Links for September 2021

Updated on Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Snap Out of It, America: Give Kids the Right to Vote

So I disagree with this but it's interesting and well argued. A better idea is my life expectancy weighted voting plan.

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The ease of mail-in voting may increase turnout in California’s recall election.

NYT finally twigs.

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A woman is suing S.F. for $50 million over a parking ticket, saying tire chalk is unconstitutional

In one of the cases, filed Sept. 4, plaintiff Maria Infante seeks $50 million and class-action status after a San Francisco parking enforcement officer wielding chalk on a residential street gave her a $95 ticket.
The second case, filed the same day against San Leandro, demands $5 million for class members whose tires were chalked to financially benefit the city.

Civilization continues to collapse. I had my tongue in my cheek for this proposed constitutional amendment but I'm not so sure any more...

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How to Call Customer Service and Actually Get What You Want

Wired has this generic article on getting support with some insights that might have been cutting age a decade ago. I'm still waiting for CAPTGUAs.

(All Etc Posts)

Open Democracy

Open Democracy

I just listened to Ezra Klien interview Hélène Landemore on her idea for political reform: open democracy:

"One in which we let groups of randomly selected citizens actually deliberate and govern. One in which we trust deliberation and diversity, not elections and political parties, to shape our ideas and to restrain our worst impulses."

This is very similar to what I've called legislative service, where a random jury of citizens would replace the Senate. In my vision you still have elected representatives who propose legislation and the panel of citizens acts to approve or deny. In open democracy you retain the benefit of a random selection of citizens presumably immune to corruption but they are debating and proposing laws as well. That's the gist I got from the interview, there is a book as well which I will read at some point.

Ezra raises some good objections, like voters feeling alienated from the decision of a panel that they didn't elect (less of an issue for legislative service than open democracy I think) and also the role of experts in the system (lobbyists as a positive force). I think he gets it wrong on California though:

"We have a pretty robust proposition process here. And I think the broad view is that it has been captured. Special interests get whatever they want on it whenever they want."

The problem is that Uber (or whoever) can pour money into marketing their proposition to the point where you feel you'd be letting down the puppy-saving firefighters if you vote against it (I'm possibly mixing up my ads here). With an adversarial jury style system you'd at least have a group of citizens looking at the actual pros and cons.

The interview is worth a listen, and I'll report back on the book when I read it.

(All Politics Posts)

2020 Results

46

There is going to be a grown-up in charge. Maybe a little too grown up, and maybe not in charge of the legislature but what a relief.

This is a historic election for me. It's the first time the party I voted for (either in the UK or the US) has ended up in power. After a lot of shopping I rather fear I finally bought something.

It's more than a little shocking to me that more than 70 million Americans looked at this choice and voted for Trump. It's also shocking that out of a couple of hundred million possibilities that this is the choice we ended up needing to make. Biden was pretty far down my list in January but I held my nose and voted for him. I have to be charitable and assume that the same is true for many Trump voters. But still. FFS. He's literally killing you.

A decade ago I compared US politics to daisyworld and it's still true. We have guaranteed two party rule and neither party is particularly attractive. This forces people to pick a team and it's why we got the tribalistic result that we did. You're going to keep rooting for your side even if you don't particularly like the team this year. We need more like twenty parties and some genuine choice and some power sharing that results in compromise rather than deadlock.

On the subject of deadlock in practically every other democracy when the government can no longer govern then it falls. I do not understand why we go years with an imponent leader. I know that there are many people who think that this is a feature rather than a bug. That having Biden in the White House but Mitch McConnell saying no in the Senate is the kind of checks and balances that gave the hallowed Founders wet dreams. But I'm sick and tired of minority rule or near rule. Obama at least got two years to legislate, Biden might be facing zero and that's a crazy outcome for a majority of four million and counting. We need a National Popular Vote and we need to do something to fix the Senate.

$14 billion was spent on the 2020 election which is eye-watering. We're on track to spend $6.6 trillion this year though so we can afford to word on getting the money out of politics. It's crazy that Congresspeople face election every two years and are basically just fundraising the whole time. Let's have longer terms and Federally funded campaigns and term limits. Let's have independent redistricting that allows voters to choose their candidates and not candidates to choose their voters.

I'm not holding my breath.

(All Politics Posts)

Tire Chalking Constitutional Amendment

US Constitutional Amendments by Century

We haven't passed a constitutional amendment since 1992. I have an idea or two, but given the length of the hiatus maybe we need to warm up with something easy.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that that chalking car tires to detect illegal parking violates fourth amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Civilization is collapsing a little in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Parking spaces are a limited resource and a fundamental role of local government is figuring out how to carve this kind of resource up equitably. Time limited spots are a pain, and if you don't like them you could complain to your representative or even run for office on a parking anarchy platform. Maybe you'd win and then good luck finding any parking at all. But if the courts decide to open up a tragedy of the commons enabling loophole then it must be time to slap them down.

The 28th amendment should explicitly allow tire chalking for parking enforcement. With the momentum from that we can start fixing some real problems.

(All Politics Posts)

Age and Life Expectancy Weighted Voting

Actual, age weighted and age and life expectancy weighted results of the 2016 Presidential Election

Youth turnout for elections is famously dismal. In 2016 less than half of 18-29 year-olds voted, compared to over two thirds as you get to 45 and older (US Census). The impact is an incentive to cater to the old - trying to make America great again (like you remember from when you were young) vs doing something about climate change or house prices.

One fix is compulsory voting, like in Australia. I'm not sure I want to force people without an opinion to vote though.

What if we just weighted votes by the total size of the demographic group?

