Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elizabeth Warren in Iowa City

A Live tweet-blog:

But 50 yard line at Lambeau would be even better

Note beret and jersey in front row

Got a brief moment on the rope line: "THanks for coming to Iowa, come back!" Warren: "I will!"

Got home in time for 4th quarter, just in time to see them take Rodgers out of the game.

But really 38-3 before garbage time.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In The Bubble

Sorry for the relative lack of original content here on the Deeth Blog. I've been deep inside the election process bubble. Right now life is less District Of The Day and more "how do I fix this kid's problem voter registration?"

So the story that leaped out to me the most this week was a logistics question: the death of Doug Butzier, the Libertarian Senate candidate.

The Libertarians have a second tier "party organization" status. You can register as a Libertarian (or Green) but they don't have primaries like the two full status parties, the Ds and Rs. The only way to get full party status is 2% of vote for governor or president. The Greens and Reform Party both had it and lost it in the last couple decades.

Because they don't have full party status, the Libertarians don't get to name a replacement candidate, but the votes get counted. And to be honest, most people voting Libertarian, especially in a race as close and as big a deal as this one, are doing so to Make A Statement without the expectation that Butzier would "win" in the traditional, take office sense of "win". Very few were voting for Doug Butzier the person. They were voting for Libertarian the label. So the statement doesn't really change with the candidate's death.

If Ernst or Braley had died, the whole senate election would be called off. The rest of the election would go on but there would be a special senate election in December. The dead candidate's party could replace them, the other candidates would be the same.

This happened in 2012 when state Senator Pat Ward died, at exactly the same point in the cycle, three weeks out. The Republicans replaced her, the Democrats had to keep the same candidate. In that case there were no third parties. If there had been they would have stayed on the ballot. (There's not a way for third party candidates to qualify for the special election unless they qualified for the regular one first.)

The law varies by state, with high profile examples. Anyone reading this blog remembers Mel Carnahan's posthumous election to the Senate in 2000, followed by the appointment of widow Jean Carnahan. But two years later, when Paul Wellstone died about two weeks before the election the Minnesota DFL had to replace him at the last minute with Walter Mondale.

And in the UK, if the even most minor of minor Monster Raving Loony (this is a real party) candidates dies, the whole election for that seat is rescheduled.

So the Senate race goes on despite Butzier's death, and if you think things between Braley and Ernst are getting nasty, check out THIS classic election from 1950: Yosemite Sam vs. Bugs Bunny.

I've never understood why the default frivolous write in vote is supposed to be Mickey Mouse followed by other Disney characters - and yes, it's true. Always Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. And never, despite the similar alliteration, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

While I'm at it: you have the absolute right to cast a write in vote - in Iowa, at least, but not in California or other top two "open primary" (sic) states.

And 15 rural township offices in Johnson County will be decided by write in because no one filed. It's likely someone will win with one write in vote and getting their name drawn out of the hat. (I'm offering a beret if needed.) We used to have a rural voter who wrote his own name in for every uncontested office. (Yes, his ballot was secret so we don't KNOW that it was him, but come on.) Then, finally, it happened. He wrote himself in for an office with no candidate, and got his name drawn. so after finally winning an election... he turned the job down.

But my point is: use that right to write with some good judgement. No one's going to see your Mickey Mouse vote except the people working the polls. They won't laugh. They have to count them by hand, they've seen it all before, and they've worked a very long day.

And don't even get me started on Fred Hoiberg. That's actually the origin of the nickname: a write in vote for Ames Mayor. Which, if Iowa State has another good season, he could probably win for real.

It's a common though that the pollworkers are volunteers. They get paid. In our county it's $10.50 an hour, with time and a half after 8 hours a day. And we need more workers. Specifically, we need REPUBLICAN workers. The law says we have to balance evenly, Dems and Rs (the law allows  room for a few no parties and third parties). So if you have six workers at a site, it's 3 and 3. If you have seven, it's 4 and 3.

So basically we have to balance 50-50, in a community that's two to one Democratic. I have no idea how 80% Republican Sioux County does it but they aren't my problem. Republican readers, your services are needed and welcomed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What Columbus Day?

