Why Elections Matter

Randy Leonard


This is my favorite picture from the past six years.

  • LT (unverified)

    Great picture!

  • JMG (unverified)
    <h1>Speaking of making elections matter, what about making small states like Oregon matter? Here's a great idea from Maryland.</h1>

    Wash. Post 3/29/07: MD Senate advances bill to dodge Electoral Colle

    Senate Advances Bill To Dodge Electoral College

    By John Wagner and Ovetta Wiggins Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, March 29, 2007; B01

    Maryland is poised to become the first state to agree to bypass the electoral college and effectively elect U.S. presidents by national popular vote under legislation moving briskly toward the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

    But the bill comes with a big caveat: It would not take effect until enough other states agree to do the same. "It's a long way from home," said Senate President Thomas Mike V. Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). "I don't know if it will happen in my lifetime."

    The bill, which the Senate approved 29 to 17 yesterday, would award the state's 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide -- not statewide. A similar bill was approved yesterday by a House committee and is expected to come before the full chamber today, and O'Malley signaled his backing.

    Supporters of the measure, being championed by a national nonprofit group, say deciding elections by popular vote would give candidates reason to campaign nationwide and not concentrate their efforts in "battleground" states, such as Florida and Ohio, that have dominated recent elections.

    Moreover, the supporters argue, such a system would prevent rare occasions, such as President Bush's 2000 victory over Al Gore, in which a candidate who wins the popular vote does not prevail in the electoral college, a fixture in U.S. elections since the nation's founding.

    "Maryland could lead a national movement to popular election of a president," said Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), a freshman lawmaker leading the charge, after the hearing.

    But even some of those who voted for the measure had doubts about how soon enough other states would come on board. The agreement would not take effect until states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes -- the number needed to win a presidential election -- sign on.

    California lawmakers passed a version of the bill last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). This year, lawmakers in one chamber of the Arkansas, Hawaii and Colorado legislatures have approved such a measure, but it has not yet made it through the other chamber, according to National Popular Vote Inc., the California-based group pushing the idea.

    Ryan O'Donnell, a spokesman for the group, said lawmakers in Maryland have been receptive because it is "the classic spectator state" in presidential politics.

    "I think Maryland voters are tired of being ignored, and lawmakers are reacting to that," O'Donnell said.

    O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor would sign the bill if it reached his desk. "He supports it, because every voter counts, and every vote should count equally," Abbruzzese said.

    In another bid to become more relevant in presidential elections, Maryland lawmakers have passed legislation to move the state's 2008 primary to Feb. 12 from March 4.

    Past talk about electing presidents by a national popular vote has centered on amending the U.S. Constitution, a cumbersome process that could take years. In theory, the nonprofit group's plan could be adopted more quickly.

    Under the proposal, the electoral college would continue to exist but would function far differently.

    Most states currently award all their electoral votes -- a number equal to the size of a state's congressional delegation -- to the candidate who wins the most votes in the state.

    The proposal calls on states to award their electoral votes to the candidate with the highest vote count nationally. If enough states do that, the candidate with the most votes nationally would be guaranteed to win the election.

    In addition to 2000, there have been three occasions when the winner of the popular vote did not prevail: 1824, 1876 and 1888.

    Some lawmakers argued yesterday that a popular-vote plan could become unwieldy if the national count is close.

    Sen. Michael G. Lenett (D-Montgomery) predicted "mass chaos" if a national recount were necessary. "While the electoral college is not flawless, the alternative might be worse," he said.

    Lenett also said the system proposed could just switch the target for candidates from closely divided states to large cities with many voters -- a scenario that would not necessarily empower Maryland.

    Lenett was among three Democrats who joined all 14 of the Senate's Republicans in voting against the measure.

    Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) told his colleagues that they were moving too hastily. "Sometimes it's good being the first on the bandwagon, sometimes it's not."

    The Senate vote sparked almost immediate action from the House Ways and Means Committee, which had been holding the bill until the other chamber acted. The panel voted along party lines to send the bill to the floor.

