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There has been a lot of arguing about vote-by-mail these past few days, and I think the main objection to VBM has not been completely understood.  

For clarity's sake here it is again, before I back it up:

We should never accept a voting system that lets a woman's husband watch as she fills out her ballot.

People have belittled this objection by exaggerating it.  They picture some psycho controlling husband who will force his wife to vote (R)---and then they argue that this problem is minor in terms of raw numbers.  How many psycho controlling husbands are there?

But this is a big fat straw man.  The problem here is not confined to abusive relationships.  Even in a perfectly "normal" marriage, of which there are tens of millions, people will defect from (R) to (D) one year and keep that secret from their spouses.  This is a widespread phenomenon, large enough to swing elections.

Below the fold, some evidence that yes this is a huge problem.  Plus some counter-arguments dismantled.

I will say it again:  mandatory ballot privacy protects a voting bloc ("secret defectors") comprising millions of voters, large enough to swing national elections.  This is not an extreme case of a few psycho husbands.  

For example, my own parents are not abusive at all.  They vote (R)  --- but my mother is more sympathetic about abortion.  I can guarantee you that if she decided to vote (D) one year she'd keep  it to herself.  If she couldn't keep it to herself she wouldn't defect.  This is without any fear of violent reprisal, without any abuse, without any psycho controlling husband.  

Now what causes that conformism, if there is no overt threat?  Simple:  people behave according to local mores when they are being watched.  Rush is on the radio every morning, and Dems are routinely described as idiots and traitors, so you have local mores.  You don't need an abusive relationship for this to happen.


Some basic numbers

How many secret defectors are there?  This is difficult to measure, but we have some tantalizing clues.  Observe this statistic, which admittedly consists of suspiciously round numbers:

Over 75 percent of married men were certain that their wives voted along their family's party line. When asked the same question, only 50 percent of the women responded the same way.

Let's do some math:  if these numbers are accurate, the smallest possible percentage of secret defectors is 25%.  (We might foolishly multiply 75% by 0.5, but these two statistics are not likely to be independent.)    25% of approximately 55 million American married couples means about 13 million married women who secretly do not vote as their husbands think.  Thirteen million is a lot of goddamned people.  This is a big problem, QED.

Even if we employ the we-don't-know-shit principle and take this down by an order of magnitude to be safe, you're still talking about a macroscopic percentage of American married couples.  Enough to decide who wins in any swing state.

In short, don't give me this bullshit argument that we're talking about some rare or freakish phenomenon.  There is a huge voting bloc here, whose choices are protected by the default security of a ballot booth.


Common myths exploded

Let me address the remaining counter-arguments I have heard about VBM.  I will enumerate them for your convenience:


       
  1. "Oregon has decades of experience with it, and it works."

     There is no doubt that OR residents really like the system, that it is convenient, cheap, and easy.  But that only means it works logistically.   This is not evidence that a security hole isn't a problem.  

    In fact you can say many similar things about touch-screen voting machines.  They reduce the undervote, a lot of people prefer them in terms of convenience and ease-of-use.  But of course convenience is not the problem.

  2.    

  3. "The people who are most prone to intimidation like it too."

     To my knowledge, nobody has ever asked the specific group who would be disenfranchized---namely, secret defectors.   Does anyone know of a poll in which people were asked if they planned to defect, but had difficulty arranging that?  And if those people like VBM?

  4.    

  5. "If anyone intimidates a family member, then he'll go to jail."  

    We are not talking about an actual act of intimidation.  There is nothing to arrest anyone for.  See my example above.  You can't arrest my Dad for listening to Rush every morning, or projecting a general air of contempt for Democrats.

  6.    

  7. "What about all the abuses with electronic voting machines?"

      What about them?  You aren't forced to choose between Diebold and VBM.  You aren't forced to embrace one security problem to cure others.

    Indeed, this national VBM idea may be a repeat of the 2000 fiasco.  We embraced those damned machines because we were sick of butterfly ballots and chads.  So to solve those problems we rushed into another voting system that sacrificed the basic security of free elections.  Wasn't that a bad idea?  So why would we solve our new voting problems by throwing away yet another fundamental tenet of secure elections?

  8.    

  9. "People could watch me vote on the touch-screen machine too"

    That's because the touch-screen machines are so insecure that you can't put them behind a curtain!  If anyone can subvert an AccuVote in 60 seconds, then it has to be in view at all times.  

    But this only a problem with DRE machines.   Me, I voted behind a curtain.  In fact, I have always voted behind curtains, both with punch paper ballots and switch machines.  This is the minimum level of privacy I expect, and it is easy to arrange.
     

  10.    

  11. "People can vote away from their husbands/families if they want."  

    ...and then they give away that they are defecting.  No dice.  One reason why we have ballot booth privacy by default is that privacy doesn't look suspicious.  If you  must opt for privacy, then you project your intent.

  12.    

  13. "But we already have absentee ballots; don't they have the same problems?"

      Yes, but they are not the default.  In our electoral system privacy is opt-out, not opt-in.  Opt-in privacy is dangerous because it projects your intent to make an upopular choice.

    But yes, absentee ballots do have this security problem.  They are still a minor problem because you have to go to the trouble to arrange that scenario; it is not dropped on every family's kitchen table by default.  


  14.    
  15. "If anyone is in that situation, she should wonder why she married an asshole."

      Believe it or not, I have heard this argument a half-dozen times this week.  From progressives.  

    It is not worth elaborating on why this is a stupid remark---but I will point out again that we are not just talking about abusive relationships.  People need secrecy to defect even in "normal" households.


  16.        
  17. "There are all sorts of logistical problems with voting by ballot box."  

