Dear President-Elect Trump, Facts Must Interfere with your Opinions

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

 But today it is time to get back to work, and neither you nor the nation can afford another day of Twits about the recount.  Unfortunately, Sir, although you are over 50, you are also the most powerful person on the planet, or will be in six weeks.  Facts must interfere with your opinions.

 So, for starters, millions of illegal votes were not cast for Hillary Clinton.  She won the popular vote fair and square because, quite honestly, your comments as Candidate repelled most people who live in the cities, and most of America lives in cities.  But for the Constitutionally enshrined Electoral College, she, not you, would flaunt the term PEOTUS.  Please remember that over the next four years.

Second, you have insulted the integrity of the local Boards of Elections all over the country.  These overworked, underpaid public servants manage unwieldy technology, ever-changing election laws, and ignorant voters.  They do not knowingly or willingly permit any illegal voting, and illegal voting could not successfully occur on the scale you are suggesting.  There are too many checks and balances built into the technology, too many poll watchers at the precincts, and too many post-election reporting requirements to permit mass voter fraud.  Frankly, it is difficult enough to attract, train, and retain qualified, committed people to these jobs so vital to our nation’s identity without you defaming them.

Third, you seem to have a persistent problem with Twitting before you think.  It is time to stop.  Every time something provokes you, you make sure the entire world knows.  This embarrasses you, Melania, the kids, the country, and the Office of the Presidency.  More importantly, it shows our enemies how easily it is to manipulate you.  During your Presidency, when you feel provoked, please keep in mind what Teddy Roosevelt said, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.”  Or the ever popular, “never let them see you sweat.”  Or the famous song from West Side Story,  

Boy, boy, crazy boy, 

Get cool, boy! 

Got a rocket in your pocket, 

Keep coolly cool, boy! 

Don’t get hot, 

‘Cause man, you got 

Some high times ahead. 

Take it slow and Daddy-O, 

You can live it up and die in bed! 

 

Boy, boy, crazy boy! 

Stay loose, boy! 

Breeze it, buzz it, easy does it. 

Turn off the juice, boy! 

Go man, go, 

But not like a yo-yo schoolboy. 

Just play it cool, boy, 

Real cool! 

 

If all else fails, there is always medication.  Think about it.

 God bless America,

 The Wednesday Morning Quarterback        

Five Observations About the Election

First, let me just say that as the name implies, Wednesday Morning Quarterback is meant to look at things in hindsight.  Like the rest of the country, I fully expected Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency, and thought it probable the Democrats would retake the Senate.  So, these observations are not meant to be an “I told you so” exercise, but, rather my thoughts over the last several days, starting with the outcome of the election and working backwards.

By now everyone on the planet except maybe some indigenous peoples in Australia know that Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States.  Apparently, he won the presidency because, in the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, white working class voters who had previously supported Obama switched to Trump, and fewer urban, minority voters showed up to vote for Clinton.  With that in mind, I offer the following observations, caveats, and conclusions.

