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How We Used To Vote 517

Posted by kdawson
from the viva-voce dept.
Mr. Slippery writes "Think hanging chads, illegal purges of the voter rolls, and insecure voting machines are bad? The New Yorker looks back at how we used to vote back in the good old days: 'A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds. The Democratic candidate for Congress, William Harrison, lost to the American Party's Henry Winter Davis. Three months later, when the House of Representatives convened hearings into the election, whose result Harrison contested, Davis's victory was upheld on the ground that any "man of ordinary courage" could have made his way to the polls.' Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail." The article notes the American penchant for trying to fix voting problems with technology — starting just after the Revolution. This country didn't use secret ballots, an idea imported from Australia, until quite late in the 19th century.
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How We Used To Vote

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Vote early and often! :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The Chicago (and lately, the Ohio) way! Until we get a handle on voter fraud, we'll never have free and fair elections. What's so wrong with voter ID?
      • by EGSonikku (519478) <petersen.mobileNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @05:49PM (#25605487)

        Nothing, as long as the state pays for the ID, and provides transportation to get the ID. Otherwise "Voter ID" essentially becomes "Poll Tax" and you have people with little or no income unable to vote because they can't afford an ID or the local DMV is two cities over.

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:10PM (#25606631) Homepage Journal
          "Nothing, as long as the state pays for the ID, and provides transportation to get the ID. Otherwise "Voter ID" essentially becomes "Poll Tax" and you have people with little or no income unable to vote because they can't afford an ID or the local DMV is two cities over."

          Ok..so, put the free ID places near where the polls are. If they can make it to the poll to vote, they can make it there to get an ID.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        Until we get a handle on voter fraud, we'll never have free and fair elections.

        We do have a handle on voter fraud. It is so rare as to be practically non-existent. Between 2002 and 2005, the Department of Justice convicted just two dozen people for voter fraud. Eight a year. Not exactly a pressing problem.

        What's so wrong with voter ID?

        I know it's difficult for many middle-class suburban Americans to grasp this, but millions of people - mostly poor - don't have identification cards. They don't drive, the

        • by schnikies79 (788746) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:42PM (#25605925)

          In Indiana (where the voter ID started and ended up with SCOTUS), we have free ID's and transportation if you need it.

          There are really no excuses and no reason to not have to prove who you are.

        • ID (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Since many years ago now you have to show ID to become legally employed in the US. If someone hasn't shown it, the employer just fudged something. If they are working a job and didn't show any ID, they are working illegally and off the books most likely and not paying taxes. In other words, shouldn't be eligible to vote. All states provide non driver's licenses picture ID for free or very cheap, if someone can't be arsed enough to go get it, who cares? It isn't *that* hard. If you can't do the bare minimum

  • Granted this was only way back in 2000, but I lived in St. Clair County, IL. It was a small township called French Village. At 8am, the mayor knocked on my door and informed my wife and I it was time to vote. We marched down to the fire station with him and twenty other poor people. They passed out leaflets stating which democrats we should vote for and why. There were no republicans running in our little township, so good luck dissenting. They also explained how important it was to vote democrat and
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:56PM (#25605101)

      This doesn't make any sense. No one thought to call the state police, FBI or the media?

      More importantly, these statements don't add up:

      There were no republicans running in our little township

      They also explained how important it was to vote democrat

      If no republicans are running, then why go to all the effort?

      Something smells in your story.

    • by bjourne (1034822) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:51PM (#25606011) Homepage Journal
      Your story appears to be made up. If it isn't, could you please provide more details so that someone could identify who this scumbag mayor is? He should be in jail but may still hold some official position which is why it is important to identify him.

      Granted this was only way back in 2000, but I lived in St. Clair County, IL. It was a small township called French Village

      According to wikipedia, there is no French Village township in St. Clair County [wikipedia.org]. However, google maps finds a park called French Village in East St. Louis in St. Clair County in Caseyville township.

      At 8am, the mayor knocked on my door and informed my wife and I it was time to vote

      The mayor in Caseyville at that time seem to have been George Chance. So that is the guy that came knocking on your door 8am 2000-11-07 dragging you out to vote? Didn't you have to work or something?