    House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said the legislation would pass by the end of the week. "It obviously gives Maryland more of a voice in a national election," he said. "The last couple of elections, the candidates have concentrated all their efforts in the two or three states that are going to decide the election."

  • Michael Wilson (unverified)

    Yea, but for whom do they matter? Certainly not for the general public! MHW

  • PDC Union Facts (unverified)

    I love that picture.

  • Julio Menadeza (unverified)

    <img src="http://www.stickergiant.com/cand/imgs/kerry.jpg">

  • Anon (unverified)

    I can't get enough of those kinds of pictures, just like I can't get enough of Nancy's "take a deep breath" smack-down of Furious George.

    Another great picture:

    Who's the Boss?

  • (Show?)

    That's a serious threadjack you just did there, JMG. But the topic you're addressing is too important to let go.

    To be clear, I am totally against this kind of proposal.

    I don't have much time, so let me winnow my objections to the top three issues:

    1) This proposal does not empower local voices in the election. It disempowers them. Under it, a small state promises its votes to whomever wins the national election - so a groundswell in Texas for Bush, for example, would swamp whetever local isses Maryland finds important. So where would the national candidates campaign? Maryland or Texas?

    2) It's unconstitutional to force states to adopt a single system of placing their votes, so we'd never end up with a real national election. And in a partially nationalized system, those states who don't pledge their votes to the overall winner will naturally get more attention than those that do.

    3) Most importantly - it rewards vote fraud. Contrary to modern myth, stuffing ballot boxes was not a practice invented by Diebold. (They just automated it.) And the electoral college system was designed to stop it, by limiting the damage any one corrupt State leadership could do. If we go to a national system, your votes in Oregon for a Democratic candidate may be swamped by hundreds of thousands or millions of phantom electronic votes in Alabama. When the "national" returns show Jeb Bush has won, amid widespread allegations of vote fraud in States that don't have Oregon's highly secure paper ballot backed system, do you want your vote to go to him?

    I'd say more, but I'm working.

  • JMG (unverified)

    Sorry you didn't like the addition of something below what was, at that point, a picture and a comment that said "great picture"--a picture of a guy who was appointed president with a significant minority of votes, thanks to that electoral college you favor.

    Thanks to the electoral college system, states large and small have their concerns ignored whenever they lean strongly one way or another. The only real campaigning for president goes on in swing states.

    Moreover, a national majority system would tend to favor densely populated cities over lightly populated rural areas. In other words, instead of a system that wildly overweights voters in Iowa, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, the Dakotas, Alaska, etc., you'd have a system that tends to level the field by ensuring that more attention is paid to the concerns of vote-rich states--which are decidedly blue.

    I invite anyone interested in how the EC distorts our politics to spend some time with these maps: http://prorev.com/electmap.htm

    I have a difficult time understanding your objection that vote fraud in one state could lead to a problem under a national majority system--that's exactly what happened in 2000, where the real scary fraud (by elections officials) was sufficient to overcome a national majority for the other guy. Do we need a national standard for conduct of elections, with requirements for voter-verified paper trails, universal registration, etc. Yes, absolutely. But the national majority idea is attainable, where constitutional amendments are hard to get.

    Getting rid of the electoral college is a neutral reform--it doesn't necessarily favor or hurt Democrats...except to the extent that the EC sure as hell biases the system against them.

  • ElectionsMatter? (unverified)

    (From all indications the contents of my previous post were scotched for some reason. So here is a second try.)

    Elections do matter.

    Today's Oregonian provides immediate proof of that. Anyone who cares about integrity in government has to now be wondering what are you and the rest of the City Commission are planning to do Monday in response to this possible nonfeasance or misfeasance by the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission:


    A secret meeting, with no transcripts, about clear-cut violations of law, and an announcement late on a Friday afternoon. Does the pattern sound at all familiar?

