USA: Eroding the separation of church and state is an ongoing bipartisan effort

First up, let’s agree that Christian Nationalism is a problem. Separation of church and state is a worthwhile principle. Also, laws instituted to guard this principle, such as that churches are considered tax-free non-profit organisations, as long as they do not participate in election campaigning, are good.

Here is a news clip, whose first minute I will talk about a bit:

In the video, the pastor of the Gospel of Inclusion Church (or whatever church it is) says the following, “We are looking for politicians who are going to be looking out for the people who are most marginalized, the way that Jesus did.” The reporter makes no issue about this, sees no problem with a church or pastor “looking for politicians” (and presumably mentioning particular favoured ones from the pulpit), even though the erosion of the separation of church and state should be evident in this instance. Since I regard Christian Nationalism, normally a right-wing/Republican trend, a serious problem, I also regard the erosion of separation of church and state a problem on the other side of the aisle. Yet here it is treated as of no concern when the phenomenon occurs on the Democrat side. Overall, does anyone remember a single case of a church losing its tax-exempt status over politics? I know churches pastors getting sued in fraud and embezzlement cases, but not for endorsing a politician from the pulpit.

It can be observed that this particular issue is just one element in a broader set of ploys that keeps the American two-party system in place, limiting people’s voting choices to just the two parties. Another element is that Democrats have been engaging in the following scheme: Fund a Republican whacko, leading him to win Republican primaries, then stop funding and win against him in the final elections. Indeed, why stop this scheme if it mostly works and gets Democrats elected, but what of the occasions when it fails? As a matter of course, the scheme gives air to extremist views, polarising the country. What if Trump can be viewed as an extreme consequence of this scheme?

Take also the election theft narrative. In my memory, Democrats deployed the election theft narrative first in the W elections (in 2000 against Gore and in 2004 against Kerry). Democrats complained about potential rigged elections (and voting machines were a theme already back then) but did nothing about it, as it was just a slight rhetorical pressure tactic for them. However, Republicans have now taken the narrative and make frivolous lawsuits with it, and as a consequence they may appear as more serious to many voters, because election fraud is a serious crime, supposing it actually occurred. The lesson here is that a mere light accusation in such a serious matter for mere rhetorical purposes also has consequences – if repeated, it has accumulating and devastating consequences in the long run.

55 thoughts on “USA: Eroding the separation of church and state is an ongoing bipartisan effort

  1. Erik,

    In the US at least, the “separation of church and state” is a constraint on the government, not on churches. It’s based on the First Amendment, which reads in part

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

    Constraints on the political activities of churches come not from the Constitution but from a different source: the Internal Revenue Service. Churches are tax-exempt in the US, but only if they meet certain criteria. Their involvement in politics is limited by these criteria; if they breach the limits, their tax-exempt status can be revoked.

    The quote you provided — “We are looking for politicians who are going to be looking out for the people who are most marginalized, the way that Jesus did” — does not breach those limits. So from a legal standpoint, there is nothing wrong with what that pastor said, and there would be nothing wrong with a conservative pastor saying “We are looking for politicians who will fight against the murder of unborn children.”

    That’s the legal situation. The broader question of whether it’s good for society when churches get involved in politics is a separate issue that I’ll address later.

  2. The IRS imposes these criteria (taken from the IRS website):

    Tax-Exempt Status

    Churches and religious organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from federal income tax under IRC Section 501(c)(3) and are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. To qualify for tax-exempt status, the organization must meet the following requirements (covered in greater detail throughout this publication):

    — the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific or other charitable purposes;

    — net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder;

    — no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation;

    — the organization may not intervene in political campaigns; and

    — the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

    These requirements are fuzzy, perhaps deliberately so, and many churches test the limits.

  3. In my memory, Democrats deployed the election theft narrative first in the W elections (in 2000 against Gore and in 2004 against Kerry).

    This is surely wrong, or at least is misleading.

    I came to the USA (from Australia) in 1962. And the Republicans were still complaining about the 1962 election and alleging that Mayor Richard Daley had stolen the election in Chicago.

    Yes, there were questions raised on 2000 and in 2004. But this was normal. It is reasonable to be skeptical of election outcomes that weren’t expected. There are legal procedures for challenging elections. The questioning quickly died down after investigation.

    The situation was very different for the 2020 election. Trump’s questioning of the outcome went far beyond what is normal. You are only hearing about 2000 and 2004 because the Republicans are using those examples to make excuses for what Trump did in 2020.

