I don’t understand. Americans have to register to vote before they are allowed to vote. OK, that I get, after all, organising 275 million citizens is no doubt harder than keeping track of the 4 or 5 million Norwegians. The deadline’s today at 5 pm, 20 days before the election. If a US citizen’s not registered by then, he or she can’t vote. So if a private (!) voting registration company collects hundreds of registration forms a day and tears up the democrats’ forms so that the democrats think they’re registered but aren’t really, then obviously that’s outrageous. But how can you tell which forms belong to democrats and which forms belong to republicans? [Update: the answer’s in the comments to this post]

Actually there seem to be quite quite a few incidences of registration fraud. But at least there’ll be international observers for this election. Here’s a PDF of their preliminary report.

14 thoughts on “outrageous and mysterious

  1. Ben the Geographer

    Its quite easy to know if a person is a democrat or a republican based on simple stereotyping (Democrats: unions, intellectuals, poor urban blacks; Republicans: Church people, business men, rural people), especially for registering voters. Who doesn’t vote: poor, urban, black people. Who’s a democrat: poor, urban, black….
    Sad, but true.

  2. Mark Bernstein

    Ben — there’s a much simpler (and also more accurate) answer to Jill’s question.

    In most US states, voters register as either Democrats or Republicans, or as Independents — they declare a party affiliation on their registration form. This enables the voter to participate in primarily elections, which in many states are restricted to those registered in one or the other party.

    Also, in the US, “who doesn’t vote” is lots of people, of all races.

  3. Jill

    Oh! I had no idea you actually declare your affiliation when registering. I guess I sort of see the point of the primaries (do any other countries have them though?) but it kind of messes up the idea of a secret ballot, doesn’t it?

  4. Jason

    Mark hit the nail on the head, of course. Easy to tell by the checkmark. And you use the same form to register, change address, and sign up for a party … so if you had to do any of the above, you had to fill out a form this year. Tearing them up isn’t just outrageous – it’s also pretty illegal.

    Slight correction – deadlines for registration are set by state, so while certain states like Maryland have deadlines today, other states (like Virginia) had deadlines last week.

  5. Jill

    Ah. Thanks about the deadline correction. While searching for this stuff I discovered that the US election’s are hugely decentralised, unlike, say, the Canadian or Australian federal elections, which are run federally rather than state-by-state. So there are a lot of different rules in different states. Which is actually one of the problems the international observers point out.

    Democracy is not only complicated, it’s done differently everywhere, it seems.

  6. Jason

    I honestly haven’t looked too closely at Australian or Canadian procedures … it would be interesting to compare. Do they, for example, have any type of electoral college (which seems to have outlived its usefulness in US elections)?

  7. Jill

    Um, what’s an electoral college?

    Honestly, I’m not an expert. But the Wikipedia has a lovely table of voting systems by country and lots and lots of information on different kinds of democracy.

  8. Anthony

    Some states do not require listing of a party affiliation. However, those agents or agencies seeking to have a scurvy influence on the ability to others to vote could employ indirect tactices, by making use of demographics via, for example, mail “zip code” or date of birth.

  9. Jason

    In U.S. elections, the popular vote determines which states give their electoral college votes to a candidate. Each state has a number of electoral college votes equal to the total number of senators (always 2) and representatives from the House (determined by state population).

    This is how it is possible to win a popular vote and lose the general election in the U.S. This is also why one hears about so-called “battleground” states – states where the balance of votes for either candidate is so tight that a few votes can tip a number of electoral college votes one way or the other (like Ohio).

    According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Electoral_College), it is in fact possible to win only 23% of the popular vote and still win the presidency.

    Thanks for pointing to the Wikipedia table. Fun with democracy! 😉

  10. Mark Bernstein

    Long ago, when they were setting up the USA, there was a tricky problem. Some states had lots of people; others had fewer. Some states were densely populated and likely to grown even denser; others were agrarian. And some states had slaves, and others didn’t.

    The electoral college was a compromise cobbled together so none of the states felt totally disadvantaged by the union.

    You see the same sorts of conflicts today in discussing the political structure of the EU. You’ve got 5 million Danes and 82 million Germans — and, knocking on the door, 79 million Turks; if you’re going to have a federal policy, the Danes and the Estonians and the Czechs and the Irish all want to have some assurance they won’t be completely forgotten. However this all shakes out, in 300 years it’s bound to generate some anachronisms

  11. Jill

    Oh, right. I knew that, had just forgotten the name. Too many systems to learn em all.

  12. 8thstreetlatinas

    I discovered that the US election’s are hugely decentralised, unlike, say, the Canadian or Australian federal elections, which are run federally rather than state-by-state.

  13. Ben the Geographer

    I was commenting primarily on the situation in my homestate of Michigan (difficult to comment on other places without being there), which is hugely segregated by race and voter do not have to declare a pary except when voting in a primary (hence the McCain Democrats….McCain won Michigan in the 2000 primary because all the Democrats voted as republicans).

    As for voting in Canada, I have observed two federal and one provincial (Quebec) elections during my last 4 years in here in Montreal and I must say I like the fact that the Green party can get federal funding eventhough they do not have a single seat in Parliment. On the other hand, I only give the current minority government six more months.

  14. Deena Larsen

    Some more complications:
    Not only do rules differ by STATE, they differ by County. So my neighbor may not have the same requirements I do.

    Also, a friend of mine registered to vote when she applied for welfare. The Welfare office systematically destroyed these registrations–and my friend only found out that she was not eligible to vote when she called to get her precinct number.

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