Main page    Nov. 06

Pres map
Previous | Next | Senate page

New polls: (None)
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

Poll: Trump Would Get over 300 Electoral Votes If Election Were Today

Democrats love worrying, and now they have something to worry about. Those national polls that show somebody at 44% and somebody else at 42% don't matter. It's the electoral votes that matter. That's why we started this site in the first place.

Now, a new Siena College poll sponsored by The New York Times shows that if the election were held today, Donald Trump would win Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and get over 300 electoral votes. A whopping 71% of the voters said Biden is too old, and that includes 54% of his supporters. There is not a lot Biden can do about that. Only 39% felt that way about Trump, even though if he won, he would be the oldest president ever inaugurated. But no one seems to notice that.

Swing state voters trust Trump over Biden on the economy by an enormous 59% to 37%. Among voters under 30, the two are tied, a huge shift from 2020.

However, it isn't hopeless for Biden. The crosstabs show where the problems lie and knowing that is the first step to dealing with them. He has taken a huge hit among nonwhite voters under 45, down 33 points compared to the 2020 election. With whites under 45, it is a 13-point hit. Thus Biden's first task is to address younger voters. Many of them don't follow politics and don't understand that Biden never had a functional majority in the Senate, greatly limiting what he could do. He also had to deal with a hostile Supreme Court (e.g., on student loans). Young people are much more likely than old people to say: "I was expecting you to do X and you didn't do X, so I am holding it against you." Older voters have seen presidents come and go and know it is really hard to get anything done unless the president has huge majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The consequence of Biden losing support among nonwhite voters and younger voters is that he still has a decent chance in the northern battlegrounds of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which have older, whiter electorates. If he can hang onto these, he can lose Arizona and Georgia and still win. These data suggest a strategy of focusing on these northern states, rather than the Sun Belt states.

If the poll is right it would reverse a long-standing trend of younger and nonwhite voters voting Democratic. But a year is a long time and, well, stuff happens. How would a Trump conviction play out? What about the two ongoing wars? Also, many voters are double haters. Can Biden convince them that he is the lesser of two evils by highlighting some of the things Trump has said and done? Note that Trump is already campaigning hard and Biden is not. Things could change once he gears up and starts talking about his many achievements (infrastructure, chips, lower drug prices, getting inflation way down, etc.). Most people have never heard of any of these. Biden needs to work on that. He could also try to blunt the age issue by talking much more about Trump's age, his diet, and his health. Also, a video putting together a dozen of Trump's flubs could give the impression that The Donald has lost it.

Oh, and polls sometimes are way off. Remember the predicted red wave in 2022? Nevertheless, this poll certainly gives Biden something to think about.

Yesterday, former Barack Obama senior adviser David Axelrod threw some wood on the fire by suggesting that Biden drop out. In reality it is too late for that and the resulting free-for-all would cook the Democrats' goose. Axelrod knows very well how long it takes to set up a campaign and there is not enough time left. If he had said this in June, there would have been time for the free-for-all. Now that ship has sailed. There is one thing Biden could do, but he won't: Replace Kamala Harris with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). That would make a lot of people less queasy about what would happen if Biden dies in office. But Harris would never play ball so Biden can't do it. Also, Black women would not appreciate it. If Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) had appointed Harris to the Senate after Dianne Feinstein died, that would have gotten her off the ticket gracefully, but he didn't and now it is too late. (V)

Trump Is Planning to Really Lock Them Up

During his 2016 campaign, Trump often called for locking up Hillary Clinton. That was just bluster. After he won, he didn't do anything. But 2024 could be different. He has considerably more concrete plans for prosecuting people who have criticized or opposed him than he had in 2016. Does he mean it? As Maya Angelou said: "When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time."

