26 July 2012

Voting and fraud and other scary things.

So it sounds like that Pennsylvania law purporting to deal with voter fraud will either a) be struck down by the state courts as violating the state constitution or b) kick off a bunch of older (mostly white) voters, who tend to be more Republican voters. Which is kind of amusing. If you like that sort of thing.

What that all says is that voter fraud, as a purported issue, is
1) overblown. It's unlikely to affect seriously a large election. It's also unlikely to affect it, in my view, when these misguided laws are applied. That doesn't mean that the laws are okay. I oppose them philosophically in addition to their practical problems of not being very effective or useful. It just means the harm is usually not "someone won an election when they shouldn't have". At least in a modestly liberal democracy where there are avenues to challenge dumb and ineffective laws. If we were talking about Russia or Egypt, maybe we'd have to re-evaluate how that works.
2) a non-partisan issue because it's difficult, both constitutionally and politically, to craft the laws in a blatantly discriminatory way to exclude one sides' voters over the other.

Of the more interesting voter impacts is all the redistricting challenges that have gone on. In Ohio, there's a new ballot issue on appointing independent commissions for redistricting instead of the state-gerrymandering approach. I'm a little confused however at the purported goals of doing so or at least how they differ from gerrymandering as it usually works.

"Districts need to be competitive and they must keep communities together."

I concede "competitive" could be a laudable goal for elections. In theory. I don't see that it needs to be taken for granted that there must be competitive districts always. But it does at least offer the possibility of changing representation from time to time and imposing a non-arbitrary term limit (which is appealing because I think term limits are a limitation on voter freedom and are functionally useless for resolving special interest problems and "lame duck" issues). Still. It conflicts heavily with the ability and apparent interest of human beings to settle themselves in politically homogenous communities. Eg, Cleveland proper is going to vote "Democratic"most of the time, while some of its suburbs are not. What that means is that at least several districts are never going to be "competitive". Generally speaking, appealing to the public on the impressive nature of those goals is going to conflict with the ability to implement them because they are at times mutually exclusive. That means you'll end up gerrymandering in several places or you'll end up with communities that are split and mixed and muddled with others and your supposed end goal will not, and indeed cannot, actually be served. I absolutely detest such useless symbolism in legislation and law and public action to suggest the appearance of concern with a problem but in practice lack of a solution to it.

I personally do not care whether its Democrats or Republicans who can in theory control the state's Congressional caucus. I'd prefer neither. But since this is a fairly evenly divided ideological state on many issues (it's an old Rust Belt union-centered economic state but also a modestly socially conservative state on many issues as well, historically this is more true than now), I see no obvious reason that it cannot or should not redistrict in a way that risks "dividing communities". It's a divided swing state nationally, so we should expect division in its politics when we drill down into them. If this is so, perhaps there are other reasons that the current plan of redistricting might be unsound, but "gerrymandering" doesn't sound like one of them. And many of those reasons are likely as cynically political as those that motivated the redistricting in the first place (according to opposition to said plans). Which is not an encouraging device for attracting my support because it starts up my own cynically political interests in exchange.

If you want my help, throw in some non-winner take all representation and basic reforms to the election's system for third parties. Because I want another libertarian in Congress. Fuck you guys.
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