  4. The 2000 election was recounted by the state, by the New York Times, and by the Washington Post. Can you link to a statement by a prominent democrat that acknowledges unequivocally that the election was legit?

    Why this headline?

    https://www.npr.org/2018/11/12/666812854/the-florida-recount-of-2000-a-nightmare-that-goes-on-haunting

    “ It is safe to say the wounds from the battles of 18 years ago have never healed — not in Florida and not in the nation’s highest court. And not in the minds of a generation of Americans who thought the White House should have gone to Gore.”

  5. keiths: Churches are tax-exempt in the US, but only if they meet certain criteria. Their involvement in politics is limited by these criteria; if they breach the limits, their tax-exempt status can be revoked.

    My question is: Have you ever seen it revoked for a pastor getting too much into politics? I have been trying to dig into this and have not found a single case.

    keiths: The quote you provided — “We are looking for politicians who are going to be looking out for the people who are most marginalized, the way that Jesus did” — does not breach those limits.

    In my mind, the limit would be crossed by endorsing specific candidates. Conservative pastors do it all the time. Even the “Trump shall take back his rightful place!” storyline keeps on giving years after its best before date. Yet I have not heard a single arrest or lawsuit against a pastor on these grounds.

    The limit would reasonably be crossed also by merely saying “Vote Republican!” because in USA the parties set up just one candidate in every constituency, so saying “Vote Republican!” would be a straightforward endorsement of a particular candidate.

    And when conservatives do it and get away with it all the time, there can easily be liberal pastors doing the same thing. Maybe they are not doing it, but why wouldn’t or shouldn’t they? When there are no consequences, it is as good as legal. Of course, one might suppose that liberals have a whole different culture, and I actually tend to agree, so for me it was quite interesting to find this newspiece where the journalist lets the pastor’s political outspokenness pass by without a comment, as if separation of church and state were a non-issue.

  6. Neil Rickert: This is surely wrong, or at least is misleading.

    I came to the USA (from Australia) in 1962. And the Republicans were still complaining about the 1962 election and alleging that Mayor Richard Daley had stolen the election in Chicago.

    There’s nothing wrong or misleading about starting at the point where I started, and nothing wrong about starting where you start either. I’m sure some 200-year-olds can also have something interesting to contribute, but let them make their own opening posts.

    The point where I started, I remember the courts in Florida decided (or as W’s parents allegedly said in some context, Jeb decided) who won. This does not happen often, so I consider it a landmark. And then Gore conceded. Now the controversies have escalated so that Trump never conceded, instead he says the elections were a fraud and “we have to do it again.”

  7. petrushka:
    The 2000 election was recounted by the state, by the New York Times, and by the Washington Post. Can you link to a statement by a prominent democrat that acknowledges unequivocally that the election was legit?

    Democracy does not require everyone accept the belief the the election is completely fair, i, we know historically that dirty tricks are common. In the end , Democracy requires the losing candidate to unequivocally accept the legal results of the election .so partisan rancor can be put aside”

    “ Vice President Al Gore concedes defeat to George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on December 13, 2000.

    In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White House, Gore said that while he was deeply disappointed and sharply disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict that ended his campaign, ”partisan rancor must now be put aside.”

    “I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College” he said. “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

    Hillary Clinton’s concession:

    “Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful President for all Americans.
    ….
    We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.

    Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power, and we don’t just respect that — we cherish it. It also enshrines other things: the rule of law; the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.”

    In both cases the losing candidate won the popular vote.

  8. Erik: There’s nothing wrong or misleading about starting at the point where I started, and nothing wrong about starting where you start either. I’m sure some 200-year-olds can also have something interesting to contribute, but let them make their own opening posts.

    The point where I started, I remember the courts in Florida decided (or as W’s parents allegedly said in some context, Jeb decided) who won. This does not happen often, so I consider it a landmark. And then Gore conceded. Now the controversies have escalated so that Trump never conceded, instead he says the elections were a fraud and “we have to do it again.”

    Sounds like a false equivalency that the “controversies escalated. As if Trump actions were the natural result of Bush’s victory on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision “ the legal case, decided on December 12, 2000, in which the Supreme Court of the United States reversed an order by the Florida Supreme Court for a selective manual recount of that state’s U.S. presidential election ballots. The 5–4 per curiam (unsigned) decision effectively awarded Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes to Republican candidate George W. Bush, thereby ensuring his victory over Democratic candidate Al Gore.“ Gore unhappily accepted the court’s decision and Gore on the next day conceded. Trump being Trump , ignored the courts , state ,federal, supreme, to this day claiming he won the election . So as far as the candidates , one respected the Constitution the other not.

