Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'll never understand it
Niko Bowie writes in the YDN on a topic that actually deserves some consideration.

He argues that there is no right to vote in the United States (according to the Constitution and federal law), and that there should be. He actually makes a pretty convincing case, overall—though I'm not sold yet—which he proceeds to eviscerate through his deceptive reasoning:

Most recently, in the 2004 election, an anonymous Minnesota elector voted for John Edwards, though most Minnesota voters cast their ballots for John Kerry, and Edwards wasn't even running. Such 'faithless' electors are not uncommon. Over the past two centuries, 156 electors have chosen not to vote for their party's designated candidate. (To be fair, 71 of them changed their votes after the original candidate had died.)
OK. So. In the more than 50 elections we've had, there have been 156 electors who voted against their party's nominee. Sounds like a lot. Unfortunately, it's really not.

There have been 51 elections in the more than 200 years since the Republic decided to distinguish between votes for President and Vice President. If we could multiply that by the number of electors in each election, we get the total number of electors that have cast votes in all presidential elections combined. Unfortunately, the latter multiplier has not been static.

There are currently 538 electors in each presidential election, thanks to the sum of the seats in the House of Representatives (435), the seats in the Senate (100) and a few random electors assigned elsewhere (D.C., etc.). If we assumed that all elections had this number, though, we would be overapproximating the number of electors—instead, we'll need to add the historic number of electors. By looking at this site, we can get a total number of electoral votes for each presidential election year since 1804.

Feel free to check my math, but I found that there have been 20,882 total electoral votes cast. The 156 electors who were "faithless" equal less than 1% (.74%) of that total. If you take advantage of Bowie's admission, and use the lesser 85 who voted faithlessly when their appointed candidate was still alive, that number falls to .4% of the total.

And yet Bowie feels the need to say that the casting of faithless electoral votes is "not uncommon." Clearly, it is uncommon. So why did he feel the need to deceive? Why, when the rest of his argument makes so much sense, did he need to take you down this misleading path?

Then again, maybe it's a good thing, as it takes away from this later, glaring sentence:
After the 2000 election, I do not think you need to hear the political costs of the disenfranchisement of ex-felons.
I'd love to hear him expand on that—after he defines "ex-felon" for me, of course, as it seems to me that, once you committ a felony, you are forever a felon. But setting that aside, what is the penalty of preventing felons from voting? What was the politial consequence that he refers to?

What do you want to bet he's referring to the fact that W. got elected?

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