In private, Trump has told advisers that he wants his new AG to prosecute John Kelly, Bill Barr, and Mark Milley. He also wants to prosecute some FBI officials. He also is planning to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Joe Biden and his family. Corrupt prosecutors can make up bogus charges and then the victims will have to hope that Trump-appointed judges don't pick biased juries. Saikrishna Prakash, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia, said: "It would resemble a banana republic if people came into office and started going after their opponents willy-nilly."

Much of the planning for Trump's second term has been outsourced to several D.C.-area right-wing think tanks. It is being called "Project 2025." The think tanks are developing executive orders Trump can sign immediately. These include deploying the military domestically to put down protests under the Insurrection Act whenever the president declares there is an insurrection going on.

One thing is crystal clear about a second Trump term: It would not be about new policies or passing new laws. It would be about using the powers of the presidency in a dictatorial manner. Trump justified it by referring to the 91 charges against him. He said: "This is third-world-country stuff, 'arrest your opponent.' And that means I can do that, too." A second term would be all about retribution.

Traditionally, the DoJ operates independently of the White House, but Trump's allies, such as former OMB Director Russ Vought, reject that idea. He says the AG serves at the pleasure of the president and is expected to carry out the president's wishes, the same as all the other cabinet officers. Vought is expected to fill a major top-level position in a Trump 2.0 administration.

Many people in Trump's inner circle have soured on the Federalist Society. They see it as too soft and too fixated on the rule of law and not willing to go along with some of Trump's ideas, like politicizing the DoJ and having its focus be prosecuting Trump's opponents.

Trump now realizes that he got off to a slow start last time and doesn't want to make that mistake again. He wants a pile of executive orders ready to sign on Day 1. He also wants a list of carefully vetted nominees for all top positions that he can send to the Senate the first week. If Republicans control the Senate there could be huge battles there, as presumed majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may resist some (or many) of them. McConnell as a bulwark defending democracy may sound strange to some people, but it could happen. (V)

Kim Reynolds Is Expected to Endorse DeSantis Today

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is holding a rally in Iowa today and governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) is expected to endorse him at it. This might give his flagging campaign a boost. It is really crucial for him to come in second in Iowa. If he comes in third behind Nikki Haley, it will be tough to right the ship. If she beats him in Iowa and New Hampshire, he's finished and she will be the alternative to Trump.

Reynolds has a sizable fan base in Iowa, but many Iowans take great pride in how carefully they personally sniff the candidates, often multiple times, and make their own decisions. Voters who are paying a lot of attention and who have met all the candidates multiple times are less likely to be swayed by any endorsement than voters who aren't paying attention. No doubt Reynolds will do what she can for DeSantis, but it might not matter that much.

We have to credit Reynolds with one thing: She has guts. Prior to the announcement, she was a plausible veep candidate on a Trump ticket. Post announcement she is not. Of course, she will instantly become a plausible veep candidate on a DeSantis ticket, but that can only come to fruition if DeSantis is the nominee. If Trump wants a woman, the set of possibilities is small. Kari Lake is running for the Senate, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-ND) is apparently in bed with Corey Lewandowski regularly, and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) might refuse because she has a toddler at home and might not want to risk being branded a loser if the ticket goes down. Waiting to become speaker is a better bet for her. Now that Reynolds is out, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who seems to be gunning for the slot, may see her star rising. (V)

Trump Will Take the Witness Stand Today

Donald Trump has called NY AG Letitia James "racist" and "deranged." Today he will get to address her in person, via her lawyers, at his civil fraud trial in Manhattan. They have a couple of questions for him that he will have to answer. Under oath. Before a no-nonsense judge who will determine if his business empire will be fined at least $250 million and banned from doing business in New York State. That result would be the end of the Trump Organization.

Trump surely understands this and may well lash out at James, Judge Arthur Engoron, Engoron's clerk, and who knows who else. He has been told by his lawyers a dozen times not to do this, but he is terrible at controlling himself. And James and her staff are very good at pushing his buttons. Trump is deeply enraged by the trial, probably more so than by any of the four criminal trials he faces. It strikes at his very being—the brilliant businessman who became a billionaire through his business acumen. If James shows the judge that, no, he earned his money mainly by lying and cheating banks, insurance companies, and tax authorities, Trump could go bonkers.

