Tag Archives: voting

Straight-Party Checkbox: Bad Design Pattern

Putting a straight-party checkbox on a ballot violates a key design principle: The polling place and ballot should strive to avoid steering people toward specific choices. This is also why some places randomize candidates’ names or stick with alphabetical order.

The human brain would rather work on auto-pilot than think carefully. Give it an excuse to stick with auto-pilot, and it’ll happily do so.

Even if that means outsourcing your vote to the people who chose the slate and designed the ballot.

You can choose to vote a straight-party ticket, but the ballot design shouldn’t influence you to do it.

Vote Local!

Remember to vote in local elections.

Initiatives, council and school board members, judges, etc. affect you and your community directly. It may not be as exciting as the Presidential race, but it determines who makes decisions in your town, who passes and enforces city laws and regulations, local taxes, which services are offered and how. If the national government wants to drop the ball, states and cities are going to have to step in, and local elections impact how it gets picked up — or doesn’t.

It impacts national politics too: the people elected locally go on to build the pool of state and national candidates. If you care about 2018 or 2020, get out and vote locally to get the ball rolling!

Voter turnout is always lower in off-years than in Presidential election years, and it’s even lower in local elections. That means your vote makes a bigger share of the result than it does when you vote in November – even in an off-year.

So get out there, register to vote if you haven’t, and help make decisions at the local level.

Election Fallout (and Conan)

  • Going to bed. Very glad to see Obama elected. Disappointed that Prop 8 looks like it might pass. #
  • Wait… 3 MILLION mail-in & provisional ballots remain to be counted in CA? Why on earth are they calling ANY race yet? #
  • Surprised to find no jokes online using the pun “Anvil of Cron,” just typos. There’s always S*P’s Google Crom. #
  • More on the 2.6-3 MILLION mail-in & provisional ballots still to be counted in California. #

Election Day 2008

Katie and I got up early so we could hit the polls first thing in the morning and not have to worry about whether we’d be stuck in an insanely long line at the end of the day, like we were in 2004 and 2006. The first thing we noticed was the sound of rain falling outside. Since we were expecting a huge turnout, I’d planned on walking, fearing we might have to park far enough away that we might as well have walked. Fortunately by the time we left, it had died down to little more than a drizzle.

We got to the polling place, an elementary school, about 7:05, just after it opened, found the right line (they had two precincts voting at the same location), and there were only about 15-20 people ahead of us. We got into a conversation with other people around us about the merits of early voting (one guy joked that he’d already voted for the 2012 election), exit polls, and the electoral college.

The poll workers were a surprise. Usually in this area it tends to be older people who volunteer to run the polls, but it seemed like 2/3 of them were in their late teens/early twenties. Katie figured it had to do with the economic slowdown: we know who’s out of work.

They’ve mostly worked out the kinks in the electronic voting system, though they’re now offering a choice of electronic or paper ballot when you sign in. You go through several stations, signing the roll of voters, confirming your address, and finally getting either a paper ballot or an access key for the electronic ballot.

I still don’t like the user interface on these voting machines — it’s a paddle wheel interface, where you rotate a dial to move the selection on the LCD screen forward or back, with buttons to check things off — but it does at least include a printed record. There’s a roll of paper in the machine with a window, and after you’ve confirmed the summary of your selections (with a big red button that says “Cast Ballot”), it prints them out, asks you to confirm the printout, then scrolls it out of view so the next person can’t see what you chose.

Anyway, the whole process took only 35 minutes from finding the line to picking up the “I Voted” sticker. Kids were just starting to line up for class. We went home, dropped off the umbrella (which we never actually needed), picked up our stuff and drove off to work only 15 minutes behind normal schedule.

(Cross-posted from LiveJournal, originally linked in the list below.)

  • It’s like raaaaaain/on Election Day. #
  • #votereport #good Only 30 minute wait, no problems with machine around 7am in Orange County, CA. No idea what it’s like now, though. #
  • Voting freebies: Might hit Ben & Jerry’s, but don’t see much point in a plain coffee at Starbucks. Maybe if they offered a mocha. #
  • Ah, this would explain the 4-hour delay on my “I Voted!” tweet. #
  • Wow… 38% of registered voters in Los Angeles County had cast ballots by noon. #
  • Deep pink clouds at sunset. Camera turns them orange. #

Update: It’s been a while, so I don’t remember for sure if this is the right photo, but the date’s correct and it fits the description.

Sunset clouds

Holding the Center

California is an interesting state. We just re-elected Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger 55% to 39%, but also re-elected Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein 60% to 35%. All but one of the remaining state offices went to Democrats (some by larger margins than others).

The Governator is talking about a mandate. Politicians always do that when they win. 55% is a bit shaky, but with ~15 percentage points between him and Angelides, he’s at least more justified in claiming it than a certain Republican winner two years ago who only had a three-point lead.

Meanwhile Congress has returned to its natural state—namely, with at least one house controlled by the party not holding the Presidency—as the Democrats have taken back the House for the first time in 12 years. There’s an analysis in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the Republicans’ mistake was in focusing too heavily on their base over the last few years and alienating the center.

Schwarzenegger is actually a good example of this. He’s a Republican, but a moderate one. During the 2003 recall election, the Republican party actually ran a second candidate, Tom McClintock, because Arnold wasn’t Republican enough. Admittedly you can chalk some of it up to name recognition and charisma, but the moderate Schwarzenegger not only won the recall handily, he had no problem holding onto the office this year when California voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, practically guaranteed to be the next speaker of the House, promised “to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history” [note: originally linked to Forbes] and run things in a more bipartisan way than the Republicans have for the past 12 years. I’m jaded enough to say I’ll believe it when I see it, but encouraged enough that I think there’s at least a chance they will.

The real shocker, though, is Donald Rumsfeld stepping down as Secretary of Defense. I think it’s long overdue—this administration has generally rewarded loyalty over competence, and I’ll agree with many that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been mismanaged. Here’s hoping Robert Gates, if confirmed, does a better job.