An Envelope

Although Vote By Mail Doesn’t Hurt the Left, It Also Benefits the Right

One of the most common myths promulgated by the right is the idea that Vote-By-Mail is a ploy by the left to steal elections. However, the great state of Utah has had Vote-By-Mail for a number of years and yet it remains in Republican hands. The article, ‘Does vote-by-mail favor Democrats? Utah begs to differ, plus other mistruths about mail voting‘, by Reid J. Epstein and Stephanie Saul and as reprinted by The Salt Lake Tribune, bursts this fallacy.

Amelia Showalter, who was the data analytics director for former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, found in deeply reported studies of all-mail elections in Colorado in 2014 and Utah in 2016 that there were very slight partisan advantages in each race.

Epstein, Reid J. and Saul, Stephanie, “Does vote-by-mail favor Democrats? Utah begs to differ, plus other mistruths about mail voting.The Salt Lake Tribune 10 April 2020 online.

As found in states like Utah and Colorado, the effect is small and tends to balance out. My friend and fellow cosplayer Amelia Showalter (she cosplays an incredible Starbucks Mermaid!) points out that there may be some benefits to Democrats, but there are indeed advantages to Republicans.

The truth is that for folks in Rural communities, where polling places are few and far between, Vote-By-Mail is a huge advantage as it doesn’t require a long drive to the perhaps one polling place in the county. If anything, the most disadvantaged by Vote-By-Mail is with some minorities, who don’t necessarily trust the postal system. This is why, at least in urban areas with greater ethnic diversity, having some traditional polling places is still a good idea. Alas, many states like to close the urban polling places making it all that much harder for poor minorities to vote.

This issue doesn’t manifest as sharply in the Western states which have Vote-By-Mail because their ethnic diversity is much lower than in states like Virginia. While Utah has a mere 1% African-American population, and Oregon and Washington merely 3%, Virginia’s population is about 20%. Even Colorado at 10% isn’t quite the best proxy for the average Southern State. This is why it’s important even with Vote-By-Mail to allow in-person voting for anyone wishing to do so, at least in those more ethnically diverse states farther East.

The biggest argument, however, is when we see that Utah is a generally Republican state and yet remains so, even with Vote-By-Mail. Clearly, postal voting works for Republicans. Otherwise we wouldn’t see the Republican majorities in Utah that we do.

Showalter found the biggest turnout difference in all-mail elections came among people who were the least likely to vote. These voters tend to pay the least attention to politics and are the most ideologically flexible.

Epstein, Reid J. and Saul, Stephanie, “Does vote-by-mail favor Democrats? Utah begs to differ, plus other mistruths about mail voting.The Salt Lake Tribune 10 April 2020 online.

The greatest advantage, however, is to enfranchise the forty to fifty percent in non-battleground states and the thirty to forty percent in battleground states. Too many Americans are non-voters so anything we can do, like make it as easy as getting an SASE from the State and posting back your ballot, will make this nation a better Democratic Republic.

An Envelope
Vote-By-Mail is as easy as sticking a sealed ballot into an envelope.

The best way to ensure that every vote equal is to have one person, one letter, one vote.

UPDATE 11 May 2020: Updated to better reflect that Vote-By-Mail helps both parties for the most part equally thanks to input from Amelia.

Coffee with the Congresswoman, Jennifer Wexton

I was busy with two events already when Congresswoman Wexton held this interesting Coffee with the Congresswoman event with one of my favourite Virginia Delegates, Cia Price, and Tram Nguyen with New Virginia Majority.

One of the most important issues in the age of SARS-CoV-2 is voting access when polling places are such potential vectors for disease. Last week, I was past of a phone town hall with State Senator Barbara Favola. I was very happy to learn that Governor Ralph Northam is considering holding a special session of the General Assembly this September to ask the them to vote on universal vote-by-mail. This is something Virginia needs! After all, it already works very well in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Hawaii.