    Lest you think this is no big deal, let's be clear: The Blazers are a private business and nothing more. The people of Portland have communicated their desire as to how they want the City, and therefore the Mayor in their stead as their elected representative, to deal with the Blazers.

    The flashing red light and blaring klaxon here is the shameless spinning of this effort to benefit a private business as a "ceremonial duty". That is very essence of corruption that Ethics codes are intended to reach. This refusal of the GSPC to enforce very clear-cut laws through this rationalization harms every one in this state. Almost every legislator who the GSPC has held accountable could make the same nonsensical argument in defense of their unethical behavior.

    This would be seem to be particularly revelant in Portland, less than two months before an election to reform the charter that this Mayor has advocated for to give him more power. As you said, this is "Why Elections Matter".

    In this case, we have additional information that helps illustrate just why this betrayal of the people, and the rationalizations for it by the GSPC and Potter, are so serious. One doesn't have to spend much time with Google to discover that the Blazers are part of one private, very large, and arguably corrupting NW business empire. In Seattle, that empire is controversial for it's influence on Mayor Nickels, and has been punished for unethical behavior involving the Mayor's office:

    Vulcan settles over Nickels contributions http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/198107_ethics04.html

    Mayor returning Vulcan money involved in ethics complaint http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001886969_webethics24.html

    Given the low ethical standards in Seattle and Washington, it is truly sad that here in Portland and Oregon we apparently have even lower standards. That is, if Oregonians across the state and Portland City Commissioners accept and endorse the rationalizations of the GSPC and Potter.

    It would seem there is only one sensible thing for the City Commission to do at this point out of an abundance of caution: Ask the proper authorities to conduct an inquiry, for the record, whether there have been any criminal violations, including obstruction of justice, in this matter and the inaction by the GSPC.

  • (Show?)

    It's been fun and surprising that since the election, virtually all of the smackdowns delivered by Pelosi have had as their central theme a calm, grandmotherly (?) admonition that her opponents should behave like adults.

    Given that she is saddled with the addled in Harry Reid as an ally, my respect for her leadership and propaganda delivery grows with every utterance.

    Nothing makes George look like the petulant petty tyrant that he is than a side by side comparison with Ms. Pelosi.

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    The only time Bush won without the popular vote was in 2000. And even then, Gore would have won, had the Supreme Court's Republican justices actually allowed a full recount of Florida - a one time mistake that I doubt even those hacks will make again.

    But I do grant you the point that many people consider election integrity to be associated with Bush, so I withdraw my threadjack comment.

    Insofar as the swing state issue, that's my whole point. Swing states may get more attention, true, but with evenly divided partisans in state positions, they're also less likely to be able to successfully pull off election fraud. A national election means you have to police absolutely everywhere. An Electoral College system means that vote fraud can only have a limited effect, even if it's successfully perpetrated, which tends to discourage the practice.

  • ElectionsMatter? (unverified)

    Looks like the Blazers and Seattle City officials have come up previously in another case of ethics improprieties:

    Compton repays costs of Allen basketball trip http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/138366_compton06.html

    Randy, do we really want to condone this kind of behavior in Oregon?

    Steve, Pat, and JMG: Is the only thing that rocks your world the clash of egos this picture speaks to? Or is it about the fact the Democrats have reinstated oversight of an administration that was open for business? Do you think this is relevant to ethics in Oregon?

  • Susan Abe (unverified)

    Yeah, and what about all those public officials' relationships with the private business that operates the Rose Festival? Is there any more blatant impropriety than this "Parade Grand Marshal" foolishness?

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    Actually, we're not even sure Bush won the popular vote in 2004. There were reports all around the country of voting irregularities in "red" states in counties that were blue.

    From the looks of things, they may have stolen votes all around the country in areas they thought we wouldn't notice, in order to win the popular vote. They knew people wouldn't put up with Bush winning without the popular vote.

  • lin qiao (unverified)

    ElectionsMatter has some interesting points, although his style is probably more appreciated at Bogdanski's blog. Or at least I assume that's still the preferred style over there. Hard to know since Bogdanski blocked my IP address.

