Monday, February 11, 2008

Double Bubble Trouble

Double Trouble with LA's Double Bubble Ballots

Six days past Super Tuesday and we're not done yet. New Mexico remains a squeaker, though it looks like it'll come down on Clinton's side. Perhaps she'll try to use that to claim a victory between Obama's four states, one territory and one Grammy weekend and his likely two state, one District win tomorrow.

California was Clinton's brightest spot on √úberdienstag, but there's a big question mark over 95,000 or so Los Angeles County ballots in what's dubbed the "Double Bubble" controversy. I'm not going to try to touch on every aspect of this because BradBlog does it so well.

Though he doesn't bother to mention that one of his more colorful sources, Mimi Kennedy, is best known as Dharma's mom from "Dharma and Greg," and from every indication was not acting in that role so much as she was simply behaving. That's why I don't wear my hair at ponytail length anymore -- with the baldness I don't want to look like Dharma's dad.

Voters who weren't registered with a party, but were instead registered as "Decline To State," were able to vote in the Democratic primary. But the process was a little convoluted, as Jacob Soboroff at Huffington Post explains quite clearly in the Short Version:
Here’s the trouble: In the voting booth, voters must then mark a bubble on the ballot that confirms the voter is indeed voting on a Democratic ballot. If they fail to mark, their ballots go uncounted. And further, if a voter neglects to fill in this bubble, a voting machine will not return the ballot because the vote is counted as an under-vote. But by requesting the ballot in the first place, voters are already in essence filling out this bubble.

Another significant problem: there election also had ballots for Decline To State people who didn't even want to vote on the presidency, just on ballot issues. But some folks who did want to vote for president got the ballot with just the ballot issues. Still with me? We had a local election like that in 1986, which is one of the reasons Iowa law got change to prohibit that practice. Can't combine anything with a partisan primary in Iowa anymore.

But back to Trouble One, the double bubble. This is stupid, stupid design and an "Is Anal Retentive Hypenated?" interpretation of the law, bordering on the deliberately byzantine. They saw this coming ahead of time, as this Feb. 4 story notes. Of course these should get counted.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't think about Trouble Two.

"Decline To State."

That's an interesting term, "Decline To State." Very different than the proud "Independent" that wishy-washy voters like to proclaim.

These are voters who Decline To State, even for a day while asking "how soon can I change back" the way people need to in Iowa, that they are Democrats. Yet they have a say in choosing the Democratic Party's nominee for president. Why the hell are they even voting in the Democratic Party's contest? The California Republicans closed their primary, which was registered elephants only.

One sideline to this, which is my third tangent so far, including the freakin' lede: In addition to the Double Bubble problem, some voters got excluded from the Democratic Primary because, drawn to that "I" word they love so much, they registered as members of the American Independent Party -- the right wing remnant of the 1968 George Wallace campaign. I can't help but be amused by that, as the myth of the Pure Independent, I Study The Candidates And Vote The Person Not The Party voter collides with the reality of ignorance.

Sure, the campaigns all knew going in that these Decline To State folks could vote in the Democratic primary. And the outcome of counting these votes would probably narrow the California margin in a way I'd like. But some of this can't be chalked up to innocent mistakes.

There's evidence -- and unfortunately I lost the cite -- to suggest that at least some of this problem was people who deliberately refused to mark the party bubble, even when instructed to do so, out of sheer "independent" orneryness. That wouldn't be out of character to what I've seen of voter behavior. So hostile to those evil institutions, parties, who only ended slavery and the Great Depression, that they won't even go through the motions.

They should get counted anyway, but it's instructive that it was a Green Party activist who drew this to my attention in the first place; don't they, like, have their own candidate?

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