Saturday, September 8, 2007

Can anyone say Florida?

I came across this and it makes me sick, supposedly this is the best nation in the world.

I've got to say I don't at all support Ron Paul. He's definitely the wrong party for me but to deny anyone the right to vote is just plain wrong, especially in a country that has to spend millions of dollars in publicity to get anyone to vote at all!

I don't get the American justice system - apparently these voters paid US$50-$75 to pre-register to vote for Ron Paul (as in the organisers knew who these people were going to vote for before they got there). One of the biggest issues that I did know about in regards to this particular nuance of the American voting system is the issue of gerrymandering.

I think this issue is of real importance so I'm going to quickly explain the American voting system for those of you who don't get it. First of all there are two major parties. To make this easy I'm even going to colour code them so they match New Zealand party leanings. Firstly there are the Republicans. George Bush is a Republican, so is Ron Paul. In New Zealand political terms they can best be aligned with National (i.e. they are right-leaning), hence the blue. Then there are the Democrats. Bill Clinton (and Hillary) is a Democrat, as is Barak Obama. In New Zealand political terms they best align with Labour (i.e. they are left-leaning) and hence the red.

The whole electoral process in the States is quite complicated and I can't say I completely understand it so I'm going to focus on the bit I sort-of-can-wrap-my-head-around: the presidential elections.

Firstly, the public of America have the ability to register as either a Republican or a Democrat. Why do they do this? Well because that means they have the ability to first vote for which candidate they want. This is what this video is dealing with.

So a year before the official Presidential Election, registered Republicans are lining up to choose a candidate. The Republican candidates for the 2008 Presidential Election are: Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Sam Brownback, Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul. It is noted that the forerunners in this election are Giuliani, Thompson, Romney, and McCain.

Those registered as a Democrat are also lining up to choose their candidate. The Democratic candidates are John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Christopher Dodd, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson. The forerunners for the Democrats are Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

Right, so let's pretend this election has happened (it hasn't) and the forerunners (at least according to wikipedia) have won. It means that the 2008 presidential election will come down to Giuliani and Clinton.

This is where the concept of Gerrymandering comes in. I highly suggest the Wikipedia article, it's pretty interesting stuff but to put it simply before the election, the electoral boundaries need to be set. In the States, they can use GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to map where the supporters for each party live (as they previously 'picked a side' in the former election).

Can you see where the problem is yet?

For those of you that can't, imagine you have baked a strawberry and blueberry pie. Lets say, for argument sake that you prefer strawberries to blueberries, so when you're sharing your pie with your friends you want the piece with the most strawberries. Because you know where all the strawberries are, you can cut the pieces of the pie so that you get the piece with mostly strawberries. If all your friends want mostly strawberries, there is probably a method of cutting the pie so that most of you have more strawberries then blueberries, but the pieces are probably going to look pretty crazy.

Essentially you have gerrymandered your pie so that in any given slice, the majority fruit is strawberry. Your pie is unlikely to look like a typically sliced pie, and the pieces won't be the same size, but the important thing is that there are more strawberries then blueberries in each piece.

You must see the point of this analogy now. Some of the voting territories in the States look insane, and when overlayed with a map of registered Democrats and Republicans, the reasoning for these weird and uneven shapes becomes very clear. The electoral districts are set each election by the reigning party, and this really does happen in real life. This is bad enough but to outright stop people from even getting to the ballots?

I don't care who you are, or where your political dice fall - that's just straight-out wrong!

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