  9. Let me preface this by confessing that I can’t get very excited about rehashing the 2000 election, so please don’t be offended if I exit the conversation after making these remarks. It isn’t personal.

    petrushka:

    The 2000 election was recounted by the state, by the New York Times, and by the Washington Post. Can you link to a statement by a prominent democrat that acknowledges unequivocally that the election was legit?

    The results of the recounts and investigations aren’t nearly as conclusive as you imply. The state recount was incomplete, and the investigation by the NORC consortium (the one that included the NYT and WaPo) yielded mixed results. I found a nice chart in the Wikipedia article on the Florida recount (see below).

    Also, there are multiple senses and meanings of the word “legitimate”. In one sense, the election was legitimate simply because the Supreme Court made it so. Legitimacy by fiat. In another sense, the result was illegitimate because some votes were ignored. My own standard is that if a voter’s intent is clear, their ballot should be counted. A large number of ballots were thrown out because the person had voted for the same candidate twice, once in the normal way and once as a write-in. In such a case, It’s obvious what the voter’s intent was. Those ballots should have been counted. Most of them went for Gore, and they were numerous enough to have affected the outcome of the election. So no, by my standard of fairness, the election was not legitimate. Nonetheless, I thought that Gore did the right thing by accepting the Supreme Court’s decision and conceding.

  10. I suspect that rescinding the tax-free status of churches that act as political action committees depends on the size and affiliations of the church. If you are preaching in a mainstream church (Catholic, Southern Baptist, Methodist, etc.) and telling your flock to vote for some particular candidate, you’re safe. But if you start (or represent) some tiny church with only a few dozen followers, you will find it hard to get tax-exempt status no matter what you preach. I too have never heard of a single case of political proselytizing costing any church its tax advantages.

    I read somewhere that, historically in the US, something between 15% and 20% of those who vote for a losing Presidential candidate believe the election was unfair. So I note that when the losing candidate starts claiming this, he can raise that percentage to well above 50%. And as we see, so long as he keeps repeating this no amount of recounts or audits can change any minds.

    I consider dangerous the Democrats’ stunt of supporting the looniest Republican in the primary on the grounds that said whacko will be easiest to defeat in the general election. At best, this strategy is effective only in districts that would be competitive in the general election anyway. And some of those loonies have come uncomfortably close to winning. It’s a democracy truism that you can only vote to end democracy once – after which you never get a chance to change your mind later.

    I believe it’s the case that the Democrat Presidential candidate has won the popular vote in every election since 1980 except one. Whether the electoral college confers “legitimacy” is a question increasingly in the news.

    As a miscellaneous comment, I think the Republicans do a better job of recognizing how important name recognition is in an election. They have a pretty good track record of running movie stars, famous athletes, and TV personalities. Herschel Walker may lose, but it will be close despite his adultery, his funding abortions, his abandoned children, his lies about business and education and police work, his tax break for having his primary residence in Texas, and his generally mindless incoherent speeches. Yet polls indicate that more than 50% of those planning to vote for him are actually voting FOR Walker rather than AGAINST his opponent. Who in their right mind would vote FOR such a person? Well, he’s a famous Georgia athlete, and he can be depended on to vote however McConnell tells him to. What more could a Republican want?

  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/12/us/examining-vote-overview-study-disputed-florida-ballots-finds-justices-did-not.html

    “ A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year’s presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

    Contrary to what many partisans of former Vice President Al Gore have charged, the United States Supreme Court did not award an election to Mr. Bush that otherwise would have been won by Mr. Gore. A close examination of the ballots found that Mr. Bush would have retained a slender margin over Mr. Gore if the Florida court’s order to recount more than 43,000 ballots had not been reversed by the United States Supreme Court.

    Even under the strategy that Mr. Gore pursued at the beginning of the Florida standoff — filing suit to force hand recounts in four predominantly Democratic counties — Mr. Bush would have kept his lead, according to the ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations.

    But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions, 175,010 in all, found that Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots. This also assumes that county canvassing boards would have reached the same conclusions about the disputed ballots that the consortium’s independent observers did. The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to ”count all the votes.”
    In addition, the review found statistical support for the complaints of many voters, particularly elderly Democrats in Palm Beach County, who said in interviews after the election that confusing ballot designs may have led them to spoil their ballots by voting for more than one candidate.

