Money drawer from a cash register.

For my first jobs, I used a cash register. I took money for hamburgers, music on vinyl, women’s fashion and video game tokens. At the beginning of every shift I’d count my drawer to verify its contents. At the end of every shift, I’d count out against what I sold. And my boss would count the money too. Double-checking my work. We’d do this every shift because the money was the point. It was why were were at the store.

This week some security experts raised issues about potential vulnerabilities of electronic voting. People are calling for an audit of the results. Not because there is credible evidence of a hack, because there isn’t. But because it strengthens our system.

“Auditing ought to be a standard part of the election process,” says Ron Rivest, a cryptographer and computer science professor at MIT. “It ought to be a routine thing as much as a doctor washing his hands.” –from Wired

The votes are the entire point of an election. The votes decide who wins. Why wouldn’t an audit be part of the standard operating procedure? Frankly, I don’t believe that an audit will have an impact on the results of this election. But some states are using voting machines with outdated software. If nobody audits the results, it’s as if we just assumed my cash drawer was right every night. That’s a huge vulnerability.

Accountability and verification maintain the integrity of my cash drawer. It provides insight into possible leaks in the system–either poor training or poor honesty. Our electoral process should have the same validation. It can only strengthen our democracy by removing doubts. We need to have trust in our systems.

I think it was an old Republican president who said, “Trust but verify.” Let’s do that.

Mandate? We don’t got no stinking mandate

Off stage rigging in a theatre. I think it's an opera house.

First things first, Donald Trump won the 2016 election. He won according to the rules that were set out at the beginning of the election cycle. Even if he didn’t like them himself at times, he won according to them.

Now some people are saying–not everyone, but some–that this election is a mandate for one of the parties. That the victory by Trump combined with Republicans maintaining control of both the House and Senate means the people have given the party a mandate.

To be honest, I don’t think that word works in this context.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition:

noun 1. a command or authorization to act in a particular way on a public issue given by the electorate to its representative.
example: The president had a clear mandate to end the war.

Okay, if we can agree on that as a starting point, I have three reasons why there is no mandate.

First, and this is very important, Clinton won the popular vote.

Let me repeat that. Clinton, the loser–not Trump, the winner–actually had the most votes cast. Like, as of right now, 200,000 more.

Two-hundred thousand

That’s maybe 1% more votes than the winner got. Trump wins because of the Electoral College, and I am too tired to go into that. So you can look it up if you want.

Second, Trump did not receive the MAJORITY of the votes. He’s currently hanging around 47% of the votes. That means that less than half of the people who voted, voted for him. There were third party candidates that fouled that up for him, but it’s hard to claim a mandate when you didn’t get most of the people to vote for you.

Third, I don’t even get how people can say that Republican majorities in both parts of Congress equals a mandate. We have this thing called a representative democracy and that means that the 500,000 people in Wyoming have the same number of Senators as the 39,000,000 in California. See, that’s not equivalent.

And then, not everyone votes for all the candidates. So you can have a state or a district that has mandated their jurisdiction, but that’s it. It doesn’t cross over to the neighboring district like a bad smell. Now if all the districts elected candidates from one party, I would have a hard time saying that wasn’t a mandate. But that didn’t happen. Anyway, if a gerrymandered district votes the way it was designed, I’m just not down with that being a mandate. This point needs more work, but I’m running out of steam.

Last, there were 287,000 voters in the District of Columbia who cast zero votes for Congress because they are not in a state. Not part of anyone’s “mandate.”

Mandate in this case just sounds like disenfranchising a hunk–and a big hunk–of the electorate. The idea that Americans delivered a mandate to the Republicans is just poppycock.

That’s a funny word there, no? I always wanted to use it. I did. And now, after only sleeping two and a half hours in the past 44, I’m going to bed. I really can’t make any more sense today.

She Choked

Voting sign taped to the floor of the gym.

It was more getting it over with than anything else. The FBI made some Friday droppings. I thought I could put all the tawdryness behind me by voting. It would be done, for me anyway.

Bumped into the mayor and her folks at the rec center turned early voting site. She wasn’t running this election cycle. She and her very nice mom and dad were doing their civic duty. As we were. We did the politico handshake. She exhorted us to vote for Statehood. She did her job. 

There wasn’t much of a line in the gym. We warned the poll workers that the boss was outside. They appreciated that and we became fast friends. 

