Could Posting an Instagram of Your Ballot Land You in Jail?

I voted today. One thing I didn’t do: take an Instagram photo of my ballot. The poll workers asked everyone to turn off their cell phones before they entered the voting area, and I wondered why they were asking people to do that.

According to the Citizen Media Law Project’s Web site, some states, including, Georgia (where I voted), Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, and Texas, “expressly prohibit the use of photographic and recording equipment inside polling places.”

Additionally, according to All Things D,

The state of Wisconsin is taking an even harder line, with the Government Accountability Board telling voters that posting completed ballot pics to Facebook or Twitter constitutes election fraud under the state’s law — a Class I felony. (It’s also not the first time the Wisconsin GAB has warned of this.)

My suggestion? Take an Instagram of your voting place or your place in line. This way, you are still documenting an important part of history but aren’t breaking any laws!

The Rationality and Virtue of Voting

An interesting post from Steve Randy Waldman on whether it makes sense to vote (and whether it is virtuous to do so). He invokes in an interesting analogy and moves on from there:

All of these arguments are right but wrongheaded. We don’t vote for the same reason we buy toothpaste, satisfying some personal want when the benefit outweighs the cost of doing so. Nor, as Winecoff and Arena effectively argue, can we claim that our choice to vote for one side and against another is altruistic, unless we have a very paternalistic certitude in our own evaluation of which side is best for everyone. Nevertheless, voting is rational behavior and it can, under some circumstances, be a moral virtue.

Let’s tackle rationality first. Suppose you have been born into a certain clan, which constitutes roughly half of the population of the hinterland. Everyone else belongs to the other clan, which competes with your clan for status and wealth. Every four years, the hinterland elects an Esteemed Megalomaniac, who necessarily belongs to one of the two clans. If the E.M. is from your clan, you can look forward to a quadrennium in which all of your material and erotic desires will be fulfilled by members of the other clan under the iron fist of Dear Leader. Of course, if a member of the other clan becomes Dear Leader, you may find yourself licking furiously in rather unappetizing places. It is fair to say that even the most narrow-minded Homo economicus has a stake in the outcome of this election.

Still, isn’t it irrational for any individual, of either clan, to vote? Let’s stipulate that the population of the hinterland is many millions and that polling stations are at the top of large mountains. The cost of voting is fatigue and often injury, while the likelihood of your casting “the decisive vote” is pretty much zero. So you should just stay home, right? It would be irrational for you to vote.

Read the rest here.

Hacking the Voters’ Brains

With the U.S. presidential election less than two months away, we are exposed to more and more political coverage day by day. Sasha Issenberg (author of The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns), reporting for The Wall Street Journal, pens an interesting post about hacking the voters’ brains:

4. Get them to confess (indirectly) to bias.

Throughout 2008, Barack Obama’s advisers never entirely trusted polls that showed their candidate to be ahead. There was, after all, a long history of white voters misleading pollsters about their willingness to vote for a black candidate. The phenomenon was known as “the Bradley effect,” after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who did far worse at the polls in his 1982 gubernatorial race than polls had predicted. Obama’s advisers didn’t want to risk such an election-night surprise and used their statistical-modeling prowess to hedge against one.

The challenge was separating voters who were resisting Obama (or remained undecided) because of his race from those who were drawn toward John McCain for other reasons. Obama’s top microtargeting consultant, Ken Strasma, focused on a small group of white voters who reported themselves to be supporting John McCain at a much higher rate than the campaign’s scores predicted they should. Mr. Strasma looked for variables that defined this group and found one when he tried a new question in his surveys: “Do you think your neighbors would be willing to vote for an African-American for president?”

People who answered “no” were likely to be Mr. Strasma’s problem voters. Everything his databases signaled about their political attitudes—based on their partisanship, age or socioeconomic status—suggested they would be likely to support Mr. Obama, but they said they planned to vote for Mr. McCain. So Mr. Strasma created a new category in his microtargeting: a so-called “openness score,” measuring the likelihood that someone was open to voting for a black candidate.

The campaign could isolate those with low scores and deal with them in one of two ways. They could be ignored or, if they looked like habitual voters who were likely to turn out, the campaign could approach them with targeted communications that focused on urgent economic themes rather than on Obama’s charisma (“hope and change”) and the historic nature of his candidacy.

5. Let them know (gently) that they are being watched. Few campaigns want to be associated with tactics like Mark Grebner’s threat to expose nonvoters to their neighbors, because it looks a lot like blackmail. But campaigns have figured out how to soften such approaches. One version widely used today tells a voter “our records indicate that you voted in the 2008 election” and says that the sender hopes to be able to thank the recipient again after this election day for his or her “good citizenship.”It may fail to meet Mr. Grebner’s goal of shaming those who don’t go to the polls, but it still works. It’s been tested.

You should read items 1 to 3 here.

The Culture that is Switzerland

From the BBC, a brief report on how the Swiss voted on the recent referendum:

Two-thirds of voters reportedly rejected an increase in the country’s minimum annual leave from four weeks to six, which would have brought it in line with most other West European countries.

But a proposal to construct what have locally been referred to as “sex boxes” for prostitutes got the green light from voters in Zurich.

The plan would see the creation of special parking spaces with walls between them where sex workers can ply their trade away from suburban areas in Switzerland’s biggest city.

Residents in Geneva, meanwhile, voted for tighter restrictions on unauthorised demonstrations and tougher fines for violators.

You’ve gotta love the Swiss!