    Then please, solve this one deal-breaker problem with VBM.  Design a VBM system that doesn't have this problem.  If VBM is so much  better (and I believe you when you say it is cheaper/safer/easier/popular,) then you should have a strong incentive to fix its Achilles heel.
     

  18.    

  19. "Well, then what do you suggest?"  

    I suggest you ask the scientific and crypto community.  There is a lot of ongoing research in the development of secure election protocols, with the goal of solving our existing problems without creating new ones.

    You ask anyone developing election protocols today---or ask anyone who breaks them, like the Princeton people who hacked the AccuVote machine---and I guarantee you that none of them will agree to a voting system without ballot booth-level privacy.


Originally posted to Caj on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:09 PM PST.

Poll

National Vote-By-Mail?

38%10 votes
23%6 votes
7%2 votes
30%8 votes

| 26 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Like the "vote by male" title (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DCDemocrat, peeder, Floja Roja

    I would have thought you'd be getting a lot of replies from angry women voters by now!

    Walking. It's the new driving.

    by Batfish on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:07:02 PM PST

  •  Very detailed analysis of why Moulitsas & others (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    condoleaser, lil love, red bed head

    are wrong again.  Well done.

  •  I hope to make this diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peeder, lil love, red bed head

    ...a resource for future debate.  
     
    In fact, the whole reason I wrote it is so I can respond to the same old arguments with a link, and "please see point #5."

    •  No invisible giant bunnies voting either! (0+ / 0-)

      We can eliminate all kinds of imaginary bogeymen by forcing everyone to the polls to stand in line for 14 hours with their squirrelly tired children and alzheimers parents who can possibly get there and aren't kept away by big hairy, scary men. Not ever.

      I'm so sick of the big bad strawmen.

      You want to help abused women? Donate to shelters and stand up when your buddies do it. But stop victimizing me yet again by telling me and everyone else I'm the reason I can't vote in the safest way possible because you are going to hold abusive men over my head when it's more likely he'll keep me from leaving the house than forcing me to fill it out a certain way.

      As you've seen with days of using abusive men and voting together people are far more concerned with that idea than the reality of those who are living it everyday. An abusive man would not likely put his entitlement to abuse in such danger of your concern about whether for a few minutes I have a curtain in a place I can't even get to.

      9 women are turned away for every one that gets into a shelter and your concern is whether she can vote the way you want her to?

      There's far bigger problems to fix than the insulting idea that VBM is dangerous for abused women.

      I've had four bones broken by my abusive ex (who was male -- still is) and I voted by mail (not male) during that time and never once, not one time, was my vote ever influence by any male.

      Seriously KNOCK IT OFF!

      Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est... est... le singe est disparu! -- Eddie Izzard

      by CSI Bentonville on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 05:09:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here we go again. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        peeder

        You want to help abused women? Donate to shelters and stand up when your buddies do it. But stop victimizing me yet again by telling me and everyone else I'm the reason I can't vote in the safest way possible because you are going to hold abusive men over my head when it's more likely he'll keep me from leaving the house than forcing me to fill it out a certain way.

        I've tried to be extremely, painstakingly clear about this:  we are not talking about abusive relationships.  Please read the diary.
           
        We are talking about ordinary, "normal" households, where surprise surprise, millions of people still keep their choices secret from their spouses.  
           
        People trying to defend this security hole have been caricaturing it as a matter of psycho husbands and abused women.  But it is far more universal than that.
         
        Also, there is a false dichotomy here:  the whole "XYZ is a big problem, and you're worried about PDQ??" canard.  I'm sorry, but the big problems in this country are not an excuse to punch a big hole in election security.

        •  Here we go again? (0+ / 0-)

          How insultingly dismissive it that statement?

          I am talking about all kinds of relationships not just abusive or "normal" ones as you define non-abusive. You aren't giving credit to those relationships even while using the idea of abusive relationships to advance your idea of abnormal normal ones. You're saying they can't be trusted with each other.

          Why if you're talking about intimidation are you saying you aren't talking about "those" kinds of relationships. Intimidation is abuse.

          Why would you assume I haven't read the diary? Rather dismissive as well. yo

          I was abused and the physical stuff didn't start until the last two years yet I never once showed my ballot to him and I never saw his. But somehow you posit a non-psycho man (who by the way my ex doesn't seem to fit that definition either except when in the privacy of his own home with the female du jour) will be a problem that way?

          I have worked with both abused and non-abused women (and men) and none of them have encountered this problem you seem to claim would be wide-spread.

          It's a false premise and you use the idea of abuse to advance it whether you painstakingly later attempt to clarify it's not male domination in your Vote by Male diary.

          Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est... est... le singe est disparu! -- Eddie Izzard

          by CSI Bentonville on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 06:21:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  ... (0+ / 0-)

            Why if you're talking about intimidation are you saying you aren't talking about "those" kinds of relationships. Intimidation is abuse.

            Because we're not talking about intimidation either.

            Please look at point #3, and the example I gave of my own parents.  Even without any intimidation, spouses commonly keep their voting choices to themselves.
             

            But somehow you posit a non-psycho man (who by the way my ex doesn't seem to fit that definition either except when in the privacy of his own home with the female du jour) will be a problem that way?

            No, I am positing nothing myself; I am pointing to actual evidence, from poll data, that this is a real phenomenon involving millions of voters.  (See "some basic numbers," above.)

            It's a false premise and you use the idea of abuse to advance it whether you painstakingly later attempt to clarify it's not male domination in your Vote by Male diary.

            If you think it is false you are invited to point out any methodological errors in the data or its collection.  But in the end I will err on the side of what the data says.

