I've deleted the posts that no longer seem relevant so that the more timeless ones can be found easily.
If something seems to be missing, that's because there used to be a lot more here.
I now blog at The Bald Cypress.
Thank you very much,
Randall T. Hayes
It is ironic, then, that the new three-stage electoral system has, in its first usage, caused a one-month delay in the seating of our new Congressmen, which would not have occurred had we been using the old two-stage electoral system. If we had used our old system for these special elections, the 6th District and 1st District seats would already be filled. Instead, two-sevenths of the voters in Louisiana will continue to go unrepresented in the U.S. House of Representatives until after the third round of voting on May 3.
There is no reason that this had to happen. There is no requirement that states use the same electoral system for special Congressional elections that they use for regular Congressional elections. California uses an electoral system for its special Congressional elections that is very different from the one used for that state's regular Congressional elections. This allows them to fill their vacant Congressional seats with a minimum of delay.
The only reason for using the same electoral system for special Congressional elections that is used for regular Congressional elections is the concern that voters might become confused if they are required to switch back-and-forth between the different systems. That does not apply in Louisiana, though, since voters already have to deal with two distinct electoral systems (i.e., one for Congressional elections and another for state and local elections).
The Louisiana Legislature should have foreseen the serious problem that this new three-stage system would create when used in special Congressional elections. Even if none of the other electoral reforms that I have suggested is adopted, the state legislators should amend our election laws to allow future special Congressional elections to be conducted under Louisiana's traditional two-stage electoral system, so that future Congressional vacancies can be filled as quickly as possible.
I do want to point out that it's not the closed nature of these primaries that is costing the extra money. These elections cost more because they're spread out over three stages, instead of two. A three-stage election would cost just as much even if it used open party primaries.
Instant runoff voting could allow us to compress the Congressional election cycle back down to two stages or less. If it were used in the party primaries, then the party nominees could be chosen in one round. Of course, in the general election IRV could provide an even greater benefit: the person elected would have to have the support of more than half of the voters casting ballots.
Alternatively, we could have just one general election in which all the candidates run, like the elections Louisianans are used to. However, we could use IRV in that election, thus allowing a candidate to be chosen by an absolute majority in one round. We could hold that election in November and our Congressmen would be chosen in November. It would solve the problem that prompted our electoral changes in the first place, but without adding the cost of extra elections and without resorting to plurality-voting.
If there was a concern that there would be too many candidates from one party in that general election, then the parties could devise and pay for some process (e.g., caucuses, conventions) to choose their own nominees.
"Both keep the Bible by their bedside. Calongne said she sometimes gets up at 4 a.m. to read the Bible. Jenkins said he tries to read the Bible in bed at night but usually falls asleep because he’s tired. Calongne said she also reads whatever her school-age daughter is reading. Jenkins said he likes biographies."
That's interesting. I also enjoy biographies and juvenile/YA books.
After reading the above article, I made an inventory of the books I have on my own bedside table. Here's what I found:
Three bibles (one NAB, one KJV, one NIV)
- Obviously, this proves I'm three times as holy as either Jenkins or Calongne.
- I think it was the textbook that was assigned (almost 18 years ago) for my college Louisiana history class.
- The Eye in the Pyramid
- The Golden Apple
- I have a subscription. I'm a big fan of the lowbrow art movement.
- I've always been interested in Louisiana's more colorful politicians.
Jay Chevalier's Earl K. Long and Jay Chevalier: "When the Music Stopped"
- See above entry.
- See above entry.
- Good times.
- It's a novel about a girl who's half-human, half-bonobo.
- A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, with Diaspora Peoples
- Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism
- The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements
Hunter S. Thompson's The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time
- An anthology of several of Dr. Thompson's shorter writings.
Martin Ottenheimer's Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriages
- It's a critique of the peculiarly American laws that, in some states, prohibit first cousins from marrying. Ottenheimer points out that the eugenic arguments that are usually made in support of these laws are based on urban legends and other misunderstandings of genetics.
A copy of Interview magazine from September '04
- There's a Selma Blair interview/pictorial.
Ben Edward Akerley's The X-Rated Bible: An Irreverent Survey of Sex in the Scriptures
- Regarding the Bible, Mark Twain said, "It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies." Akerley's book examines the obscene parts.
Volume 1 of the Louisiana Civil Code
- There's lots of useful information in there. Every Louisianan should read it. There's a free version online.
I feel like I should clarify, though, that those books are on my bedside table just because I either refer to them often or enjoy skimming through them or have taken them down from the shelf recently for some particular purpose and haven't yet gotten around to putting them back.
Here are the books that I'm actually in the process of reading right now:
A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
- Jacobs' previous book (The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, in which he chronicled the adventures he had and the things he learned while reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica) is one of my favorite recent nonfiction books. This one's also very good. As the title states, he tries to follow all the rules in the Bible for a year.
Mitch Cullin's Tideland
- It's a novel about a little girl who spends a summer alone in an old house on the Texas prairie. I liked the movie, so I bought the book.
