For vs. Against

For vs. Against

Over on Twitter I said:

I’m considering creating a web site to demonstrate how messed up America’s political system is… Anyone wanna help?

And here’s where that came from… I was listening to public radio and there was talk about how many of the people voting in the presidential election will be casting their vote against a candidate as much as they will for a candidate.

For most of my adult life I’ve taken the position that choosing an elected official is an exercise in choosing between the lesser of two evils. I’m not sure if this idea is right or wrong, but I wonder if we can prove it, so here’s an idea.

Let’s ask people to tell us if they voted for a candidate, or against a candidate.

I don’t care who you voted for, I’m more interested in if you really truly support the person you vote for, or if you’re just voting against the other guy. If we find out that the vast majority of people are actually voting against someone rather than for someone, then the system is broken.

How do we implement this? Here’s a few ideas…

I’m sure we could come up with some hashtags like #votefor and #voteagainst and attempt to get people to use them. This is a low barrier to entry idea, and it could work. (Though it does restrict the data to just those with Twitter accounts.)

Text Messaging
Utilizing Twilio it would probably be fairly trivial to build an application to allow people to text their for/against status. They could even submit right at the polling place. You could have people sign up ahead of time to be reminded/asked on election night. (There would be some cost involved with this idea. Text messaging is cheap, but it ain’t free.)

The whole thing could just be done as a web site, which would require registration/login and all the fun of building a site that is easy for people to sign up for, and use, and all that jazz. It’s doable, but it’s also (probably) more work than the other ideas. (The text messaging idea would still need a web site, but probably a less complicated site.)

The problems:
I see a few problems with the idea. The first would be adopting widespread use of it. Each of the three solutions I mentioned above have their own pros/cons, but they all rely on technology to submit data. Some voters aren’t big into technology. This could be solved by having people ask others if they voted for or against and then compiling the info. (Remember, we don’t care who you voted for, just if you voted for someone or against someone.) Have people ask other people could expand the sample beyond just the tech-savvy folks who use Twitter, mobile phones, and the Internet. (We’d like to think that’s everyone, but I’m not sure it is.)

Another problem would be determining what it means to vote for or against. Can it be expressed in binary like that? Do we need a sliding scale, or percentages? My first though is that such an idea would just complicate things. Every vote for someone is a vote against someone else, and vise versa, so at some point people just need to decide yay or nay.

Anyway, that’s my idea, and I don’t know if it’s original or not, but I’m sharing it, and really hope that someone runs with it, and does something with it, and by November I’m letting you know if I voted for someone or against someone.



My Voting Experience

Earlier in the week Dana checked the city’s web site and determined we should go to the community center. We got there just after 7 AM. The line was short, maybe 15 people or so. There was a guy in front of us who heard me ranting about the media and the government, and then kicked in with his opinion, saying the media and the government mean to control us and keep us down (so far, so good) and he then suggested we watch some 2 hour movie on YouTube. I muttered something about not trusting YouTube since they do not have a history of respecting the rights of creators, and since Google, a large evil corporation now owns them, they really can’t be trusted. (I’m guessing the guy was not a Democrat, since he had a ‘Dump Doyle’ sticker on his long black trenchcoat.)

So we get to the front of the line and Dana is not listed, so they send her to register. I am not listed either. I give them my address, and one person tells us to go to Greenland Elementary School, while another suggests we go to City Hall and ask them. We opt for Greenland since I voted there previously when I lived a few blocks away. Greenland had a long, long, line. Not 15 people long, more like 50 or 60, and it seemed to be moving slow. It was just after 7 AM though, so maybe that’s why.

The voting process itself was pretty smooth and easy. At Greenland they had sample ballots on the wall so you’d know what it would look like. They handed me a ballot and a small slip of paper with a number (I was number 99 – I believe it said ‘voter 0099’ to be precise.) I walked to the little standup desks with sidewalls filled out the paper ballot using a black felt tip pen that was provided, and then brought it to a machine (it was not a Diebold, but I do not remember the name of it.) A woman instructed me to insert it into a slot on the machine, and I did so, and handed her my number slip, which she placed on one of those spike things people use on their desks to hold expired bits of paper. That was it, so we left… Hooray for Democracy!