    More than 113,000 voters cast ballots for two or more presidential candidates. Of those, 75,000 chose Mr. Gore and a minor candidate; 29,000 chose Mr. Bush and a minor candidate. Because there was no clear indication of what the voters intended, those numbers were not included in the consortium’s final tabulations.”

    Sorry guys. You have a bad case of Morton’s Daemon.

  12. Being more specific, the double votes were for two different candidates, not two votes for the same candidate.

    The confusing instructions were provided by the Democratic Party, not by the state.

    There was the “vote on every page” pamphlet provided by the gore campaign. That was not the state’s doing.

  13. Two things:

    One, the electoral college vs the popular vote.

    Really bad science here. Campaigns would be conducted quite differently if the election were tied to the national popular vote. For example, many people don’t bother voting because their state is “safe”.

    For second example, look at the popular vote in the recent midterm. The polls were pretty much correct in predicting the popular vote. But not the results. 20 districts had extreme deviations from the national trend.

    As for voting for celebrity or race or gender, I can’t imagine how one side or the other could claim the high ground.

  14. Flint:

    I believe it’s the case that the Democrat Presidential candidate has won the popular vote in every election since 1980 except one.

    Since 1988, not 1980. Still impressive, though: that’s 7 out of the last 8 presidential elections.

  15. petrushka:

    Sorry guys. You have a bad case of Morton’s Daemon.

    Sorry, petrushka. You have a bad case of Dunning-Kruger.

    You quoted a New York Times article, but you don’t seem to have understood it. Note the following sentence:

    But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions, 175,010 in all, found that Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots.

    Here’s what I think caused your confusion. The first sentence of the article reads:

    A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year’s presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.

    You apparently took that as confirmation that Bush had received more votes than Gore, but it isn’t. See the other sentence I quoted.

  16. petrushka:

    Being more specific, the double votes were for two different candidates, not two votes for the same candidate.

    You’re assuming that there is only one type of double vote. In fact there are two types — the ones you just described, in which the votes were for two different candidates, and the ones I’ve been referring to, in which both votes were for the same candidate — one normal, one write-in. The voter’s intent isn’t discernible in the first case, but it’s unambiguous in the second. Those votes should have been counted.

    From a study of overvotes:

    The overvoted ballots on which the voter’s intent could be clearly determined were principally cast using optical scan equipment. On such ballots, voters frequently filled in the oval for a candidate but then also wrote in the same candidate’s name. In another common error on optical ballots, voters selected two candidates and then crossed one out or wrote a note requesting that the extra vote be ignored. The tabulation equipment would have routinely rejected such ballots, even though Florida law specified that a vote should be counted whenever the voter’s intent can be determined.

    petrushka:

    The confusing instructions were provided by the Democratic Party, not by the state.

    If people get confused and mess up their ballots due to someone else’s screwup, that’s a problem, regardless of who is responsible. A person who walks into the booth intending to vote for candidate X should walk out of the booth having voted for candidate X. The whole point of the ballot-casting process is to capture the intent of the voter, after all.

    There was the “vote on every page” pamphlet provided by the gore campaign. That was not the state’s doing.

    Again, no one deserves to be disenfranchised due to someone else’s mistake. Don’t you agree?

  17. petrushka:

    Two things:

    One, the electoral college vs the popular vote.

    Really bad science here.

    Really bad science where? I can’t figure out who or what you’re responding to.

    The only two people to mention the popular vote were velikovskys and Flint. velikovskys wrote this:

    In both cases the losing candidate [Gore and Clinton] won the popular vote.

    He’s correct.

    Flint wrote:

    I believe it’s the case that the Democrat Presidential candidate has won the popular vote in every election since 1980 [it’s actually 1988] except one. Whether the electoral college confers “legitimacy” is a question increasingly in the news.

    Apart from the 1980/1988 mixup, he’s also correct. So again, really bad science where?

    In the future, for the sake of your readers, could you please blockquote the things you’re responding to? Thanks.

    Campaigns would be conducted quite differently if the election were tied to the national popular vote. For example, many people don’t bother voting because their state is “safe”.

    True. And…?

    For second example, look at the popular vote in the recent midterm. The polls were pretty much correct in predicting the popular vote. But not the results. 20 districts had extreme deviations from the national trend.

    Your point being?

  18. velikovskys: Sounds like a false equivalency that the “controversies escalated

    Since I am making the point that controversies escalated, I am making no point about equivalency, false or otherwise. In fact, for a long time I tended to assume it was only the Republicans getting ever nastier. But now I see evidence that Democrats have been cheering them along.