            Plus, and for the last time, I am not talking about abuse.  You walked into this diary assuming that's what it was about.

            •  Your title is "Vote by Male" (0+ / 0-)

              That plays on the idea of inimidation and abuse as it's been forwarded since Tuesday by one diary after another.

              In bold and blockquotes you have this:

              We should never accept a voting system that lets a woman's husband watch as she fills out her ballot.

              And you advertised this Vote by Male diary right under a comment advertising another diary where the main point is abusive relationships invalidate VBM. The poster of that comment continued the abuse meme in that diary both of you used to advance your diaries. Your comment says you will try to consolidate the various arguments, the big one being the abuse issue, suggesting both sides, yet what it seems is abuse is used to draw people in to your argument against not pro & con on VBM.

              I have tried to consolidate those various arguments here, and would appreciate your input and vote (I have a poll.  Let's see if the numbers change from last time.)

              Meanwhile your poll is terribly slanted as well so much so I won't vote in it as there are only answers  to choose from that support your claims.

              There's even been one comment (albiet in the other diary) that stated we were doing a disservice to relationships by stating wife abuse is rarely, if ever, about voting even though no one bothered to find out if we'd lived it.

              What data? You have a link later provided by another sympathetic poster to an idea that is being used to claim VBM would suffer because men don't really know how their wives vote.

              Well, just a few weeks ago it was announced that married households are no longer the majority. So that makes it even more unlikely that in married households where 25% believe differently than reality it would be changed via intimidation (which is abuse whether you claim to be talking about it or not or will even believe it) because dominant males would over-rule the weaker sex.

              That looking at her funny forceful way they have when not psycho.

              One does not mean the other. The numbers you quote do not translate into the scenario you imagine and the little faith you have in your parents.

              But it doesn't seem to matter what I say, you dismiss it as I am talking about abuse and you are not. You have numbers you've manipulated so you are right over my real life experience.

              Okay then.

              But given the forum I still get to disagree with you here even if it is your diary. Sorry that upsets you so.

              Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est... est... le singe est disparu! -- Eddie Izzard

              by CSI Bentonville on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 07:16:11 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You have to be kidding me. (0+ / 0-)

                Well, just a few weeks ago it was announced that married households are no longer the majority. So that makes it even more unlikely that in married households where 25% believe differently than reality it would be changed via intimidation

                 
                This is the strangest counter-argument I have yet seen.  
                   
                I never expected anyone to argue that it's less of a problem because the relative number of married couples is gradually decreasing!

                There are over 55 million married couples in the USA, which is the number I used (or "manipulated," which I guess is true in the strict sense that I have performed arithmetic with it.)  This is a lot of people regardless of any trends.
                 

                You have numbers you've manipulated so you are right over my real life experience.

                You make it sound bad, but yes:  actual numbers trump anyone's individual personal experience.  

                For example, tens of thousands of people die every year from the flu, even though I personally have never heard of anyone who has.  I could grouse that the folks at the CDC are "manipulating" numbers over my "real life experience," but there is no reason why my individual experience would accurately reflect national flu mortality rates.

                Likewise, our individual experiences are not going to accurately reflect the rate at which married people keep their true votes secret.  To learn that, you need to collect data.

                •  You know what? Just saw this (0+ / 0-)

                  I take it back about being able to talk with you as I stated in the reply below. Didn't know you were going to smack me upside the head with this gem.

                  Love your subject title. So respectful! But hey, your diary is perhaps the strangest misleading concept I've seen here on dKos. It's not about abuse, it's not about intimidation, it's about listening to Rush and not letting guys see chicks ballots... because "normal" relationships have such power-over by dudes, woman can't help themselves but vote Republican like every other male in the country!

                  No wonder you find this to be such a potential problem. Your attitude is amazing here. But you have the gall to tell me, who's actually lived it that I am too stupid here.

                  Love how you twist everything Rush style too by only taking PART of my quote. My point is that you carpet over that, despite the numbers even you admitted are raw, married households are no longer the majority so there's more non-married households. Two, you are supposing based on one idea married to another that we will get a whole different result out of it than either your mathematics or the study you quote even goes anywhere near.

                  It has nothing to do with the flu but I've certainly heard of lots of people who've had complications (and even died) from the flu and the flu numbers are much smaller than your quoted outcome on voting intimidation which, given the amount of people I've dealt with in the area of abuse and non-abuse too, I think I would have come across some of it since you are extrapolting numbers to the power of over those who die from flu.

                  Don't you get it? 25% of 55 million who think something that turns out to not be true does not mean 55 million or even 25% of 55 million is going to be the outcome you are saying will happen. Even at a fraction of that amount the likelyhood that I would have heard something is extraordinarily huge and yet I haven't. Still here you are some ordinary citizen who has miraculously figured out the basic defining flaw in something that has worked and worked well until you came along from outside BOTH experiences to save the day.

                  Does it bother you that I'm not telling you what a hero you are?

                  Still, it truly does do a disservice to use our reality as part of your point, then discount our experiences as not being relevant to your flawed claims.

                  It's almost as though you are using flu complications to make your point and then telling those who've nearly died of flu that they have no clue or say about your idea that those with flu are more likely to not eat chicken if the sun were to rise in the west than those who haven't had the flu shot and you won't hear or acknowledge anyone who doesn't agree except to ridicule. My how abusive; no wonder your concern.

                  But given how you have twisted and manipulated everything here, and your presentation of what "normal" is in a relationship along with your style of answers to me I think you have issues to deal with far above and beyond voting which causes you think the way you do about the idea. Deal with those, actually get educated, and see if your view on VBM doesn't change a bit too. Then come back with real linked links to that pull your supposings together to show some sort of real world probability.

