Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Watching World

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  • Russell Brown,

    Uh-oh.

    Risky, "experimental" software added to voting machines in Ohio at the eleventh hour.

    Even if this isn't an attempt to compromise the machines, it's still clearly crazy and sloppy and stupid. They need someone to come in and run their elections properly for them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Tim Michie,

    I think that being in NZ we assume a reasonably high level of electoral integrity and trust. The ticks and crosses debates (with ballots disallowed if the wrong mark was made) were sorted 20 years ago. it is relatively easy to enrol and vote. More money is probably spent on publicity about the electoral system and running the elections than party advertising. Booths running out of voting papers makes the radio news reports, and are often quickly remedied. The apparent Crosby-Textor/ big corporate influence on the right is openly talked about, and we have regular reviews of the voting system such as the latest one on MMP.

    However, what is happening in the US is not about democracy, but about control. The UN should be monitoring the elections there just like they do emerging third world democracies.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Right now, in Florida. The Nation has stories on people waiting seven hours to vote.

    Seems nothing much has changed since the hanging chads debacle.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    Victoria Collier on Kim Hill describes the alarming control of the Republicans over the voting system. The privately held software is secret. There is no way of checking the credibility of results as opposed to our paper trail. When there is a close election as is said to be this time, then there is room to manipulate votes. Remember Florida and the 500 votes that won GW Bush President?
    http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/sat/sat-20121103-0810-victoria_collier_vote_rigging-048.mp3

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • PJ, in reply to Eric Dutton,

    Yep. Screw the pundits and polls this is where I get my info from :)

    http://www.predictwise.com/politics/2012presidentindividual

    An aggregate of the 3 major betting markets. The blog posts are incredibly interesting too, especially on the Xbox live polls.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2011 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Some of my colleagues were discussing these issues, and with a few exceptions no-one had any idea about voter suppression, voting machine problems and the like. Many had no idea about the Electoral College, and only just twigged as to why the news was going on about "swing states".

    The heartening thing about the last point is it seems that there's a new generation for whom the very concept of a non-proportional electoral system is incomprehensible and revolting.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I think the main problem the US faces in this respect is that it's got different systems in every state. They're very much held back by the way their federal system emerged historically. Not just on this, either. NZ can make adjustments to the voting system that affect every citizen, and debates on the problems are national debates. In the US they have to have 50 debates for every one that we have. I wonder if there's anyone at all, anywhere, who comprehends the US voting system in its entirety.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Worrying reports about barriers to voting in the swing states. Long queues for voting, laws that disenfranchise Democrat voters.

    Actually, Hillary, those barriers in the linked story practically disenfranchise a lot of people who probably can't afford to take a non-existent personal day off work to go stand in line for eight hours.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think the main problem the US faces in this respect is that it’s got different systems in every state.

    Two of the stated actually do not have winner-takes all for the electoral college votes (though as it is on the basis of each congressional district deciding it's own elector it is not quite (though often mis-described as) a proportional system). There is a reason Nebreska and Maine don't feature strongly in electoral news excitement- a few people in a few tipping point counties can't change the result for the entire state.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    The UN should be monitoring the elections there just like they do emerging third world democracies.

    The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (which the US is a part of an contributes election monitors for other country's elections) have sent monitors (as they actually have for US elections since 2002, when invited by Bush). In Ohio, Texas, Florida, Iowa, and Wisconsin the state officials in charge of the election process (and I am pretty sure they are all republican) have made it clear that they do not recognize the authority of the United Nations (note this is not a UN group so WTF) and if the monitors come within 100 feet of a polling station (300 in Iowa) they are liable for being prosecuted for interfering with the election.
    Mind OSCE are only sending 57 observers.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    And there is no over arching body in the USA who would have the power to investigate the credibility of their voting system. In NZ every paper vote is checked in the weeks after the election and any of the rare anomalies are referred to the police.
    Perhaps our Electoral Commission could earn some pocket money by being consultants for USA Federal Government?

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I think there are some NZ politicians observing eg Grant Roberston was there last week, and may still be there. Not sure what their role is and how close they get to the actual machines and lines of voters though.

    It just seems amazing that there is no paper trail of voting at all to check back on.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I think there are some NZ politicians observing eg Grant Roberston was there last week, and may still be there. Not sure what their role is and how close they get to the actual machines and lines of voters though.

