Monday, November 17, 2008

78,000-plus write-ins for president


Those of you who have read We the Purple may recall that I became a political animal when I was denied the opportunity to write in the name of my choice for president in the 2000 election. I got so miffed that I voted against the current superintendent of elections that year.

This year 78,346 voters (and counting) cast write-in votes for president, making “write-ins” the seventh largest vote-winner—after Obama, McCain, and these runners-up:

  • #3, Ralph Nader (independent), 705, 875 votes
  • #4, Bob Barr (Libertarian), 511,362 votes
  • #5, Chuck Baldwin (Constitution), 186,335 votes
  • #6, Cynthia McKinney (Green), 153,698 votes

Actually, the write-ins could rack up many more votes, because they are among the last votes to be counted. It’s likely that we won’t know the exact number of ballots cast for write-ins until well into the new year.

You can check out the current tally of votes for the top 25 presidential candidates—including “None of these candidates,” who weighed in at #13—at the U.S. Election Atlas web site.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

“The West Wing” and the 2008 election

“The West Wing” remains one of my favorite TV series of all time. Even though I own the entire series on DVD, I’ll watch any and every episode that turns up on satellite.

According to one of the writers, he based the character of Matt Santos—the country's first minority president—on none other than Barack Obama:

Thanks to Justin Gardner at Donklephant for bringing attention to this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jackie Salit on the Election

No one knows independent politics better than Jackie Salit does, and no one is a better spokesperson for independents than she is. The ever-articulate political director for CUIP and editor of The Neo-Independent offers her analysis of the 2008 presidential election and how independents affected the outcome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post-election analysis


I’ll be talking about the election from an independent voter’s perspective later today on "The Blog Bunker," a radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Indie Talk 110 channel. My segment airs at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

I’ve been on the show before, and I was impressed with the intelligent dialogue we had. Too often, radio hosts are argumentative rather than substantive. Not so on The Blog Bunker, which bills itself as “A cutting-edge roundtable featuring a selection of the over 100 million bloggers around the globe.”

Indie Talk Likely topics today include the rejection of conservatism, Obama undoing Bush policies, top priorities for Obama, how long the honeymoon will last, the post-election political climate, the impact of the Internet on the election, my reaction as an independent to the Obama/Biden victory and my experience as a poll monitor.

Give a listen and let me know what you think, okay?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election reform racked up some wins

Like the politically active indies I know and love, I'm all about political reform, particularly electoral reform. The Huffington Post provided this roundup of electoral reform measures that voters approved on Tuesday. This is the kind of stuff that gets lost in post-election frenzy, especially after an election like this one was. Instant runoff voting, early voting, citizen-proposed initiatives and redistricting reform were among the winners. It's a short post and worth a read.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our long national nightmare is (almost) over


There's not much I can add to the eloquent and emotional words so many have spoken and written in an attempt to express what Barack Obama's victory means to them. What I can add is a personal perspective and a few memories of growing up during the civil rights movement and witnessing segregation first hand.

When I was a child, our family visited the South every few years. My mother was born in Georgia and had family in Florida; my produce-selling father had lived and worked in Florida seasonally and met my mother there. I don't have any race-related memories of the times we traveled by train from Philadelphia to Gainesville, but traveling by car was another story.

Car trips meant stopping in Southern states and being exposed to segregated restrooms, water fountains and restaurants. Those memories are hazy; I can mostly remember this vague sensation that Negroes, the term our family used, were lesser people, diseased and dirty and definitely to be feared. This impression didn't come from my parents. It came from simply walking the streets of Georgia or South Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even in the North, I can remember using coin-operated public restrooms (remember those?) in train stations and especially on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and hearing women admonish their children not to use a toilet that a Negro had just used. A child couldn't help but absorb some of that trepidation.

Then came the race riots. I won't go into that history; all I will say is that if you didn't live through that time, you cannot imagine the terror people felt.

In April of 1968, I visited Paris on a high school trip. Race riots were the furthest thing from my mind---until the day before we were scheduled to return to New Jersey. The news was all around us: Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis. The fear returned. I recall looking out the window of the plane as it descended toward Philadelphia International Airport; I fully expected to see Philly and Camden, its neighbor across the river, engulfed in flames.

Today I heard someone mocking Jesse Jackson for crying as he listened to Barack Obama speak the night before. I don't care who your presidential preference was; I don't care what you think of Barack Obama---if you can’t understand why people were crying and taking to the streets in sheer jubilation last night, then you're far too cynical for me.

Our long national nightmare, the one that's (almost) over, isn't our history of racism. I'm hopeful about the future, but I'm also realistic about the deep racial divide among some segments of our society. Racism isn't the nightmare I'm referring to. The nightmare is the Bush administration. Free at last, free at last---thank God Almighty, we're (almost) free at last.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My day as a poll monitor

Looks like early voting in Colorado really paid off. I visited four five polling places and found no significant lines at any of them.

I wasn’t able to help a single voter at any polling place. But the day wasn’t a total loss. My bright yellow “nonpartisan volunteer” T-shirt attracted the attention of a young woman in a coffee shop where I was taking a break. She told me she had just found out that today was the last day to vote. She was registered in Pueblo (an hour away), but could she vote online? How about in Colorado Springs? Could she re-register today? What about her friend, who was registered to vote in Alamosa (more than two hours away)? Could her friend vote in Pueblo?

