• Certainly.  As you see on the list of John Bonifaz's recommendations, before helping with transportation, he suggested opening up all city and town clerk's offices in Massachusetts to assist Katrina victims with absentee ballots - exactly what you recommend.

    Unfortunately, not all registered voters were eligible to vote absentee.  Louisiana law has some restrictions, for example on people who had registed but not voted in person yet in a previous election (they relaxed those restrictions somewhat after Katrina, but not enough).

  • With respect to those Katrina survivors who are ineligible to cast absentee ballots

    "ineligible" - no fax stations set up by other states would have helped these people.  Only the state of Louisiana could have proved an option for them to vote without travelling to Louisiana.

  • For those of you who want to follow the numbers and estimates in my post in detail, I want to add an editorial comment about uncertainty that I glossed over in my post: When you combine two numbers with uncertainties, you also have to combine their uncertainty.

    For example, say we think there are 55 +|-5 voters (50-60) voters in an election out of a population of of 100 +|-5 (95-105) eligible voters.  Turnout could be anywhere from:
      lower bound 50 / 105 = 47.6%
      upper bound 60 / 95 = 63.2%
    Turnout = 55.4% +|- 7.8%

    Notice that 7.8% is about 14% of 55.4%, so the turnout could also be expressed as 0.554 +|-7%

    If we express all of our variance by percentage, we have:
    100 +|- 5%, divided by 55 +|- 9%, gives 0.554 +|- 7%
    7% is the average of 5% and 9% - that is not a coincidence!

    Applying this to my post, you may also find that carried over the uncertainty from the rapid population estimate into other calculations without combining it with other uncertainties which I felt were less significant, and which are also not as available.  You may want to go back through and see what's missing, though I don't think it will have a significant effect on the final conclusions.

    In general, I expressed imprecise numbers by only giving as many significant figures as I felt we could rely on, though in some cases it's not clear - for example, I think we have two significant figures in the 5,000 and 6,000 estimates of in-city and out-of-city satellite voting, even though those numbers look like they might just have one.  Also, my estimate of 125,000 registered voters back in the city is sort of a 2-and-a-half sigfigs estimate, otherwise I'd have said 126,000 - I think that 6 would imply more precision than I have.

    Some numbers, however, are presented in forms that look precise, even though they're not.  There are the US Census estimate of total population, and the EAC estimates of voting age citizen population.  Both of those sources give us the number at the middle of their bell curve confidence interval, but make it clear how high their uncertainty is.  We're just assuming their confidence is fairly high.

    When calculating turnout, the only numbers that are really precise all the way to the 1's place are the numbers of ballots cast, and the number of registered voters.  These are exact counts.  They might have some error (for example, perhaps someone moved and reregistered to vote with a slightly different name and they didn't notice it was the same person and counted that voter twice), but they're precise.

  • Thanks for the link!

    I read several of these, but decided not to get involved in estimating black & white vote because that would probably have taken me another couple of days of research.  Also, because it's been much more widely covered by the press, and the estimates are out there, whereas with the numbers I was seeking, there was nothing.

  • Sort of.  I think actual satellite stations operated like early voting stations, where you just vote.  But I'm not sure - perhaps they were just places where you could apply for and cast absentee ballots all at once.

    In any case, it certainly was possible to set up absentee ballot assistance stations anywhere, though without the State of Louisiana's direct involvement, they'd still have depended on wait time to get the applications approved (which is why you refer to having enough staff, right?).  Only Louisiana could set up stations that could approve you to vote on the spot, with access to their voter file.

    Here in Massachusetts, as I reported, we did open up the three regional secretary of state's offices to Katrina evacuees for absentee ballot assistance.  John Bonifaz called for doing something like that with all of the city & town clerks' offices throughout the state.  Here in MA, elections are run by cities and towns (we mostly don't have county governments).  If we'd done that, Katrina evacuees could have voted from whatever town hall was nearest them, which would have been quite convenient.

  • The week before the election, Ed Davis posted about voting absentee on the Common Cause blog:

    As of today, April 18, if you want to vote absentee you need a computer, internet connection and fax machine, not items that most poor evacuees scooped up along with their children when they evacuated. I decided to cast an absentee ballot since I will be out of town the day of the election. First I had to download the "absentee ballot request form" from the Secretary of State's site. I filled it out and then had to walk to a local coffee shop to find two strangers willing to sign as witnesses--otherwise I had to pay a notary. Then I had to fax in the request and wait. One problem: there is no fax number on the request form. So I called the 1-(800)-833-2805 which is listed as an information line on the form. I dialed that and got the following: "The toll free number you have dialed in not in service." Then I called the Secretary of State office at the regular number and they gave me their own fax number and said the toll-free line must not be operating. Then I dialed the Secretary of State fax number at (225) 922-0945. Busy. Then I called the local voter registrar and they gave me a local number which did work. I am now waiting for them to fax me a ballot. And waiting. When and if it comes I will fax the completed form back to the voter registrar's office and hope it arrives along with the other tens of thousands of ballots.

    I can't imagine what displaced people in the Baker, Louisiana FEMA trailer court, with no phones, no computers, no faxes, and no money are going to do.

  • comment on a post 10 Million Registered Democrats Read Blogs? over 8 years ago

    If you resize images that contain text data, the text often becomes unreadable.

    Really, if it's text, it should be presented as text (with HTML markup), not graphic.  All the logic to handle text, including wrapping and scaling and changing fonts, is already built in to every browser as is most appropriate to that browser and its environment.  There are even browsers that read the text to blind users.  You can't duplicate all of that functionality server-side, and you wouldn't want to try.