    Politologically this makes perfect sense: If it must be a two-party rule, then you prefer your opponent be a particular way and you’ll be happy to shape or paint him as such insofar as you can. For example, I think that if justice were to be served, Republican Party should have been abolished after the coup attempt – because coups should be a no-no in democracy. Yet Democrats keep the Republicans around – a disgraced and stupid enemy is much better than a strong and smart one, and in American democracy you formally need an opposing party, so that’s about it.

    It’s not equivalency, but more like a tango of mutual reinforcement.

  19. petrushka:
    Two things:

    One, the electoral college vs the popular vote.

    Really bad science here. Campaigns would be conducted quite differently if the election were tied to the national popular vote. For example, many people don’t bother voting because their state is “safe”.

    Candidates themselves might be different ,as well ,if each voter in each State had a equal voice in who was the winner. But those are the rules of the game and will stay that way since Senate gives more clout to the less populated States as well .My intent was to point out that both candidates accepted the results despite having more folks voting for them.

  20. Erik:

    Politologically this makes perfect sense: If it must be a two-party rule,

    The American 2-party system is not quite a formal requirement, and not quite a legal requirement. Instead, it is the inevitable ramification of single-member districts and winner take all elections. Proportional representation and rank-choice voting, all candidates running state-wide at-large, would produce drastically different outcomes (and drastically different campaigns and campaign money allocation).

    A hundred miles east of me, everyone is carpet-bombed with saturation-level political advertising. Where I am, there hasn’t been a political ad on TV in general elections for decades. But plenty of them for the primaries, which are our actual elections – generally the primary winners run unopposed in November. There’s always talk of organizing a Democrat party here, but who would donate to it?

    (And it should be noted that giving disproportional weight to less populous states was built into the US Constitution, which would not have passed without that. Today, it’s not so much red and blue states as red rural and blue urban divisions, a setup which almost demands gerrymandering.)

  21. “ Apart from the 1980/1988 mixup, he’s also correct. So again, really bad science where?”

    Bad in assuming the popular vote would remain unaffected if the rules for winning changed.

    Current elections are largely determined by get out the vote efforts, which is one reason why polls do not predict outcomes very well.

    I would like to use the quoting features, but they just don’t work on my tablet. When I highlight a phrase and push the quote button, I get the whole post.

  22. Flint:

    And it should be noted that giving disproportional weight to less populous states was built into the US Constitution, which would not have passed without that.

    I live in California and my sister lives in Alaska. California has one senator for every 18.7 million people, and Alaska has one for every 361,000. That means that her representation in the Senate is over 50 times that of mine. I mean, my sister is a great person and all, but that is ridiculously unfair.

  23. Also Keith’s, I’ve seen no response to my posts on the 2000 election. It seems pretty clear that denial is still on the menu.

    You got the double voting thing entirely wrong. The disqualified ballots had votes for two different candidates.

  24. It’s a bit less stark in the Electoral College, where my sister’s representation is “only” 2.8 times that of mine. Still utterly ridiculous.

    I’m a big fan of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which is a clever way to nullify the unfairness without actually abolishing the Electoral College. It’s surprising how many states have already adopted it.

  25. Erik:

    My question is: Have you ever seen it revoked for a pastor getting too much into politics? I have been trying to dig into this and have not found a single case.

    I haven’t looked very hard, but I haven’t seen any cases either. Enforcement is woefully lacking when a nutjob like this can retain her tax-exempt status:

    Paula White Leads Impassioned Prayer in Bid to Secure Donald Trump’s Re-election: ‘I Hear Victory’

    She is one of Donald Trump’s “spiritual advisers”, by the way. When the results came in, she declared that the election had been rigged by a “demonic confederacy”. Odd that her Almighty God couldn’t outwit a squad of puny little demons.

  26. petrushka:

    I would like to use the quoting features, but they just don’t work on my tablet. When I highlight a phrase and push the quote button, I get the whole post.

    Yeah, the quote function is pretty bad. I bypass it completely and do my quotes manually. I’ll post instructions over on the Moderation Issues thread in case you don’t know HTML.

  27. Trump is a rare phenomenon. DeSantis is a more common one.

    I think there’s a strong possibility of a three way mess in the next election, but eventually DeSantis will run,and we’ll see what the popular vote crowd has to say.

  28. keiths, after quoting Flint:

    Apart from the 1980/1988 mixup, he’s also correct. So again, really bad science where?

    petrushka:

    Bad in assuming the popular vote would remain unaffected if the rules for winning changed.

