Guerrilla warfare

Republicans keep trying to cheat people out of their votes. Some Democrats are fighting back.

Update Turns out the call in Miami-Dade was made by officials working for the Republican mayor. So he promptly countermanded them, then relented. As one of the voters says, it’s a Third-World situation, brought to you by Gov. Rick Scott and his tame Republican legislature.

Republican officials keep making it harder for Democrats to vote, and some Democratic officials[*] are fighting back. In Florida, the Republican legislature and Governor cancelled early voting for today – the Sunday before Election Day – and loaded up the ballot with eleven constitutional amendments (four pages of legal text) in order to slow down the voting process. As a result, the early-voting lines yesterday kept people waiting as much as six hours to vote, with some lines not clearing until 1 am.

So the Miami-Dade Election Board decided that it would not only stay open today to accept absentee ballots, it would actually print absentee ballots for voters who hadn’t already received them. Hey, presto! Early voting restored.

The lesson here is simple: even with hundreds of millions of dollars of dark money and the Murdoch press empire, Republicans know they can’t win elections if everyone gets to vote. So they do everything they can to make sure that some people don’t get to vote.

Can anyone offer a single serious argument why early voting shouldn’t be available the Sunday before election day? No, I didn’t think so.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

54 thoughts on “Guerrilla warfare”

  1. The bigger question is of course why we can’t have elections on weekends rather than in the middle of the workweek (like most of the rest of the civilized world [1]).

    I know, there’s a strong argument that elections on Tuesdays work nicely for people who still drive their oxcarts to the market, but I suspect that they may no longer be a majority of the electorate.

    [1] Excepting the UK.

    1. Um, because there aren’t any major religions which regard Tuesdays as holy days of worship, which means there are a bunch of empty churches available for polling places?

      1. Here in Georgia we have plenty of churches that are polling stations. As far as I’m aware, none of them use the actual temple for polling. It’s always in adjunct buildings. Even so, all early voting in GA is done at government facilities. Furthermore, I’m not too keen on using churches/temples as polling stations to begin with. Spread the voting duration over a weekend and you could probably handle the volume at schools, government offices etc. in most places.

        1. No, no Brett’s right, and it has nothing to do with the physical facilities of the polling location. Especially in the late eighteenth century, many people took the Lord’s Day extremely seriously, and would not accept profaning it with civic matters.

          Supposedly, there was also an issue of extremely long travel times to reach even your local polling station, which in a way I’m not entirely clear on precluded Monday (perhaps because it was the return to work after the weekend?) and Wednesday (the traditional market day), especially as polling day was not a holiday. Indeed, I’m not sure when civic (as opposed to religious) holidays were invented.

          1. If we can have football games (and especially the extraordinary debauchery of Suoerbowl Sunday) on Sundays the it seems to me that we ought to be able to have elections on Sundays too.

      2. This is a problem that Poland with a 90% Catholic population and Sunday elections somehow managed to solve. This indicates that the problem may not be as unsurmountable as you believe.

        1. I’m not sure Polish Catholics were as extreme in their sabbatarian restrictions as were Massachusetts Puritans.

          Also, it cuts both ways: not only might some religions’ adherents balk at being asked to vote on their holy day (and to travel to the polling station besides), other people might not want election days to starts with a particular community being assembled and lectured to by their religious leader. Thus, people afraid of the voting power of an organized Catholic bloc might not want polling on Sundays, to avoid a mobilized stream of voters coming straight from their priest’s sermon to the polls. We see this to this very day, and in this very instance: Florida changed the rules for this election to block early voting on Sunday at least in part because Black churches were very effectively concluding their services with a progression to the polling place.

          1. Well, that’s a different argument than the one that Brett was making, who was simply talking about having churches available as locations for polling places.

            I understand that holding elections on a different day might inconvenience members of one religion or another. However, our current choice inconveniences the majority of the working population; this seems to be a rather odd trade-off to make, especially given the separation of church and state we have (in theory) and the relative numbers of voters affected. Obviously, not everyone may be able to vote on election day, no matter what day of the week we choose (unless we make the election day a public holiday or make voting by mail the default, as in Oregon). That’s what absentee ballots etc. are for; but we should still strive to minimize the number of people affected.