  1. Vision wins. Donald Trump had a vision.  It was dystopian.  I recoiled from it every time he referred to it in the two debates I watched.  However, Hillary Clinton did not articulate a vision.  She articulated policy points, but not a grand cohesive idea of where America was and where it should go.  Typically, a hopeful vision beats a morose vision (see  Obama v. McCain, 2008), but apparently a dystopian vision beats no vision at all.  David Brooks made this point after the first debate.  When asked for his reaction by the PBS team, he stated, “Well, Clinton did not articulate a case for why she should be President.”  At the time I thought he was being overly critical, since she had done a really good job in the face of Trump’s boorish behavior.  In fact, his observation was prescient.
  1. Themes persuade. “Make America Great Again,” became almost a joke in the final weeks of the campaign. Yet every time I saw Trump or his surrogates dressed casually, they were wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.  In contrast, Hillary had –??  “I’m with her”??  Not really the same thing.  As a prosecutor many years ago, I quickly learned that the way to win a jury trial was not with facts but with message – which I repeated over and over and over again.  I saw jurors return not guilty verdicts not because the facts were weak, but because the defense attorney had obscured the facts with a clever and effective message.
  1. Sexism comes in many different forms, and the most pernicious may be the least obvious. I doubt that any one of the 58 million people who voted for Trump will defend his vulgar comments to Billy Bush in 2005.  Nonetheless, the fact remains that white working class voters in the Rust Belt voted for Obama, oftentimes twice, but did not vote for a woman.  Urban minority voters made sure they voted for Obama twice, but did not bother to show up for a woman.  These two groups did not change their behavior because Clinton offered different policy prescriptions than Obama; she ran on a platform to continue and improve the status quo.  When I was a young prosecutor, I was assigned to a courtroom with another young woman.  The judge was a classic progressive liberal.  He never said anything ugly or demeaning to us.  I’m sure he prided himself in his equal treatment of women.  But the only time I saw him come off the bench to speak to us was the day I brought a young male intern into the courtroom.  The judge came off the bench to shake that young man’s hand.   I doubt it ever occurred to the judge that he had never bothered to come off the bench to speak to me or my partner, let alone to shake our hands.  Oftentimes, those treating different groups differently are completely oblivious to their own behavior.
  1. Sometimes bad people do good things. Before anyone moves to Canada, please take a couple of weeks to read Robert Caro’s magnificent “Master of the Senate.”  It is the third in a so-far four part biography of LBJ.  “Master” runs about 1000 pages, but it won just about every award possible and remains the most important 1000 pages of American history I’ve ever read.  It comprehensively details not just LBJ’s eight years in the Senate, but also America in the 1950s.  The point is that LBJ is every bit as vulgar, crude, dishonest, sexist, racist, narcissistic, manipulative and fragile as Candidate Trump.  There were any number of honest, well-intentioned Democratic and Republic Senators serving with Johnson who wanted to end Jim Crow.  Yet they never bothered to learn Senate procedure and allowed the Southern Democrats, led by Richard Russell, to outsmart them at every turn. It was  LBJ, despite his many flaws, notwithstanding the number of lives he ruined, who passed the first Civil Rights Act in 1957, and then, as President, manipulated, threatened, and cajoled  Congress into passing the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act (RIP!), the Fair Housing Act, Medicaid, Medicare . . . .
  1. Let’s all be a little bit nicer to each other just in case. I don’t know where this country is going.  But I intend to smile a little bit more fully, to be a little bit more present, in my interactions with strangers, particularly those of a different race or religion.  And I would ask those who do not share my race or religion, as well as those who do, to do the same thing.  At the risk of sounding hokey, let’s turn “A house divided cannot stand” into “a people united cannot fall.”  Every day, we can choose to offer civility, respect, and maybe even some empathy to others.  It can’t hurt.

Could Selina Meyer possible return as the Veep?

So The Wednesday Morning Quarterback has been a big fan of Selina Meyer, Dan, Amy, Mike, and most importantly, Sue, since Season 1, Episode 1, when the Veep literally hopped up and down in frustration at some bureaucratic inanity. As a recovering bureaucrat, WMQ was thrilled to finally see a TV show accurately capture government service — neither full of high ideals nor intrigue and skullduggery, but mostly about ridiculous circumstances out of everyone’s control.

WMQ was even more excited when she finally got around to watching this spring’s Season Finale — as Election Night ends in a tie and Selina’s attempt to become the first woman president is thrown to the House of Representatives. What a great topic for a summer blog post!!

So, here are the answers to some of your questions. Please let me know if you have others:

1. How can the Presidential Election end in a tie?

There are 538 Electoral College votes. The winner only has to win by a simple majority, so the winner needs to get 270 votes. Unfortunately, given the different number of electoral college votes each state is entitled to, there are different ways to run the numbers to reach a tie at 269 apiece.

2. Why is there an even number of Electoral College votes?

Each state gets a number of electoral college votes equal to the sum of its Congressmen and Senators, so Georgia has 16 electoral college votes: 14 for the Congressional Districts, and 2 for the Senators. Places like Wyoming get three votes: 1 for its Representative and 2 for its Senators. This equals 535 votes. Then, per the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, the District of Columbia gets the same number of votes as the state with the fewest votes, so it gets a total of 3, meaning we have 538 votes.