Delegate Price agrees. She has stood with me on a number of other important non-partisan voting rights bills, such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and two bills to develop a non-partisan way of generating legislative districts. Another bill would have set up a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The committee would have begun as soon as one July, to start the process of determining the 2021 districts. Unfortunately, that bill failed. However, she was able to pass legislation which made most forms of packing and cracking illegal while still protecting the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.

Now it remains to see if we can give Virginia a more streamlined vote-by-mail process. The main issue is to remove the onerous signature requirement. Also, as Tran points out, we need to make sure folks who are visually impaired can vote. If people change residences without informing the Commonwealth, they shouldn’t be dropped from the voting rolls. We also need to consider people who are just used to voting in person on election day. One solution is to maintain opened polling locations on election day, but by default allow everyone to vote-by-mail with no signature nor an excuse, and not dropping anyone because the voting invitation mail bounces.

Or, if we do still need a signature, I suppose I could ask my voting buddy Rachel to take care of mine, as I take care of hers.

I’m live right now with Delegate Cia Price and Tram Nguyen, Co-executive Director of New Virginia Majority, to talk…

Posted by Jennifer Wexton on Saturday, May 2, 2020

Every mail-in-vote equal, and one person one letter containing a vote. That’s one goal we at the NPVIC must strive for.

The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human

Once again, I finished this book just in time, despite starting it right after The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities. Only this time, it’s because my commute went from an hour each way to five seconds each day to nothing because I’m on Weather and Safety Leave. Again, that’s a long story that, like yesterday, I’m punting for another day. Such is life with SARS-CoV-2, but in this respect I’m quite luck and still have my health. However, it does mean without that long commute, my reading time has become a fraction of what it was. But, I made it!

Noah Strycker spins a fascinating tale of the secret lives of birds. Clearly, the author loves class Aves and is an avid birder himself. His love of all modern dinosaurs shines through. Each chapter and section is set with a distinct theme and a story that focuses one one of our fine, feathered friends and how it relates to we mammals. So, without further à Deux, let’s dive in like a bunch if timid penguins!

Corvidae are smart! I’d never heard of any creature outside of the mammals passing the Mirror Test. The fact that some Magpies can utterly blew my mind. Heckle and Jeckle would have been proud! Damn, that bird family is cleaver! And the way Nutcrackers can remember where they cached food photographically is astounding! If we leave, I bet they’re taking over!

Hummingbirds are crazy violent. But Chickens take the cake, they are hierarchical. I mean, keeping track in your ranking up to thirty birds deep. Of course, it does break down with more than thirty and there’s still the triangle problem. Who knew chickens weren’t condorcet?

Now I want to see a Snowy Owl. I can’t believe a bounty of lemmings could cause a spike in populations that could bring the bird this far south. At least Washington State loves them, a lot more than they do the Spotted Owl, though that did inspire Hedwig. On the other hand, I want to see the Albatross but the Falkland Islands are so far away and then never serve them in my local theatre. If only I could get get around like a pigeon, especially a Homing Pigeon in case I get lost.

It was fascinating to hear that dummers can keep better time than Parrots. Which is to say, a Cockatoo can keep good time, but it isn’t good at noticing a change in tempo. It makes me wonder why they’re not as coordinated as Boirds or their prototype Starlings. Parrots still may have good hearing, but one thing’s for sure, Vultures have excellent eyesight. However, only Turkey Vultures can smell you from a meter away with its great, big nostrils, though not much more.

The main takeaway for me is how similar some bird behaviors are to humans. Bowerbirds males try to impress female birds to find a mate, and humans try to impress other humans in order to get a date. The birds build little shrines, complete with vanishing perspective, and we humans buy clothes, and cars, and houses, and do sports, or just become smart by reading lots of science books. And when you get the mate, being as faithful as a Fairy Wren could mean success. Then again, female Fairy Wrens who fool around do tend to live longer? 🤔

The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human
The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human

All in all, a very entertaining book that made me think. And books that make you think are indeed the best kind of science book. And speaking of the human condition, next up, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

Hope to see you in person soon, my sapiosexual friends!