Oh my. I managed to maintain my composure as I answered her many questions.

Here’s how the rest of my day went, in Colorado Springs and its environs:

  • My first gig was at an exceedingly quiet precinct—and an exceedingly confusing one. It was on a college campus, and the signage was woefully inadequate. About the only action for several hours occurred when classes changed. One of the election judges told me that a neighboring precinct was swamped, so I went to help out at:

  • Site number 2, where there were even fewer voters. At noon I went inside to ask an election judge how things had gone so far. They told me that they expected to close up shop by 2 p.m., because nearly every registered voter in the precinct had already voted.

  • Off to polling place 3. No voters, no lines, no cars in the parking lot except those belonging to election judges.

  • Same for number 4.

  • Polling place 5, my wonderful hometown, where the wind chill was below freezing and I had to wear that bright yellow T-shirt over several layers of warmer clothing. This was the one place where I think I could have actually helped, because the lines were longer than at the other places I went to. But I had to stay beyond the 100-foot “electioneering” point, even though I wasn’t electioneering, and the lines weren’t nearly 100 feet long. The wait was only 15 minutes.

All in all, it was a frustrating day because I didn’t feel like I was much help. But it served one purpose: it exposed a few more problems that need to be fixed, liked signage and maybe better predictions about where to expect long lines and problems.

Bottom line, this seems to have been a fairly glitch-free election in Colorado. We'll see later on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One scary election


This is the 10th presidential election in which I am eligible to vote. In the 36 years since that first vote, which I unashamedly cast for George McGovern, I have never witnessed a voting season so characterized by fear—not even the 2004, post-9/11 presidential election.

I tend to get into more political conversations than most people do because of the political book I wrote, the social networking site I maintain and my volunteer work with Just Vote Colorado. And thankfully, most of those conversations are thoughtful and intelligent. As an independent voter, I avoid partisan free-for-alls, and that makes genuine dialogue possible.

In so many conversations this year, the one descriptor I’ve heard used most often is this one: scary.

“This is the most scary election of my entire life,” a 60-something man told me. His yard sports a McCain-Palin sign, the first political sign he’s ever placed there.

“We can’t let McCain win. Sarah Palin is just too scary,” said a 20-something woman, an obvious Obama-Biden supporter.

Here’s why the candidates are all so scary, based on what I’ve been hearing:

  • John McCain: He’s a warmonger, a mere shadow of the true maverick he was in 2000, a much-too-close reminder of George W. Bush, and an elderly man who may die in office and turn the reins over to:
  • Sarah Palin: She’s a loose cannon, an inexperienced and inept candidate who needs a basic understanding of how the government works,* and a mean-spirited, sarcastic, tactless running-mate who has no place on a presidential ticket.
  • Barack Obama: He’s so liberal that he’ll turn the country into a socialist nation, so pacifist that he’ll leave us vulnerable to attack, and so subversive that he and his friends will overthrow the government. Oh, and he’s an Islamic Arab—and an African-American, making him the No. 1 target for white supremacist hate groups who will target him, leaving the White House in the hands of:
  • Joe Biden: He’s scary, it seems, only because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. His gaffes are legendary.

Granted, there are thousands of other reasons why the public considers these candidates to be scary, such as their voting records or lack thereof, their stands on the issues and all that. But the points above encapsulate what people have said directly to me. They didn’t get into the issues as much as they did the overall perception they had of the candidate.

So should we be scared? Like a few other people I’ve heard say this, I’ve joked about moving to Canada depending on the results of the election. (For my husband and me, that’s not exactly radical; we’ve been talking about doing that since we met in 1978.) But if I do head north, it won’t be out of fear. It will be a result of pure cultural fatigue.

I understand why people think this election is scary. Though it sure has its scary elements, I refuse to be scared. I have too much hope for that. Between God and the fearless political activists I’ve met, I have reason to hope. We’re in a new political and cultural era, one in which grassroots activism is truly and tangibly making a difference. (For better or worse, this election is evidence of that; neither McCain nor Obama were their party’s anointed one.)

Let’s keep fear at bay and help others do the same. This is no time to be afraid. It’s time to be courageous.

*Okay, so they actually called her stupid. I'm being gracious.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Warning: your write-in vote won’t be counted

Dale Earnhardt

Not if you live in certain states, anyway. Ballot access expert Richard Winger* says write-in votes aren’t even counted until as late as January, if they’re counted at all:

Certain areas of the country illegally don’t count them at all. Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia all refuse to provide a tally for the declared write-in candidates. In the case of the District of Columbia, this is especially egregious, since a D.C. court explicitly ordered such tallies for declared write-in presidential candidates, in 1975…New York city habitually fails to count any write-in votes for the declared write-in presidential candidates. The Board says it is too much work to take down the heavy rolls of paper from the mechanical voting machines and look at them.

So all of you who are planning to write in Ron Paul for President, go ahead and exercise your right to vote for your candidate of choice but expect to be ignored, at least for several months and possibly forever.

If you want to find out your state’s law on write-ins, you’ll find it here.

* Thank you, Richard. I always learn something new from you.