                  After all, used to be everyone thought being cold caused colds, cats were evil and the cause of the black plague, and spicy food results in ulcers. In some ways they are linked but not anyway as figured and certainly not the cause. Good thing we had people who bothered to discover the real truth.

                  We'll let George Bush Sr. continue to think if not for him the Berlin Wall would have never come down.

                  Meanwhile, toss a few denaro to a shelter. Won't hurt.

                  Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est... est... le singe est disparu! -- Eddie Izzard

                  by CSI Bentonville on Sat Nov 11, 2006 at 02:22:44 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry, I'll respond directly to point 3 (0+ / 0-)

              "If anyone intimidates a family member, then he'll go to jail."

              We are not talking about an actual act of intimidation.  There is nothing to arrest anyone for.  See my example above.  You can't arrest my Dad for listening to Rush every morning, or projecting a general air of contempt for Democrats.

              If your dad listening to Rush causes your mom to vote the way your dad wants her to then there are many more problems than VBM. However, if that causes it there's other abusive patterns there behind it and someone just listening to Rush is not "normally" going to make your mom change her vote from what it'd be if she were to go down the street to cast it.

              If your mom changes the way she would vote because of your dad it is intimidation no matter how it is acheived and it is abuse.

              Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est... est... le singe est disparu! -- Eddie Izzard

              by CSI Bentonville on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 07:26:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think you may still misunderstand (0+ / 0-)

                If your mom changes the way she would vote because of your dad it is intimidation no matter how it is acheived and it is abuse.

                 
                No no.  In the example, my Mom does not change her vote.  She votes how she wants (thanks to a secret ballot,) and keeps her choice secret.
                   
                She does this along with what seem to be millions of other married women across the country, if not tens of millions, according to poll numbers.
                   
                If she ends up being forced to change the way she votes, and you consider that abuse (and I agree, that is abuse,) then surely it is bad to remove the secret ballot property of an election.

                •  If your mom changes her vote (0+ / 0-)

                  It is because of abuse not a change in where she casts her ballot.

                  But even where covert or overt abuse exists, voting often has little to do with it and vice versa.

                  I've lived through abuse and it was bad and it became worse each passing day (of course it didn't start off bad or I wouldn't have become so stuck that bones eventually were broken). I also didn't realize just what all abuse encompasses until the police did become involved.

                  Despite that, and VBM we never crossed the line regarding ballots. It just didn't happen and if it had I would have found a way to a phone or to the office and pled my case or messed up my signature and at the very least had my vote invalidated. Most likely been given another chance either by voting at the elections office or having another ballot sent. The office will work through these situations.

                  Given the amount of years and 2 elections a year on average there were many opportunities.

                  The most that did happen is I drove his sealed ballot in when I delivered mine at least once. I never saw his unsealed and he never saw mine. I always opened mine and never opened his. He always sealed his and I always sealed mine. We might talk about a candidate or issue but not with the ballots in front of us.

                  Once authorities finally stepped in regarding the violence and required education for my now ex while I discovered groups and therapists and counselling for everyone including children, no one ever mentioned voter intimidation or coercion even when asked. It just doesn't happen. Certainly not on the level that's been advanced here this entire week.

                  For us who lived through it in the past and now this week, it's been insulting on some level. We feel we are being used again and yet while everyone is assuming our situation when so little care other than when it comes to voting, no one is asking us what our reality is.

                  There are at least a couple other women here also originally from Oregon who have gone through the same thing and they back that up so it isn't just my experience.

                  Voting in my own home has not only been more private and secret than it ever was at a polling place where I have to announce my name and sign on a page where dozens of others are listed including middle names, addresses, phone numbers and political affiliation as well as provide identification each time all in front of everyone else in line waiting to receive a ballot; voting at home was liberating.

                  I appreciate that we've achieved the ability to talk to each other rather than at.

                  Thank you.

                  Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est... est... le singe est disparu! -- Eddie Izzard

                  by CSI Bentonville on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 08:32:49 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

    •  The thing I dislike most about Vote By Male (0+ / 0-)

      Is that when it comes to problems, how can we know?

      With scrutinized voting centers, reports come out about irregularities. In this case, with the vote actually being done out of public view, sure it looks like it works like a charm. "The people love it!"

      While silently, democracy may be dying...

      You can still be on the team, even if you're not in the choir.

      by peeder on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 05:58:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Okay, I'm a woman and you have a point (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Ahianne, lil love

    My best friend is in a great marriage. I'm happy as hell for her. She still uses a calling card to call me from Hawaii because she doesn't want him to know how long we are on the phone and how much she is spending on the long distance call.

    I laugh everytime she tells me this and so does she, but she keeps on doing it.

    Your points are thoughtful and well taken.

    Thanks for the diary.

    "No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices." Edward R. Murrow

    by Pager on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:14:16 PM PST

    •  The flip side of that is the women are probably (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CSI Bentonville

      better at changing their husband's opinions without them even realizing that they have done so.

      My wife and I frequently discuss how we will vote and the issues we face.  We rarely disagree in partisan races because we are both Democrats and met at an extremely liberal college (besides which we live in a strongly Democratic district that often has uncontested races).  We not infrequently disagree on ballot issues.

      As I am the more politically active (and male FWIW), the usual way of things is for me to describe a ballot issue, for her to think about it for a little while.  

      Probably three-quarters of the time she immediately knows how she will vote (e.g., in the most recent election, our discussion on Colorado's Referendum I went Me: "creates a domestic partnership law"; Her: "Thanks good, next issue . . ."), while other issues took quite a bit of thought (e.g., should the City levy a sales tax for pre-school scholarships).