      We marched down to the fire station with him and twenty other poor people

      Also fishy. The townships population is 4300, why did he choose you and 20 other people? Also, must have been quite a walk. There's not that many fire departments in Caseyville...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by liquidpele (663430)
        This is why I love slashdot.

        In real life, if you call someone out for telling a lie or for claiming something that isn't true, they usually get angry and defensive, or possibly even violent. Even if it's a family member, they'll be mad at you for possibly months. On Slashdot though, it's almost encouraged to fact check and call people out.
  • no excuses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus.hotmail@com> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:36PM (#25604921) Homepage

    Think hanging chads, illegal purges of the voter rolls, and insecure voting machines are bad?

    Yes.

  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:38PM (#25604939) Journal
    If card check legislation [latimes.com] gets signed into law by the next administration, we'll see a return of the "good old days."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eldepeche (854916)
      The article you link to is inaccurate. The EFCA would provide card check as an alternative means of certifying a union, not as a replacement for a secret ballot.
      • by jmichaelg (148257) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:58PM (#25606991) Journal
        Funny. That's not what the labor law websites are saying. For example, [fordharrison.com]

        Card Check Process: Section 2 of EFCA would establish a mandatory card-check recognition process under which an employer would be required to recognize a union as its employees' exclusive bargaining representative once the union presents signed authorization cards from a simple majority of the employees in the work unit the union seeks to represent. The card-check process would take the place of NLRB-supervised secret ballot elections currently used to determine whether a majority of employees want union representation.

        Perhaps you'd be willing to provide a citation? And while you're at it, who gets to elect whether a secret ballot or open card signature will be the process used?

  • Voter registration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by photonic (584757) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:42PM (#25604989)

    Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all? In my country (Netherlands), everyone above 18 is registered by default. I assume this is similar in most of Western Europe. The only caveat is that you have to be registered with your municipality, which you have to do anyhow for various different reasons (municipal tax, getting passports/ID/driving licence ...). A few weeks before an election, you simply get your 'voting ticket' in the mail. You typically take this to a neighborhood school to cast your vote, usually electronically.

    Making everyone eligible to vote by default would save a lot of those voter-fraud claims and a lot of effort by the campaigns to get the people registered.

    • by s.bots (1099921) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:44PM (#25605017)

      It's pretty much the same in Canada. After I turned eighteen I just got voting cards in the mail for Federal, Provincial, and Municipal elections. Where I vote isn't electronic, I'm not sure if there are any plans to move that way.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's pretty much the same in Canada. After I turned eighteen I just got voting cards in the mail for Federal, Provincial, and Municipal elections.

        You must register to vote in Canada. But, many years ago, they made it very easy: there is a tick-off box on your federal income tax form to register to vote. The federal elections agency also shares information with provincial elections agencies, who get updates from medicare cards & driver's licenses changes.

        More importantly, since being a convicted murderer

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As a fellow Canadian, I hope things don't move that way. Our 'mark the X' pencil-and-paper system seems to work just fine, even with recounts. I never understood the urge to have electronic voting, all it says to me is a chance to eliminate paper trails and to change the records without any evidence.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:48PM (#25605055)

      Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all? In my country (Netherlands), everyone above 18 is registered by default. I assume this is similar in most of Western Europe. The only caveat is that you have to be registered with your municipality, which you have to do anyhow for various different reasons (municipal tax, getting passports/ID/driving licence ...). A few weeks before an election, you simply get your 'voting ticket' in the mail. You typically take this to a neighborhood school to cast your vote, usually electronically.

      Making everyone eligible to vote by default would save a lot of those voter-fraud claims and a lot of effort by the campaigns to get the people registered.

      Bottom line - we have to register to vote because only U.S. citizens (without a felony criminal conviction) are allowed to vote. It's a different mind-set in America. People would rebel if they had to "register with their municipality" for no compelling reason, even after several years of Homeland Security.

      Registering to vote is a snap, though. When my daughter turned 18, she went to the local county auditor's website and filled in a form that basicaly just asked for her name and street address. A few days later she got her voter registration card.