    I see no evidence that he is making that assumption. What made you think that he is?

  29. petrushka:

    I think there’s a strong possibility of a three way mess in the next election, but eventually DeSantis will run,and we’ll see what the popular vote crowd has to say.

    The entire justification for the popular vote system is that it would be more democratic than the Electoral College. In a democracy, the power is supposed to rest with the voters. If a majority of voters pick DeSantis, then DeSantis should be President.

    I’ll be disappointed if DeSantis wins, of course. I think he’s a dangerous man. But if he wins, he wins. That’s part of what it means to live in a democracy.

  30. keiths:
    keiths, after quoting Flint:

    petrushka:

    I see no evidence that he is making that assumption. What made you think that he is?

    Hmmmmm. Sort of worked that time.

    I assume people who wish to do away with the electoral college, directly or indirectly, think it would affect the outcomes. Else, why the bother?

    I think the outcomes would be affected in ways that are not obvious or easy to predict. It would certainly not be the current voting patterns minus the electoral college.

    But imagine this: a close election in which a number of precincts have delayed counts or delayed certification. So that it is at least mathematically possible to know how many votes are needed to flip the results.

    Now imagine that both parties can see this and participate in the delays.

    Regardless of the actual cause for delays, they would be seen as attempts at ballot harvesting to order.

  31. petrushka:

    Also Keith’s, I’ve seen no response to my posts on the 2000 election. It seems pretty clear that denial is still on the menu.

    Maybe try, um… reading the thread? Look for the comments that say ‘keiths’ in the upper left corner.

    You got the double voting thing entirely wrong. The disqualified ballots had votes for two different candidates.

    Amusing that you’ve diagnosed me with Morton’s Demonitis when in fact you are the sufferer. Physician, heal thyself. I’ve already explained that the overvotes include ballots with votes for two different candidates and those with two votes for the same candidate, one normal and one write-in.

    As corroboration, I also supplied you with a quote from a paper that studied the overvotes. I will quote it again. Please ponder it this time.

    Petrushka’s Demon, I command you to open the gates and let these facts in!

    From a study of overvotes:

    The overvoted ballots on which the voter’s intent could be clearly determined were principally cast using optical scan equipment. On such ballots, voters frequently filled in the oval for a candidate but then also wrote in the same candidate’s name. In another common error on optical ballots, voters selected two candidates and then crossed one out or wrote a note requesting that the extra vote be ignored. The tabulation equipment would have routinely rejected such ballots, even though Florida law specified that a vote should be counted whenever the voter’s intent can be determined. [Emphasis added]

    If you think about it, this all makes perfect sense. The scanning equipment just looks at the ovals. If it sees two ovals filled in, it interprets them as votes for two separate candidates and rejects the ballot.

    When the voter’s intent is unclear, that’s fine. When the voter’s intent is clear, however, the ballot should be counted — not just out of fairness, but as a matter of Florida law. See the quote.

    There are at least two cases in which the voter’s intent is clear.

    1) When two ovals are filled in, one for the candidate as printed on the ballot and one for the same candidate as a write-in.

    2) When two ovals are filled in by mistake but the voter indicates in writing which one was unintentional.

    The scanning equipment just looks at the ovals. It cannot read handwriting. It is therefore unable to distinguish between the ballots I just described, where the voter’s intent is clear, and the rest of the overvotes, where the voter’s intent is unclear. All of them get rejected.

    In a proper, lawful recount, all of the overvotes would be examined, and if the voter’s intent were clear, their vote would be counted.

  32. petrushka:

    Bad in assuming the popular vote would remain unaffected if the rules for winning changed.

    keiths:

    I see no evidence that he [Flint] is making that assumption. What made you think that he is?

    petrushka:

    I assume people who wish to do away with the electoral college, directly or indirectly, think it would affect the outcomes.

    Of course. But you claimed something else, namely that Flint had assumed “that the popular vote would remain unaffected.” Nothing in his comments suggests that he has made that assumption.

    I think the outcomes would be affected in ways that are not obvious or easy to predict. It would certainly not be the current voting patterns minus the electoral college.

    That’s fine. We’re not trying to duplicate the results that would be produced by the old system. We’re shooting for a new system that is more democratic. Voting patterns will almost certainly change as a result, and that’s OK. The important thing is to let the people decide directly who their President is going to be. The candidate who gets the most votes is the one who should be President.

