The flawed Hall of Fame ballot

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are going in to the Hall of Fame. Both clearly belong, and Griffey was almost unanimous.

Almost.

Now, predictably, there are some demanding explanations from the three voters who left Griffey off. MLB.com’s Phil Rogers believes they owe fans an explanation:

What were you possibly thinking when you left Ken Griffey Jr. off your Hall of Fame ballot? How can you possibly justify turning a cold shoulder on a center fielder who won 10 straight Gold Glove Awards, hit 630 home runs and was the face of his generation?

First off, this isn’t how democracy works. Votes are kept secret at the discretion of the voter for a reason: to allow for unpopular opinions.

Second, let’s not pretend like this is an election for something really important. Baseball is entertainment. It’s interesting. It’s fun to follow and talk about. But we aren’t discussing what to do about ISIS here.

Third, this process really isn’t how democracy works. The voters (who, incidentally, are baseball reporters and not players, managers, or front office members) get ten votes, which they can use on anyone within the pool of eligible players. It isn’t a straight up-and-down vote on each career, but a selection of the ten most worthy from an arbitrary pool.

Rogers and others acknowledge the concept of a “strategic vote” – the idea that, with Griffey a likely lock to get 75% of the vote, a few writers could hedge their bets and vote for someone else if they felt strongly for them. One year ago, I made a case for doing just that. At ESPN, Jayson Stark wrote about leaving Mike Mussina off the ballot because he only had 10 spots to work with. Stark felt Mussina was deserving, but couldn’t vote for him. Kevin Davidoff of the New York said Tim Raines was his eleventh choice.  Raines fell 23 votes short, which makes you wonder how many eleventh votes he would have gotten.

The point is not that the three voters who skipped Griffey have a compelling case for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, but that the voting system doesn’t do what it was intended to do – which is provide a referendum on each player’s career.

 

 

 

Terrorism. Racism. Unions.

We have heard plenty of criticism of political activists in the past week.  Their methods were likened to terrorists and their tone, we were told, had echoes of the racism.

Surely those critics will be just as vocal in denouncing the California labor unions who have been trying to scare voters away from signing referendum petitions, right?

The Golden State’s finances are anything but, and unions are likely worried about the types of reform movements that gripped other states with budget woes (like New Jersey and Wisconsin).  There are real possibilities that those reforms could be enacted by ballot referenda.  And so, there are not one but two campaigns working to squash ballot measures before they even get on the ballot.

The California chapter of the SEIU’s Think Before You Ink laughably blames ballot initiatives for “silencing the voices of working Californians” through ballot initiatives.  You read that correctly: the SEIU says that allowing voters to vote on referenda silences voters.

More insidious is Californians Against Identity Theft, which tells voters to stay away from petitions on the flimsy premise that signing risks identity theft.  Petitions, of course, require voters to share their name and address – in other words, most (but not all) of the information that can be found in a phone book, if anyone uses those anymore.

CAIT gets more unhinged the more you dig.  Check out this image from the website masthead:

It looks like someone found LSD, Red Bull, and Photoshop in the same weekend and had a bad trip.  And if that’s not enough, listen to their radio commercial, which suggests that felons straight out of San Quentin are patrolling the Ralph’s parking lot, preying on your phone book information.  And they might even send your information to (gasp!) India.  Who knows what those Indians will do with it? the ad intones ominously.

CAIT is comically over the top; it is also a deceitful effort that plays on identity theft concerns and racial tensions to suppress voters from participating in democracy.  The SEIU “Think Before You Ink” campaign is less egregious, but just as dishonest.  Both are founded on the basic premise of sabotaging democracy.

Common Cause certainly knows it’s wrong, though Vice President Joe Biden has yet to liken the organized labor goons behind it to terrorist.

Crossposted at Punditleague.us.

Get out and vote, if you feel like it

Your vote probably won’t make a difference today.

That’s obviously not very politically correct to say, but it’s true. It was first pointed out to me by one of my favorite professors at UMass, Vincent Moscardelli, in fall 2000. (The traitorous Moscardelli now teaches at UConn.)

In one of the three classes I took with him, Moscardelli confounded us once by asking, “Why should you vote?” He pointed out that elections were rarely won or lost by one vote, and that our vote for President in Massachusetts was moot since Al Gore would carry the state easily. What was the point?

He grinned as he shot down every argument we made – which were really just arguments we were parroting from feel-good public service announcements about civic engagement. When our faith in democracy was sufficiently shaken, he broke his point down for us: voting was a collective, not an individual action – like cheering at a ballgame. If you see a game at a stadium of 45,000, and a few people aren’t cheering, no one really notices. But if the entire stadium isn’t cheering, then it is very noticeable.

After that discussion, I never again thought of voting as a “civic obligation.” I cast a ballot in 2000 because it was the first Presidential election in which I was eligible, and also because I was able to vote against Ted Kennedy. Neither race was close, but both votes were personally important to me – just like cheering for the Yankees is important to me when I see them play. Voting is a personal choice.

This is a fact that has seemed to escape organizations like Rock the Vote or the now-defunct Youth Vote Coalition – nominally non-ideological organizations that try to encourage voter engagement. For a citizen to actually go to the polls, they must feel like their vote is important – not just to drive up turnout numbers, but based on a genuine enthusiasm and understanding of their candidate.

Tonight, with Virginia apparently close, I’ll brave the long lines and cast a vote – because it’s important to me.

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Beat the lines – vote late

CNN has set up a voter hotline so folks can report problems at polling stations. I’ll go out on a limb and say things won’t be perfect – not because of any kind of dirty tricks or ACORN coming up with a Halloween-themed recently deceased GOTV program, but because tomorrow we will have more than just a Presidential election going on.

Your high school civics teacher may have told you that we actually have 51 separate elections for President. But consider all the various counties and elections districts within each state, and the reality is that there will but hundreds (if not thousands) of essentially separate elections going on tomorrow. And considering that many of the folks orchestrating this ballet of democracy are volunteers or very low-paid people with nothing better to do… well, if I heard that there were no irregularities, then I’d be a little suspicious.

As for CNN’s Crumbling Democracy Hotline, many of the calls have been from people complaining about waiting in line too long. Given past attempts to disenfranchise voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright violence, this is probably a good sign.

Bookmark and Share

Beat the lines – vote late

CNN has set up a voter hotline so folks can report problems at polling stations. I’ll go out on a limb and say things won’t be perfect – not because of any kind of dirty tricks or ACORN coming up with a Halloween-themed recently deceased GOTV program, but because tomorrow we will have more than just a Presidential election going on.

Your high school civics teacher may have told you that we actually have 51 separate elections for President. But consider all the various counties and elections districts within each state, and the reality is that there will but hundreds (if not thousands) of essentially separate elections going on tomorrow. And considering that many of the folks orchestrating this ballet of democracy are volunteers or very low-paid people with nothing better to do… well, if I heard that there were no irregularities, then I’d be a little suspicious.

As for CNN’s Crumbling Democracy Hotline, many of the calls have been from people complaining about waiting in line too long. Given past attempts to disenfranchise voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright violence, this is probably a good sign.

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