    I can't speak for Grant, but as a general principle I suspect "very far away indeed" -- just as I'm pretty sure we'd want American Congressmen keeping a seemly and appropriate distance from our polling places considering, not to put too fine a point on it, they'd have no legitimate business being there.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think the main problem the US faces in this respect is that it's got different systems in every state.

    Having now lived in a federal system for a decade, I'm inclined to question their merits. Perhaps though, my experience in Australia doesn't translate to the US where the lives of individuals in different states must vary more. However, surely the election of federal office bearers should be managed through federal law? They are here.

    Is this one of those con-federation v federation issues?

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I would be happy to see US congresspeople at our polling booths. I would like to them show how easy it is to vote, even for those with autism etc, how party scrutineers watch all aspects of the process including the paper count after the poll has closed. And how it is all done in more or less good humour, with the best of intentions for participatory democracy.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3226 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Paul Williams,

    However, surely the election of federal office bearers should be managed through federal law?

    Well, the actions of the electors once they get to the electoral college are a matter of federal law (those states that have imposed laws that the delegates must vote the way they were supposed to once they get to the college are in what I understand is legally gray territory) and how many electors each state gets is determined by the combined number of house and senate seats (excepting special cases like Washington DC) so is a matter of federal law, but how a state determines it's delegates (both in terms of is it a winner takes all statewide, and in the exact details of who can vote (some states allow felons who have served their time and are no longer on probation to vote)) is a matter for each individual state. For this election Colorado is voting on a proposition to move away from a winner takes all system (entrenched interests are against it).
    Some states also have binding voting on citizens referendum's at various voting thresholds (the "California Problem" of voting for spending initiatives but against tax increases).

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Tea Party activists have managed to prevent the provision of water to people standing in line

    Beverage envy

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    The thing that blew my mind in the 2000 selection was learning that the winning party in each state runs the following election - eg: Republicans in Florida. Gee, wonder if that might cause problems?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to David Hood,

    Well, the actions of the electors once they get to the electoral college are a matter of federal law (those states that have imposed laws that the delegates must vote the way they were supposed to once they get to the college are in what I understand is legally gray territory) and how many electors each state gets is determined by the combined number of house and senate seats (excepting special cases like Washington DC) so is a matter of federal law, but how a state determines it's delegates (both in terms of is it a winner takes all statewide, and in the exact details of who can vote (some states allow felons who have served their time and are no longer on probation to vote)) is a matter for each individual state.

    David, thanks for this very helpful reply. I must say, perhaps simplistically, this level of complexity and variation appears likely to increase disenfranchisement.

    FWIW, sometime ago I listened to a lecture given by Carne Ross in which he suggested our system of representative democracy was illegitimate and could be replaced with tech-enabled direct participation. I started off being cynical but, by the end, thought I needed to know more. It's available at the LSE site.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sacha,

    winning party in each state runs the following election

    Actually that's wrong - think it's the one currently in govt at state level. Sorry.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Paul Williams,

    FWIW, sometime ago I listened to a lecture given by Carne Ross in which he suggested our system of representative democracy was illegitimate and could be replaced with tech-enabled direct participation.

    I think most of the technical issues are solvable, the main issues to me are "the tyranny of the majority" issues (though it is argued how much a problem this would be under a direct democracy system).
    I have seen some reasonable compelling arguments that one can get a pretty "good" government (one interested in the good of the entire country) through a representative democracy that is a mix of elected politicians (for continuity of knowledge purposes) and the ancient greek drawing citizens by lot to be part of the government (thus free of beholden influences).
    In the modern world, the recent developments by Iceland with it's constitution and Finland with it's law making are, I think, really interesting. But Finland does regard broadband access as a human right in it's modern society, so this flows from the assumption all citizens can contribute.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Sacha,

    Actually that’s wrong – think it’s the one currently in govt at state level. Sorry.

    In most states the Secretary of State is the chief election official. In a large number of States this is an elected position, in some it is appointment by the Governor, and in a few it is appointed by voting within the state legislature.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • martinb,

    So that arch socialist Bloomberg is making climate change one of his top few issues?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-02/bloomberg-post-sandy-backing-gives-obama-unexpected-boost.html

    that blows me away considering how far from important it is on Labour and National's political agenda.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to David Hood,

    Thanks David.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Richard Aston,

    While I find the use of electronic voting machines entirely suspect in the US, this isn't exactly true.

    Tagg Romney runs a venture capital company that mainly funds other venture capital companies (no direct investment in the primary companies). Some of those VC firms have invested in voting machine companies.

    These layers really don't indicate any hands-on intervention in machine design or programming.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

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