for 20 November 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Ballot Designs Rejected by the Palm Beach County Election Committee
Cute column today, but bipartisanship demands that you also take a break from the Demmies "gee, the ballot confused us" logrolling. Howzabout a contest for the best punch line to "How many Palm Beach Democrats does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
You've got us there. We can't believe you correctly identified us as Gore apparatchiks who have successfully infiltrated Suck.com. We have an excuse: our editor, a noted foaming-at-the-mouth Gore man, forced us to do it. He's been following the Tennessee tyro since his days as a journalist in Vietnam and insists that all election coverage reflect his fan-boy bias. Speaking of bipartisanship, we love the way the Republicans send a bunch of lawyers and politicians down to Florida to go on CNN and say things like "Once you have lawyers and politicians getting involved in elections, you know you're in trouble." Can someone think of a shorter term for "faux-populist disingenuity" than "James Baker"? Frankly, whenever we hear the word "bipartisan," we just think "fascist." Anyway, good luck in New Mexico, you guys! And in answer to your question about the lightbulb, we don't know how many it takes, but we know they only have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to do it. Or until Saturday. Or until next month.
Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill
I agree with Signore Slotcar's ballots ideas especially the Cocktail Napkin Ballot since I am known to frequent finer watering holes. My fave is a stripper bar called El Amore so this method would work for me and my cabal.
Giavanna Van Tassel
What does your cabal vote on? In particular, what are its hot-button issues? You'll be interested in another Palm Beach County ballot design proposal that we neglected to mention, the G-String Money Tuck Ballot, where voters scribble the candidate's name on a ten-dollar bill and slide it under the g-string of a woman undulating before them. No idea why this one got shot down. For additional monies, voters would've be able to "conference" with election officials at a table in the back after their vote was cast, where they could've gone over their talking points. This ballot design was intended to stop the candidates from being the ones performing the lapdances. And evidently in the next election in some states, voters will be able to use Video Poker to cast their votes as well, so it sounds like your posse will be all set anyway.
Thanks for writing in.
Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill
Dear Club Havana,
I commend you on your proposals for alternate Florida ballot options. It is a shame you were not on the the original design committee. Here are a couple of options that you may have overlooked. Various ballots based on party games. The diving for apples ballot. The pin the tail on the donkey ballot.I really think carnies should be involved in some way. Also the publishers' sweepstakes clearinghouse ballot with ed mcmahon announcing the winner on national TV. Maybe we could get rid of ballots and candidates all together with the who wants to be president of the United States ballot. Willing contestants who win the fastest finger competition could compete for various levels with vice pres and pres at the top. If you miss a question you could still leave with speaker of the house. This would have the added bonus of Regis Philbin presiding over the inauguration.
These are all good ideas too, but we checked again with our mole and apparently none of them were considered in Palm Beach. Some shot-down designs did included the A La Carte Sushi Ballot, the Hangman Ballot, the Crossword Puzzle ballot, and the Miramax Preview Card Ballot. Interesting that you bring up Regis. As our current lame-duck president, he of course would be at the Inauguration, but he wouldn't be presiding over it. Or didn't you hear? Whoever eventually wins this election also gets to be new host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Thanks for making your voice heard!
Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill
A most amusing article this morning, kudos. To me what's so strange is that I was able to vote in Los Angeles several weeks before the election took place. The county has been testing out a system of touch-screens to replace standard paper ballots and as part of the test several voting stations were set up in various county offices as of Oct. 16th. Always the early adopter type-A prick, I decided to give it a shot myself to see how badly screwed up new whole system would be. Imagine my surprise when I found equipment that was easy to use, careful to check on mistakes ["Are you sure you want to vote for XXXX?" would appear each time before I could move on to the next item], impossible to vote for more than one candidate for the same office and overall a reasonably pleasant experience. The only limitations would seem to be the expense [$25K per booth. Ouch.], questions of how effective it would be once scaled up for all county polling centers and the remote possibility that Bill Gates would use his influence to stick his name in as a write-in candidate [though with typical Mickeysloth accuracy, get himself elected dogcatcher instead of president], but it is obvious that with a system like this in place, mistakes of the sort being argued over in Florida at the present hour would have been instantly avoided. Not to mention that the count would be over immediately and we could all get back to much more amusing events... [please see: this]
[Don't blame me, I voted for Nader.]