            At the moment, we have voting scattered over several days; because the official election day is so impractical for workers, absentee voting and early voting have become more and more important. As a result, all those different de facto election days, none of which are really first class election days — even the official one routinely overloads the capacity of polling places after work is over — are breeding grounds for organizational chaos (see the Miami-Dade situation above), clerical errors, and legal challenges.

            That voting on a weekend may help some GotV operations more than others does not strike me as being a serious objection. I note also that churches would risk their non-profit status if they did it in a partisan fashion.

  2. A Daily Kos diarist waited NINE HOURS in line to vote in Florida yesterday. I can’t link to the diary right now because the Kos is flaky– their servers are in New York– but s/he has pictures. Nine. Hours.

    1. Well, yeah, if you find the rule of law inconvenient, you’re always on the hunt for ways to make shit up as you go.

      Presto, equal treatment eliminated, we now have different voting days in Palm Beach from everywhere else. Which would have you screaming your head off, if Palm Beach were a Republican stronghold. But it’s just peachy because this will give Obama an advantage.

      1. = = = Presto, equal treatment eliminated, we now have different voting days in Palm Beach from everywhere else. = = =

        Funny, Mr. Bellmore is generally a big advocate of strict Constitutionalism and states’ rights, but here he is advocating that the Constitution be ignored and states’ operation of their elections be overridden by the heavy hand of national parties backed up by the federal gov’t’ – when it benefits his team. Here’s a hint: Washington State has had vote-by-mail for the last three Presidential election cycles and an estimated 98% of voters now use it. Which of course means they are voting on “different days” from Vermont and its one-day in-person ballot system. Horrors!


        PS Brett: are we ever going to get a straight answer from you on these two questions (or any of the questions you left hanging back in that thread)?:

        = = =
        Brett Bellmore says:
        May 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm
        As for Obama not being an addict, isn’t it conventional to refer to people who illegally use illegal drug as “addicts”?
        = = =



        PS When you ordered a birth certificate copy for your newborn three years ago, what did it look like? Care to post a picture?

        1. Already answered. Your not liking the answer doesn’t make it a non-answer.

          This is a case of the sneaky hand of local government overriding the law. There’s no Sunday voting in Florida, Palm Beach just arranged to have it anyway, unlike every other jurisdiction in the state.

          Not really all that different from those precincts you hear of every election where they extend the voting hours longer than the law specifies. Some people think they’re above the law. A frightening number of them work in the government.

          1. “Already answered. Your not liking the answer doesn’t make it a non-answer.”

            You’ve never answered sh*t here, Brett. I’m still waiting for proof of this ‘constitution’ you keep citing 🙂

            ” Some people think they’re above the law. A frightening number of them work in the government.”

            The right swims in projection so much that they can’t recognize it.

          2. Barry at 2:14 PM is correct: Mr. Bellmore never answered the challenges to his view of the definition of “addict”. He threw some additional smokescreens and exited the thread, per usual.

            Brett Bellmore: crickets.wav


          3. Not only did I answer it, you quoted my answer above. My son’s birth certificate? I’ll produce it when he runs for president, in a minimum of 31 years from now.

          4. no, no, you don’t understand cranky. what brett is saying is that silence IS his answer and we can all just lump it if we don’t like it. and he’s right about one thing, after all the logical leaps and contortions he made in that thread, i don’t like his answer.

      2. Brett,
        It sounds to me like the local office found a way to stay within the letter of the law while increasing voters’ access to the ballot. A bit of sharp practice, perhaps, but not obviously illegal.

        Surely the bigger transgression would be a system of voting that involves nine-hour waits in line?

        And that’s not even to consider Ohio, where a partisan Secretary Of State is breaking the letter of the law to disenfranchise people.

        1. Come on, this is just a stupid rationalization.

          Elections are a lot like other competitions, in as much as fairness isn’t to be found in the specifics of the rules, so much as in everybody operating under the same rules. Palm Beach has “cleverly” found a way to make sure that a different set of rules will apply in Palm Beach than elsewhere in the state. They didn’t do it to enhance voter access, they did it to gain an unfair partisan advantage.

