Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From Indignation to Indy Nation

In Alaska, Lisa Murkowski is poised to defeat both anointed party choices via a write-in campaign. Hooda thunk that Alaska would so cheer Indy Nation so soon as after polluting the waters with Robo-mom Sara Palin?  

Democrats want to spin Murkowski's win as an anti-tea-party or anti-Palin result. The GOP wants it to prove that disloyalty is a bad thing. It proves neither. What it proves is that the people who win elections are the people who best represent their constituents, not the people who best represent their party.  

Alaska should be happy that they were able to avoid the horns of the sort of false dilemma that Nevada faced: odious liberal versus odious conservative. Folks ought to appreciate how hard it is to get 41% in a 3 way race as a write in candidate. That's a very loud shot by the people of one state against partisan politics yielding abysmal choices. the abysmal partisan dilemma CAN be evaded I dunno about other states, but MA had more independent and unaffiliated candidates than I have ever seen. And I voted for many of them. I think there is plenty of room for more growth in the market for candidates who are not affiliated with either party.

And so, Tuesday's indignation can lead to Wednesday's Indy Nation, where the beady-eyed crap weasels of both parties should be beginning to feel the heat. As noted in other posts, several prominent conservatives had already warned their party against triumphalism. That's become the dominant spin in the aftermath...that this represents a last chance for Republicans to adjust our nation's headings to match public needs and desires.

The early returns suggest to me that they are determined to fail in part, because they are twisting these results to fit their version of the truth, which only ever tells half the story. Where the results show that the public is deeply upset by economic circumstances, the GOP insists that the results are simply a rejection of Barack Obama's polices. As usual, only about half right.

Many of us may well want smaller government and lower taxes. But we all know that the economy didn't suddenly collapse because of big government deficit spending and taxes. It collapsed because both parties were asleep at the switch, unwilling to speak to an unsustainable real estate bubble overinflated by deeply questionable lending and risk-selling practices at every step of the process by powerful business entities with Congress's ear and sympathy.

In a morning CNN poll, Americans give "wall st bankers" the most blame for our economy's current state. In this context, Republicans continue to insist we give freer reign to business. Apparently, there is not a politician in congress or a pundit on the DC beat who is willing to connect these dots. Smaller government and lower taxes probably can help lead us out of our current hole. But as long as we are dominated by two parties that never tell more than half the truth, and who spend most of their time fundraising and serving powerful special interests, the people will never come first.

As long as this endures, Democrats and Republicans will never be able to see the real world, only the world through the lenses of various special interests who sign checks for re-election campaigns. Congresscritters will spend their time speaking only to the issues as seen by the groups signing the checks, and the party power brokers setting the agenda and bulleting the talking points. If it's not an issue in the eye of some specific powerful special interest, Congress can't see it.

By supporting independent candidates with the freedom and the actual ability to see and describe MORE than half of the truth, we can wake up the partisan zombies pulling the switches. Here's to that come 2012.


  1. Point of clarity: It is an untested assumption at this point that the 41% of the Alaska write-ins are valid votes for Murkowski. Given the certainty that some are NOT going to be for Murkowski and that some ballots will be invalid for one reason or another, the question instead becomes "How many does she need?"

    The answer to that is that she needs at least 68229 valid write-in votes out of the outstanding total of 81876 not-yet-validated write-in votes to prevail over Miller's current registered tally of 68228, and she needs to net at least even out of any as-yet-uncounted absentee and provisional ballots to maintain that one-vote lead.

    You can bet that the Miller camp will positively insist that the Alaska laws for counting write-in votes be VERY scrupulously followed.

    In short, while it's entirely possible that Murkowski there are enough valid write-in votes for Murkowski in that pile for her to become the fifth person in American history to be elected to Cngress on a write-in vote, we don't know that yet. And it's possible there aren't enough. She need for all those votes to be valid and for 5 out of 6 of them to be for her, as in properly spelled and everything.

  2. Very fair point.

    But in response to it, I maintain that the phenomenon of Murkowski as a viable alternative write in candidate supports my points above regardless of whether or not she actually wins. Even if she loses, she was legitimately viable, a 3rd way that received due consideration and allowed folks to split the horns of an artificial dilemma.

    I hope she does win, because then her story becomes a secure positive teaching tale of how a broad constituency of any state as a whole can override an abysmal choice forced by the two parties, neither of which represents the entire constituency in any meaningful sense.

    I know you're sympathetic to the idea of electing folks who really represent their constituencies and are just pointing out that there's a potentially messy food fight to come.

    One thing though. Didn't polls show that Murkowski was probably the preferred candidate of Alaskans by a small but consistently demonstrable margin. If that's the case, then using mechanism to subvert the people's will seems very anti-populist, not at all what the tea party should stand for. Just sayin'.

  3. Agreed on the main point, just gotta pick them nits. And point out the inevitable AlFrankensteinian repercussions. Write-in candidacy is always a chancy thing at best, and when you end-run around the usual procedure it pays to be prepared to do it by the allowed forms, as say Leiberman was, to use a recent example of similar dynamics in play.

    I encounter something similar on a regular basis with the certification of petitions. Just because you get XXXX signatures doesn't mean the petition qualifies, the signatures still have to be of registered voters from the proper district, etc. And I've seen petitions get tossed with three or four times the required number of sigs because so few of the sigs were legit. Same here -- they have to be legiot votes for the candidate to count. And Murkowski needs for five out of every six write-in votes minimum to be legit votes for her. We don't know that yet, and may not for quite a bit, one way or another.