      Sometimes, I say, something along the lines of "you can vote how you want, but did you know that . . . " about some issue, which sometimes is influential, and sometimes is not.  I don't think it is even possible to dissect that into how much of the influence is issue persausion, and how much of the influence is social persausion.  I have no idea and I very much doubt that she does either.  I'm sure that there is some of each.  But, we discuss issues and candidates before we vote whether we vote in person or by mail, and I'm not convinced that there is a great difference in how our discussions make us influence each other in either case.

      I rarely know for sure exactly how she votes (this year was a rare exception, because she got an absentee ballot which I filled out at her direction because she had a hand injury this autumn and couldn't do so herself), and she usually fills out her mail in ballot herself.

      On the other hand, I know for a fact that my spouse would probably vote only half as often, or less, if we weren't married, as she wouldn't be aware that an election was being held, wouldn't bother to go vote, or wouldn't figue out registration and voting place details.  I absolutely to put on pressure to vote at all, and I don't think that this really detracts from the democratic process.

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

      by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 02:01:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  thank you (0+ / 0-)

    now I'll just point people to your diary when I need to explain why I oppose mandatory VBM.

  •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, red bed head

    You bring up one of the flaws of VBM that I have thought of. The "intimidation without abuse" item doesn't just apply to spouses, though. Say you are an 18 year-old student who still lives with Mom & Dad. Mom & Dad are both staunch Republicans (who feel that voting for a Democrat will cause the earth to explode), but the very idea of voting for a Republican candidate turns your stomach. Can anyone honestly say that the parents in this case do NOT exert the slightest amount of "intimidation" on the student, whether or not the parents are the abusive sort or not?

    "Truth never damages a cause that is just."~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by LynneK on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:15:59 PM PST

    •  You are of course right, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      red bed head

      and I have focused on the wife/husband situation in particular because I suspect it is the dominant case.

      The "secret defector" problem basically requires that (1) you are in some community with a clearly expressed political bias, and (2) these people would see your ballot, if it wasn't cast in a ballot booth.

      This can include college kids voting absentee, adults living with parents etc.

      Of course, it can affect married men as well.  In digging up links I found some examples of married men who were planning to switch to Bush but couldn't bear to tell.

  •  This is an important diary....thank you! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, peeder, red bed head

    ...and it's beautiful, how thoroughly you've reasoned this out. People still don't realize all the subtle ways that the balance of power still isn't equal in male/female relationships. Objections don't even need to be spoken. There can be very low levels of abuse that do not show up on most people's radar.

  •  What was the exact wording of this question? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, CSI Bentonville

    Over 75 percent of married men were certain that their wives voted along their family's party line.

    I'm going to check the link . . . I just wanted to point out how shockingly sexist that quote is.

    "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

    by LithiumCola on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:20:04 PM PST

  •  There seem to be a lot of security holes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    red bed head

    I mean it's not just women who would be endangered by having people being able to monitor their votes (although of course that's a huge "just").  Plenty of people face political pressure in this country.  What about poor workers with a conservative boss who's suddenly able to verify how they voted?  What about people in the military, who might face pressure from their peers (or even commanding officers?).  The problem with Vote by Mail is that there really is no way to ensure that it's a private ballot.

    And of course there's the "Chicago" style problems in which votes from certain precincts mysteriously get "lost".

    Read James Loewen's "Sundown Towns"!

    by ChicagoDem on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:23:15 PM PST

  •  So far, theory and speculation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CSI Bentonville

    The next phase would be anecdotal evidence -- women actually reporting that this is a real-world problem.

    The next phase would be actual data: Shifts in electoral results when VBM is introduced. Some shifts should occur; it supposedly makes voting more accessible, and those new voters will differ from existing voters. But perhaps we could see evidence of male domination in those shifts.

    The data I have seen -- detailed polls of VBM popularity in Oregon -- don't seem to support these concerns.

    I'll add that I like the VBM concept, but I don't think it is the sort of silver bullet that Markos seemed to consider it. IMHO, same-day registration is a higher priority.

    •  Well, just think of it this way: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      clyde, Ahianne, peeder

      The next phase would be anecdotal evidence -- women actually reporting that this is a real-world problem.

      The next phase would be actual data: Shifts in electoral results when VBM is introduced. Some shifts should occur; it supposedly makes voting more accessible, and those new voters will differ from existing voters. But perhaps we could see evidence of male domination in those shifts.

      Suppose we applied the same standards to touch-screen systems:  that we go beyond anecdotes and require statistical proof before we accept that they are hackable.

      Rather, I'm with the scientific community:  there are good reasons to distrust and retire those machines, even if there has not yet been statistical evidence of widespread attacks.

      When it comes to security engineering, you don't wait for a few tainted elections before patching a hole.

  •  One point for you to consider (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caj, CSI Bentonville

    Do you oppose party registration?

    The partisan husband can consult pulic records today and learn if his wife has also registed in that party.

    The "Independent / Undeclared" option is no solution -- it will look like the wife is dodging.

    There has been no outcry to make party registration private information -- which seriously undermines your concerns.

    •  Yes and no (0+ / 0-)

      Yes I am concerned about public party registration, because I know many situations in which people want to keep their political affiliation from coworkers, church members etc.

      On the other hand, I don't see how it undermines my concerns.  One privacy problem does not somehow undermine another privacy problem.

      •  My point on undermining (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CSI Bentonville

        We have had public party registration of bouth spouses for what -- 80 years? And it hasn't raised alarm bells. There are no stories that I've ever heard about the wife saying, "I'm afraid to register as a Democrat (or Republican)."