          If they were interested in enhancing voter access, they would have announced their plans days ago, so that it could happen all over the state, or be enjoined everywhere. They didn’t because it’s not ‘sharp’, they’re just breaking the law.

          Nothing clever about this at all, anybody could have thought it up. All it took was a desire for an unfair advantage, and a willingness to cut corners to get it.

          Is this how you want elections conducted? All “sharp practices” and last minute tricks, designed to gain unfair advantages? You want to push the limits until they break, maybe?

          Nobody should admire what Palm Beach has done. It’s not the least bit admirable, and you’d all be screaming your heads off if it had happened in some area of the state Romney was expected to carry.

          1. Brett is outraged about last minute tricks. If you want proof, just read his comments over on Mark’s other post about what’s going on in Ohio. Oh wait, he hasn’t said a single thing about that.

            Remember kids, liberal hypocrisy is worse than conservative, well, pretty much anything.

          2. Blah blah blah mind reading blah blah easy to assume our opponents are evil blah blah blah.

            Does being a hypocrite ever bother you? Ever?

      3. “Well, yeah, if you find the rule of law inconvenient, you’re always on the hunt for ways to make shit up as you go.”

        G8d d@mn but you’re projecting more than usual – your guys find the rule of law inconvenient and are making it up as you go, trying to find more ways to keep people from voting.

      4. What Miami-Dade did appears to be totally legal, and there’s nothing to stop other boards from doing the same.

        Are they gaming things? OK. So is the legislature and so is Medicare fraudster Scott. And Miami-Dade’s game is to let voters vote, not stop them.

  3. The problem is that the dishonest campaigns reflect the dishonest voters (like Brett) and not the other way around.

  4. Anon, seriously. Suppose that one city in Florida had, by a clever trick, arranged to have an extra day of voting beyond what everyone else in Florida got. And suppose it was a Republican dominated city.

    Do you really think Mark would regard it as clever? No, he’d be screaming his head off about it.

    1. Brett, I think you’re mistaken when you think that anyone believes that this clustermess is a good thing. Whether the solution (absentee ballots) is worse than the problem (people being denied early voting due to capacity problems) is beside the point. The bigger point is that running an election this way is worthy of a banana republic, not the United States of America.

      On the legal side of things, my understanding is that people in Florida can request and obtain absentee ballots in person up to and until election day. Absentee voting is specifically meant to be for people who cannot vote on election day or during early voting, so I don’t see any real problem with people who were denied early voting to obtain absentee ballots. This would obviously hold regardless of whether a city votes primarily Democrat or Republican.

  5. This is a case of the sneaky hand of local government overriding the law. You can’t be serious. No law was broken by this tactic.

    And suppose it was a Republican dominated city. Ha, ha. There will never be a case of Republicans doing this because they always seek to limit the number of participating voters, not increase it. But if they did I, for one, would cheer.

    1. Yeah, right, that’s why they told everybody in advance what they were going to do; They weren’t afraid of getting hit with an injunction, or anything.

  6. Brett,
    Reading anything you write, much less responding, is such a waste of time. I don’t know what Mark would think or say, but I know.based on what he has written previously, he would likely respond with integrity – something,based on everything you write, you lack entirely.

  7. I’m still waiting for Brett’s answer to the simple question: What good reason, other than making it harder for working people to vote, was there for the Republicans in Florida to deny voters the opportunity to vote on the Sunday before election day?

    As to unequal opportunity to vote, it’s only Florida’s cities that have multi-hour voting lines. Suburbanites would never put up with it.

    Straight answer, Brett: Does it bother you that Republicans across the country try to make it hard for their opponents to vote? Yes or no?

    1. I lived most of my life under “vote on election day or not at all” rules. Most of the elections I’ve participated in, you couldn’t get an absentee ballot without cause, being elderly, sick, or unavoidably out of town on election day. That’s the way it was through most of the nation’s history. And you’re asking me to see it as some incredible crime that you can’t vote on a Sunday? That somebody who doesn’t want to vote on Tuesday would have to use an absentee ballot, that they can get for just asking, is a monstrous burden?