      So the difference between us and you appears to mainly be when we register - you DO have to register, but you do it much earlier and for a broader purpose.

      • Not exactly true (Score:5, Informative)

        by codepunk (167897) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:54PM (#25605079)

        The states actually determine who is a eligible voter. Some states deny voting privs to convicted felons, some can vote reguardless even in prison and others can vote if there imposed sentence has been served. Personally I think once a mans
        sentence has been served he should be eligible to vote else it imposes (taxation without representation) on the individual.

        A great many states have poll day registration you walk in with a utility bill, drivers license or something of that sort and
        you can register to vote right then and there.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Personally I don't think it makes sense to deny anyone their voting rights for any reasons.

          Honestly, I don't feel it's fair to make anyone subject to the decisions of a legal system based on the voting system, if they can't affect that process.

          It does make sense to not allow infants to vote (because the parents would likely misuse that) but with that exception anyone who can be punished under a countries laws should have a right to vote.

          • by forsey (1136633) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:07PM (#25605631)
            This is a great point! If you were thrown in jail because you broke a that you morally disagree with, shouldn't you be able to vote against those who brought the law in? Allowing felons to vote seems like a safe guard against corruption to me. It seems like it wouldn't be too hard to make a law to turn a group of people who you didn't want to vote into felons so they couldn't. Make sleeping on a park bench a felony if you want to stop homeless people from voting, for example.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mqduck (232646)

            Honestly, I don't feel it's fair to make anyone subject to the decisions of a legal system based on the voting system, if they can't affect that process.

            Felons are disproportionately impoverished. It's the same reason there used to be a poll tax, although by very different means.

        • by TempySmurf (728545) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @05:36PM (#25605391)
          Besides the simple moral objections to making someone a half citizen, we can just do the math and see why this is a bad idea. Around 7 million in prison, Kerry lost by 3 million and Gore from even less. Which doesn't include those who got out of prison but can't vote. Simply make laws that target certain demographics and you've got yourself an election. Whether or not this has been done, it's an obvious flaw in the system.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JimboFBX (1097277)
            Kerry lost by 3 million electoral votes? Wow!

            Or maybe you are under some strange impression the system works using popular vote...?
      • by photonic (584757) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:57PM (#25605103)
        But don't tell me that you are not already in 10 different databases from the moment you are born. I assume you guys also have to register for a birth certificate, you need to pay taxes at some point so you have a social security number, etc. I really don't see the point.
      • People would rebel if they had to "register with their municipality" for no compelling reason, even after several years of Homeland Security.

        So in the US one can just "arrive" somewhere, move in a random house and everything is ok for the Government? They don't need to know where to send your tax letter or anything? Strange.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          From my experience, as an adult having lived in South Dakota, Oregon and Colorado, its fine to just move around the country.

          It is your responsibility to have your mail forwarded to your new address, the Government doesn't know where you are unless you tell them and for general things (mail/taxes/bills) there is no checking up on if your address is accurate.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2008 @05:44PM (#25605455)

          So in the US one can just "arrive" somewhere, move in a random house and everything is ok for the Government? They don't need to know where to send your tax letter or anything? Strange.

          Strange? Really? I'd think this is how it should be. For as much as we whine about how the U.S. is turning into a totalitarian state we really do have an incredible amount of freedom. You're still free to come and go and live and work where you please. You're not even legally obligated to get government ID, though it certainly makes life more difficult. But if you don't drive you could easily get by with just a passport, no state ID needed. As with everything the more you want-- driving rights, property ownership, etc-- the more you have to go "on the grid."

          As far as a "tax letter", It's your responsibility to file your taxes, the IRS doesn't send you notices (though of course your employer is telling them what you were paid, so it's not that difficult to track you down.)

          I'm not saying the U.S. is perfect, but you're not making a case for Europe being much better.

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:03PM (#25606569)

          So in the US one can just "arrive" somewhere, move in a random house and everything is ok for the Government? They don't need to know where to send your tax letter or anything? Strange.

          The reverse sounds strange to me - you can't move around without letting the government know? Sounds nasty to me. I've moved a dozen times or more without bothering to notify anyone but my family. And would find it strange to have to notify anyone.

