Did Facebook just talk you into voting for a psychopath?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You think your vote comes after careful deliberation and analysis. You think your vote is an intelligent one. You studied the candidates, you know the issues, you made the right choice.

Bullshit. You probably voted straight across the ballot, Democrat or Republican.

Moreover, we’re finding out more and more that our political identities are very much governed by forces that are quite beyond our control. Genetics, for example, affect our psychology  and predispose us to becoming liberal. Scientists also studied twins – including those separated at birth – and found that while many broad-strokes political concepts might be informed by their parenting and social interactions, many more seemed to be genetically linked.

Everyone is pissed at CNN’s gutless, sloppy reporting about studies linking women’s menstrual cycles to their voting preferences, but really? At the end of the day, we’re all just bundles of synapses to be tickled, poked and prodded in ways that will make us do shit. Our genetic code says so; our FourSquare checkins confirm it. Why would something as repetitive as a menstrual cycle not affect one’s voting habits?

And speaking of the remote control of our nominally free will: Facebook.

In the last midterm election of 2010, scientists conducted a study on Facebook, wherein groups of people got nags to go vote in what are typically low turnout elections. The result was higher turnout among those who were actively asked to vote, especially those who also had friends who said they voted as well. Voting, it appears, may be every bit as viral as cat videos.

Let us not speak falsely, now.

And just who is it you think you voted for? The most reasonable candidate? The one with the best handle on the economy? Foreign policy?

Nope. Turns out that the traits most often attributed to successful politicians are also common sign posts for… psychotic behavior. That’s right. In particular, the social trait of “fearless dominance,” or being a huge dick, is quite common among both groups. The leader of the study helpfully stresses the following:

“Most psychopaths end up being pretty unsuccessful and maladaptive, and they end up in prison, which is usually where psychologists study them,” Lilienfeld said. “Even though the psychopathic personality as a whole shebang is not a good thing to have, this study raises the interesting possibility that at least some traits of this condition — especially those linked to lack of social and physical apprehensiveness, immunity to stress, and resilience — might be adaptive in real-world settings.”

Ah, yes. Because who has ever heard of a politician going to jail?

So, I’m really glad you voted. Honestly. But now that you have, you can sit back and relax, because you never really had a choice in whom you voted for. The universe is a rigged game of controlled explosions and we are merely the flotsam of inter galactic collisions. Our opinions are statistical, our lives artifice and our impressions of ourselves merely the deluded ramblings of monkeys on drugs in cages. Happy Election Day!

Politics Rochester Technology

New York State testing new ballot-counting system in Monroe County reported last week that two counties in New York State would be participating in a program to test new software by Clear Ballot that speeds election results audits. Clear Ballot indicated that Monroe and Schenectady counties would be participating. The New York State Board of Elections confirmed the Wired article, but  Monroe County officials are unfamiliar with the company and its product.

The United States Election Assistance Commission recently created a grant program to research methods to improve the logistics of Election Day voting, as well as recounts and audits of ballot results. The State of New York Board of Elections was awarded $230,000. The state contracted with Clear Ballot to test its systems for post-election audits.

Via Twitter, I asked Clear Ballot ( @clearballot ) which two counties would be participating in the program. Clear Ballot responded Monroe and Schenectady Counties would be participating:

@dragonflyeye We’re working directly with the NY State Board of Elections, and then Monroe and Schenectady counties.

That tweet has since been removed.

State officials say the new pilot program will not be done with live ballots, but with ballots from this September’s primary elections. The counties of Monroe and Schenectady were selected as test centers because they tally votes using different ballot scanning systems.

Monroe County Board of Elections Commissioner Tom Ferrarese replied via email to my query that they had been contacted about a potential test of a new ballot counting system. But they said they have not heard anything further from the State:

A few months ago the State Board of Elections asked us if we, the Monroe County Board of Elections, would at some point in the future be willing to participate in a pilot testing a new system that would allow us to audit ballots using high speed scanners in an independently programmed system.  We indicated that we would be willing to do so.  Since then, we have heard nothing back from the State Board and are not in communications with the Clear Ballot folks nor were we even aware of their existence.

Mr. Ferrarese further stated that they would not feel comfortable changing their hand-count auditing system for this election cycle, which he says has worked well for the County in the past.

It’s not clear why the state would use Election Day to run tests, if the tests don’t require live ballots. Perhaps story got that part of the story wrong.

I contacted Schenectady County Board of Elections officials to find out if they knew anything about Clear Ballot, but they have not yet responded.


Florida Voters are Reporting Nasty Tricks in Full Effect

I’m not able to confirm this with a Google News search, but voters in Fl are reporting that ballots evidently spilled out of the back of a truck and are just sitting in the road somewhere in Tampa. Again, I cannot confirm this, but I’m being told it was on the news this morning. Also, they’ve been setting up road blocks in some counties to make it difficult to get to the polls.

All of this is uncorroborated, but that’s what’s out there when I’m talking to people. And I mean, come on! This is Florida we’re talking about. That sort of thing wouldn’t happen there. Like Exile said last night, “And Boston isn’t really much of a college town.”

