Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Florida voters disenfranchised ... again

The extremely poor coverage of the big story of this election has been a disgrace of mainstream media incompetence more than bias but I think both are a problem in this election. Party insider politics rather than voting are determining the outcome of the election. Most in the press are fretting that it will be Clinton who would pull a backroom play while they fail to talk much about the most significant aspect of the Democrat primary so far - the disenfranchisement of *every voter* in Florida and Michigan.

The first problem is that the popular vote should be determining things rather than state by state voting. The idea is to mimic our seriously problematic electoral college system which determines the national election, but with all the superdelegate and back room disenfranchisements it's not having that effect anyway. The people - not the party hacks - should control all the elections and America is dangerously close to failing in that area ... yet again.

Did the voters make the decision to hold these primaries early? NO! Did Florida and Michigan voters decide to delete their votes? NO! Party hacks determined this outcome though I don't understand how or why. Presumably both the Obama and Clinton campaigns saw strategic advantages to this or they would have bitched louder. But that is not particularly relevant. The key question regarding teh nominee should be simply this: Who do Democrats want to represent them? Party insiders have made it hard to determine this with clarity. The race is extremely close and a huge number of delegates may not be seated. The superdelegate process is an anti-Democracy outrage, clearly designed to take control away from voters and give enough control to party insiders to determine the outcome.

Florida voters must be getting used to being disenfranchised - in 2000 the butterfly ballots of Palm Beach County were seriously flawed (they were designed by Democratic Party officials). Ballot spoilage threw the entire state - and the presidency - to George Bush. The focus was all on the chads which would *not* have affected the outcome had a recount been allowed. However the Palm Beach Butterfly ballots - Designed by a democrat - almost certainly threw the election to Bush.

Yet the Democratic Party had few qualms about the decision to delete the Florida vote from the current primary.

It is certainly true that rules should matter, both campaigns agreed to these rules (why?!), and Obama supporters are right to say that it's not "fair" to allocate to Clinton votes that might have gone to Obama if Florida party hacks and national party hacks had not mangled this process, but it's *even more unfair* to disenfranchise the Florida voters - again.

However if they did allocate the delegates according to votes in Michigan and Florida here are some scenarios:

Michigan popular vote: 55% to Clinton, 40% Uncommitted to Obama -
Clinton gains 23 delegates.

Michigan split the uncommitted vote: 75% to Clinton, 20% Obama -
Clinton gains 85 delegates

Florida: 50% to Clinton, 33% to Obama. Clinton net gain of 36 delegates.

Thus if we count these states Clinton would gain a net of either 59 delegates or 121 delegates depending on how you allocate the Michigan uncommitted vote.

As of today 1884-1718 = 166 votes separate Obama and Clinton so even the rosiest picture for Clinton would still have her trailing Obama by some 55 delegates, throwing the election squarely to the superdelegates and more party hack back room wheeling and dealing.

A solution to this mess? Clearly, new elections are needed in Florida and Michigan. Party hacks decided against this earlier in the year, but they were wrong to discard the only fair option. However this is very unlikely to happen. Welcome to our new Banana Republic voting system.

Gamesmanship is deciding the outcome of the election. Ironically this is likely to lead to an Obama victory as his strategists have more masterfully played their cards than Clinton's have and Obama really does seem to have a kind of groundswell support sorely lacking in Clinton voters.

Historically there has always been gamesmanship and strategy - but the extent to which that trumps the pure and unadulterated Democracy we all should seek is the extent to which we have a good vs a bad system. What shoud be clear to all after the elections debacle of 2000 and the questionable backroom politics of 2008 is that we have a bad system that is subject to uncertainty and manipulation.

The solution is simple - one vote to one person and no electoral college.

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