        That suggests to me that your concerns about intra-family voting pressure is overblown.

    •  I would suspect that a big share of the quarter (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Elwood Dowd, CSI Bentonville

      that disagree know that based on party registration.  I certainly often see differences in party registration in couples when I go canvasing door to door, and I've never encountered a couple with split registration that wasn't aware of that fact.

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

      by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 02:05:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  party registration (0+ / 0-)

      does not reveal how the person votes for individual candidates in party primaries, nor does it reveal which party the person votes for in general elections, nor does it reveal how the person votes on nonpartisan issues (like overturning abortion bans) in general elections.

      •  But you need to end it... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CSI Bentonville

        ...if you believe that family intimidation on voting is a serious, real concern. Because if it is, wives -- and intimidated husbands, which our diarist never mentions -- are afraid to register in a different party, and therefore cannot vote in primaries.

        I think the whole concern is bogus.

        •  primaries are secondary (0+ / 0-)

          if you'll pardon the expression.  General elections are how politicians get into actual office.  

          Also, yeah, there's privacy problems with having such a thing as party registration, but there's also valid election-integrity reasons to have it (to prevent crossover voting in states with non-open primaries).  States with open primaries should probably eliminate party registration.  By contrast, I haven't seen anything in favor of VBM that doesn't come down to convenience or cost reduction.

          Do you know who Xavier Suarez is?  If not, maybe you should study his history a little before expecting others to take your opinions about VBM seriously.

          •  I don't take your (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            CSI Bentonville

            supercilious, condescending opinion seriously.

            Just saying.
            •  But you didn't answer my question (0+ / 0-)

              Do you know who Suarez is, or not?

              If you know who he is, I can listen to you.  If you don't know who he is, you are the one who is condescending, calling concerns bogus when you don't know the facts.  I have done the homework (well, some of it) while you spout hot air.

              •  Quit being such an asshole, Clyde (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                CSI Bentonville

                If you think you have information that helps the discussion, put it forward -- don't pretend that you are Specially Blessed and no one without Your Special Knowledge is entitled to speak.

                Suarez was a Florida Mayor who engaged in absentee ballot manipulation.

                You want to eliminate absentee ballots, too?

                I won't stick around for you answer.

        •  Again, (0+ / 0-)

          But you need to end it...if you believe that family intimidation on voting is a serious, real concern.

          Okay, but I still don't see how this contradicts the  fact, supported by hard evidence, that this phenomenon (secret defection) is real and large.
           
          How can the concern be bogus if it is a real phenomenon involving millions of people?

          •  Why is secret defection a problem? (0+ / 0-)

            It seems to be a solution.

            My (perhaps Pollyannaish) explanation is:

            1. Many family members disagree on politics
            1. Many of them don't enjoy discussing those disagreements, and therefore their spouses or children or parents don't realize how they vote
            1. In the absence of that discussion we all tend to think that our family members are just as sensible as we are, and vote the same way

            So, I just don't see how poll numbers on secret defection support your concern about intimidation.

            •  It isn't a problem at all. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Elwood Dowd

              I think you misunderstand the diary.
               
              Secret defection is not the problem.  In fact, it is a phenomenon we want to preserve.

              The problem is that people want to remove the secret ballot property of the election, which then makes defection harder to pull off.
               
              Secret defection is possible because of a secret ballot.  That's a major reason to have a secret ballot, to protect a voting bloc of tens of millions of Americans who need that privacy to vote how they want.

              •  I remain sympathetic... (0+ / 0-)

                ...to the issue you raise, but skeptical that intra-family intimidation is a substantial problem. I don't have any good ideas on how either of us could prove ourselves correct, though -- and that uncertainty favors your position.

  •  A few thoughts. (5+ / 0-)

    I do not doubt that mail in ballots probably produce more coordination of voting decisions than voting in a voting booth.  I also do not doubt that this is driven by the normal dynamics of cooperation in a marriage -- long standing marriages are characterized by constant compromises in interactions within the couple which become habitual.

    First: Spouses, of course, significantly influence each other in polling place voting as well.  In today's era of the long ballot, it is almost impossible to go to a polling place without a cheat sheet.  Here in Colorado, for example, a typical voter cast a vote in more than 40 races, of various kinds.  Husbands and wives frequently discuss those cheat sheets.

    Second: The figures cited do not necessarily imply actual deception or secrecy.  Many men assume that their wives agree with them in voting simply because they are clueless and assume that their wives have the same preferences they do, not because they have actually inquired and been told something to the contrary.  Women may be less inclined to talk about how they voted then men, leaving men with an incorrect impression.  Women may pay more attention to their husband's views than men do to their wive's views.  This interacts with the first point.  The conclusions that one should draw if the differences are because husbands are clueless is very different from the conclusions that one should draw if the differences are because spouses are actively and secretly defecting from their spouse's views.

    Three: Wives certainly influences husband's votes.  IMHO the key factor in who influences whom is the degree to which each spouse is politically aware and active.  

    One of the biggest political activists and contributors in the political party where I live is a woman who is the daughter of a sitting member of Congress.  Her husband is a largely apolitical businessman.  In that family, I strongly suspect that it is she that influences his vote and not the other way around.

    The implicit assumption of the OP is that influence always runs from husbands to wives, something taht is almost certainly not true, and the OP gives only modest guidance in determining what the actual amount of relative influence is in those relationships.

    Four: While spouses may secretly vote differently on some issues, they will rarely secretly vote differently on all issues.  Indeed, spouses are rarely diametrically different from each other politically.  This reduces the impact of differences in votes or the absence thereof.