Testimony in a court under oath will take Trump far outside his comfort zone. He loves lying on social media. Lying under oath is a felony. If James shows him documents with wildly conflicting valuations of the same property at the same time and calmly asks him to explain, he could explode and start calling her names. Engoron is not going to tolerate that. Trump is not a good witness and is incapable of following his lawyers' instructions. He goes with his gut. That works well at rallies of the faithful, but not so well with experienced judges. And this one has already fined him twice for attacking his clerk.

Last week, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump testified. They were dismissive of the whole proceeding but didn't offend the judge or say anything harmful to the case. Today could be a whole new ball game, with a far less stable and more argumentative witness. And next up is Ivanka (see below). (V)

Appeals Court Rejects Ivanka's Attempt to Delay Testimony

Sometimes the courts take forever and a day to do anything, but sometimes they move faster than a speeding bullet. On Thursday, Ivanka Trump's attempts to appeal her testimony in the NY civil case against her father and her older brothers were dashed when her appeal was rejected. She will probably have to testify this week. It will be quite a week for the Family Trump.

We mentioned Ivanka's loss on Friday, but it's worth taking a closer look. Her argument was "There is school this week so I have to take care of my children." The judge and the appeals court found this patently absurd for so many reasons, including:

  1. She is married and even if Jared can't cook, surely he is smart enough to be able to order pizza online.
  2. Her mother-in-law lives two blocks from her house and grandmas love to babysit.
  3. She undoubtedly has one or more nannies and maids who can babysit.
  4. Even if none of the above are available, she can afford to pay a babysitter.
  5. Somehow last week she managed to find a babysitter when she flew to L.A. for Kim Kardashian's birthday.

The fact that she was so obviously lying is probably why the appeals court moved so fast.

Now Ivanka has a real problem. She was executive vice president of the Trump Organization and should have known what was going on. She probably did. Now what? Donald Trump's niece, Mary Trump, thinks Ivanka is not prepared to commit perjury for her father and will throw him under the bus. We're not so sure. She has the best lawyers money can buy and, unlike her father, is quite capable of listening to them and remembering what they tell her. One obvious ploy is to say her job in the company didn't involve the financial side at all. She could say her main responsibility was PR and boosting the Trump brand. Daddy was not the kind of guy who made detailed organizational charts and made sure everyone was doing exactly the work their job required, no more and no less. Consequently, if she testifies that she knows nothing about the financial stuff and the accountants handled that, it would probably be hard to convict her of perjury, even if Daddy bragged to her about how he was fleecing everyone.

Mary Trump does have a point, though. If the lawyers for New York State know that she did know about the finances—for example, if they have her signature on financial documents—if forced to choose, she would probably avoid perjury and throw dad and her brothers under the bus. The main reason is that she is independently wealthy due to the $2 billion the Saudi investment fund gave Jared to manage. He could probably charge them a 1.5% annual management fee and not be completely out of line with other top money managers. On $2 billion, this is an income of $30 million a year.

In contrast, Donald Jr. and Eric are closely tied to Trump's company. They don't have large independent income streams. If the company goes under, they go under. They have a great incentive to lie or try to obfuscate. Ivanka doesn't have that incentive since her finances are not tied to the company's, other than a possible inheritance someday. But she doesn't need the inheritance in 5-10 years. Her future is already secure thanks to the Saudi money, not to mention the money she earned before her father's presidency thanks to her fashion line. (V)

Squad Members Will Face Primaries

The biggest Democratic critics of Israel are the members of the Squad. Next year, at least four of them will get the chance to personally defend their views. Primary challenges are already set up for those four: Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Summer Lee (D-PA), and Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN). The challengers are going to latch onto slogans like "We can't give aid and comfort to terrorists." Bush, for example, represents a St. Louis-area district that has the largest Jewish community in Missouri. She is Black, but is being challenged by St. Louis County D.A. Wesley Bell, who is also Black, so she can't play the "Black card."

