Methods of Counting (part two)

Part One discussed gerrymandering and voter ID laws; now we turn our attention to somewhat darker matters.

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Another form of voter suppression is still more deeply cloaked in legalism: convicted felons can’t vote. For violent felons this may be a reasonable punishment, even if it is lifelong. For non-violent drug offenders, however? Especially for marijuana? Use of marijuana is so common that if everyone who had ever smoked up was tried, convicted, and stripped of their voting rights, the electorate in this country would shrink by half. At least. Which means that being denied your right to vote, perhaps for your whole life, on the grounds of a felony drug possession of marijuana, is a travesty of justice. Yet it happens… and perhaps predictably the rate of drug felonies is dramatically higher among minorities. Continue reading

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Methods of Counting (part one)

The United States of America is a democratic republic, or so goes the story. A republic, because citizens elect their representatives; a democracy, because most people are citizens and have the right to vote. This is different from a direct democracy such as ancient Athens, where citizenship meant you were part of the government, but citizenship was reserved to just a few thousand inhabitants (property-owning adult males, in other words). So American elections are simple, routine: people cast their ballots, the votes are counted, and the will of the people prevails.

Well — that’s how it’s supposed to go. There’s a lot that goes on in that middle step. But how hard could it be? Count up the votes for Candidate A or Candidate B, tally all the ballots for Proposition X, and so forth. It’s basic math! Continue reading