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving. All the turkey, none of the genocide. Next time we colonize a new world, let's hope for less smallpox and more spaceships.

Never did write up that Jack Hatch event from Thursday, but it's all there in the tweets.

Interesting read of the week is this Iowa Republican piece on targeted legislative races. Watching what little TV I watch, the spot I'm seeing in eastern Iowa is for Ken Rizer, challenging Dem freshman Daniel Lundby.

And what's the greenest way to live? Certainly not in a refrigerated city in the desert, but maybe not in a tiny house off the grid either. Maybe it's... New York City?

The last thing we need to do is reject “the metropolis” in favor of “rustic aspirations.” What purveyors of  handwringing pastoralism don’t get, and are very invested in not getting, is that the big, crowded, dirty, dense metropolis, the kind where people can actually live happily without owning a car, is in fact hugely better for the planet than the way most First Worlders live. 

The average Vermonter burns 540 gallons of gasoline per year, and the average Manhattanite burns just 90.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Who's in the field?

I got a robocall poll this evening. Which was funny because at the moment I got the call I was attending a Jack Hatch event (more on that next post). I'm fairly certain it was a legit poll poll. There were no "push" questions (Would you be more or less likely to vote for Bruce Braley if you knew he ate kittens for breakfast?)

The call came from my own 319 area code, an MCI line that looks to be from Cedar Rapids. It asked about the Senate and Governor races. I'm a cell-only person and I don't get a lot of telemarketing calls, but my number is listed on my voter record so I assume they were using some sort of voter data.

First question was how likely I was to vote, and "already" was included under very likely. If it had been a campaign rather than a real poll, "already" would have been its own choice and would have ended things. And since I voted almost two weeks ago, the campaigns probably already have me off the lists for mere mortal GOTV calls. (Though I still get the fundraising calls...)

Next up was my opinion of Bruce Braley (very/somewhat un/favorable) followed by same questions for Ernst. Then I was asked who I would be most likely to vote for - and interestingly the question included all six candidates.

After "voting" for Braley I was asked whether I has followed much media coverage of Braley, and how that affected my opinion of him, followed by same for Ernst. (I may be mixing the order up. A good poll rotates.)

The whole sequence repeated for the governor's race. I maneuvered myself next to Hatch in the hope that a live operator would come on and I could say "Hey, Jack, is my opinion of you favorable or unfavorable?" then hand him the phone. But I had to settle for the fun of pressing my 2 for Hatch while standing next to him. (After the call we chatted about it and he said "that's not ours.") Again, the third party candidates were all included.

I was wondering if the 2nd District race would come next, but instead we moved into demographics.  Gender age and income were included, as well as residence (larger city/suburb/small town/rural/"on a farm") party ID (Dem/GOP/Independent with no other options) and ideology *very/somewhat liberal/conservative). Race was not asked.

The more interesting demographic questions made me think this was more about Senate than Governor: gun ownership (no), union membership (yes) and choice (most pro of the four options offered).

I'm inclined to think the Register is not involved because they normally lead with a screen-out question about whether or not you work for an elected official (I lied and said no because I felt like that was an unfair reason to be excluded, and I didn't necessarily vote with my former boss. Or even for him.) I also doubt it's the Gazette because they'd be likely to include the congressional race.

My guess is it's a national firm that's acquired a local number for this purpose. Will be watching for results. Anyone else got a similar tale?

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sanders Peels Paint Off Walls, Sounds Like Candidate in Iowa City

Another item I donated:
Winner: Jan Hook of Solon

Winner was Becci Reedus. But the hottest auction item was pair of tickets to next week's Hawkeye game.
It didn't, which is an indicator of how good the keynoters were because I really love Legos.

I actually stuck Cardboard Barack up there at the mic just for fun. Then got seriously thanked later: "so glad we're not distancing ourselves from the President."

One in a whole sequence of "squealing" references

And later on I made sure to do just that!

Roll call: Dvorsky Bolkcom Kinney*, Jacoby Mascher Lensing Stutsman Johnson*, Pulkrabek Weipert Lyness Painter Kriz, Harney Neuzil Sullivan Rettig Carberry*. * are candidates not yet elected. Also mayors Kuhl and Lundell, councilors Throgmorton and Kunkel.
And with that he begins, to "BER-NIE! BER-NIE! BER-NIE!" chants.