    Fifth:  It is worth noting that probably a quarter of couples know that they vote differently from each other.  It would be interesting to see how the half who think they agree, the quarter who agree that they disagree, and that quarter who are split differ demographically and politically.

    If this phenomena happens equally often in both political sides of the spectrum, there may be little or not impact in the aggregate.  If it happens much more often on the right than the left, or visa verse, it could have a big impact.  One would suspect that when spouses differ that usually the woman is more liberal, while the man is more conservative, based on gender gaps in opinion polls.  But, unless you assume and it is a big assumption, that the influence will almost always be from man to woman, this doesn't necessarily rock the vote.

    Six: There are serious tradeoff.  VBM increases voter turnout by about 5 percentage points.  Hell, being marriage probably increases voter turnout too, since if either is political at all, they will urge their less political spouse to actually go and vote.  Five percentage points of turnout can change the results of lots of elections too.

    Bottom Line:  I think that men are more likely than women to influence their spouse's vote, and that men are more likely than women to be conservative.  But, I also think that the effect is much less one sides than suggested and impacts a quite small number of races.  So, I'm inclined the think that the modest conservative impact of mail in voting from increased spousal communication is pretty evenly matched by the modest liberal impact of increased voter turnout.

    It would be interesting to see how trendlines have changed in someplace like Oregon before and after mail in voting, in the conservatism or liberalism of the electorate.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

    by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:37:44 PM PST

    •  Gah! Oh to have a copy editor! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CSI Bentonville

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

      by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:42:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, you deserve a recommend no matter what. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne

        BTW, about this:

        Many men assume that their wives agree with them in voting simply because they are clueless and assume that their wives have the same preferences they do, not because they have actually inquired and been told something to the contrary.  Women may be less inclined to talk about how they voted then men, leaving men with an incorrect impression.  Women may pay more attention to their husband's views than men do to their wive's views.

        You are totally right.  The term "secret defector" is a bit of an exaggeration, because the secrecy is not necessarily intentional.  
         
        But then, if I am in a crowd that is strongly ideologically opposite me, I do feel like a "secret defector" even though I am not ever purposefully concealing my vote.  If it never comes up, and if people just assume I am like them, then I still feel like a secret defector even though I didn't have to be dishonest.

        •  My guess is that the "secret defector" issue (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          clyde, CSI Bentonville

          in its truest form would most likely come up in cases like mail in ballots on South Dakota's Referendum 6 (abortion ban).

          Of course, yet another issue is how fundamental the secret ballot is to democracy.

          The concept is only 150 years old (originating in Australia in 1856), and the U.S. made the change between 1884 and 1892, even more recently.  The change came around the same time period that womens sufferage was being adopted in the U.S., perhaps not coincidentally, and still doesn't apply to the intraparty caucus system that states like Iowa and Colorado use to select party nominees.  IIRC, employer-employee influence and political machine influence were bigger concerns at the time than husbands influencing wives.

          There are respectable arguments for both the absolute autonomy model behind the secret ballot, and the autonomy subject to non-legal social consequences model behind the alternative.  A significant proportion of the population is also pressured to publicly display (with bumper stickers, public voter registration, primary elections, caucuses, etc.) their political preferences.

          "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

          by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 02:18:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I see your points (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine

    But still, I see the same things happening with our current system.  I know people who say, "My husband/father would kill me if I voted for a Democrat." and they vote straight Republican every time.  I've seen my friends threatened by parents for not voting family party line.  In fact, I knew a lady whose husband was in Iraq in '04 when she told him she voted for Kerry.  He told her to get out of the house and had his mom and sister harrass her until she did.

    I'm under the assumption this VBM will be a secret ballot just like any other, though.  I'm assuming that some jackoff isn't going to be sitting on her shoulder while she fills in bubbles.  Is that what you're getting at with this?

    Black by popular demand!

    by fabooj on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 01:50:45 PM PST

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      Certainly people can be intimidated into voting one way even though they have the privacy of a voting booth.

      Nevertheless we see that millions of people still do secretly defect.  And they can because nobody would know if they did.
       
      This is the crucial element of ballot security that is purposefully engineered into the American electoral system:  that nobody will know how you voted.  Not only does it let people defect even under threat, but it also prevents widespread vote selling.
       
      But to answer your other question:  the guy wouldn't necessarily be hovering like a vulture while the woman votes---but doesn't need to.  If there's a good chance he'll see, even unintentionally, then it's the same risk; and if the woman keeps the form concealed, that behavior can reveal her intent.

    •  VBM is not a secret ballot by definition (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Caj, peeder

      It's at best a private ballot.  I hate to be pedantic but people don't get the distinction.  Privacy means you have the option of not revealing something.  Secrecy means you cannot reveal it even if you want to.

      For a ballot to be secret that means mandatory secrecy--you vote in a booth behind a closed curtain, you do not have a choice in the matter, absentee voting is banned except for cases of real necessity, and the poll workers (supposedly) enforce that you don't bring anyone into the booth with you who can watch.  Of course you can come out afterwards and say "yes Reverend, of course I voted Republican" but since you might have in fact voted Democratic and there's no way to tell, that doesn't count as a verifiable disclosure.  VBM destroys that secrecy.  Yes, you can exercise your right to fill out your ballot by yourself, but your mere act of having exercised that right is a visible defection that invites overt or subtle retaliation.  Mandatory secrecy removes that problem.  