      No, it doesn’t bother me one bit if Republicans across the country try to make it slightly less incredibly easy for their opponents to vote, as long as they do it through rules that apply to them, too. Though we come from different philosophical perspectives on the nature of democracy, I think Rick Hasen has actually accurately described the divide between the parties on this.

      It’s not really a good thing in a democracy for voting to be incredibly easier than becoming informed. We really don’t want to encourage voting by lazy, uninformed people.

      Mind, I guess you do want to encourage it, if you think your only hope of winning elections is if a lot of lazy people vote. Myself, I’d be embarrassed to admit that, but I’m not a Democrat.

      1. just as the law may prevent the rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges so these laws effect everyone the same irrespective of whether they own a car and don’t have a drivers license, or whether the cost of a state i.d. is enough to reduce the food for the family for the week, or whether they’ve been wrongly purged as a felon because of inclusive and slipshod background checking. you’re right brett, there’s no possibility at all that informed voters could possibly be excluded by any of these restrictions. why not take things a step further–perhaps we could institute a series of written tests to make sure potential voters are informed enough to deserve to vote. that would be the logical extension of your argument. would you like to step up and argue in favor of literacy tests? you’re headed in that direction with your argument anyway, would you like to go all the way?

        1. Literacy tests have their bad reputation mostly because they weren’t honest, as I suspect you know. They were just an excuse to engage in racial discrimination.

          But if you think democracy is improved by encouraging illiterates to vote, go ahead and say so. You’re headed in a direction yourself; Would you like to go all the way to demanding voting by cretins and Alzheimer victims? Maybe we could hand them coins to flip, at government expense…

          1. Alzheimer victims

            If they can serve as president, they ought to be allowed to vote.

            And no, I don’t think that the government ought to be trying to winnow out voters.

          2. Discrimination by disenfranchisement of out-party voters is less of a moral outrage than discrimination by disenfranchisement of disfavored races.

            The difference, however, is one of degree rather than one of kind.

          3. Well, I don’t think it should be, either, but we could do with a few less strewn rose petals. There’s winnowing out, and there’s going to crazy lengths to encourage. When you’ve got a week to vote, and absentee ballots on demand, the claim that voting is subject to this incredible burden is a bit absurd. What’s next, free taxi rides?

            This non retrogression business strikes me as absurd; The law can only legitimately change in one direction? I guess it’s understandable if you’re in a party that relies on lazy voters, but as a legal principle it’s silly.

      2. Brett, do you think that it is okay for some people who vote ON ELECTION DAY, just as you prefer, to experience hours long lines while other people do not?

        1. I’ve experienced long lines, myself. It’s not the end of the world, even in a November Michigan rainstorm, but I don’t think it’s anything which should be deliberately engineered.

          I’m unclear about something here: We, as a nation, used to be able to handle essentially everybody voting on election day. Turnouts aren’t incredibly higher now. Much as I don’t like it, we’ve got early voting, and absentee ballots on request. Why are we suddenly having trouble handling all the voters? Is local election administration that much less competent than it used to be?

          1. = = = Why are we suddenly having trouble handling all the voters? Is local election administration that much less competent than it used to be? = = =

            I typically dismiss Mr. Bellmore as a person unwittingly serving as a useful idiot for Karl Rove and Ron Paul, but I have to say that this is actually written in his “reasonably sincere” voice. Mr. Bellmore may actually /not be aware/ the the Republican Party has spent the last 15 years deliberately making it more difficult for the poors, the blahs, and anyone who tends to vote “Democrat” in general to vote. By, among other things, reducing the number of polling places in the areas where such “undesirables” live, reducing the hours of those polling places (longer transit times + longer lines – shorter hours =), instituting draconian identification laws, etc. What we are seeing this election cycle, Brett, is the _desired outcome_ of carefully-prepared and heavily-funded strategy and tactics.