As I walked up to the new-fangled electroNiX voting machines, I asked if they were ever going to use the same system two years in a row. My attendant was pretty sure that they were going to stick with these. They were fully accessible, supported multiple languages and created a print record for a potential physical recount. Seemed pretty thorough. 

I got my one-on-one voting tutorial. This was a high touch process. Not very scalable. Made me extra glad the line was short. And so was my ballot. 

Now it was just me and the computer screen. It had a white background. I guess it was a skewmorphic attempt at paper. The names for President and Vice President lined the left side of the screen. This was easy. Too easy.  I hovered my finger over the names of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. 

As I pressed the screen, my choice lit up. As I pressed the screen my emotions lit up. I became all choked up. Surprised the hell out of me. This was to be a business transaction, and instead it hit me at my very core. 

I just voted for a woman to be President of the United States of America. And she very well may win. 

Sneaky feminist patriotism. Got me right in the feels. 

Electoral Collage

Hiding behind his ballot in the gym.
Hiding behind his secret. Ballot, that is.

A hot mess. That’s what Washington D.C. is today, this day before the 2016 presidential election. A complete, stressed out, finger biting, hair twirling, obsessively pen clicking, twitter refreshing, hot mess.

It seems that people are leaning on their car horns more today. Folks are walking into quick eat restaurants, standing in line for a minute, swiveling their heads around and leaving. If they stumbled into the dark relief of a bar, they might sit. I heard FBI director Comey was seen in a Tex Mex joint with a huge margarita. I hope it didn’t leak.

Everyone in town is doing their own personal Nate Silvering. They’re making state electoral count combinations and recombinations–moving states pink to red or purple to light blue–with dispatch and false authority that would wipe the smirk off that smirky Chuck Todd from NBC. This is the guy who’s been having intimate relations with the colors on the map since before there were two actual candidates.

Some are walking the streets, catatonic. Some because they think their candidate is going to lose. Others because they think the other candidate is going to win. There’s some serious negotiations with the political gods going on behind their deadened eyes.

Other levels of disbelief or worry or even hubris are worked out via chatter. Some are chirpy assessments of turnout and lines and campaign stop strategy. Why is he and she going to Michigan? Is it close? Naw, it’s because none of them voted yet. I heard from this friend, super liberal democrat guy, real good guy…

Some are just piling their worries in the laps of their companions. Some are wondering what they can do. Some are actually doing something, signing up and making last minute calls, knocking on doors, getting out the vote.

A group of people said they aren’t watching any more TV. They’ve sworn themselves off social media. You can tell since they are using social media to make that known. You don’t really quit in D.C. Not really.

But tomorrow, maybe as early as 10 p.m., eastern time, maybe much later, there will be some people in Washington that will feel as if they were kicked in the stomach. The blood will drain from their faces. Tears will well in some eyes. Fists will pound tables. Garments will be rend. Teeth will be gnashed. Profane words will be spoken. Loudly. And repeatedly.

And then, but not until then, we will know not just who will be President of the United States, but the status of our democratic system.

The peaceful transfer of power. I have confidence in my fellow Americans. And my prayers are stuck on us.


I Await A Guardian

The patronus of Severus Snape. It's a doe. It's pure love.

As the 2016 presidential campaign drags on

An intense cold swept over them all…The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart. . . .He couldn’t see. He was drowning in cold. He was being dragged downward, the roaring growing louder.

Right. The damn dementors.

“They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil.”–Remus Lupin from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

This is starting to sum up the emotional drain of this campaign. The swirling cold coarseness, the frigid hearts beating hate, the hijacking of all that can be good in our country and in our political system–yes, I feel my civic soul being sucked out. I must stop it before I am left with only the cynical soullessness of us-versus-them party politics.

I need a political patronus. Something to bring light to the darkness and to protect me from the shrouded rattling of the dementor breath and the stench of the race to the bottom.

First things first, I need a happy memory. A single, very happy memory.

I’m thinking about the times that I would vote with my dad. We’d go to the gym at our elementary school. Our school was named Norman Rockwell Elementary School. This is true.

One time in particular, I remember us waiting a very long time in line. The voting booths were big–to me anyway–metal contraptions with a curtain that’d close behind you when you pulled a big stick in the center. Your vote was secret. You would move small levers to mark your vote. They would register in the back of the machine on a counter when you moved the big stick back to open the curtain. It made significant mechanical noises and the curtain caused a little breeze. There was a little practice booth that I played with as we waited our turn. Dad let me go into the real booth with him. He picked me up after he made his choices and let me pull the curtain open. He told me I voted. It was cool. I participated in picking a president, a governor, a senator and likely members of the school board.

