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It Is Not Too Early to Ask: Can the US Pull Off a November Election Amid Coronavirus?

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/23/it-not-too-early-ask-can-us-pull-november-election-amid-coronavirus

Right now, I don’t see why Trump would want to postpone the election in November. The ones most likely to be face no health, or other restrictions, are likely to be his supporters.

However, I anticipate another unexpected crisis unfolding this Fall. Time will tell.

And, even if Biden is elected, the economy is trashed and without an organized movement of folk in the street shutting down business as usual, I expect the country to take a very deep dive to the right.

It is apparently their job to trash the economy, they always do.
I think that’s right about fake crisis’. I wouldn’t doubt they have several lined to use as needed.
Trump would postpone the election to steal WH time. Then steal the election. Then break more laws.
And why is Barr standing next to trump today instead of sitting in jail. This country no longer belongs to the people.

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I would go further - no early voting, no voting machines, 100% vote by mail.

  1. Get the ballots out as early as possible giving people who don’t receive their ballots in time a chance to register that they don’t have one and have the situation remedied. Give the people with any disabilities the longest time to make arrangements for someone to help them fill out their ballot.

  2. Encourage people to return their ballots as soon as possible (I’m pretty bad about this - I always drop mine at the precinct on voting day - this year I don’t mind leaving my comfort zone). Use the same tracking number technology in use now be some states at least to see that your vote was received.

  3. Possible sterilization of ballots (I heard China is irradiating its money).

  4. Count early but announce that election night will not be the same as results will take longer.

  5. Save all the ballots and any rejections are going to be subject to reevaluation if the total number of ballots rejected was enough to change winners in a given state (I’d love to be rid of the EC this time, but obviously we are stuck with it for now).

I agree with Julie Hollar that we definitely should be talking about this now rather than later. I realize many people here hate Biden (as do I), but there is enough chaos already, I do not want the chaos of a completely bungled election - I don’t predict something good blossoming from such chaos.


I have always thought early voting was a bad idea. Too many wasted votes as people drop out or change their platform.

With mail-in, it seemed to have all of those weaknesses, but also subject to easier manipulation with tossed or altered votes (remember, I am in Florida. It is an art here).

But your combined solution, with what I quoted and all you added after that, sounds like the best idea for now. Maybe not forever, but as someone who has spent the last 2.5 days in bed, and still barely able to focus beyond doing what needs to be done so I can go back to bed, we need a better solution than “normal”… and shouldn’t allow cancellation or postponement of the election.

Yes that is an issue when we don’t have RCV (and we won’t have that in the general either). But some people putting ballots in the mail a bit earlier will probalby help with the operation and I don’t think the problems you mentioned will plague the general.

I feel like staying in bed sometimes but I’m not sick and I’m in a family of 4 (one son is a stepson, so I still only reproduced myself once) with lots of stuff to do. Are you sick or depressed? (both suck I realize). Best of luck in any case.

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Both. But I am used to the depression. {wink} I am a progressive American so it is to be expected.

As far as sick, I have some symptoms, but no fever. So I am doing better than others.

Day by day is the new American motto. For better or worse, that is all we can hope for.

Waking up tomorrow is the new “nirvana”.

And thanks for the best wishes…

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In my judgement, yours is an importantly wise contribution.

Thank you.

Sorry to hear that you are having health problems Seeker. As the harried customer said to the clerk at the upholstery shop: “I hope you recover quickly!”


Oh god… I know a VERY distasteful joke along the same lines.


What do you think of the Oregon system, which already does this? I’ve been wondering if the easiest 100% vote by mail system to actually implement quickly might be to just clone a system already in place. I’ll have to research where they’ve had problems.


I don’t know any details from Oregon but I have heard of their system. I agree that ‘heritage’ as they say at my job is very important so it’s great we have a reference example. I’ve been on permanent absentee in CA since they allowed anyone to enroll and I love it. I can’t imagine waiting in line and moving to all vote by mail is one of the many no brainier changes we could make in the US if you ask me. (And let’s add some non-binding opinion questions while we’re at it!)

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They have not managed to run a primary. So presumably not. To what extent will they manage to convince people that they have?

This one might appeal to you ~https://xkcd.com/2225/

(perhaps @webwalk hasn’t seen that cartoon and would enjoy it too)

Yes funny. I had to look up the term Louisiana primary which I had not heard before but see that it means the same thing as what we in California call a Jungle primary. I like this idea, but with RCV and not needing an actual runoff election when no one gets the majority, it becomes a lot better as you have the election in general when more are going to turn out. Imagine if we could have had a ballot with Sanders, Biden, Trump, and a few other major players on it in November. Then the people who like Sanders but are afraid he can’t win will usually (not counting strategic voters) choose Sanders > some candidates > Biden > all other candidates besides Trump > Trump (or don’t rank Trump - same difference).

Never heard of cumulative voting either which looks like range voting with a sum constraint.

Multiple Non Transferable Vote - at first I thought it was a joke, but it is used to pick more than one winner. I’m really nowhere nearly as well informed on multiple winner elections as I am on single winner elections which comprise most of our elections (though I wish we had proportional representation).