Bowman's district, centered in Westchester County, also has a large Jewish population. George Latimer, a long-time Westchester County executive, is prepping a challenge. Lee is being challenged by Borough Councilor Bhavini Patel. Patel said: "Something that keeps coming up in my conversations is that Congresswoman Lee continues to equivocate. We're responding to something that is evil." Omar will face former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels. She narrowly beat him in 2022. Now she has to do it again, this time while defending her remarks on Israel.

Normally foreign policy does not drive primary elections, but Israel is the #1 news story now and may continue to be for a while. Poll after poll shows huge support for Israel. The Squad members will test whether their views will prevail among Democratic voters when the challenger is a liberal Democrat who supports Israel. (V)

Is the Democratic Party Just a Big Virtual College Campus?

The 2002 book by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, The Emerging Democratic Majority, got a lot of attention. It predicted that long term the Democrats would become the dominant party because college-educated voters were joining the blue team and so were newly enfranchised 18 year olds. The Republicans were going to be swept out to sea.

Boy, were they wrong, at least so far. What happened? To their credit, the authors realized that their prediction is way off and have now written a new book, Where Have All the Democrats Gone?, that tries to address the question. The short answer is that the progressive culture embodied by the college-educated Democrats is driving everybody else away. For many enlightened college-educated Democrats, if a man puts on a dress and says he is a woman, it is obvious that you have to respect her wishes. For a large number of other people, especially older ones, that is a bunch of malarkey. A man in a dress is just a man in a dress. In other words, it's not the economy, stupid. It's the culture wars.

In Judis and Teixeira's account, the Democrats underdelivered on the economic front for working-class voters (e.g., where is that $15/hr minimum wage?) but overdelivered on cultural issues that are trivial, or even offensive, to many working-class voters. The result is that many people no longer see the Democrats as the people's party, as it was in FDR's time, but as the party of the elite professional class. Teixeira recently said: "Because the labor movement is so weak now and the working-class influences in the Democratic Party are so weak now, and because the base of the Democratic Party is in literal numerical terms more steered toward white college-educated and politically liberal people, it's just basically instantiated that campus culture into the party as a whole." Not surprisingly, this repels working-class voters. Since they hate what the Democrats have become, they have moved to the Republicans as the only alternative, even though their acceptance there is totally cynical because the Republicans are still the party of the very rich and very conservative.

So by turning the Democratic Party into a larger version of a college "Young Progressives" group, the Democrats have lost their base and the new one isn't big enough to make up for it. The authors note that the Democrats' "shadow party" is largely made up of recent college graduates from progressive elite colleges, who come fully equipped with the views popular at those institutions, but much less so in the country as a whole. The "shadow party" is the collection of political workers, activists, staffers, lawyers, allied nonprofits, think tanks, fundraisers, new and friendly businesses, and others who surround the party and who are at least as influential as the politicians themselves.

People in the shadow party are enraged about this perception. They have binders full of policy papers about the laws they want that would benefit ordinary Americans on taxes, health care, and wages. Why don't those idiots see that? That is the problem, of course. People outside the shadow party think those inside it see them as idiots, which is kinda true. And those inside the shadow party don't think that a position on who should use which bathroom should be more important than a carefully formulated health-care policy. Unfortunately for them, many working-class people do see bathroom policy and who gets to play on which team and use which locker room in high school as more important than health-care policy. Idiots.