    • by rnelsonee (98732) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:53PM (#25605077)

      I feel it's largely due to the nature that all Americans are subject to two major governments at all times - state and federal. Our system is set up so that states control voting on election day, and like most other issues (education, driving, licensing) there is little communication between the states. So if you move from one state to another, you need to tell you new state that you're there and you want to vote.

      Voter registration really is more about your state knowing where you are so you can vote for the right people. Certainly, if the federal government handled it, it would be automatic, but we just don't have the federal government in charge of elections (which is fine, we are, at least in theory, more about a collection of states rather than citizens of one large federal government).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by unixan (800014)

      Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all?

      The U.S. does not have any (official) national citizen database (despite attempts to change that), and the various U.S. states do not have them either. As a result, to be able to vote, voter registration is required.

      When registering, a citizen typically has to prove their eligibility to vote (which varies by state law), the most popular method being proof of citizenship and the location of your residence.

      Of course, don't take my word for it. There's a more thorough discussion of the issue and how it is im

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by chill (34294)

        The U.S. does not have any (official) national citizen database (despite attempts to change that), and the various U.S. states do not have them either. As a result, to be able to vote, voter registration is required.

        Two words. Selective Service.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Except only males have to register for the draft.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Who is in charge of these other registrations and their standards for proving things like where you actually live differ a lot.

      You mention you have to be registered with your municipality. In my municipality in the US, you do not. You don't have to have any other ID either, though I happen to have a passport and driver's license. Frequently when filling out forms for things like driver's licenses that have a higher standard of proof than a voter registration, you can at the same time register to vote with m

    • Republicans in the USA tend to believe that not everyone should be allowed to vote. Specifically, we would ultimately prefer that only people who own property should be allowed to vote in order to prevent the socialist idea of masses voting themselves wealth transfers from upper classes. Therefor, voter registration would be a separate process as it was a different set of people.

      However, we lost this debate utterly to the Democrats, and so, more or less, have this idea that everyone should be allowed to vo

      • by dwye (1127395) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @07:14PM (#25606209)
        As opposed to Democrats, who believe that everyone's vote should count (as long as they vote the right way, and then, ideally, count several times). They, therefore, like registration as long as it does not involve extensive checking or purging the rolls as people die or move, because it lets us shuttle people around to vote in multiple precincts as multiple people, either imaginary, moved, or dead.
    • by jonadab (583620) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:08PM (#25605641) Homepage Journal
      > Some American please explain me: why do you have voter registration at all?

      Long story short? Because we let people vote who aren't registered for anything else. There are a lot of details, some of which I discuss below, but it all boils down to that: we let people vote who aren't registered for anything else.

      > In my country (Netherlands), everyone above 18 is registered by default.

      I don't know how it is in the Netherlands, but that system would be impractical here because the people here are free to move around (and often do, across voting district lines, state lines, you name it, without a second thought) without informing anyone. There's no central registry of all citizens in the first place, and there's *certainly* no central registry of where everyone lives. Other than the voter registration, there isn't any other registry that could be used for determining where people can vote and whether they've already voted (possibly in a different polling location) and so forth. The thing most people immediately think of to use instead is the Bureau of Motor Vehicles database of licensed drivers, but that would exclude substantial categories of people on unconstitutional grounds.

      Note that it does matter very much which voting district people vote in, not just for determining whether someone has already voted in another polling location, but also because you vote on different stuff. For example, school taxes are voted on by the residents of each school district (and while I suspect you don't here anything much about it overseas because of the inherently local nature of it, people at the local level are often more concerned with the outcome of these local elections than with the state and national ones). US Representatives represent not just the people of a specific state but more particularly the people of a specific congressional district within a state, so for voting purposes it matters which district you're in. And so forth.

      Among other things, the Board of Elections has to know *where* to expect you to come and vote, so they can have your name on the list for that location. (Having a list of who is going to come and vote, and checking them off, is the only realistic way to enforce the limit of one vote per person, i.e., to prevent ballot-stuffing.) So you have to let them know where you live ahead of time, so they can put you on the list for your precinct. If you move, you're still registered, but you have to update your registration with the new address if you want to vote in the new polling location (and, thus, on the local issues in your new place of residence).