May be first since Jesse Jackson to pull that off.

Surprise was that it was only partial.

But as Vernon speaks:

Look closely to see beret:

But not everyone was impressed:

And unlike the Steak Fry I didn't miss anything important:

Friday, October 03, 2014

Independent Socialist Headlines Democratic Party Event, Cats and Dogs Living Together

I'm a major party hack, and proud of it, but I've always tried as a writer to be fair to third parties. I felt that attraction to alternative parties in my youth before I "sold out," as I've been accused.

And one of my current pet peeves is the increasingly popular "top two" primary, or as it's mis-named in California the "open" primary, that pits the top two finishers, regardless of party, against one another regardless of party. So you may have a general election between two Democrats or two Republicans, which is supposed to make things more "moderate." But what it definitely does is it shuts the third parties out of November completely.

Here in Iowa it's an interesting time for the un-parties, with an independent socialist headlining the Johnson County Democrats' barbecue this Sunday. It's Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' fourth recent trip to Caucus Land.

One of the issues Sanders faces, should he run, is whether to run as a Democrat. The election outcome of 2000 set third party activism on the left back at least a generation, so activists who consider themselves both lefty and Democrats - including more than a few elected types who don't pass every local lefty purity test - are not Ready and are approaching Sanders with cautious optimism.

Vermont doesn't have party registration, and Sanders personally has had a friendly relationship with Democrats. But to make a serious run he needs a Today I Am A Democrat moment, and wouldn't Iowa City be a perfect place for it.

There are those who don't call themselves Democrats, of course. In my professional journalist days, when writing was a paying job and not just a hobby squeezed into personal time, I might have gone to Wednesday's third party candidate's forum. (More here) Instead, some followup:

There's a not insignificant chance that Iowa will get a third full status party out of this election. It takes 2% of the vote, for governor or president only, maintained every general election, to earn that status in Iowa, one of the higher standards in the country. (Other states use other offices, or allow the status to last longer.)

The Greens were a full status party for two years post-Nader, but they only have one candidate, a legislative contender, in the whole state. The Libertarians are trying but they always seem to fall short, especially with small l libertarianism playing a big role in Iowa GOP politics recently. Both these parties have a third party "organization" status, earned by petition.

No, the group seriously contending for full party status is Jonathan Narcisse's Narcissist Party - oops, "Iowa Party," which has no other candidates for any office.  Narcisse came close to the magic 2% in 2010, with 1.8%, and if the governor's race is still seen as uncompetitive come election day - people don't LIKE Branstad but don't KNOW Hatch - Narcisse may seem like a place to throw a protest vote.

What would an Iowa Party Of One Mean? Don't ask the Nebraska Party, because they're just the one-state name for the arch-conservative Constitution Party. The better example may be the Reform Party, Ross Perot's abandoned plaything that won full status in Iowa in 1996 following his second run.

No more than a couple hundred folks ever registered Reform (which was abbreviated F to avoid confusion with the other R party) but the state paid for a full-fledged Reform Party primary in 1998, with thousands of ballots for dozens of voters.

Not to sound election office whiny. The point is an orphaned political party with legal status can be a vehicle for anyone or anything. Ask Jesse Ventura, the only Reform Party member to actually win an election, who saw the remnants of the national structure taken over by Pat Buchanan's hard-right minions.

(It was less cute than this. Can anyone explain why some minions have one eye, and some have two?)

Ventura withdrew himself and the Minnesota organization out of the shell of the  Reform Party, and the group carries on as the Minnesota Independence Party. (Much credit to their chair, my friend and collegiate roommate Mark Jenkins.)

The Minnesota IndependenCE party is, unlike the Alaska Independence Party, not looking to secede despite the convenient border with Canada. And it is definitely not to be confused with IndependenT, though that confusion is common with any party name that includes any variation of the term. Just recently it came to light that former first daughter Jenna Bush had registered with New York's IndependenCE Party, thinking it meant "independent." (Again, non-secessionist despite Canadian border.)