3. OK, so she’s tied. And I remember from 8th grade civics class that at that point the election gets thrown to the House of Representatives. But how does Tom James end up as President?

According to the 12th Amendment, if the Electoral College is tied, then each state’s delegation in the House of Representatives gets one vote for President, among the top three candidates on the ballot. (Of course in our HBO scenario, there were only two candidates.) On the last episode of “Veep” it was suggested that this would prove difficult since many House races were too close to call. In reality, thanks to gerrymandering, I think it is unlikely that so many House races would be too close to call as to prohibit each Congressional delegation from casting a vote for the Presidency.

But for the sake of some excellent television, we’ll assume that the House cannot get its 12th Amendment act together. In the meantime, the Senate votes on the vice-president and each Senator gets one vote. Assuming the Senate is more efficient (hmm, hmm) than the House, then whomever it votes for becomes the Vice President. Per the 20th Amendment, the Vice President acts as President until a President is qualified.

Here is where it gets a little tricky: while the 25th Amendment permits the President to appoint a Vice President, subject to confirmation by both the House and the Senate, I don’t see 1) how the House gets out of its Constitutional duty to qualify a President; and 2) why Selina would accept the Veep position again.

According to what I’ve read about Veep, if the House vote for President ends in a tie, then, presto, Tom James, presumably elected by the Senate as Vice-President, becomes President. Except that isn’t exactly what the Constitution says; the Constitution says he can “act as President until a President shall have qualified.”

So perhaps James ends up as “acting President” and Selina as “acting Vice President?” The House never qualifies a President? Will Selina kill democracy?

The WMQ debated in college, and every single debate topic, whether it be third party politics or handgun control, always seemed to lead to nuclear war, at least in the imaginations of the 19 year old college debaters. I’m thinking a few of them may be writing for Veep now. Good job guys, but lets not get too apocolyptic.  Keep the House of Representatives functional, and avoid nuclear war.

10 things most voters don’t know

The Georgia Election Code is complicated.  It is not intuitive.  Here are 10 things Georgia voters should know before they vote in an election:

1.  If you are healthy, it is a felony to allow someone else to mail or deliver your absentee ballot for you.

2.  Never take a picture inside a voting booth.

3.  Avoid wearing politically related clothing into a precinct.  Although you do have a first Amendment right to free expression, there is a line.  It is vague.  You have other things to do than be the test case.

4.  Precincts must be set up in a certain way, to give voters privacy from one another but to enable precinct workers to monitor the room.

5.  If you vote on a DRE machine, and the machine does not record your vote, it has not been calibrated properly.  Report this immediately to an election worker.

6.  Never sign the name of a family member to a petition to put an independent candidate on the ballot.  It is considered forgery.

7.  Municipal elections in Georgia are non-partisan.  There will be no party labels next to the candidates on the ballots.

8.  There is no same day registration and voting in Georgia.  In order to vote in an election, you must register at least five weeks before the election.

9.  Especially if you are not a United States citizen, read the Motor Voter documents carefully when you get your license.  These are legal documents and if you unlawfully register to vote, you could be prosecuted and subject to deportation.

10. If you offer anything of value to someone else to get them to vote, from money to free coffee, you have committed bribery.  You may, however, give someone a stamp to mail in their absentee ballot (but don’t mail it in for them!)

Response to NYT articles on turnout

So Thursday turned quickly into Friday amid billable activities, errands, carpools and a nasty cold.  But here we are!

The Georgia Secretary of State has posted official results of the November 4 election here.  When provisional ballots are included, slightly over 50%, or 50.03% of registered voters showed up on or before November 4 to cast a ballot.  This offers some context for the NYT’s editorial on Wednesday asserting that 38.2% of the “eligible population” of Georgia voted.

Assuming that both these stats are correct, let’s figure out the eligible population:  2,596,947 = .382(eligible population).  Therefore, eligible population = 6,798,290.58.

Registered voters as a percentage of eligible population?  5,191,182 = x(6,798,290.58), or 76.4%.  So almost a quarter of Georgia’s eligible voting population has yet to register.

25% of the eligible population has yet to register.  50% of the registered voters don’t vote.  Leadership is decided by less than 40% of the people who could engage.