Charles Murray's In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State
- Murray suggests that we should replace all our welfare programs (including farm subsidies, corporate welfare, etc.) with a guaranteed minimum income of $10,000 a year. It's a fascinating idea that makes a lot more sense than our current system.
Most directly, it is a reference to the Principia Discordia, which contains the phrase. The writers of the Principia, however, were quoting a much earlier source.
According to the ancient Greek myth The Judgment of Paris, the Golden Apple of Discord was inscribed with Greek wording which is usually translated as “to the fairest” (with “fairest” being used as a synonym for “prettiest”).
Three goddesses - Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite - each claimed the apple. Though Zeus was chosen to pick the winner, he didn’t want to risk alienating anyone. So, he delegated the responsibility to a mortal named Paris.
Each goddess offered Paris a bribe to encourage him to pick her. In the end, Paris awarded the apple to Aphrodite, who had offered him Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. (I’ve always thought the story would have been so much better if Paris had skipped the three major candidates and awarded the apple to Helen instead.)
Anyway, the consequence of all this vanity, bribery, and corrupted judgment was the Trojan War.
The ways in which this legendary beauty contest mirrors contemporary electoral politics are obvious, I think.
You may have guessed that I don’t have much respect for the current political world. I do have great respect for the basic process and I’m slightly saddened by its failure to produce good leadership, but I’m not going to be morose about it. (I might be a little bitter at times, but even then I try to keep a sense of humor.)
Whimsicality is a part of my personality and I’m not going to try to hide that. I am, however, limiting my mockery mostly to the peripheral parts of my campaign. I’m almost completely serious about the policies I advocate in any of these blog posts.
Small attention has been given to, and almost no analysis has been made of, the more significant change: The candidate who gets the most votes in the general election will be elected, even if he or she gets less than a majority of the votes cast.
This plurality voting system really benefits those would-be candidates who have a reliable 25-30% base of support in their Congressional districts (or statewide, for U.S. Senate races), but who could not realistically get over 50%.
While closed party primaries have long been advocated for Louisiana as a way to counteract the trend of two extreme (or, at best, niche) candidates getting into a runoff, the plurality voting system could more than offset the supposed moderating effect of party primaries.
If we consider the primary results of past elections, we can see what effect this plurality system would have had if it had been in place in those elections.
Although it is a bit dated and none of the candidates involved then is still the force that he was at the time, the 1991 gubernatorial primary results provide an interesting scenario. That was basically a four-man race. (There were a few other candidates, but Edwin Edwards at 34%, David Duke at 32%, Buddy Roemer at 27%, and Clyde Holloway at 5% got almost all the votes.) If we imagine that race as a 2008 Senate race with Edwards as the Democratic nominee and Roemer as the Republican nominee and Duke and Holloway as independents, Edwards would have won by a plurality. If, however, Holloway had stayed out of the race and his votes had gone more to Duke than to Roemer (which would have been likely, given Duke and Holloway's supporters' similarities) then Duke would have actually been elected with slightly more than 34%.
Obviously, I have assumed a lot of things in the above scenario that might not come to pass in contemporary Congressional elections, but I think I have illustrated how the new system might result in a minority of voters electing a very non-mainstream candidate.
This new system also greatly increases the chances that a black candidate could be elected from some district other than the majority-black Second. Five of Louisiana's six majority-white Congressional districts have large enough black populations that a black candidate could get a plurality if the white vote were sufficiently split among three or more (or, in some districts, two or more) other candidates. The significant black population statewide should also make the U.S. Senate races attractive to black candidates.
If the black candidate were also able to secure the Democratic nomination (which might be difficult since the party primaries will involve a runoff) then his or her chances of winning the general election would be really very good.
Conversely, a lone white candidate could win in the Second District if the black vote were sufficiently split.
The supporters of plurality voting might argue that it has worked fine in other states (which is a debatable point), but we should recognize that Louisiana is not politically like the other states.
First, Louisiana does not have the sort of strong political party culture that other states have.
Second, Louisianans have historically shown more of a willingness to vote for rogue candidates than voters in other states have.
Third, compared to other states, Louisiana has very easy ballot access laws for individual candidates.
The ease with which a person can get on the ballot in Louisiana without first building either a fortune in campaign funds or an army of campaign volunteers or endearing himself to the leaders of a political machine is a good thing, in my opinion. It helps keep the electoral process open to new ideas. Even the no-hope-of-winning candidates (a group in which I proudly include myself) can offer something of value. If nothing else, just having an array of protest-vote options allows a voter to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with the leading candidates. Let us hope that the legislature does not react to any problems which might arise over plurality voting by simply restricting ballot access.
A more open and more democratic solution would be instant runoff voting (IRV). Voters would rank the candidates, rather than just picking their first choice. Even if no candidate was the first choice of more than half of the voters casting ballots, those rankings would allow a winner to be selected by an absolute majority rather than a mere plurality. As the name implies, it would achieve the same result as a runoff, but without the expense and delay of another election. In fact, if IRV were also used in the party primaries, the whole Congressional election could be reduced to two stages, rather than the three stages likely under our new system.