  • comment on a post December 31, 2006 over 8 years ago

    There are some places in Iraq where our troops are succeeding and have the support of local Iraqi leaders.  While these bright spots are unfortunately few, I'd like for any redeployment to leave open the possibility of continuing to lend military support (and a local presence) to local Iraqi leaders where the local population requests it.  In addition we should funnel reconstruction resources to those places, where in many cases basic security has been established by major reconstruction hasn't followed.

    Have you considered this?

    P.S. You were inspiring during the initial debate on the Iraq force resolution in 2003.  I listened for hours to the debate on the Senate floor, and I want to thank you (and Robert Byrd, and Ted Kennedy, and a few others) for what you said then, even though you did not prevail.  I also thank you for trying to organize a filibuster, and getting half the Senate's Democrats to support you, in opposition to your own party's Senate leadership.

  • If I Recall.

    More commonly, IIRC, "If I Recall Correctly"

  • comment on a post Kennedy On Healthcare over 8 years ago

    Unfortunately, since we ran out of time, I never got to hear a more in-depth explanation for his position on the proposed wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

    I made the same mistake several times before I learned.  The most frustrating incident was in late 2003, when a group of local Greens and former Greens arranged a house meeting with Ralph Nader's exploratory committee here near Boston, to talk about whether he should run for president.  I, along with a co-founder of MassForDean and a couple of others, were there to ask him to endorse Howard Dean in the Democratic primary, and to not run himself - or at least wait until he saw who the Democratic nominee would be.  We were going around the room, and I had two points to make, one simpler but the other more important.  When we got to me, I said I had these two points to make, and I'd start with the simpler one.  When I finished with that one, Nader said okay, let's move on, we'll get to your next point later.  But we never got to later.

    I think he'd already pretty much made up his mind that he would run, and indeed, he never endorsed Dean and did run.  We may have accomplished something: He said he intended to announce whether he would run in December, but ended up not doing so until a few months later - and about a week after Dean lost in Wisconsin and abandoned his bid for the nomination.

    Still, whether or not we did any good, it was so frustrating that I never got to use what I felt was my strongest appeal... and to know that I could have if I'd opened with it.

    Always expect to get only one chance, at these sorts of things.  If you get a second, it's a bonus.

  • comment on a post Some Thoughts on Rhode Island over 8 years ago

    It would be one thing if Chafee were clearly the better candidate on the environment in the general election.  Then it would make sense to talk about the balance between supporting those who support your issues, vs. the enabling Senate leadership that opposes them.  But how likely are Rhode Island Democrats to nominate a candidate for Senate who isn't better than Chafee on this issue?

    When it comes to endorsing the candidate who is not the better candidate on your issue, and it's also strategically a tough choice because of the trade-offs you described, the choice seems simple to me: Wait until we know who the Democratic nominee is, evaluate his and Chafee's positions and records, and endorse the better candidate (as far as environmental issues go).  Doing so allows the group to avoid "playing politics" and keep its integrity.

  • You may recall that the Massachusetts legislature voted 105 to 92 in favor of an amendment to ban gay marriage in 2004, then voted 39 to 157 for the same amendment a in 2005, killing it (we require two successive legislatures to vote on an amendment).

    Some of the switched votes were hard conservatives who had voted for the compromise amendment (which would've banned gay marriage but created civil unions) the first time but have now switched their alliegance to a new ballot-initiated amendment that would ban all same sex unions altogether.  But it's a real question whether, when that comes up for a vote this year, they'll even be able to get the 50 votes out of 2000 that they need to move that forward.  We really did have somewhere on the order of 60 votes, more than a quarter of our legislature, change their substantive position on the issue in just over a year.  Why?

    There are a number of reasons, but the strongest among them was a series of well executed primary challenges.  In the 2004 primaries, we challenged a very small number of anti-gay-marriage incumbents.  One of our challengers, 20-something gay lawyer and first time candidate Carl Sciortino, defeated a 16 year incumbent conservative Democratic state rep by just 93 votes in the September primary.  The effect was spectacular.

    Along with another pro-gay-marriage candidate defeating a (much less entrenched) incumbent, a trio of successes in special elections for open seats in early 2005, we changed the political ground.  We closed the deal with a blowout win for Pat Jehlen in a special election for an open state senate seat in late summer 2005, shortly before the second vote on the amendment.  But the pivotal point was, IMO, Carl's win.  It shocked the legislature, and made them feel vulnerable for voting to ban gay marriage.

  • comment on a post 10 Million Registered Democrats Read Blogs? over 8 years ago

    Using images rather than HTML tables clashes with your CSS layout.  In my browser window, the right sides of the images overlap the right sidebar, so I can't see what's in the tables or on the sidebar.  If I weren't using a 12" powerbook, perhaps I'd have a wide enough browser window to read it all.  And of course I can open the images separately to look at them.  Just wanted to point out this flaw you may not have noticed because your browser window is wider.  With HTML elements, the browser can control how things flow, with images, it has much less leeway.

  • I think Internet providers were covered under the Telecom law until sometime last year, so there was some requirement for neutrality, until the FCC dumped it.  Is that not true?

  • This is an example of why we need to talk about common carriers.  As soon as we use that term, we hook into a legislator's existing body of knowledge on the subject.  We shift the ground from:

    Having the government tell a cable or phone company how to manage the pipes that offer their clients Internet service would fare no better than having the government tell Wal-Mart how to stock its lawn and garden department.
    ... to: "Having the government tell Internet carriers that they must treat all their clients neutrally would fare as well as when the government said the same thing to the railroads and then to the phone companies."

    At that point, we're no longer in a debate on the merits.  Most of them know that worked quite well.  With them, we win, presumptively, and the burden is on the other side to open up a debate.


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