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    The Oregonian's coverage of the Blazer thing was pure BS intended to set off people like our friend EM (yes, at some point the list of names gets too long).

    The Blazers are not "just a private business" and the Rose Festival example is a good one.

    But in any case, I'd bet the bottom line in the whole decision not to pursue an ethics complaint against the mayor came from the fact that those seats were never for sale and had no offical value put on them--which is no doubt what the Blazers told the mayor when they offered them.

    Ironically, my impression is that the mayor isn't much of a sports fan and probably really did only go for those "ceremonial" reasons that EM rejects. Had he been a private citizen I suspect he'd have chosen to spend the time elsewhere.

  • (Show?)

    I wonder if EM would be in the same huff about the tradition of the President of the U.S. throwing out the first ceremonial baseball pitch each new season?

    I mean, after all, such an opportunity - be the guy to throw out the ceremonial pitch for the new baseball season! - would probably net a pretty penny on ebay.

    Absurd? Of course. Making public appearances for the people you serve isn't corruption. It's part of the job. I have absolutely no problem with politicians attending a gala hotel reception in Maui - if (and only if) they're the local Hawaiian politicians who live there.

  • (Show?)

    I'm hurt that you didn't like this one better.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    I said the Bush-Pelosi picture was my favorite from the past 6 years.

    I had the photo you posted taken just after the Civil War!

  • ElectionsMatter (unverified)

    Susan Abe --- Because a certain segment of Oregonians and Portlanders are so intellectually challenged and unskilled at sarcasm, I try not to assume much when trying to interpret comments such as yours. So I'll just point a fact or two out to the snarky little twits who would make pretty much the same statement in a juvenile attempt at sarcasm: If you go to the Rose Festival website, you will find that

    "The Portland Rose Festival Association is a NON-PROFIT CIVIC ORGANIZATION whose mission is to promote Portland and the entire state culturally, socially, and economically by presenting this annual celebration."

    Now we all recognize that private business interests co-opt this event for their own benefit. A lot of us think they really are just self-serving in doing that. Nonetheless, there is a critical difference between a non-profit like the Rose Festival, and a for-profit private company like the Blazers that a GSPC member or a Mayor with an ethical compass would understand. I could also mention that I think the disaster last year at the airshow suggests we are a bit hypocritical about professing to care about public safety when that gets in the way of our right to party, but I am quite certain you wouldn't understand or care.

    doretta --- I'm genuinely curious why, with apparently no knowledge of ethics laws, the corporate structure of the NBA, or Paul Allen's privately-held businesses, you revel in publicly demonstating that? Let's also do some educating here: Leave aside the question of whether, given the dispute over the ownership of the seats, the Blazers were even entitled to give them away. The value of the seats can be determined by standard accounting practices. We do this all the time in election campaigns when it comes to "donations in kind". That is all that is required to trigger the relevant prohibitions on gifts in the ethics code. If the Blazers want to give the Mayor tickets to a game, that's fine with me. They should just declare them as "in-kind" contributions (the exposure helps the Mayor's political campaigning) and count the value against relevant campaign contribution limits.

    Steve Maurer --- Bully for you that you have no recognizable ethical standards. Let's try this again, however, and see if anyone is home up there: The issue here is the GSPC and their improper refusal to enforce the laws passed by those of us that do have ethical standards. The GSPC members don't legally get to choose what ethics laws they will enforce, much less make up law, when, as in this case, there is a prima facie violation of actual law. If you, or the ethically-challenged mayor of Portland don't like the law, you are welcome to do the political work to try to change it.

    And Steve and doretta --- I think we all are certain that lobbyists would be happy to have the opportunity to argue that the non-refundable plane tickets and room nights they have purchased are of zero value the day after if they aren't used. So they are just giving away something of no value if they have no one else who will pay for them. I think we all are also quite certain the pols would be happy to have the opportunity to argue they are attending events that are important ceremonial events to anyone who benefits from the economic activity the private interests conducting them contribute to the city or state. You want to give our legislators the chance to gut our ethics' laws? Just keep making the stupid arguments tolerating corruption that you've made here.