    But imagine this: a close election in which a number of precincts have delayed counts or delayed certification. So that it is at least mathematically possible to know how many votes are needed to flip the results.

    Now imagine that both parties can see this and participate in the delays.

    Regardless of the actual cause for delays, they would be seen as attempts at ballot harvesting to order.

    That isn’t an argument against the popular vote, because the current system has the same vulnerabilities.

  33. keiths:

    Of course. But you claimed something else, namely that Flint had assumed “that the popular vote would remain unaffected.” Nothing in his comments suggests that he has made that assumption.

    Well, yes and no. I have tried to say, though not very clearly, that going from electoral college to national popular vote would most emphatically change how political campaign resources are allocated. Right now, nearly all resources are directed toward swing states, and solid red or blue states aren’t worth campaigning in. And there is some evidence that campaigning is effective, and that outspending the opposition has a lot to do with outvoting them.

    But I’ll agree with you that a national popular vote would render places like Alaska and Wyoming irrelevant, and we’d see all that campaign money redirected toward New York, California, Florida and Texas. With uncertain results.

  34. I have been unable to find any reference to Florida 2000 write in votes being invalidated. My recollection of the criterion was, could the intention of the voter be unequivocally determined.

  35. petrushka:

    I have been unable to find any reference to Florida 2000 write in votes being invalidated. My recollection of the criterion was, could the intention of the voter be unequivocally determined.

    Yes, under Florida law, that was supposed to be the criterion. But individual county canvassing boards are responsible for setting their criteria and not all of them honored that law. Here’s an example as reported in the Orlando Sentinel:

    Now Democrats Are Upset With The Way Lake Counted Election 2000

    Counters Threw Out 3,114 Ballots Because Voters Also Wrote In The Name Of Their Candidate

    November 14, 2000 | By Scott Maxwell and David Damron of The Sentinel Staff

    A decision to ignore thousands of presidential ballots cast in Lake County has Democrats crying foul — and wondering what to do next.

    “That’s insane,” Bob Poe, the chairman of the state Democrats, said after he learned about the Lake County decision Monday night. “We’re not trying to be litigious, but gosh, I just don’t know.”

    The ballyhoo surrounds a decision by the Lake County canvassing board not to count 3,114 ballots that had more than one presidential choice marked.

    The sticking point, however, is that although all of those ballots had two choices marked, most of them chose only one candidate. In other words, many voters checked the circle next to Al Gore’s name, and also wrote “Al Gore” in the write-in blank. Others did the same for George W. Bush.

  36. The point about 2000 is the very opposite of the one Erik seems to be making. Gore conceded DESPITE the fact it was by then clear that a) he had won the popular vote and b) that it would never be clear who had actually got more votes in Florida, because the voting system was totally inadequate to distinguish a margin of the order of a few hundred votes, BECAUSE he accepted a LEGAL aka LEGitimate decision. He didn’t scream that the election was stolen. It was an utterly unfair outcome, especially given the Palm Beach butterfly ballot screw up, but he recognised the constitution and the law.

    2004 unsurprisingly WAS contested in some quarters of the Democratic Party, for many reasons. Because of Florida 2000, punchcard machines had been replaced by electronic ones, which many (with some justification) mistrusted as potentially hackable), when the exit polls seemed to show a Kerry lead but the vote showed a result in which the proportions were essentially switched, it looked suspicious. But that alone probably wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for all that footage of long lines of black voters in Ohio waiting for many many hours in the rain because not enough machines had been provided in black, mostly Democratic, counties, while more Republican counties had zero lines.

    THAT was what the contested electoral votes were about – not electronic vote theft though some still believed it. Oddly enough I myself was fairly prominent in the case against the exit poll argument (which was indeed fallacious).

    But in BOTH cases the candidate conceded, because both respected US law (and in fact Bush did win the popular vote in 2004, at least).

    The US really needs to abolish the electoral college.

  37. keiths, to petrushka:

    Of course. But you claimed something else, namely that Flint had assumed “that the popular vote would remain unaffected.” Nothing in his comments suggests that he has made that assumption.

    Flint:

    Well, yes and no. I have tried to say, though not very clearly, that going from electoral college to national popular vote would most emphatically change how political campaign resources are allocated.

    Right, so you weren’t assuming what petrushka thought you were assuming; namely, that the popular vote would be unaffected.

    Right now, nearly all resources are directed toward swing states, and solid red or blue states aren’t worth campaigning in.