          2. Wow, and Florida a covered jurisdiction; Guess the Justice department has been asleep the last several years.

            I’ll look into that; If the number of voting machine days available per thousand people has really been selectively reduced, you’ve got a valid complaint. Of course, this is coming from somebody who thinks a billboard accurately stating the law is “suppression”, so I do have to actually look into it…

          3. = = = Brett Bellmore @ 5:49: “I’ll look into that; If the number of voting machine days available per thousand people has really been selectively reduced,” = = =

            Nice Bellmoreian sideslip there: it is not of course the “number of voting machine days available per thousand people” that is at issue but how those ‘voting machine days’ are distributed in different areas of the state. E.g. in Ohio, where polling places in areas with high proportions of Democratic voters have been systematically closed and additional (unneeded, but convenient) polling places have been opened in wealthy suburban Republican-leaning areas.


          4. Brett, I’m not exactly sure what your argument is here, but only five counties of Florida are covered jurisdictions, not including the ones under jurisdiction here. And of course for eight of the last fifteen years the Justice Department was actively ignoring voting rights concerns.

          5. We’re not talking about long lines. We’re talking about multi-hour waits. Have you experienced multi-hour waits in line to vote? What state was this in?

          6. Yes, in Michigan. 1994. Of course it was multi-hour, I wouldn’t have called anything less a long wait.

            “but how those ‘voting machine days’ are distributed in different areas of the state. ”

            Which would by why I said “selectively”, natch. What did you think I meant by it?

          7. “I’ve experienced long lines, myself. It’s not the end of the world, even in a November Michigan rainstorm”

            Were you relying on public transit to get around? Did you have kids waiting to be picked up from someplace, or waiting at home for dinner? Was there a risk that the polls would close before you could vote, since you could only get there after 5pm?

            “No, it doesn’t bother me one bit if Republicans across the country try to make it slightly less incredibly easy for their opponents to vote, as long as they do it through rules that apply to them, too. ”

            Well, I guess that gives me my answer to this exchange, which of course you bailed on. (Just replace “voter ID laws” with “early voting hours.”) And serves as yet another example of your hypocrisy.

            Yes, it really does come down to that: Shall we enact a law to moderately inconvenience a comparatively small number of evildoers, at the cost of moderately inconveniencing a vastly larger number of innocents?

            . . . Whatever the object, I say, “No.”

            Well, golly gee whillikers, Mr. Bellmore, I bet when it comes to voter ID laws, your answer to this question is, in fact , “Yes!”

            Please, in a single word answer, tell me whether I am correct or incorrect about that?

            Posted by: Phil | October 20, 2012 at 09:22 AM

            Yes, you caught me out. I’ll have to think about that a bit.

            Posted by: Brett Bellmore | October 20, 2012 at 11:25 AM

  8. I hope that after President Obama wins re-election, the Justice Department designates some junkyard dog prosecutors to investigate State officials’ vote suppression efforts and, where indicated by the facts, to prosecute criminally, including seeking active incarceration of some Secretaries of State.

    That wish, however, represents the triumph of optimism over experience.

  9. I think we can all salute Brett for embracing Bush v Gore: when there is the risk of unequal access to the vote, the correct answer is to prevent people from having their votes counted.

  10. Hey, In Australia we have a single roll, a single national body that tries hard to make sure everyone who is entitled to vote is on it and you can vote by post beforehand or at any polling booth on the day – never more than 15 minutes wait, on a Saturday. But we are a democracy – you know, a country where voters pick our politicians, not judges.

    1. And in Canada, national elections are run by a non-partisan officer of Parliament (i.e. reports to all parties together) who hires the staff across the country. The job is not delegated to the provinces, much less to partisan officials of the provinces (who have their own non-partisan officials for provincial elections). Election statutes federally and in Ontario (and probably elsewhere) require employers to give employees four consecutive hours off during polling hours, at full pay, to ensure people have time to vote.

      In grown-up democratic countries, elections can be properly run.

      For that matter, in grown-up democratic countries, districts are not redistributed by party-dominated legislatures after every election when the government changes.

      Time to send in observers from, say, Zimbabwe and Myanmar to watch Florida and Ohio.

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