      > The only caveat is that you have to be registered with your municipality, which you have to do
      > anyhow for various different reasons (municipal tax, getting passports/ID/driving licence ...).

      So you can't vote if you don't live in a municipality? That wouldn't go over so well here. Also, while it varies from one municipality to another, most municipal taxes in the US are levied on either income or property ownership (land, specifically), so no, not everyone who lives in a city, town, or village has to register for tax purposes, or any other reason for that matter. There's a census every ten years, but while participation is encouraged (and there's really no downside), it's not actually mandatory, and I think the privacy nuts (ironically, including a lot of the sort of people who read slashdot) would go bonkers and start filing lawsuits if the government tried to make the census mandatory or give it any legal force.

      As for the passports, most Americans don't have them. (Before you react too strongly to that, bear in mind that from here I can travel for two thousand miles in any direction, or three thousand miles to the west, without a passport. This is mostly a very good thing, though it would be nice if it were somewhat easier to find people who speak a foreign language fluently.)

      As noted above, the driver's license is something whole categori
  • Fill a circle in run it through a scanner, nothing could be more simple and foolproof. I am
    really unsure why any voting district would want to use anything other than the scan card system.

    • by AuMatar (183847)

      Did you fill in the circle correctly? Does it work with this type of ink? Is the machine calibrated correctly and did it feed the paper correctly so the circle is where the machine is looking?

      Don't get me wrong, I love scan cards- fast count and a paper trail for the double check. But it can still fail and has a greater than 0 failure rate even when working. It still needs to be hand checked.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      You obviously haven't ever given a Scantron test. You might guess, incorrectly, that everyone could fill out a bubble sheet properly, but no. Worse, the scanner can't always score properly-filled-out sheets correctly all the time (and it usually fails on incorrectly-filled-out sheets).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Fill a circle in run it through a scanner, nothing could be more simple and foolproof.

      Acutally, the Norwegian system is even more foolproof. A voting venue consist of a single box and multiple booths. Inside the voting booth, you find several stacks of paper, one for each voting alternative. You pick up a pice of paper from the correct stack, fold it, walk outside, and hand it to the person standing next to the box. He ensures that you are only casting a single vote, and drops it into the box for you.

  • Competition (Score:5, Funny)

    by glaeven (845193) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:48PM (#25605051)

    A man carrying a musket rushed at him. Another threw a brick, knocking him off his feet. George Kyle picked himself up and ran. He never did cast his vote. Nor did his brother, who died of his wounds.

    I'd like to see Karl Rove top that.

    • He did (Score:4, Insightful)

      by copponex (13876) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:11PM (#25605671) Homepage

      Isn't the greatest trick the devil ever pulled convincing the world that he didn't exist?

      He helped steal an election, out an undercover CIA agent, formulated lies that led our nation to war, may not see one day of jail for it, and can continue to deny that he was involved (of course, not on record). He can now join G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, and many others of the faithful party who have broken US and international law, and yet are somehow immune to the legal system.

  • Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail.

    In the face of something between malfunctioning and fraudulent electronic machines, aren't you a wuss if you accept the lack of such a trail? I think that complaining/protesting something like that is a sign of conviction, strength, and frankly just giving a crap about something beyond yourself that you stand for.

    We sort of accept the rule of law in this country (bear with me), so complaining in its various forms -- soap, ballot, jury ... let's stop short of ammo -- is the way you assert your constituti

  • "This country didn't use secret ballots, an idea imported from Australia, until quite late in the 19th century. "

    Thanks Australia! We'll return the favour.

  • This was a really fascinating article.

    Interesting articles like this, that I may not find on my own (Don't read the New Yorker) really exemplify why I love slashdot.

    That was a great use of my day to read that, thanks /.

  • Punchscan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pilsner.urquell (734632) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @05:18PM (#25605265)

    Now I feel like a wuss for complaining about the lack of a voter-verified paper trail.

    There are about four groups of people working to rectify this problem. The one I've been following is Punchscan [punchscan.org] which looks like they have everything covered except fraudulent registration. Slashdot covered Punchscan here [slashdot.org].