      This stuff is not new, it has been known for decades or centuries, the classic book on it was written in the 1930's by a guy named Joseph P. Harris.  I've been meaning to get a copy.  It's all about how the old time political machines operated, cheating in elections in the 1920's.  Lieberman may have been buying votes with $20 bills with his $400k in petty cash, but the party bosses during Prohibition had something even more valuable than money to bribe voters with: free booze which you couldn't get any other way.  Apparently it worked amazingly well, and a lot of election law developed to counteract the scams that those bosses came up with.  Those are the hard won lessons that the VBM proponents want to throw away.  Those who will not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

      Also, studies of the OR VBM system and elsewhere indicate that increased turnout does not change election results (the additional voters vote along the same lines as everyone else).  Turnout helps a particular party only when it comes from increased motivation by that party's supporters, not when it's spread equally between parties.

      •  This came up in the "video the vote" discussion (0+ / 0-)

        this year.

        Colorado has a statute that specifically makes it a crime to make a verifiable record of how you voted.

        "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

        by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 02:56:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  In my part of... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    clyde, tryptamine

    the country there is a seeming majority of fundagelicals. It seems that many of the marriages are matriarchal and mamma calls the shots concerning how the voting-age adults in the family will vote.

    This is obviously only an anecdotal story: one of my neighbors makes each member of her family bring to her a sample ballot which she marks up to direct each person to the "correct" vote on candidates, bond issues, voter initiatives, etc. She insists each family member bring the marked-up sample ballot into the voting booth and use it as a "guide" when casting their vote. Of course, this method is not foolproof because the monitors at the voting site allow only one adult in the voting booth at a time. Nevertheless, the family matriarch can tell if one of her family members takes too long to cast his/her vote that something is wrong. Afterward, all hell breaks loose.

    Thus, "free and fair elections" can never be completely untainted. It seems that there is always someone willing to exercise their dominance over other persons to influence an election: a boss, a parent, a pastor, a spouse - the list is almost endless. There doesn't seem (to me, anyway) to be an obvious solution to the problem.

    "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by jayatRI on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 02:24:33 PM PST

    •  Anyone who doesn't bring a cheat sheet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      clyde, CSI Bentonville

      in with them, is a total pain to everyone behind them in line at the polls.  Every once in a while you see some novice voter who tries to read every ballot issue word for word while behind the curtain, and then tries to consider each issue then and there, and you just want to strangle the person.

      Nothing requires this to be a truthful account, but no ordinary human being can memorize all the decisions you have to make up your mind about unless you are a real political junkie or have draconian rules to go by (like vote no on all ballot issues).

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

      by ohwilleke on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 03:00:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And yet... (0+ / 0-)

      There doesn't seem (to me, anyway) to be an obvious solution to the problem.

       
      There is one thing we can always do:  not make it worse.
       
      As the saying goes, first do no harm.  To reform the electoral system, it is not necessary to eliminate the secret ballot property.  

  •  Actually witnessed something to this effect (0+ / 0-)

    Except it was the wife who came around the partial blind to check on how her husband was voting.

    I thought it very odd, never mind I also assumed it was illegal as hell but a poll worker was right there with me as I waited in line, so I assumed (perhaps erroneously) that the delegated authority present was cool with it, therefore the law was cool with it.

    I'm slightly buzzed with power. :)

    by cskendrick on Fri Nov 10, 2006 at 07:21:03 PM PST

  •  Easy way around your "problems" with VBM (0+ / 0-)

    Women worried about being threatened by their husbands or whatever will simply fill out their ballots and mail them when hubby isn't home.  If hubby busts her chops over it... she'll say she finally found time to do it and that she voted how he wanted her to.  Frankly, this whole line of thinking sounds like a  bad Showtime Movie of the Week.  I really think that American women are fully capable of either A) Standing up to their husbands and voting for whoever they want or B) Successfully deceiving them and voting for whoever they want.  Anyone not agree with that?

    The same dynamic will be at play if preachers try to interfere with their congregations' voting.  We could, in fact, write laws (if they aren't already on the books) that forbid religious clergy from conducting voter sessions or to ask to see peoples' ballots.  Don't think they'll follow that law?  Catch one or two of them doing it, then shut down their churches and throw some people in jail.  That'll be the end of that.

    This whole discussion is wandering into tin-foil hat territory, anyway.  VBM is not a perfect system, but it is the best one anyone's offered so far with regards to convenience, verification, and a degree of privacy that, while not perfect, is sufficient for probably 99% of the population.

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      The same dynamic will be at play if preachers try to interfere with their congregations' voting.  We could, in fact, write laws (if they aren't already on the books) that forbid religious clergy from conducting voter sessions or to ask to see peoples' ballots.  Don't think they'll follow that law?  Catch one or two of them doing it, then shut down their churches and throw some people in jail.  That'll be the end of that.

      Electoral fraud is already illegal, so why is it still an issue today?  Catch one or two fraudsters, put them in jail, and that'll be the end of that, right?
       
      And yet, it's still a problem.  In security engineering, the worst way to address a security hole is passing a law against exploiting it.  Would you trust a defective alarm system because burglary is illegal?
           
      No, we need to create a voting system that is secure against fraud, even though we already outlawed tampering with an election.  This should be a number one priority; and if we don't fix the system soon, at the very least we shouldn't be making it worse by removing whatever basic security it has left.
         
      The secret ballot property is one of the most fundamental requirements of a secure election.  It is the habeas corpus of voting protocols.  
      In fact, it is such a basic requirement that laypeople have trouble imagining why they need it, and have trouble imagining people who would need it.

      But all serious crypto research in voting protocols takes the secret ballot property as a given, an absolute necessity.  Maybe you don't think it is important, but the academic/scientific/crypto community does, and being "reality based" means listening to them.

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