Judis and Teixeira were right that college-educated professionals were gravitating away from the Republicans and toward the Democrats, but they greatly underestimated how that migration would change the image of the Party. The new book is not entirely negative. It does propose some courses of action the Democrats can take to become a clear majority party. These include staying far from Wall Street on pocketbook issues, supporting national solidarity, cooling it with the woke stuff and jargon, and avoiding all-or-nothing positions on climate change and gender issues. Above all, keep in mind that most voters did not go to college and views that are obvious, self-explanatory, and morally correct at many elite colleges are actually anathema to large numbers of voters. If you'd rather be right than be president, fine, but then don't whine that you're not president. (V)

Trump Wants a Televised Trial; Jack Smith Does Not

Donald Trump wants his D.C. trial televised. That way he can play to the groundlings, rather than to the judge and jury. His game plan appears to be to win the election by getting public opinion on his side and then pardoning himself. Since the Constitution doesn't put any limits on the pardon power, he assumes (probably rightly) that the Supreme Court won't foil his plans. The media also would love to televise the trial ("This trial is brought to you by ..."). Maybe Bud Light would sponsor it.

One of the many arguments the media are making is that the trial is a historic moment and it should be preserved for future generations by recording it. This would help future journalists and historians better understand the Trump presidency and the events of the past few years.

Sounds simple, no? Judge rules: "One or two remotely controlled cameras are allowed" and we're done. Not so fast. First, special counsel Jack Smith is strongly against cameras in the courtroom. He doesn't want to create a media circus (Think: the televised trial of O.J. Simpson in California). Second, Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure strictly prohibits broadcasting judicial proceedings (although some states, including Georgia, allow state trials to be televised). The courts have long upheld the constitutionality of Rule 53. Judge Tanya Chutkan presumably knew this before she was handed the case, but with Smith's reminder, she certainly knows it now.

The end result is an almost certain ban on all cameras, video and still, as well as all audio recording devices. Enforcing the latter will almost certainly require a ban on all cellphones in the courtroom, since anyone with a phone could just have it in a shirt pocket quietly recording all the audio. Courtroom artists are allowed, of course, and no doubt there will be one or more actively drawing. Hopefully they remember to draw Jesus when he sits next to Trump. (V)

Fourth Republican Debate Will Be Dec. 6 in Alabama

The RNC's strategy for culling the herd is to gradually increase the requirements for getting on the debate stage with each subsequent debate. The idea is that if a candidate can't make the stage, he or she is toast. It seems to be working, so the RNC is continuing the plan. For the third debate, five candidates have qualified and one is hanging by a thread. The candidates who definitely qualified are Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has enough donors but is in trouble pollwise. He needs to hit 4% in two national polls or 4% in one national poll and polls in two early states. He's not there yet, despite having claimed otherwise. Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) can go back to North Dakota and play some pick-up basketball and Asa Hutchinson can go back to Arkansas. It was nice knowing you. The third debate will be in Miami on Wednesday. No one expects Trump to show up.

Meanwhile, the RNC has now announced the details and criteria for the fourth debate. It will be held in Tuscaloosa, AL, on Dec. 6. To make it, candidates will need 80,000 donors and 6% in two national polls or 6% in one national poll and polls in two early states. A recent Quinnipiac University poll has Trump at 64%, DeSantis at 15%, and Haley at 8%. They will all make it. However, Scott, Christie, and Ramaswamy are at 3%.

Christie immediately complained about the new requirements. He said: "Why is it 80? Why isn't it 85? Why isn't it 75?" Well, it had to be something, and 80,000 is easier to remember than, say, 76,543. This suggests that he is in trouble. The careful politics-watcher will note that Christie did not complain about arbitrary cutoffs... until we got to one he might not clear.

Scott almost certainly won't make the fourth debate stage, unless he gets virtually all of the Pence donors and voters, which he probably won't do. At that point, he'll have an interesting choice. Does he bow to reality, since failure to make a debate stage is a de facto death knell? Or does he say that the Iowa caucus is just five weeks away, and he might as well roll the dice? His theory (or fantasy) would be: come in second in Iowa, do badly in New Hampshire but dismiss that because the state is white and not religious, come in second in his home state of South Carolina, and then emerge as the "alternative" to Trump. Among the problems with this theory: (1) there's no evidence he is close to a second-place finish in Iowa (Ann Selzer's latest has him a distant fourth place) and (2) Nikki Haley is also from South Carolina, and is likely to join Trump in defeating Scott there.