Single Transferable Vote - I’ve heard this term and confirmed my understanding that if we are talking just single winner elections - this is identical to IRV. And since I’ve never studied any form of multi-winner elections, I don’t know the details on this scheme applied to that case either.

Borda Count - I know this method uses RCV ballots (as does IRV, Condorcet, and perhaps others though these are the only three I know of) . I never really liked this one - maybe it’s the truncated ballot problem - I don’t really want to think when I have to stop ranking - I’d rather rank the whole field if possible or if they give my 3 or 5, then I’ll rank those. Maybe it’s just lack of familiarity - I’ve spent most of my reading time on IRV and Condorcet (reading articles at ~fairvote.org that advocate for IRV and various places advocating for Condorcet including the now defunct ~condorcet.org).

Off the top of my head the simple thing that I liked about Condorcet was the much reduced sufficient statistic you can use to count ballots and move the statistic up the tree to the overall winner. (the statistic being N*(N-1)/2 pairs of numbers. Each pair representing a pair wise race computed by seeing which candidate is ranked above the other). I also kind of liked the idea of a consensus candidate even though many progressives think that is the wrong direction. But the big mess happens when there isn’t a Condorcet winner and you need a finishing scheme to pick among the Smith set. I never found any of those schemes all that satisfying and I’d hate to have to argue to voters why we picked one scheme over another.

On the IRV side, the big advantage is that the algorithm is very simple to explain and thus more likely to get buy in among a majority of voters (and they succeeded in Maine). It’s hard for me to understand comparisons about which methods are less prone to certain types of strategic voting - I know IRV proponents claim they are less vulnerable to some types. And I recall ~fairvote.org claims the consensus candidate can be a downside if that candidate doesn’t have a decent number of people supporting them in first place.

I’ve pretty much assigned my first choice to IRV and I don’t have the remaining choices ranked - I don’t think there is a possibility of any other scheme to be honest, or I would put some more thought into it.

If we limited ourselves to RCV type schemes it would be interesting to see how often the IRV winner is not the winner of the other schemes (as long as you kept the full statistic of a every ballot configuration and the number of times it occurred - that’s what you need for IRV anyway).

It’s not as common an example, but I’d be interested in seeing poll questions expressed as Ranked Choice also - for example, did Brexit have to be yes or no? Perhaps some forms of Brexit would be ranked by some voters of Brexit even behind no-Brexit and it might not have happened (I still think Brexit was a bad idea, though it’s none of my business).

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i do appreciate the comic. My preference is Score Voting (called Range Voting in the comic), with a range of four or ten (zero to three points or zero to nine points).

RCV, Score Voting, and Approval Voting (the simplest form of Score Voting, with a range from zero to one) are all simple to vote, and all greatly reduce the strategic voting; lesser-evil voting; “wasted” votes; the tendency to resolve to a duopoly / barriers to “third” party candidates; and the pointless recriminations among voters, all of which are fueled by first-past-the-post, single non-transferable voting.

But RCV can get crazy trying to tally the votes through multiple “instant runoffs,” especially when the electorate is segmented into different precincts, while Score / Approval Voting just requires addition, with the highest score the winner.

i prefer a wider range than just two, so that i can differentiate among candidates, so i go for Score Voting rather than Approval Voting.

(Approval Voting is perhaps an easier sell at this stage, since it does not require any change to ballots from the current first-past-the-post, single non-transferable vote system, except an instruction at the top to “Vote for each candidate that your approve” rather than “Vote for only one candidate”. But RCV has become more widely known as an alternative.)

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Of course multiple winner elections come up a lot in municipalities with city-wide council races and in school district races. Such races are extremely important to the formation and sustainability of alternative parties. Parties like the Greens often have one or two great candidates at this level and get into the organized debates and since you don’t need a ton of money - such races are theoretically winnable. However they face big party slate voting so even if an alternative party candidate might be everyone’s second or third choice individually - they get very little of the slate voting numbers they need to win.

For those interested in building a left/progressive third party from the ground up (rather than through this silly top down once-every-four-years presidential nonsense) - the method of voting definitely matters. Thus, I’d want to be sure that the method chosen works fairly for both single and multiple winner elections and logistically works the same and transparently from the voters point of view.

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Good to know. Do you have a preference on multiple winner electon methods? (and on single winner for that matter)

One of the points of my post above is that the two issues have to be dealt with in tandem rather than separately. For single winner elections - I prefer methods with ranked choices in a single election as you often advocate since it eliminates the concept of the “wasted vote” which is so detrimental to democratic values. So, if voters get used to ranking candidates, then you wouldn’t want them to be using a system like cumulative voting for the multi winner races since the ballot would look so different (even though cumulative voting is very advantageous to alternative parties getting at least some representation on councils). That leads me to something like single transferable voting which - as you say above - is an instant runoff system with a criteria to be declared a winner of 1/(# of winners + 1) and all excess votes above that criteria going to your next choice on a proportional basis.

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Or to put it another way, it is very difficult to be a politician in Amerika if you have principles.