might pick up a few more delegates here in the city.
More to the point, in an age where we can squeeze in 5-10 ATMs a city block, and all of them seem to know exactly how much (or how little) money I have, why are we still relying on a half-century-old voting system that allows for these sorts of “human error”? It’s the 21st century, people. Update: Although most reports seem to indicate the problem was legitimately human error, Hizzoner claims fraud.
“At the same time, Iowa’s vaunted precinct caucuses — especially those of the Democratic Party — violate some of the most elemental values of a vibrant and open political process. As far as a mechanism for selecting a president is concerned, you might end up with Iowa’s model if you set out to design a system that discouraged participation and violated basic democratic values.” Whoever wins the Democratic caucus in Iowa tomorrow, CNN’s Jeff Greenfield reminds us, it’s a pretty lousy process. “What if you’re in a union and want to pick someone your union hasn’t endorsed, and your shop steward is there, watching you from across the room? Or the person who holds your mortgage? Or your spouse? Tough…[In addition] a candidate who won a lot of the precincts narrowly would wind up winning a bigger portion of the delegates than a rival who piled up votes in one corner of Iowa — even if that corner yielded a higher overall number of supporters. It’s all the disproportional representation of the Electoral College, in miniature. And that was the price for forming the Union, not a guide for running elections.“
“Today, due to the dearth of competitive city council elections and lack of a mayor’s race, it is likely that few New Yorkers will go to the polls. A good number of residents, tied up in the hectic pace of their daily lives, will probably not even realize today is an election day.” But, Election Day it is. As such, the New York Sun‘s Seth Gitell laments the lack of interest in voting, and asks blogs to help publicize the day. (Y’know, making today a national holiday might help too.) And, while it may not be the Big Show this year, there are some important races happening around the country right now: “Kentucky and Mississippi both have gubernatorial battles. There are state legislative contests in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. And a host of cities across the nation — including Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and San Francisco, California — will see mayoral elections.” (Today’s local NYC races are covered here.) Update: Dems gain Kentucky and the Virginia Senate.
By a vote of 241 to 177, the House votes to give DC a full (voting) seat in Congress. But, Eleanor Holmes Norton shouldn’t practice her ayes and nays just yet — the bill still has to make it through a recalcitrant Senate, where a Republican filibuster is likely, as well as past a White House inclined to veto the bill. Nevertheless, said DC mayor Adrian Fenty, “This was a statement about our country’s principles, values and morals. That we would no longer be the only democratic-represented country in the world where the citizens of the nation’s capital did not have a vote in the national legislature.”