I took the demographic breakdown of 2016 voters from the US Census Bureau and multiplied these by the age breakdown from CNN exit polls. This gave Clinton a lead of just under a million votes - somewhat lower than the actual result. This is likely a polling error in the exit poll, but it's a reasonable baseline with Clinton beating Trump in the popular vote by 48% to 47%.

To age weight the result I just applied the exit poll percentages to the total population in each age bracket - i.e. what would have happened if everyone in each age group voted the same way as their peers. This obviously increases the size of the electorate so absolute numbers are less interesting. Clinton now beats Trump 48% to 46%, possibly enough to reverse the electoral college outcome (I haven't attempted this projection state by state).

Making up for poor turnout is an interesting adjustment, but what about life expectancy? All of those baby boomers have plenty of free time to vote but are not going to be around to die of obscure tropical diseases in the Minnesotan jungle. So I also weighted each population segment by life expectancy (18-29 year-olds are going to be around for another 55 years, 65+ more like 7). Clinton now has a majority instead of a plurality - she beats Trump 50% to 42%.

All three models are shown in terms of total votes counted in the chart above.

(All Politics Posts)

What if the Senate Voted Proportionally to Population

Relative influence of each state on the Electoral College

This is massively less likely than sorting out the Electoral College, but imagine for a minute that 100 Senators woke up tomorrow and decided to do the right thing.

Dianne Feinstein, the senior Senator from California would wield 6.04 votes. Mike Enzi, the senior Senator from Wyoming would have to make do with 0.09 votes.

Overall a party line vote would see 55.85 Democratic votes to 44.15 Republican, assuming normal independent caucusing habits. Not quite a supermajority, but enough to not send Kavanaugh to The Supreme Court for instance.

This is based on 2010 census figures from Wikipedia.

Not going to happen, but find my estimate of your State's fair voting power by Senator below.

StateVotes per Senator
California6.04
Texas4.08
Florida3.05
New York3.14
Pennsylvania2.06
Illinois2.08
Ohio1.87
Georgia1.57
North Carolina1.55
Michigan1.6
New Jersey1.43
Virginia1.3
Washington1.09
Arizona1.04
Massachusetts1.06
Tennessee1.03
Indiana1.05
Missouri0.97
Maryland0.94
Wisconsin0.92
Colorado0.82
Minnesota0.86
South Carolina0.75
Alabama0.78
Louisiana0.74
Kentucky0.7
Oregon0.62
Oklahoma0.61
Connecticut0.58
Iowa0.49
Utah0.45
Arkansas0.47
Nevada0.44
Mississippi0.48
Kansas0.46
New Mexico0.33
Nebraska0.3
West Virginia0.3
Idaho0.25
Hawaii0.22
New Hampshire0.21
Maine0.22
Rhode Island0.17
Montana0.16
Delaware0.15
South Dakota0.13
North Dakota0.11
Alaska0.12
Vermont0.1
Wyoming0.09

(All Politics Posts)

How not to fix Democracy

In The Guardian Dambisa Moyo proposes a test to improve the quality of the electorate:

"...why not give all voters a test of their knowledge? This would ensure minimum standards that should lead to higher-quality decision-making by the electorate."

However:

"Of course, such a system would be truly democratic only if everybody had a fair chance of casting their vote. It is vital that those with fewer life opportunities have their say, and we cannot have a system that is skewed against the worst educated..."

So the idea is a test of minimum standards that in some way is not biased against the worst educated? Or that we could only impose such a system once education has improved to the point where is is no longer needed?

Maybe we just need a test to improve the quality of Guardian opinion pieces.

(All Politics Posts)

End the Electoral College: Amendment, Compact, or Supreme Court?

Updated on Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Lawrence Lessig and Richard Painter write about the possibility of the Supreme Court taking on the Electoral College in USA Today:

"The Constitution is not going to be amended to remove the Electoral College. It’s possible that states will agree to a compact to allocate their votes to the winner of the national popular vote. But right now, the court should recognize that there is no principle in American law that could justify the unequal reckoning of the votes of citizens of the United States for president of the United States. Call it proportionality, or simple equality: it is an idea that needs urgent legal recognition, now."

It's an intriguing possibility, but they're short on specifics. Who needs to file suit to get this question in front of the court? Should I do this as I live in California and may as well not bother voting for President? If so, please get in touch guys.

I'm a big fan of the The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Until another option looks plausible please follow that link and take one the actions listed to support it.

(All Politics Posts)

Four Parties

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Washington Post fantasizes about a four party system:

"If we assign members of Congress to political parties based on the spending votes, we end up with four parties. The Liberals bucked the Democratic president to oppose the spending package. The Democrats voted for it. The Republicans followed Boehner and McConnell's lead. The Conservatives didn't."

It's time.

(All Politics Posts)

Party Limits

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Party Limits

What if as well as Term Limits we had Party Limits - the same political party cannot win more than three or four times in a row?

Representative Alan Lowenthal has introduced the Let the People Draw the Lines Act which would seek to prevent gerrymandering by taking redistricting out of the hands of the politicians for the states that haven't done this already (California, Arizona, Washington and Idaho have independent commissions).

This is a good idea, but I'd go further. Let's introduce Term Limits where we don't already have them and then add Party Limits. The same politician can only hold on to their seat for two to three terms and additionally the same party can't hold the seat for more than three to four terms. We break up any kind of political monopoly and reduce the incentive to rig the system to keep the same incumbent in power.

We'd probably get more political diversity as well as fewer career politicians. It's a better solution to daisyworld.

(All Politics Posts)