If things hold as they are right now, debate #4 will be just DeSantis and Haley. That one will be a real slugfest and actually interesting. Once the race becomes Trump vs. one challenger, all the not-Trump voters will probably coalesce to whoever is left standing. If Trump stays at 64%, then getting the other 36% won't do the job right now, but if Trump is convicted of a felony, there will be a clear alternative available. (V)

Lauren Boebert Has a Tough Fight on Her Hands--against a Republican

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) won in 2022 by the smallest margin of any representative, 546 votes. Her challenger, Adam Frisch, is now a national hero to Democrats and the money is pouring in. Boebert may have her hands full beating him again. Or maybe she won't. Because she might not be the Republican nominee in CO-03, even though it is R+7.

The problem is that more than a few Colorado Republicans are fed up with her antics, especially her making out with her new (and already former) boyfriend at a performance of Beetlejuice in Denver in October. They now have a way to display their displeasure with her in the form of Colorado native and attorney Jeff Hurd, a conservative but conventional Republican, who has announced a primary challenge to Boebert. His whole pitch is on improving the lives of people in rural Colorado. For voters who want a representative who will focus on the people of Western Colorado, and not on herself, Hurd might be the ticket.

Hurd has already lined up some support, including former senator Hank Brown and Pete Coors, the scion of the local beer company. The former provides credibility and the latter provides cash for TV ads. It's a start. At the very least, Boebert is going to have to raise and spend money big time to fight off Hurd, who, thanks to Coors, isn't going to have a money problem, at least initially (technically, it will be his PAC that is flush, but that's good enough). This could mean that even if Boebert wins the primary, she might not have much money left for the general election. Frisch also has a primary opponent to deal with, but he is much better known than she is.

Hurd appears to be a throwback to the Reagan era. When asked if he voted for Trump, he declined to answer. He also said his vision of the Republican Party was one where "we believe in, you know, the rule of law, the peaceful transfer of power in elections." Doesn't sound Trumpy to us. Obviously, the Republican primary in CO-03 will be very closely watched. It will be on March 5, 2024 (Super Tuesday), the day after Donald Trump goes on trial in D.C. Could that influence Colorado voters? We'll let you know on March 6, 2024. (V)

Jury in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case Will Be Anonymous

Donald Trump sexually assaulted (or raped, depending on the exact definition of rape) E. Jean Carroll. When she went public with that, he called her a liar. She sued him for defamation and was awarded $5 million earlier this year for comments Trump made in 2022. After the trial was over, he defamed her again and she added his latest comments to her existing suit for comments he made in 2019. He's a slow learner.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has already ruled that Trump indeed defamed her with the comments made both in 2019 and at a town hall this year. In January, a jury will determine how much he has to pay her now. We suspect that some members of the jury are going to say something like: "This time he knew exactly what he was doing, he knew he was defaming her, and he did it anyway. Let the bidding start at $10 million." Then other jurors raise the bid to $15 million, then $20 million, and who knows where it ends.

Kaplan already knows that Trump will try to intimidate the jury. That's how Trump operates. So the judge has now ruled that the jury will be anonymous. During the trial, neither Trump nor his lawyers nor the public will know who is on the jury. Presumably the jurors will either be seated behind a screen or will watch the trial on closed-circuit television in a room outside the courtroom. U.S. marshals will take them securely to and from the courthouse and protect them during breaks.

Trump is claiming presidential immunity. In other words, that defaming her was part of his job as president, so he can't be sued for simply doing his job. That didn't work last time and probably won't this time, especially if the jury sees him as an incorrigible repeat offender.