This is a happy thought. I am holding and concentrating on that first vote. I’m trying to conjure the charm I need to protect me from political misanthropy. I made a spark, but there is not enough joy to make a corporal patronus.

I was very happy, nay ecstatic, another time when I stood in another long line to vote. This was in 2008, and the line to vote at my local elementary school was blocks long. In Washington D.C., 75% of the electorate registered as Democrats. It was clear that this year, as in every year, the District’s three electoral votes were going to populate the “win” column for the Democratic candidate. Yet people stood in line so that they could cast their vote in a historic election for Barack Obama, our first African American president. Everyone in line was jubilant, with shared smiles and high-fives all around. People radiated hope.

Now let me work my patronus with this most happy thought. Sigh. Not much more than a spark. Still not enough. I need to dig deeper.

Let me go for a more recent happy political memory. I’m closing my eyes and feel the  joy at the dedication of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. There was so much work over generations to get the museum authorized and then opened. When former POTUS George W. Bush took to the podium, there was another rush of emotion. Of camaraderie and of warmth to the president who insisted that this museum would be on The Mall. Guaranteeing that the history of African Americans would be a part of the main promenade from Lincoln at the west end to the Capitol on the east and next to the big exclamation point of the Washington Monument. An important part of the fabric of America. And the current President (D) and the former President (R) came together with thousands and thousands of Americans—representing the amazing diversity of America—to celebrate.

I’m holding this memory tight and trying to get it to spark my patronous. There is the fuzzy outline, but no, not a full protective charm. Ugh. Don’t I have a pure, happy memory?

I’m smiling now. I’m standing next to The Big Guy for early voting. We had an errand, and I stopped to vote. He pulled out his wallet and registered on the spot and voted for City Council. And he studied the voter guide for the next election and cast his vote a second time. And he voted again in 2012, his first Presidential election. And I’m thinking about the future and about Baby Bear attending a political rally and calling his buddies out for not voting. They care about what happens. They care about our democracy. They think that they can do something, and they are right.

Expecto patronum. Google translates that from Latin to “I await a guardian.”

I see my patronus now. It is bright and shiny and protecting  me from the apathy and discouragement of political dementors. I look at it, and see that the guardian is me and every other American. It is the image of America. Now, time for my chocolate to complete the cure.

Women Have The Right To Vote

Voting is a right, written on the back of a strong woman

It’s only (as well as an excruciating) 92 days until the next big election. Early voting starts in Minnesota in half that time–on Friday, September 26th. There are still primaries in many states shaping up down-ballot races, including those critical local and state races that have a huge impact on people’s day to day.

At the risk of jumping in like Captain Obvious, it’s important to remember that women–you know a little bit more than half of the U.S. population–weren’t able to cast a vote in the U.S. until 1920.

So, for those 114,642,000 U.S. citizens of voting age who are women, per the Census, as you contemplate casting your ballot, contemplate what it took to gain your right to  vote.

Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Women’s Suffrage

Worldwide, women weren’t always included in voters rolls.

  • Switzerland was the last Western republic to grant women’s suffrage in 1971. I guess their neutrality wasn’t all that neutral. Other late adopters of women’s rights to vote in Europe were Spain 1931, France 1944, Italy in 1946, and Greece in 1952.
  • Some countries were early to the table regarding women’s vote. Their idea was that people vote, and that women were people, ipso facto women voted. Crazy, no? Examples include Austria and Estonia and Poland. While these countries were not early democracies, at least when they let people vote, they included women.

Back to the U.S., there were pockets of women’s suffrage before the 19th Amendment.

  • New Jersey got it right. At first, anyway. The New Jersey constitution of 1776 enfranchised all adult inhabitants who were property owners. Laws from 1790 and 1797 referred to voters as “he or she,” and women regularly voted. But in 1807 they passed a law that took that right away from women. Why??!?
  • In December of 1869, the Wyoming Territory approved the first law in United States explicitly granting women the right to vote. Yay!
  • Another western state, Colorado, did it in 1893. This was super awesome because the change came via referendum. This means that the men in Colorado were excellent early allies and voted for their sisters, mothers, wives and friends to join them in political decision-making. The referendum passed with 55% of the vote. Double yay!!