    Jack --- I liked your post Jack. (Thank you lin qiao for directing me to Jack's blog.) I wonder what state prosecutor would be charged with investigating this? And what kind of citizen complaint would be required to compel that prosecutor to investigate? It is Interesting also to note the Blazers are a component of a private business enterprise that is engaged in interstate commerce and that has been lobbying people in Portland and Oregon seeking public considerations for private benefit. (Anyone happen to know if anyone connected with the Blazers made any campaign donations to any candidates for city or state office?)

    Randy --- Any comments?

  • (Show?)

    Whoever it was that sent me the long anonymous email about this issue... I'd love to post it as a guest column, but it needs a name attached to it.

  • electionsdontmatter (unverified)

    It would be nice to ever see such a picture in Portland politics, but since we only elect the same five white middle class guys every time, I doubt it.

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    I think we all are certain that lobbyists would be happy to have the opportunity to argue that the non-refundable plane tickets and room nights they have purchased are of zero value the day after if they aren't used.

    Those plane tickets and room nights were for sale and might have brought in revenue. Those particular seats at the Blazer game never were.

    But be all that as it may, my main objection with practically everything EM, under his many aliases, writes is that it is inevitably dishonest discourse based on nothing more than a fundamental misanthropy. He never sees the forest because he's too busy cutting down trees.

    I have no doubt the mayor sat in those seats at the Blazer game for honest and positive reasons. The GSPC obviously also came to that conclusion. The Blazers were struggling and a lot of Portlanders care about that well beyond their relationship to the usual private business. I know there's something kind of goofy about civic pride and sports teams being all tied together--from what he's said in the past, the mayor probably thinks it's even goofier than I do--but that's reality. The mayor's going to that game was certainly not about corruption. Might something similar have been with some other mayor and some other team under different circumstances? Sure. But in this case, if it was a mistake, it was an honest mistake. Most people can tell the difference between that and actual corruption but not EM. For EM everything in the world exists for the sole purpose of giving him cause to berate and bully and tear someone down.

    He loves to lecture on ethics but he rejects all requests made here to use the same psuedonym when he posts or to stay on topic with his comments. He'll threadjack any posting on any subject and apparently doesn't see any ethical issue with that.

  • ElectionMatters (unverified)

    doretta --- It's clear the goal you share with many folks is simply making sure that the tiny little corner of forest inhabit is set up to your liking and benefit.

    To that end, your immature argumentation style is to make things up, throw out mindless cliches, and ignore facts. That is certainly your right to do, but it hardly demonstrates the moral authority required to lecture in the arrogant way that you do.

    "Those plane tickets and room nights were for sale and might have brought in revenue. Those particular seats at the Blazer game never were."

    As a point in law, it doesn't matter whether the Blazer tickets were for sale, it only matters that they have value. And that non-refundable plane tickets and room nights can also be rationalized to not have value, when childish, ignorant people like you want to play the rationalization game.

    We are focused on ethics in government here. It is one of those bigger-than-the-forest concepts that, despite your verbal facility with high-school cliches, you demonstrate you really don't care about.

    As another example, you dishonestly offer a counterfactual rationalization "But in this case, if it was a mistake, it was an honest mistake". You go on to use that counterfactual rationalization to make a false statement "most people can tell the difference between that and actual corruption but not EM.". The fact is this was not a mistake, and the issue of whether anyone can tell the difference is not relevant. You do this in a typical sleazy attempt to slam that which you cannot argue against, and in the end dismiss what in fact is petty corruption - of both the Mayor and the GSPC - because it was handled in secret, with no transcript. The corruption is in the familiarity amongst the powerful, and all that flows from that, starting with corrupting our ethics laws. You are an apologist for corruption and nothing more honorable than that.