One difference with the first trial is this is scheduled to start Jan. 16, 2024. This is the day after the Iowa caucuses and in the heart of the primary season. What if the jury hits Trump with a whopping judgment and a week later he has to compete in the New Hampshire primary? Now this is a civil case, so there is no such thing as guilty or innocent, but we can imagine some ads in that period that gloss over the difference, as in: "Trump found guilty again and fined $X million." That wouldn't be literally true but many voters wouldn't notice the difference. Could it hurt him in New Hampshire? Maybe we'll find out. (V)

Could Mongolia Teach the U.S. How to Run Elections?

Many Republicans are claiming that the 2020 election was "rigged." Is there any way going forward to prove that an election is not rigged? Maybe look to Mongolia for the answer. Mongolia is an independent country north of China. It is a representative democracy with multiple parties and has free elections.

Elections in Mongolia have an interesting feature: All the marked ballots are scanned to JPEG files and posted to a government website by precinct after the election. This means that anyone who wants to count all the ballots can do it at home. Polls show that 98% of Mongolians have faith in their elections. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) was gobsmacked when he learned this and is considering if he could do the same thing.

Most voters in the U.S. mark their ballots by pen or pencil and then optically scan them. With changes to the software (and possibly the hardware), scanned images of every ballot could be captured and stored in a database. Every ballot could be preprinted with a random 12-digit number, three of which formed a checksum based on an algorithm parameterized by a key known only to a handful of election workers. In this way, it would be very difficult for any outsider to generate a valid fake ballot because 99.9% of random 12-digit numbers would not be valid.

After the election, all the ballots would be posted on the SoS website. Next to each image would be who the votes were for (in digital form). Voters would be encouraged to copy down their random ballot number, with slips of paper provided in the voting booths for that purpose. After the election, every voter could check to see if his or her ballot was there and if it was scored correctly. The software could allow ballots to be sorted in various ways (e.g., by precinct, county, etc.), filtered in various ways (e.g. only votes for Democrats). Political parties could ask, say, 1,000 supporters to check their ballots and report back if they were there and scored correctly. Pollsters could ask 1,000 random voters to check theirs and report back. Media outlets could send reporters to random precincts to see how many voters checked in and how many ballots appeared online in those precincts. With some attention to detail, it could make it possible to detect any ballot box stuffing or removal of ballots. This would be the moment for some professional statisticians to get their 15 minutes of fame on television.

Later, when some politician claimed that the votes were counted wrong or more people voted in some precinct than there are voters there, these could be debunked easily. A politician could still claim that some of the people who voted were not citizens, but that would not be believable in states with voter-ID laws. No doubt some politicians would think of some bogus claim to make, but the response would generally be: "Go count the ballots yourself. They are all out there." Everybody could do their own recount.

There are some privacy issues here, which is why the ballots would need a 12-digit random number. Additionally, there could be three trays with identical ballots at the check-in station. After a voter was checked in, he or she would be told to pick the top one from any of the trays, to introduce more randomness in the process. This would help against the argument that the random numbers were secretly sequential based on a couple of digits in the middle, so ballot 17 belonged to voter 17.

No doubt there are other issues that might come up, but surely they can be dealt with. For example, if only 10 people voted in some small rural precinct and all were for Republicans, that would out all the voters. Maybe there could be a rule that if every vote in some precinct was for the same candidate, that precinct wouldn't be put online. Or maybe the scanned ballots for very small precincts would be combined to make unanimity unlikely. A company, Clear Ballot, already has software and hardware to do all of this. It even ranks ballots by "sloppiness," so those ballots can be inspected and hand counted. To see why this is an issue, consider these ballots from the 2008 Senate election between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

Some ballots from the 2008 Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken

You can't remove the human factor from voting. Dominion Voting Systems is now flush with cash as a result of its settlement with Fox News and surely would be interested in building a system and bidding for contracts. If the scheme was adopted by a state, no doubt other companies would spring up as well and there could be competitive bidding for the hardware and software. Fontes is looking closely at the matter, so Arizona could go first, unless the Republican-controlled legislature refuses to play ball. In that case, some blue state where Democrats have the trifecta could go first.

