Monday, 15 June 2009

Iran so far away (gotta get away)

“The Red Pill” at Cadillac Tight gives some useful background information on how Iran’s political system is designed to work, which I expect will be of value to those trying to figure out exactly what is going on in Iran at the moment. For the uninitiated, it proves—if nothing else—that our system of checks and balances is not nearly as complicated a system as could be devised and made to work in practice; there’s also an interesting parallel to be drawn between the role of Iran’s Guardian Council and Madison’s proposed Council of Revision from the Virginia Plan, although the Guardian Council’s power to screen candidates for public office goes well beyond Madison’s plan.

The vetting function of the Guardian Council also raises some interesting questions about what sorts of qualifications for office are appropriate in a democracy. While the objective qualifications for public office in the United States are basically viewpoint-neutral (excluding the exemptions from onerous requirements to get on the ballot enjoyed by the two major parties in many states), other liberal democracies disqualify candidates or parties based on their political views—for example, national socialism is banned in Germany, while communists are banned in a few Eastern European countries—regardless of how palatable they may be to voters. Obviously these requirements exclude narrower ranges of opinion than does the Iranian system, but the question of where to draw the line does seem at least to be of academic interest.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

The paper

It is done. Or at least as done as it’s going to get before the conference. Now I can work on overheads or something on Tuesday before the big trip.

Charts and graphs

A sneak preview of part of my Midwest paper, for all zero of you waiting for it at the edge of your seat:

Suffice it to say I’ve spent more of this morning trying to figure out how to get R’s maptools package to merge the raw data with the cartography than I did on the actual data analysis, which was actually quite easy, even though the MCMC took forever.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Blaming the messenger

Let’s play spot the problem with this article about election problems in Mississippi:

Candidates in some of Hinds County’s split precincts were worried today that mistakes made by poll workers could impact election results.

In several split precincts, poll workers sometimes called up the incorrect ballot on voting machines for some voters, election officials and candidates said.

Hinds County Elections Commissioner Connie Cochran said she would not be surprised if election results are challenged because of the problem.

The problem was confined to split precincts, which cover more than one legislative district. The precincts that reported problems were 37, 81 and 93.

“It’s the same problem they had back in August,” Precinct 81 voter Bill Dilday said. “I don’t understand why the election commission cannot get it right.”

Here’s the question: why did the state legislature decide to split the precincts when setting House districts in Hinds County in the first place?

Saturday, 20 October 2007

I will be dreaming of working voting machines tonight

My first experience as a poll worker today went moderately smoothly; we only had one voting machine, which coupled with the ridiculously long ballot led to long lines on occasion (a few people may have had to wait around 20 minutes), but most of the day went in dribs and drabs. I don’t remember the exact vote totals, but I’m pretty sure Bobby Jindal got about 65% of the vote in my little corner of Uptown; considering that it’s part of his congressional district, I don’t know if that translates into strong support for him to avoid a runoff or not (the live stats I’ve seen with about 1/4 of the vote in say he’s at around 53%).

Next month I’m bringing an IV drip of caffeine or something, particularly if the only runoffs are way down the ballot.

Friday, 19 October 2007

QotD, current student edition

One of my southern politics students recently penned her thoughts on the gubernatorial contest for the student newspaper; perhaps it’s my inner “proud professor” coming out, but I thought this passage was amusing:

The other Democrat in the race is Foster Campbell, whose platform consists solely of eliminating the Louisiana income tax and replacing it with a tax on oil and gas companies. Campbell claims that this will result in “the greatest economic [boom] in Louisiana history.” However, Campbell may have taken his populist message a bit too far. Hilarity ensues whenever Campbell compares himself to Huey P. Long. And not in a “I wouldn’t be corrupt like him,” way, but a “he was on the Public Services Commission, too, so I’m qualified to be governor” way.

When Huey Long is held up as the paragon of gubernatorial virtue, you know you may have a problem.

The big drama in these parts is whether or not Bobby Jindal gets over the 50% threshold tomorrow; if he does, I’ll probably need to bring a book or two with me when I work the polls next month (alas, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have down-ballot runoffs anyway).

Friday, 12 October 2007

MMP goes down in Ontario

Prof. Shugart reports on the failure of the Ontario ballot measure which would have changed to a mixed electoral system, previously discussed here. As it happens, I ended up weaving a bit of his analysis into my (8 a.m.!) lecture on demands for electoral reform in plurality jurisdictions—the topic of the bulk of Chapter 2 of David Farrell’s Electoral Systems textbook.

In seeming parallel with Prof. Shugart’s thoughts, I note that this month’s PS symposium on electoral reform in the states omits any article-length discussion of alternative electoral systems. Certainly the emphasis on this side of the 49th parallel is on (seemingly) nonpartisan administration and redistricting issues, rather than any perceived unfairness of plurality elections per se.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

MMP referendum in Ontario Wednesday

Matthew Shugart reminds readers of tomorrow’s referendum in Ontario on adopting a mixed-member proportional electoral system to replace its existing purely constituency-based plurality system. If nothing else, it’s auspicious since this term I’m indulging my semi-closeted comparativist in my Introduction to Politics course—with the main theme considering representation and voting systems. Now, if only we were on the right chapter of Electoral Systems, although the chapter on plurality systems—where we are now—does talk a bit about electoral reforms: most notably, Labour’s long-promised but never-delivered referendum on electoral reform in Britain, dating back to 1997.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Tuesday Morning

Quoth Megan McArdle:

John Quiggin asks why Americans vote on a Tuesday.

Louisianans apparently vote on Saturdays, at least in state elections. Indeed, the only elections in Louisiana that are held on a weekday are federal general elections, which are on Tuesdays pursuant to federal law. (Yes, this means working at the polls this fall means I will miss seeing two football games, alas.)

So, all Americans don’t vote on Tuesdays—indeed, the modal American doesn’t vote at all in most elections. Or maybe Louisianans aren’t real Americans.