In all past elections, Iowa candidates who did not list a party - and by "party" I mean full status, third party status , or no status, just nothing - were listed as on ballots as the somewhat legalese "Nominated By Petition." This year's Senate race is different: Rick Stewart has been listed by the ostensibly appealing "Independent," and Ruth Smith is listed with no labels at all. (Interesting thing, that No Labels.) In the past both would have been listed as "Nominated By Petition." Why the change, Matt Schultz?

And if the Narcissists get their 2%, does "Iowa Party" get abbreviated as "I" and cause even more confusion?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Department of ICYMI

How did we get into the mess that 21st century American politics have become? Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos "state the obvious":
Forget about weak explanations for today’s deep political divisions like “the culture of Washington,” gerrymandering... 
(Tangent: It's less about gerrymandering than about birds of a feather flocking together, or what political demographers call " the big sort," a point which further emphasizes the depth of cultural division. We now return to McAdam and Kloos already in progress:)
...or the rise of cable TV: The civil rights movement, while a victory on many levels, was also the origin of our present morass. It spawned a powerful national “white resistance” countermovement that decisively altered the racial geography of American politics, pushing the national Democratic and Republican parties off center and toward their ideological margins, undermining the centrist policy convergence of the postwar period and setting the parties on the divisive course they remain on today.

Many will blame today’s unprecedented political polarization on recent events, such as the rise of the Tea Party or Obama’s election in 2008, but they will be wrong. The seeds of America’s dysfunction were planted 50 years ago. And the ugly politics of race had everything to do with it.

Delving into the details, Matthew Pulver examines the South's persecution complex and suggests it dates back not just 50 years, but 150:
 A sense of persecution has always mingled with the rebellious independence and proud notions of the South’s latent power, the promise that it “will rise again!”

Every major issue is argued in terms of persecution and attack. The racial minority is not the oppressed subaltern but a threat, whether physical or fiscal. Liberatory advances for women and LGBT Americans are assaults upon the family. Religious pluralism and fortifications of the wall between church and state evoke biblical accounts of Christian persecution. Deviations from increasingly neoliberal capitalism are described as authoritarian socialism. Relaxation of military aggression, especially under Obama, is even seen as collusion with the enemy.

There is a problem, though, for the GOP in the 2014 and subsequent elections: Once the Fort Sumter-like salvo of superlatives and hyperbole is launched, it is likely impossible to quiet the fear and anger of the party’s base. 
That resentment is not just a Southern thing anymore, as this look at the crazy like a fox career of our own Steve King illustrates.

But no one here is a racist, right? Isn't it just about defending the "homeland"? Umm...
Hitler  wanted to create an identity that went beyond language and culture. He wanted to invent a "German race," and have Germany be that race's "homeland," all so he could sell to the German people their own racial superiority and use that to justify exterminating others.

So, in 1934, at the Nazi party's big coming-out event, the famous Nuremberg rally, Nazis introduced the term "homeland."

Prior to that, they'd always referred to Germany as "the Fatherland" or "the Motherland" or "our nation."

But Hitler and his think-tank wanted Germans to think of themselves with what he and Goebbels viewed as the semi-tribal passion that the Zionists had for Israel.

So, in that most famous 1934 Nazi rally's opening speech, Rudolph Hess, Hitler's deputy Fuhrer, said that, "Thanks to [Hitler's] leadership, Germany will become the homeland. Homeland for all Germans in the world."

So I'm not the only one who's always been a little creeped out by that word.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Election Resource Allocation: A Real Issue, A Tricky Solution

As a lot of you recall from the last three presidential elections, election resource allocation is an issue in many states.

The charge has been that resources are allocated in a partisan manner, specifically that wealthy white neighborhoods get more workers/machines/etc. than poor black neighborhoods:
Three states that featured some of the longest wait times on Election Day 2012 are routinely failing to have as many voting machines and poll workers as they are required to -- and the shortfalls are most negatively impacting minority voters, according to a new study.
"We need to fix that," President Obama said as he claimed re-election victory. There's been no action, of course, in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of 21st Century DC. But eventually there may be, and as one who works in the trenches of elections I worry about unintended consequences.