One potential issue is people selling their vote. The problem here is that if Mike sells his vote to John, how does John know that Mike voted as agreed? In this system, Mike could photograph the blank (or filled in) ballot with his smartphone and send John the photo. Then John could look it up later online for verification. On the other hand, in the current system, John could just ask Mike to request an absentee ballot, then give him the blank ballot and signed envelope. Putting the ballots online doesn't make it any worse than it already is, and there is no evidence at all of large-scale vote selling. After all, how would John find customers? Put an ad in the local newspaper or online? That's kind of looking for trouble since buying votes is a crime.

All in all, it seems like an intriguing idea worth exploring. (V)

Some Bits and Pieces of Site Business

Normally, we would do this in a note at the top of the page, but there's enough stuff that we thought it better to do it here.

To start, we continue to get complaints that we've embedded the wrong video on [DATE]. We can assure you that it's nearly impossible for us to make that particular error. If you are seeing the wrong video, it is a 99.9999% chance that an older video has been cached by your browser. There are two workarounds for this. First, you can force reload the page, which is shift-F5 in most Windows browsers and shift-command-r in most Mac browsers. Alternatively, we endeavor to include a link to all embedded videos:

A screen cap from Sunday's page, 
where we embedded the Apple 1984 commercial

The black arrow at top right is pointing at the link to the embedded video.

Moving on, we had some e-mails about how our mobile version doesn't update as quickly as our regular version when we post each day's page. We made a slight change to our code, suggested by reader D.B. in Mountain View, that may resolve the matter. Failing that, we pass along this message from reader C.T. in Cape Coral, FL: "In the morning on my Android phone I tap the Next report button up right, then I tap the heading up left to the right of the Date. Finally I refresh the page by pulling down the screen until the circling arrow refresh icon appears. If the next report is up, the date up left changes." J.W. in Indianapolis, IN, concurs: "Just refresh the page on the phone and all is well."

We've also had readers point out, quite correctly, that when it comes to the Friday contest, readers who are: (1) on the East Coast, (2) awake early, or (3) on the East Coast and awake early have a big advantage. We have thought about ways to level the playing field, and haven't come up with anything we are enamored with. If you have a suggestion, let us know.

Also, we are working on something similar (but not identical to) the Bingo game we did for the first debate, just to keep things... well, something other than "deadly boring." If you're willing to help us with our preparations, here is a survey of things likely to be said during the debate. For now, all we need is for you to choose up to 10 items from the list that you think are most likely to be uttered. Please weigh in by 8:00 p.m. PT tonight. Thanks!

And finally, we got this message from reader J.P. in Guilford, CT on Sunday:

I was at the rally for Palestine in DC yesterday, and I can tell you that for a LOT of people, genocide is not a lesser evil. "Biden, Biden you can't hide, you're committing genocide" was popular. Biden has dug his own grave here by turning a blind eye and making excuses for killing on an unimaginable scale, that won't bring us any closer to peace. Many will be voting proudly against genocide, myself included. Some will vote Cornel West, and many, like me, will vote Green. There is nothing anyone can say to make me vote for genocide, so don't waste your breath.

We know there are a fair number of readers who share this basic sentiment. So, we would like those readers, including J.P. in Guilford, to consider sending us a message explaining their thinking. Among the questions you might address: (1) Do you believe Joe Biden and Donald Trump are equally bad when it comes to Israel?; (2) Do you believe Trump is an improvement over Biden when it comes to Israel?; and (3) How will a protest vote help the people of Palestine, in your view (especially if it helps elect Donald Trump)? We will run some of the responses later this week. (Z)

Previous | Next

Main page for smartphones

Main page for tablets and computers