  • Founding fathers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philspear (1142299) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @05:23PM (#25605305)

    The article makes the interesting point that our founding forefathers considered secret balloting cowardly. Clearly they did not anticipate violence as a tactic to tamper with elections. Our founding forefathers thought it was important to include an amendment stating that you could not be forced to quarter troops against your will in times of peace, clearly not anticipating that it would not really be an issue today. Some of our founding forefathers thought that slavery was alright. Not all of our founding forefathers thought separation of church and state as we take it today was a good idea.

    It always strikes me as strange that people take the constitution as more than just a set of generally good ideas and precedents written by talented individuals. People act like because our founding forefathers said X, it was handed down by God himself.

    I usually run up against this when the constitution seems to disagree with my liberal leanings (I'm sure someone will want to get into a pointless discussion of the second amendment, but we've all been down that road), but it's not limited to just that, and I'm sure it runs both ways.

    More specific to elections though, isn't it about time we abolished the electoral college and go right to a popular vote? There is clearly no legitimate reason for it to still be around. Electors rarely switch their votes, and, as the article points out, the founders saying it's a good idea does not make it so.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      They're regarded as they are because the freedoms in the constitution weren't exactly meant as a means to an end. Freedom and rights aren't a means to achieve a prosperous and safe society, they're ends unto themselves. So if free speech is dangerous to prosperity and safety, it's not enough of a reason to restrict it. The same with the right to bear arms.

      Although it is all a matter of gray areas, since although the founding fathers referred to the US as an experiment (there were much safer ways to have a g

    • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @06:38PM (#25605891)

      More specific to elections though, isn't it about time we abolished the electoral college and go right to a popular vote? There is clearly no legitimate reason for it to still be around.

      If you read the US Constitution, you will realize that it is the States that vote for the President, and that the President represents the States, not the People. That would seem to be an obvious legitimate reason to keep the electoral college around. To get rid of the electoral college, you would have to get rid of the States. The popular vote theater is a 20th century invention, and arguably one of dubious value at that.

      One of the big problems in the US is not that we do not elect the Federal President by popular vote, but that so many people who insist on offering their opinion on how we should change the system have no bloody clue how it currently works. The level of ignorance on this topic makes the argument for why the Federal elections, outside of the House of Representatives, have traditionally been firewalled from the popular vote.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @07:50PM (#25606439)

      This is one of the problems we have these days, and one of the things that has lead us down this road of abuses of freedom of speech and so on. You, like many others, have this idea that the Constitution is just some document that we should ignore when convenient. Well, that's not how it works. Our legal system is such that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. All other laws must conform to it. It isn't just something to be disregarded when convenient. That's how our legal system works.

      So for example if you want the electoral college changed or abolished fair enough, however that requires a constitutional amendment. In case you don't know what that requires, I'll tell you: 66% of both houses of congress need to pass it, then 75% of the states. It isn't easy to amend the Constitution, and that was done on purpose.

      Also you might want to learn more about it because you might come to respect it as more useful. Barring a Constitution, any of the crap the Bush administration wanted to pull would be perfectly legal. If federal law was the be all end all, then so long as congress said "ok, it's legal." Now if you are ok with the government just trampling on rights, well then fine. However I don't want to hear bitching when they trample on the first, but silence when they trample on the 2nd.

      I can make a compelling public safety and order argument for trampling on/abolishing ANY amendment.

      The Constitution isn't just some quaint little document, it is the very foundation of the US government. It is what united the states in to a union, it is what defines the limits of the federal republic we live in (the US is a republic, not a democracy, there's a difference) and so on. It is also the document on which just about every other free nation has based theirs on. So it is something important to understand, especially if you live in the US and are thus subject to it's law. This idea that it is just a quaint piece of paper to be ignored at various times is extremely ignorant.

      • I was saying two things. One: it's not infallible, and does need to be changed occasionally. Two: one of the things that should be changed, now, is the electoral college system.

        Nothing about how we should junk the whole thing. Nothing about it being trivial. Nothing about it should be easier to amend the consitution. Nothing about getting rid of the second amendment.

        Calm down.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"

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