    As I said above: "is it (the picture) about the fact the Democrats have reinstated oversight of an administration that was open for business?" If so, how can we see the forest-for-the-trees and recognize we have a problem with ethics in government right here in Oregon? That you selfishly don't care because it benefits you and your interests to not care, says all that needs to be said.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    Comparing the various misdeeds of the Bush Administration to Tom Potter going to a Blazer game is, to be polite, a stretch.

    The topic is -and should endeavor to remain- observations of the very telling picture of a clearly perturbed President Bush being chided by Speaker Pelosi.

    Thank you.

  • ElectionsMatter (unverified)

    Randy --- There was no comparison made about the magnitude of the misdeeds, and you are dishonest in representing in any way that there was. No one in their right mind would argue there is. I have also already noted there were ethically proper ways for dealing with all aspects of this matter. It seems to be a matter of fragile egos that the reaction is largely one of further misplaced outrage.

    The argument from the beginning was about the failure of the GSPC to properly enforce clear cut ethics laws AND the implications of a broken ethics enforcement system for the entire state. Not to mention the predictable tendency of those in power to prefer secret meetings without written records to avoid accountability. The gravity of the matter is emphasized by the track records of the parties involved.

    Should we take it by your comments you endorse these actions? Or just that the juvenile payback interpretation of the picture is what appeals most to you, rather than the symbolic hope it holds out for ethical leadership retrieving our society from the corrupt? Frankly, I found the payback aspect utterly uninteresting, but the symbolic hope it offers inspiring. Which is why your post threw the affront to good government by the GSPC and the Mayor late Friday into such glaring relief.

    Elections do matter. Thank you for proving that, and for giving some of us who believe in good and principled government a lot more to think about than you probably ever intended.

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    I'm not even sure she's chiding him, Randy. She's probably just telling him basic facts that he doesn't want to hear.

    This, BTW, is the chief difference between Right Wing Kooks and Left Wing Kooks. LWKs cite facts and then come to bizarre overreactive conclusions (see ElectionsMatter's screeds above for a classic example). This pales in comparison to RWKs - who are fundamentally so psychotic they think that what they want to be true will become true if only they clap loud enough, ala tinkerbell.

    Bush really is a classic Right Wing Kook. It shows in every blatantly untrue statement issuing from his lips. So it's no wonder he looks like a petulant five year old every time Speaker Pelosi talks to him. He probably scrunches up his face every time he has to listen to actual fact, instead of wingnut sycophant fiction.

  • ElectionsMatter? (unverified)

    Steve, if anything, the hyperventilating over-reaction has been by people like you and doretta, apparently absolutely desparate to justify the unjustifiable. One is led to ponder just how symptomatic this is of the ethical vacuousness of a distressingly large segment of our state and nation as the "me" generation has come to power. And that concern, as well as the disgust at the utter failure of the GSPC to carry out their duties to the detriment of every citizen of Oregon, is about as commonsense, and middle-of-the-road, as one can get.

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    Everyone considers their own positions to be "commonsense", EM. The clue that you may be wrong is how many people you find yourself arguing with. And in this thread, for this position, you're standing alone.

    Please don't make the mistake that's hallmark of cultural conservatives: assuming you are the absolute final authority on what is moral or not.

    You may want to believe that being afforded a easily visible seat at a ballgame is the height of corruption, or that (perhaps) when the the Governor of Oregon places a public bet with the Governor of Missouri over which state's team will win a College Football Game, that's illegal gambling. But just try to understand that the rest of us think that public appearances to boost local franchises and market a State's export goods are part of the job.

    And not always all that fun, either. My wife and I go to a lot of Democratic and Liberal Interest Group events. We're long past the point of enjoying hotel rubber chicken dinners. We go because we love the people, and want to show solidarity for their causes. And we don't go to anywhere near the number of events our State Reps do. I know for a fact that being "comped" for the meal isn't what makes them show up.

    So consider all that before passing judgement on others, EM. I hope that you don't, like Bush, think that God speaks so directly to you that you speak for him.

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