    I'm not in the position to dictate the ethics of the TEA party people or cast aspersions on them for wanting the law to be followed, of course. :-) But I would note that we're talking about simply following the law here, that the process is the process, and we don't (or shouldn't) put people in office if they don't get there by the rules. They still have to jump through the hoops of the law (known to all well ahead of time) and the Alaska election commission would be violating the letter and spirit of the law (and their oaths of office) to do it any way BUT "by the book."

    Not that it always happens that way ... and not that the prospect of another centrist indie running loose in the Senate doesn't make me smile.

  4. UPDATE: All precincts have now reported. Miller gained very slightly against Write-In. There are 203,169 votes in the count to date. There are 40,000 absentee, provisional, and questionable ballots not yet counted, and the deadline for receipt of mailed absentee ballots is still two weeks out. If the count is remotely close then, expect litigation over any military ballots postmarked on/by election day but received after the absentee deadline.

  5. Oh I am always happy to cast aspersions on folks whose level of devotion to the letter of the law can be predicted by whether it benefits them. :-)

  6. Uh huh. Very noble of you. Will you also cast aspersions on Murkowski's insisting that the law NOT be followed, should that benefit her? Fair play and all, you know. Which is more reprehensible? Insisting that the law be followed, or insisting that it be actively violated? Seems to me like you're either setting up a no-win aspersion-throwing, or playing plastic-rules favoritism based on your own candidate preference.

    The likeliest vote disqualifier will be a voter's failure to mark the oval next to the write-in line, as is absolutely required by Alaskan ballot law. Note part (b) of AS 15.15.360:

    "The rules set out in this section are mandatory and there are no exceptions to them. A ballot may not be counted unless marked in compliance with these rules."

    Not exactly ambiguous, eh?

    Also there will no doubt be some ballots marked simply "Lisa" or "Lisa M." There is another "Lisa M." on the qualified write-in list, and a "Lisabeth" as well.

    I would expect that simple misspellings they would let slide as long as they are clearly for Murkowski, though technically the written name MUST conform to "if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided", which would imply correct spelling is required. That's one of the few areas where the "voter intent" standard can honestly be applied.

    So to comply with the law and with SCOTUS rulings on "voter intent," and assuming the ballot is not otherwise invalid (rec'd too late, ineleigible voter, etc.) the ground rules for ballot judges should be (a) the oval next to the write-in is marked and is the only oval marked in that section, and (b) the name written on the write-in line is clearly that of Murkowski.

    Psychic interpetation of unclear ballots and/or horrible handwriting not permitted. They're paper ballots, so infamous porn star "Danglin' Chad" is not in play. I expect point (a) is the one the Murkowski team will insist be ignored, despite it being an absolute no-go for ballot validity under Alaska law.

  7. ____
    Which is more reprehensible? Insisting that the law be followed, or insisting that it be actively violated? Seems to me like you're either setting up a no-win aspersion-throwing, or playing plastic-rules favoritism based on your own candidate preference.

    Nope. My position is the same regardless of candidate or election. If clear intent really can be discerned, the vote should be counted.

    Now we both know there's devil in those details, but that doesn't man you can't try. For the most part i agree with what you're describing...a reasonable fascimile of the last name.

    I can see your point about the letter of the law as it relates to filling in the bubble. And I know enough about the law to accept that such a standard is almost always successfully upheld in favor of whichever side is fortunate enough to have it on their side. Even if they'd oppose it were the shoe on the other foot.

    I think it's a stupid rule. If a name is in fact filled in on the write in line, then the most likely reason BY FAR for an unfilled-in oval is inadvertent error. By far the likeliest result of enforcing that rule is a vote tally that less accurately represents the discernable will of voters.

    And I'd feel that way even if Simon was the write-in candidate in question.

    But I do appreciate you opinion, as well as where it comes from. Anyone in a referee position wants clear guidelines like "no bubble no vote." Especially when they have a couple hundred thousand ballots to go through.

    I'd revise the law. Or failing that, I would be good with instructing poll workers to remind voters about how to properly cast a write-in vote whenever there was a known truly viable candidate.

    I'm sure there's a favoritism-based argument about only doing that sometimes. But I care most about achieving electoral tallies that most closely represent what voters were choosing.

    I would also use technology to replace umpires for calling balls and strikes in baseball. :-)

  8. The Alaska Election commission has now affirmed that it will follow "no bubble, no vote." Period. End of statement.

    They are not making any statements on the spelling question, save for a few vague hints about "intent," which would follow right along with SCOTUS decisions of the last decade even if it goes against the non-explicit implications of Alaskan law.

    The Miller campaign has raised some speculative rumbles about spelling issues and litigation. Where intent is clear on the ballot and the oval is marked, I doubt they'll have much luck with that.

    Guidelines must be clear and objective, or there is NO guideline but what the vote counters manufacture, at which point there is little purpose in actually voting. Castro is happy to let people vote -- as long as the state controls the counting.

    Poll workers can NOT give much instruction on write-ins, other than to state the law or post it, which if done should be done for each and every election. It would otherwise be de facto electioneering by poll workers, who are state employees/representatives. Especially if they made extra effort to do so when there was a "known truly viable candidate."

    I would also use technology to replace umpires for calling balls and strikes in baseball. :-)

    HEATHEN! Who would we abuse?

  9. I mistakenly said above that there were SCOTUS rulings about "intent" that would apply. There are not. The "intent" decisions are Alaska State court decisions, and not neccessarily relevant as they refer to the incomplete marking of ovals, not the spelling of names. Alaskan law does indeed appear to require that the name be spelled correctly, and Murkowski went to great lengths to try and ensure her supporters did so.

    That said, if the number of write-ins with Murkowski's name spelled correctly are sufficient to win the election, the question will not go to court, and the point will be moot for now.