Thursday, October 01, 2020

What's your Voting Plan?

I read this 2020 Asian American Voter Survey and got depressed thinking about all the people who don't have a voting plan yet.

Democracy in the US is in peril & it is up to all of us to save it. Under some metrics, North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy.
An independent academic study founded in 2012, the Electoral Integrity Project addresses three questions:
  • When do elections meet international standards of electoral integrity?
  • What happens when elections fail to do so?
  • And what can be done to mitigate these problems?
Under the direction of Professor Pippa Norris and the distinguished International Advisory Board, the Electoral Integrity Project produces innovative and policy-relevant research comparing elections worldwide. The research team is based at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Was it a fair election? The answer is more than a simple yes or no.  Election integrity is more of a continuum.
Elections are just one of the pillars of democracy.  Another pillar is an informed electorate.  I blog about topics that I don't see in the press, or that I don't feel were treated with adequate nuance.  So, in a sense, my blog is an affirmation of my optimism for democracy.  If more people knew the facts, they could react more optimally to ensure better outcomes for everyone.

It's fair to say, this has been wildly optimistic.  Nevertheless, I persist.  Suppose you have never voted before, or are trying to convince friends and family to become voters, where do you get started?

First, you should get your information from high-quality sources.  In a functioning democracy, you would start with the people who run your elections.  For instance, the California Secretary of State runs the state elections.  The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk runs the LA County elections.  Finally, the Los Angles City Clerk runs the city elections.

[Substitute your jurisdictions to search for the official sites.]

In Los Angeles County, the county clerk coordinates the ballots and voting for all 88 cities in the county.  It's a huge undertaking as LA Co is both the most populous (10 Million) and the most complex (language diversity) county in the US.
Mandated Languages
Los Angeles County is currently required to provide the following language assistance to VRA voters in addition to English:

The full list of LA County Vote Centers just went live on 10/1/2020. Some are open 5 days (10/30-11/03) and others are open 11 days (10/24-11/03.) The list of over 400 secure Ballot Drop Box locations will be released shortly.  If you are a registered voter in CA, your ballot will be mailed to you.  You can mail it back, or drop it off at a Ballot Drop Box or Vote Center.

When I was eligible to vote for the first time, I was an 18 year old college freshman.  I only knew what my teachers and parents told me, and some of what they said were contradictory.  My fellow students pretended to know the answers, but their information was also suspect.

Various groups were after my vote and bombarded our dorm mail room with pamphlets.  I read and tossed all but one.  The League of Women Voters (whom I had never heard of up to that point) left a brochure that explained each initiative (and CA has a lot of them) in plain English and then listed the Pros and Cons of each of them.

The LWV wasn't after my vote.  They wanted to educate me.  I've used their brochures ever since.  Printing brochures is expensive, so most of it is online.  I'm providing links and explaining the differences between the different sites.

[Aside: Non-partisan means LWV does not endorse or oppose any particular political party or candidate.  LWV also works really hard not to be biased.  LWVC is a registered 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), which means it does education AND advocacy and I'll get to the advocacy part below.]

You can always start at the LWV US (national) level site at and then navigate to your particular states' site.  In my case, that would be  Follow the links on the right column for the Voter Toolbox for instructions on the logistics of how to vote in your area. You can even Register to Vote online.

Underneath the Voters Toolbox, you will find the CA Voter's Edge widget. (In other states, go to for your state-specific information.)

Type in your zip code (your street address is optional) and click on the green "Find my ballot" button.  The site will query a database and return with every single item you are eligible to vote on in the upcoming election (Federal, State, County, City, special Districts.)

LWV volunteers in every community contact candidates running for office and send them written questionnaires and invitations to upload their bios and other informational data.  (I admit to being a bit biased here, but I think that a candidate that refuses, or is too disorganized, to provide information maybe shouldn't be in public office.)

I usually take my sample ballot, sit in front of my computer, read the candidate stuff, and mark my selections on my sample ballot.  In pre-Covid days, I brought my sample ballot to the Vote Center with me and entered in my selections on the touch screen.  This time, I will be using copying my selections from my sample ballot to my actual ballot, which should be arriving this week in the mail.

CA Easy Voter Guide  is your quick-start guide to general information about the election and plain English explanations of what each CA proposition means. Search on your state's Easy Voter Guide if you live in another state. or gives you your customized ballot information.

The Pros & Cons lay out unbiased information about each initiative.

The advocacy arm sometimes decides to take sides on initiatives (but never on candidates.)

Vote with the League provides arguments on why we hope you will side with us on some issues.

Volunteers analyze, organize, upload and sometimes write all of these materials. The decision to advocate on some initiatives is taken by a committee. (Disclaimer, I have provided research and facts for the committee to consider.) Generally, I think these are pretty good recommendations. 

Occasionally, I feel more strongly on an issue that the committee stayed neutral on (or vice versa.) But, I've never had a strong disagreement, which is pretty remarkable, and why I joined the organization as a volunteer.  If partisan politics isn't your thing and you want to be politically involved with a group that values facts, evidence and expertise, then check out your local LWV chapter.

If you are a California voter, Vote Yes on Prop 15: Schools & Communities First. Don't listen to the propaganda.  It only applies to commercial (not residential or agricultural) properties.  Make Apple and Genentech pay property taxes on the real value of their corporate campuses.

Aside (written weeks ago, may repeat above info):
When I was approaching my very first election as an 18 year old UC Berkeley Freshman, I found a LWVC Pros and Cons printed pamphlet outside my dorm along with lots of flyers from myriad groups telling me to vote this way or that way.  I read them all with a critical eye and the LWV stood out from the rest.  Clear, evidence-based discussion of the issues and what our votes will mean.

As an immigrant, I wasn't familiar with the LWV or the other groups vying for my vote.  Before the internet, you couldn't just look up the LWV history or learn how to join.

I was and am a science nerd.  I did not participate in student government at any level.  It didn't occur to me that LWV needs science nerds until a fellow math major invited me to a meeting.   We discussed a specialized field called voting methods that involved lots of math and computer science.  Everyone there was a teacher and/or a technical person and made me feel welcome.

I signed up to join both the voting methods team and the local chapter.  I went to a general meeting, and found myself helping to write the next Pros and Cons and Vote with the League information for the upcoming election (on a highly technical issue that frequently gets reduced to sound bites).

Pros and Cons is purely informational and lays out all the factual arguments to support or oppose measures.  Lies, distortions and wishful thinking are not tolerated. Facts, context and history with as little bias as possible given human writers and editors.

Vote with the League adds recommendations, if any.  After examining all the evidence and Pros & Cons, the League may feel so strongly that it will make recommendations.  Sometimes, the evidence is mixed and the League will stay neutral.  If there is not enough information or the League lacks the specific policy positions to take a stand, we won't.

LA Times posted their guide:
Here’s everything to know about voting by mail in Los Angeles County

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