The NYT article conveniently answered the last of the three questions I had posed before the election, regarding our voter turnout versus an all vote-by-mail state such as Oregon or Colorado.  In both states, more than 50% of eligible voters voted, and they had the fifth and fourth highest voter participation, respectively, in the country.  Georgia ranked 30th.  (According to the Secretary of State’s website, vote-by-mail has a long way to go in Georgia, in the Senate Race, for example only about 107,000 out of more than 2.5 million ballots were cast by mail.)

Still waiting on the Secretary of State’s Office to post detailed statistics on the demographics of the 38.2% of the eligible population that voted.  Should be interesting.

About that voter turnout issue . . .

So the New York Times is running not one but two pieces today regarding voter turnout.  The first is an editorial: The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years and the second is about Colorado whipsaw gun politics:  Colorado Ousts Pro-Gun Republicans, Showing Effect of Turnout.

I’m not sure that I entirely agree with the editorial, and I’ll work through my thoughts later this evening or tomorrow morning.  For now, read the pieces and reflect.

Partial Answer to October 28 questions

Good afternoon folks,

It is quickly becoming obvious that posts will not appear strictly on Wednesdays, so check back often!

While the Secretary of State’s Office has not posted its data for the election last week (and who can blame them, as the results aren’t even certified yet) I can certainly tentatively answer a few of the questions I posed ten days ago:

1.  Does Sunday voting actually make a difference?  No, or at least not much.  According to the Secretary of State’s website, which lists the unofficial results for last week’s race as well as results and statistics on previous elections, voter turn-out in Georgia for last week’s election was an uninspiring 49.95%.  That’s right, less than half of registered voters bothered to show up.  And that doesn’t even address the people who are eligible to register to vote but haven’t.

While the stats for 2010 do not give a percentage of registered voters who voted, it does tell us how many people voted in the Senate and Governor’s races that year.  A total of 2,555, 258 voted in the Senate race and 2,576, 161 voted in the gubernatorial race.  Compare that to the unofficial count of 2,563,053 for Senator and 2,545,579 for Governor this year.  (At some point I’ll be able to add in fancy graphs!)  So approximately 8,000 more people voted for Senate and 30,000 fewer voted for Governor in 2014 as opposed to 2010.  In percentage terms, this is essentially flat. (One thing I’d like to know is how much money was spent per election . . . I’m thinking that each vote cost the PACs a lot more in 2014 than in 2010 . . .)

2.  What happens to minority turn-out in an off-year election with a lame duck President and intense battles over voter id throughout the country? Without the Secretary of State’s data, it is impossible to say for sure that minority turn-out was lower, but given the overall stats quoted above, and the fact that Republican candidates still beat the Democratic candidates handily, it is likely that minority turnout was, at best, flat compared to 2010.

3.  How does voter id affect voter turn-out vis-a-vis states like Oregon, which accepts only mail-in ballots?  This is a good question which we will save until the Secretary of State posts official results. Right now the unofficial results do not include provisional ballots, which are likely to be where photo id issues came most into play.

So whether you are elated or disappointed by Tuesday’s results, one take-away is that voter turnout still MATTERS, despite what all the pundits are saying.  For example, per the SOS unofficial results:

The turnout in Clayton, a heavily democratic, urban county, mirrored the state at 49.29%.  A little bit more than 65,000 voters stayed home.

By contrast, the county with the highest turnout was Fayette, at 61.09%.  Fayette is an Atlanta exurb which is developing quickly. Even so, over 27,000 registered voters let others decide their leadership for the next several years.

Until next time,

Ann

Welcome to the Wednesday Morning Quarterback!

We are one week away from E-Day, which, for the purposes of this blog, will hopefully shed light on the following questions:

  1. does Sunday voting actually make a difference?
  2. What happens to minority turn-out in an off-year election with a lame duck President and intense battles over voter id throughout the country?
  3. And how does voter id affect voter turnout vis-à-vis states like Oregon, which accepts only mail-in ballots?

The Wednesday Morning Quarterback aims to take a non-partisan look at election law (although editorials will sometimes appear!) and engage and educate its audience on questions core to democracy.

Enjoy the ride!