Unlike the plurality system, IRV would eliminate the worry that voters and potential candidates will have over splitting the vote and throwing the election to a candidate that most voters voted against. People would be able to vote their hopes, rather than their fears.
Before we dismiss instant runoff voting on the grounds that Louisiana should not take the risks involved in being at the forefront of such innovative electoral reform, we should consider that Louisiana already uses IRV on absentee ballots sent to U.S. military personnel and to Louisiana voters residing abroad. (RS 18:1306 A. (4))
If instant runoff voting is good enough for Louisianans serving away from home in the U.S. military, why isn’t it good enough for the rest of us?
The bill's basic purpose was to change Louisiana's system for electing U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators to a closed party primary / plurality voting system. This was a change from the nonpartisan blanket primary / runoff system which Louisiana had used since 1978 for all of its elections (except for U.S. presidential nominating contests) and which is still in place for Louisiana elections for state and local offices.
A change in the way Louisianans elected their members of Congress was being considered because, under the electoral system then in use, our state's U.S. House and U.S. Senate members were sometimes not chosen until December runoffs - about a month after members in other states were elected. Critics pointed out that this late start put Louisiana's Congressman at a disadvantage. For example, some of the best committee assignments had already been made before Louisiana's Congressman were even elected.
This problem had not been adequately addressed earlier because it did not exist for most of the time that Louisiana was using the nonpartisan blanket primary / runoff system for its Congressional elections. From 1978 through 1996, Louisiana had held its Congressional primaries in September or October, with a runoff in November when needed. This meant that many elections were actually decided in September or October, so there was no need for a November runoff. In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Foster v. Love that that schedule violated federal statutes which had been enacted in the 1870's and which set the date for Congressional elections in November. In response, Louisiana began in 1998 holding its Congressional primaries in November and its Congressional runoffs - when needed - in December, thus creating the late-arrival problem.
Against that backdrop, SB18 was passed by the legislature, signed into law by the governor, and became a part of Louisiana's election code. It became effective at the start of 2007, which means that this year's special Congressional elections are the first to use the new system.
How It Will Work
Under the new law, Louisiana's Congressional elections will be conducted in this way:
Each of Louisiana's five recognized political parties (Democratic, Green, Libertarian, Reform, Republican) will hold a first party primary in September, unless fewer than two candidates from that party qualifies to run for that Congressional seat. If only one candidate from a party qualifies to run, then that candidate becomes that party's nominee, without the need for a primary.
Only Republicans may vote in the Republican party primary. In the four other party primaries, voters who are either affiliated with the party holding the primary or not affiliated with any party or affiliated with some party other than the five recognized parties may vote. Only candidates affiliated with the party holding the primary may run in that primary.
If one candidate in the first party primary gets a majority of the votes cast in that primary, then that candidate becomes that party's nominee.
If no candidate gets a majority in a first party primary, then the top two vote-getters in that first party primary proceed to a second party primary, which is held in October. The candidate who gets a majority in the second party primary becomes that party's nominee.
The nominee for each of the five recognized parties proceeds to the general election, which is held in November. Also, any independent candidates and any candidates affiliated with some party other than the five recognized parties will proceed directly to the November general election, without being required to participate in any primaries. (All candidates, however, are required to qualify in the same qualifying period. This is significant since it means that a candidate who loses his or her party's nomination in the primaries cannot then choose to run in the general election as an independent.)
All voters, regardless of party affiliation, vote in the same general election.
The candidate who receives the most votes in the general election is elected, even if that candidate receives less than half of the votes cast in the general election.
Obviously, the months in which the upcoming special Congressional elections in the Sixth and the First Districts will be held differ from the months listed above for regular Congressional elections. The special elections will, however, follow the same basic three-stage process described above, with one possible exception: Under the proclamations issued by Governors Blanco (calling for the First District special election) and Jindal (calling for the Sixth District special election), if all contested party nominations are settled without the need for a second party primary, then the general election will be moved up to the date on which the second party primary would have been held.
In these special elections, the first party primaries are scheduled for March 8, the second party primaries are scheduled for April 5, and the general election is scheduled for May 3.
In the coming days and weeks, I will be sharing my reasons for running and my thoughts about the campaign via this blog.
I will list now, though, my primary reasons for running:
1. To educate the people of Louisiana about the drastic changes which were made in how we will be conducting our U.S. House and U.S. Senate elections.
2. To explain why one of these changes - the requirement of a mere plurality, rather than an absolute majority, to win the general election - was a very bad idea.
3. To suggest alternatives to the plurality voting system.
4. To help arouse interest in what might be a very boring, though still possibly important, election.
5. To challenge the dogmatic and muddled thinking that many otherwise clear-thinking people engage in at election time, simply because they have been conditioned by a manipulative political establishment to NEVER think outside the box on political/electoral matters.