    Here are a couple of maps (from nationalpopularvote.com) showing how lopsided things are right now:

  38. Lauren Boebert, congressional idiot from Colorado, shares her thoughts on the separation of church and state:

    Boebert Says She’s ‘Tired’ Of Separation Of Church & State

    She’s completely wrong, of course. Separation of church and state is in the Constitution, in the First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    Anyone want to guess which religion she’s referring to when she says “The church is supposed to direct the government”?

  39. keiths,

    The instances of Republican insanity are trivially evident. Finding instances on the Democrat side is much harder, but I think it is worth looking into.

    Fun fact: A hundred years ago, KKK was a (Southern) Democrat phenomenon. Nowadays it is a Republican phenomenon.

    I doubt Democrats somehow saw the light and became better human beings. I suspect they are channeling their evil in less obvious ways.

  40. Erik:

    The instances of Republican insanity are trivially evident. Finding instances on the Democrat side is much harder, but I think it is worth looking into.

    I agree. We should call out this sort of insanity whenever it occurs.

    Fun fact: A hundred years ago, KKK was a (Southern) Democrat phenomenon. Nowadays it is a Republican phenomenon.

    That’s a striking reversal, isn’t it? It reminded me of this:

    23 maps that explain how Democrats went from the party of racism to the party of Obama

    Erik:

    I doubt Democrats somehow saw the light and became better human beings. I suspect they are channeling their evil in less obvious ways.

    You made me laugh with “channeling their evil in less obvious ways”, but don’t you think you’re being a little too cynical? Isn’t a non-racist person a “better human being” than a racist one? Or do you believe in a sort of “law of conservation of evil”, whereby any moral improvement in one area must be compensated for by degradation in another?

  41. Erik:
    keiths,

    The instances of Republican insanity are trivially evident. Finding instances on the Democrat side is much harder, but I think it is worth looking into.

    Lots of folks trace the beginning of the insanity to Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich for Republicans.

    Fun fact: A hundred years ago, KKK was a (Southern) Democrat phenomenon. Nowadays it is a Republican phenomenon.

    Simple reason, Lincoln was a Republican.

    I doubt Democrats somehow saw the light and became better human beings. I suspect they are channeling their evil in less obvious ways.

    It is generally accepted the switch occurred when LBJ( who has his own history of election irregularities) signed Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, So does seem like , at least in policy , Democrats went against racism and segregation. It started a migration of southern democrats to the Republican Party .

  42. velikovskys:
    It is generally accepted the switch occurred when LBJ( who has his own history of election irregularities) signed Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, So does seem like , at least in policy , Democrats went against racism and segregation. It started a migration of southern democrats to the Republican Party .

    Well, sort of. The Civil War didn’t much change the Southern white attitude towards negroes, and after reconstruction (that is, after negroes stopped being allowed to vote or participate) Southern representatives and Senators were solidly racist, segregationist, and white supremacist. Because southern negroes, when they could vote, voted Republican because of Lincoln, the white power structure was Democrat.

    But this situation made for strange national politics, because the Northern abolitionists and sympathizers gravitated over to the Democrat party while the Dixiecrats increasingly found common cause with the Northern Republicans. I agree that the major legislation under LBJ was the final straw, and generally the Democrats came to be seen as the party of change, and Republicans as the party of stability.

    Here in Alabama it’s well understood that if you’re king of the hill, all directions are down, so change cannot be good. And of course conversely, if you’re at the bottom, change might not help but it can’t hurt.

  43. keiths:
    keiths, to petrushka:

    Flint:

    Right, so you weren’t assuming what petrushka thought you were assuming; namely, that the popular vote would be unaffected.

    Here are a couple of maps (from nationalpopularvote.com) showing how lopsided things are right now:

    I don’t think campaign resources make much difference anymore. What is winning elections is get out the vote efforts, and particularly, ballot harvesting.

    This will eventually equalize. Leading to something else.

  44. petrushka: I don’t think campaign resourcesmake much difference anymore. What is winning elections is get out the vote efforts, and particularly, ballot harvesting.

    This will eventually equalize. Leading to something else.

    Not sure I understand this. Most get-out-the-vote efforts are expensive because they are so resource-intensive. It takes a lot of people to knock on millions of doors, a lot of people to harvest votes where that’s legal, a lot of hands-on up close and personal time with potential voters. TV ads, in contrast, can reach many thousands of people at only pennies per eyeball.

    Resources means a lot more than dollars.

  45. Pew, Sept 2022:

    During political elections, churches and other houses of worship should…

    Come out in favor of one candidate over another: 20%

    Should NOT do this: 77%

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