Actually, they had something like this in certain polling stations in Palm Beach County. But the systems were very prone to error and repeatedly issued an option screen that said "Abort Ignore Retry," which some believe may have led to higher-than-statistically-probable votes for the Planned Parenthood candidate, the Know-Nothing candidate, and Bill Clinton. As for us getting back to more amusing events, we find it hard to believe that Americans are in a panic about this situation and can't wait for it to end. No, on the contrary we think that Americans will feel a great sense of let-down, not to mention emptiness, once the situation is resolved.
Thanks for sending in the LA results! We heard no one there voted, except for Warren Beatty. You prove this wrong!
Slotcar Hatebath and Roger O. Thornhill
American Revolution 2000
Welcome to the millennium of superficiality, apathy, and laziness. I was more disappointed than anyone to find out that half the united states is a bunch of morons. Then I was even more disappointed to find out that slightly more than half didn't even care enough to vote. At this point I find that I hate approximately seventy five percent of the united states and a portion of that number is pregnant with future frustrations. This is really far too much hate for me to carry around with me and it is exhausting.
Before you poop on our electoral college, take a look at some serious research please. Even after reading this I bet you are undecided on whether we should actually have direct elections.
"No one really goes to Aqua Bar for the drinks, but we make sure our drinks don't kill you. This is something you must remember."
Thanks for sending along that Discovery magazine article, which remains as thoroughly unpersuasive now as it was when I first read it in 1996. Professor Natapoff's tendency to make baseball analogies at least proves that he understands one important principle of the electoral college how to get half your audience to tune out immediately but the metaphor is as crabbed as a Jim Morrison lyric. Votes belong to the voters, not the candidates; runs belong to the teams that make them, and don't decide for themselves whether they want to be made for one side or the other. A run for one team doesn't take away a run from the other team. You can score an infinite number of runs, but there are a finite number of votes. And so on.
However, the real problem with Natapoff's argument isn't that it's stylistically herniated, but that it's completely insane. The purpose of one-person, one-vote isn't to "empower" the individual voter; it's to ensure that every vote in the country gets counted equally, with the hope that whoever gets the most votes becomes President. If people in South Dakota are worried that they're not getting adequate attention from Washington (unlikely given the number of Federal subsidies that go to the Midwest as opposed to, say, New Jersey or Connecticut or any of the other states that actually pay for the federal government's evil work), then they should convince more people to move to their state. Either that or pay more attention to the Senators and Representatives they elect to represent their interests in Washington. The presidential candidates are running to be President of the whole country, and there's no non-rhetorical reason why they even should be giving "attention" to individual states which the electoral college supposedly forces them to do. This empowerment business as Natapoff himself says applies more to voters in a smaller electorate than it does to people in a large electorate. By that logic, and in fact in reality, Californians are getting screwed because they live in a populous state; North Dakotans are unnaturally "empowered" because they live in an empty one. In practical terms, it's better to have a few people get screwed than many people. And in fact, with a popular vote nobody would be getting screwed. We'd all be getting the same deal, and the attendant realization that our votes don't really count would encourage us all to pursue more important interests, like discussing how exciting it is to have Robert Downey Jr. as a regular on Ally McBeal.
Dear Suck :)!
I see that you are covering the sorry state of politics but like 99% of all Americans you are blind to the true reality behind the scenes. You seem to have the mistaken belief that you live in a free country, a democracy. How would you like a professional monetary and tax law expert, writer, screenwriter, and artist to whip up a free article for you, artwork included, that explains a terrible corruption that has been taking place? You stand for freedom don't you? All I need is a place to rant and expose the naked truth and a link back to my site.
What is the truth? The truth is that the elections have been rigged for the past 87 years and I can tell you HOW this has been done in detail! It's a secret which in the past was known as the "banker's secret" and only those rare few people who get into money and the markets at the highest levels ever discover the secret to how you're being ripped off and lied to. But the secret is so easy to understand that when you finally learn what's really going on in politics then ...well, heck... I don't know what you'll do. You might get dangerous! It's very disillusioning to learn that your entire life has been lived under a lie conceived by greedy and power-mad men.
I can tailor make the article for your site and during this key Florida Vote thing I'm sure it will cause controversy from coast to coast as you bust the story. If you're interested just email me.
Ken D. Webber
Well, thanks for the big news, Ken, but we've always known the voting was rigged. There's no way American Beauty would have beaten out The Sixth Sense in a free and fair vote.