Here's some stats that worry me:
In Maryland, just 11 percent of precincts studied by Brennan met the state's standard of having one voting machine for every 200 registered voters.

In South Carolina, a study of 16 counties showed just one-third of precincts in those counties met the state's standard of having three poll workers for every 500 registered voters. It also found 75 percent of precincts didn't meet the standard of having one voting machine for every 250 registered voters.
They worry me because, of course, they indicate insufficient resources. But they also worry me because they hint at a one size fits all solution which would work poorly here in my community.

Note that the standard used is registered voters. That assumes that registered voters translates directly into turnout, and does so in a flat, linear way across different types of elections. It also assumes that every registered voter is an equal workload.

Let's look at my own precinct, Iowa City 11. It's atypical, but that only helps illustrate the problem. We're about 80% students in downtown apartments, and 20% working class folks and some students in the Miller-Orchard neighborhood. (We used to be the Roosevelt School neighborhood till we lost the school.)

In the 2012 primary, we had 1409 registered voters. By the South Carolina standard, we would have had nine workers and six machines... for nineteen voters. Because our primary is in the SUMMER when school is out. A fact that might be relevant if you're writing a law.

Jump ahead to November. Registration has climbed to 2107 - at the beginning of Election Day. So the resources increase, by South Carolina standards again, to 15 workers and nine machines. There's not really ROOM for that in most polling places, but let's continue.

So registration has increased by half again between June and November... but turnout has jumped from 19 to 709. Young voter turnout is far more volatile and variable than any other demographic, and this is just an especially dramatic example.

Yet it's likely that legislation would be drafted to cover "federal elections," meaning both the primary and the general. And if the standard is based on "registered voters," the same level could mean workers are bored to tears in one election and overwhelmed in the next.

And some voters are simply more work than others. Of those 709 voters in my precinct in November 2012, at least 183 were election day registrations. An election day registration is far more work, for both the voter and the poll worker, than a voter who shows up registered and ready. We account for that when we assign workers... but would a one size fits all federal law let us?

The state laws cited above also, unless the fine print of the law says otherwise, fail to take into account the registered voters who have voted BEFORE Election Day.  Johnson County is the early vote champ of the state, with 58% of our total vote cast early in 2012. And we take that into account when we assign workers.

A federally mandated, registered voter based standard would leave us feather-bedded and waste loads of money, because the most expensive part of running an election is the workers, and we'd be hiring workers to wait on voters who voted a week or a month ago.

And in a final irony, even if the intent of a federal standard would be to equalize resources, it would end up skewing them in a different way. Absentee voting rates vary dramatically by state, by county, and even by precinct. Within our county in 2012, the rate ranged from 26% of registered voters voting early in small town/rural Oxford to 64% in Iowa City Precinct 2, dominated by the large Oaknoll senior living complex. So with a registered voter standard, Oxford would be under-served compared to Oaknoll.

There's so, so much else to think about. How long are each state's voting hours? Can you push the same number of people through with the same number of workers in two, three, even four hours less time? How long are the ballots?  (Just a few days into voting it's already obvious that people are taking MUCH longer in the booth with our long general election ballot than they did in the June primary with just a couple contested races.) How complicated is the check in process?

Sorry to not solve anything here. But any federal law is going to have to take all those things into account and more. And if the federal law throws it back to the states to set the standards, well, isn't that the problem in the first place?

Iowa law is relatively limited on this subject. We have a minimum three workers per precinct, with some level of party balance. Even that can be challenging, if your workforce has to be evenly balanced and your community isn't. Have I mentioned our office needs some Republican poll workers? (No idea how Sioux County finds Democrats.)

What guidance there is, though, directs auditors to base things like ballot printing and delivery on past similar elections. So if your primary is in June when a huge chunk of your community is gone, you can base it on past turnout rather than on registered voters. (Voter list maintenance - that's a whole `nother post...)

Even that can be challenging - in a downtown Iowa City precinct, how similar is the 2014 Senate election to the 2010 21 Bar and oh yeah governor and some other unimportant stuff election? But at least it allows us to take local realities into account. Maybe some type of federal legislation can address the very real, and yes very partisan, issues while still leaving some leeway for the locals.