Reader MC reports in with the actual story from  This turns out to be not ballots but voter information cards from some campaign or another.  So, while this is an unfortunate breach of voter’s privacy, it appears to be niether a voter suppression tactic nor instigated by anyone in charge of counting votes.


Election Day, 6am Update

A video blog. Looks crowded at the polling stations, people, get the hell out there and vote your asses off!  Plus, don’t forget about the state ballot initiative to allow veterans to get a few extra points on their civil service applications.  As it stands now, only injured vets get those added points, and only if they’re getting benefits from a specific agency.  The ballot initiative seeks to widen the program to all veterans, which seems only fair.


Keep your browser logged in here today, as I’ll be blogging from the Rochester for Obama headquarters on St. Paul St. during the morning and early afternoon hours.  Then, tonight, check out the live blogging event happening with myself, Rottenchester from the Fighting 29th and Exile on Erickson St. from The Albany Project.  It’s all happening right here on DFE, plus the other two will be on CW-16 and WHAM-13 this evening as well, live blogging the whole time.  Bitchin, eh?


Election Day Forecasting

If you’re looking for predictions from me (I can’t imagine why), sorry to disappoint.  This post is about a much more conventional type of forecasting: the weather.

It’s a well-known fact that voter turnout often suffers when the weather sucks.  Does that seem an awfully shallow reason not to vote?  Well, perhaps.  But the facts are the facts, and it is also a fact that Republicans tend to fair better in depressed turn outs.  I’ve not heard a good explanation of why that is, but my theory has always revolved around cranky old guys.  I’m still fleshing it out, I’ll get back to you.

But if we take it as a reasonably reliable theory that bad weather means low Democratic turnout, it might be worth it to examine the long-term forecast for the various battleground states and see how this eventually translates into Democratic losses and victories.  Sound good?  Let’s play.


The weather looks positively balmy for the coming week throughout the state.  From Canton to Cleveland to Dayton and Akron, looks like the weather will be between 65 and 70 and sunny all day long.


The weather here looks more intemperate, though mildly so, with rain throughout the state and temperatures in the low seventies in the northern Jacksonville.  Tampa however looks relatively nice at 81 degrees.  And don’t you wish you were there?

How ’bout that all important Florida Jewish vote in Miami?  Well, unless you have an aversion to partial cloud cover at mid-eighties, you’ll have no meteorological reason not to vote this coming Tuesday.  Or at least, so it seems.


Neighboring both Ohio and New York state as it does, it’s not surprising that this state is looking at roughly the same beautiful weather as the Empire and Buckeye states.


I guess I was surprised to find that the temperature ever falls below a high of 100, but Reno NV looks like good weather to me.  Maybe a little cold for those folks, I don’t know.


Not really a battleground, except to the extent that John McCain is doing so badly there.  It’s going to be 76 and sunny on Tuesday, so if you’re planning on voting in Arizona, bring your parka.

So, based on nothing more than the weather model, I’m going to say Ohio and Pennsylvania are looking good for an Obama win.  Florida is – as in all things – on the bubble here.  Nevada and Arizona look like losers for Obama, based on what little I know about weather in those states.  It just seems cold enough that some may stay home.

Oddly enough, these predictions actually match the national polling data and extrapolations thereof quite well.  So, what the hell!  It’s Halloween night and I’m laying my marker down on these five races: Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio for Obama, the other two to McCain.  Let’s see how close I get to the truth using my weather model.


In Case You Thought of Not Voting

A North Charleston woman voted by absentee ballot as her last act before dying.  Yeah, it’s that important to people.


The Sleaze Fest

John McCain’s sleaze festival is in full swing with two weeks to go.  How’s it working out for him?

Well, according to recent polls, not very well in terms of public opinion.  Voters fairly widely reject the William Ayers line and seem to have grown to hate Sarah Palin.  Too bad for her, because her performance on SNL was actually quite good.  Shucks.

But of course, as the media is pounding the so called Bradly Effect – that theory that says white voters will say what they think you want to hear in polls but will vote differently in the booth – the McCain Campaign’s attempt to smear Obama may just be working in that same quiet way.  There has been a marginal shift in the TPM Tracking number that puts Obama below 50% for the first time in about a week.  Could this be a subtle shift that represents a more fundamental shift just below the water line?  Its hard to know, but it’s troubling.

As I keep saying and as gets repeated year after year, it’s all going to come down to GOTV.  Whomsoever is able to muster the largest support at the polls will probably be the winner.  Irrespective of whom is in the lead and irrespective of the relative sleaziness of the campaigns, it is quite normal to see some tightening of the polls right before an election.  Once the moment becomes real, I think voters tend to pull back from their previous enthusiasm for whomever their candidate is in these last few weeks.

So, Obama supporters, make sure you’re not getting lazy.  Make sure your friends aren’t getting lazy.  College kids who sleep through Election Day could cost us this thing.


Let The Games Begin

Early voting has already started in a number of states.  Can you imagine?  You can vote before watching even one debate.  I realize many of us have already made up our minds, but is it really good for our nation’s sense of civics that people are not even bothering to weigh what they see in these debates?

Or are we just fooling ourselves in thinking debates have any real impact anymore?