Why not write us another opus on the Scripted Mind instead? Or better yet, explain who's behind this Fred Rogers retirement. Was it Henrietta Pussycat? It must have been. Meow Meow, indeed!
Nice mess you've gotten yourselves into this time. What first looked like a newscaster endurance contest then turned into a Twilight Zone episode and now into a playground tug of war. Even the blame is undecided between candidates such as the founding fathers, Ralph Nader, Florida election officials, outdated hardware, and 80 year-old voters. The ballot misdesign is an instant classic for obfuscation, just right. If Nader had been in the Buchanan spot, the whole thing would've gone unnoticed, and with a mini-party in the Pat spot, it would've been even harder to claim Palm Beach was a Workers' Party stronghold.
Most probably, future voters will mock the 2000 election every time they vote (most of the time for a living candidate) on their adaptive personalized MyBallot, and interface designers will fondly commemorate this as the date of their vindication. The rest of us will remember the time before e-tailers were able to justify 5 inch high BUY buttons. But that's almost a best-case scenario, prolong this a few more weeks and you'll have the Democrats changing the locks and barricading the doors while Bush circles the White House in a U-Haul truck, holding a "Bush Wins!" headline and honking to be let in. And it wouldn't even make the front pages, since by then the lead story would be the people jumping off buildings or slamming their heads against the wall trying to wake up from a very bad dream.
Don't look at us, Humberto. We're trying to figure out why the lead story this week isn't Mr. Rogers's retirement.
Maybe it was Queen Sarah Saturday who maneuvered the big guy out. That husband of hers is such a stuffed shirt, you know they must have resented the boss deep down.
Where the hell do you get this crap from? No one is saying that what happened in Palm Beach County was due to fraud. Of course you know this but the truth probably gets in the way of your playing the morally superior cynic.
I have a cousin who sees a disconnect in the Palm Beach County controversy. On "any given friday night down at the bingo hall, 500 little 'ol ladies and gents can manipulate 20 bingo cards in front of them at once! Ink blotters moving in an exact and calculating fashion..."
This is a useful observation. We keep hearing about all the poor seniors who were too enfeebled in mind to be able to competently vote. And of course just because some seniors have quick and nimble minds it doesn't mean that some of their peers aren't all that bright. But it is good to get a little countervailing perspective. People are beginning to construct a stereotype of the helpless and simple-minded who need an advocate to make sure that they get to place a ballot that will be counted.
I don't even have a problem with that. But the time for advocacy is BEFORE the ballots are cast not after when the outcome hasn't proven to your liking. The best time to have addressed this problem was after the '96 election when some 15,000 ballots were thrown out for the SAME reason. Those votes wouldn't have affected the outcome. It wouldn't have harmed anyone to review the whole process then. But of course the citizenry and leading officials of this heavily Democratic county were not very concerned about the allegedly "disenfranchised" then. Their guy won.
There is something delicious about this controversy that I haven't heard anyone comment on yet. I'm sure it won't be much longer until we do. The very same people who have been telling us how incredibly stupid my candidate is (a friend INSISTS that Governor Bush is a moron) are now confessing that many in their number don't have the intellectual candle power needed to punch a single hole in a punch card next to the name of the candidate they support.
A story in the Shreveport Times helps us to determine just how hard to master was the "butterfly ballot" used in Palm Beach County. (BTW, my brother says that he was mailed a sample of the ballot a week before the election. All Palm Beach County registered voters were.) The story in the Times is about Lisa Burns' 4th grade class. Ms. Burns is a teacher at Stockwell Elementary School in Bossier City. She "pulled a sample of the controversial Palm Beach County, Fla., ballot off the Internet on Thursday. She then put her class of 9- and 10-year-olds to the test. 'I gave them a ballot and had them take a blue marker to vote for Al Gore and a red marker to vote for George Bush. Then I had them put their name on the bottom of the ballot and turn it in.'" Not one of the 22 children in her class was befuddled by the ballot. Each one marked his or her ballot without error. The same test was given to a class down the hall Stacey Robinson's first grade class. Nineteen out of twenty-four marked their ballots correctly. Hmmmm.
Wait a second: Are you saying your brother and your cousin are both in agreement on this?
Well that's enough for us! We're supporting your guy. Which guy are you supporting? We hope you're supporting Robert Downey Jr. He rocks!
Portland, Oregon is not in western Washington. Good effort though.
You must be reading this issue on Windows, which causes all dotted lines to point to Redmond. Nothing we can do about it.