Wanted: Constitutional Amendment for all U.S. Citizens (where ALL includes women)

  • The push for universal women’s suffrage had it’s birth in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York. Activists–primarily women–began a seven decades effort to secure the right to vote.
  • The 19th Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878 and the language was modeled after the 15th Amendment. It was pretty simple.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

  • Hard to think that it was controversial, right? You’d be incorrect there. It took forty-one years to get Congress to approve the amendment and send it to the states for ratification.
  •  It was ratified by the requisite number of states one year later, with Tennessee’s ratification being the final vote needed to amend the Constitution and provide women a voice in government.
  • Here’s a scary one. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1969-1971. Mississippi was the laggard, finally voting “Yes” in 1984. You read that right. Women could still vote, mind you. They just didn’t approve.

The Struggle Was (and is) Real

  • Suffragists adopted a “feminine” dress to appear less threatening. They frequently wore white to symbolize their purity. No reason to scare people off. I guess.
  • Women have been helping each other all along the way. Susan B. Anthony would babysit Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s children while Stanton wrote suffrage speeches and petitions for Anthony. Sisterhood teamwork!
  • Mom’s rule. The story goes that a Tennessee legislator was pressured by his mom to change his No vote to Yes. His was the last vote needed. She told him to do the right thing. That’s lobbying from the heart. Everyone, go thank your mother, just on general principle.
  • The Census estimates there’s 302,800 women in the U.S. who were born before the 19th Amendment was ratified. Bless them, one and all!
  •  Many African American women were active in the woman suffrage movement–even though they were not always welcomed by some white activists. Look up Ida B. Wells. Let me help you. Her work on women’s suffrage, and her brave anti-lynching activism, made her a hero to social justice. And white women need to take heed of sisters of color, they are there fighting the good fight on many fronts!

Folks, and especially women, who think that voting isn’t important, just think about the women and men who helped ensure the right to vote. It was important then, and it’s still important now.

Make sure you register to vote. Then make sure your voice is heard. Cast your ballot.

Democracy Happens

Jigglypuff helping VP candidate Tim Kaine deliver his speech.

Tonite’s post-dinner dialog went like this.

The Spouse: Who’s speaking tonight?
Me: Uncle Joe is up. So maybe POTUS tomorrow?
Big Guy: (walking in the hallway toward the TV) It’s not on now. I just checked.
Me: PBS. It’s on PBS. My girl Gwen is on it. Other channels are in and out.
The Spouse: Yeah. I heard their coverage is great.
Me: Channel 20.

The Big Guy turned on the TV just as Tim Kaine was entering from stage left with his hands grasped over his head like a local prizefighter.

Big Guy: He’s walking in like this. (Clasped hands rocking over his head to the left and to the right.)

The Big Guy stood in line with me when I voted for city council, mayors, and presidents. He punched my ballot for me at least once. He’s put my ballot in the box. The poll workers were invariably older women. They always gave him an I Voted sticker, and he’d wear it to school the next day. One of the times he came voting with me, he pulled out his driver’s license, filled out the form and cast his first ballot. He’s done it more than once. Not the registering but the voting.

The Spouse brought him a peppermint tea. The Big Guy is illin’. This is his rare night off. And he got out of bed to watch our nation’s democracy do its thing.

The Big Guy, like many Millennials, cares.

Moving Day?

Oh Canada!

I’m hearing people on both sides of the political spectrum threatening to leave the U.S., if their nemesis candidate wins. Thought I’d give you some facts to prepare you for your move.

  1. Canadians have The Queen on their money. Americans like The Queen. And her corgis. And whatnot.James Bond and the Queen's corgis.
  2. Their Super Cute Prime Minister welcomes refugees from all over the world. He might even help you on with your jacket. It’s probably a good idea, though if you bring your own.
    Canadian Prime MInister Justin Trudeau helps a young refugee adjust to the cold Canadian climate.
  3. You can call them on their cell phone, but don’t ask them to teach you to dance. This is NOT a good look. Not even in Canada.
    Drake. Dancing poorly. Hotline Bling
  4.  The U.S./Canadian border is the longest border in the world. And the Canadians don’t even protect it. It’d probably be very easy for you to cross. The Mounties are more for show. They do look good, though, don’t they?
  5. Even the sexiest man alive displays the modesty of his homeland. Those Canadians are just so darned nice, dagnabit.
    Ryan Gosling being Canadian-polite.
  6. Canada has no weapons of mass destruction. Well, that is if you don’t count Deadpool.
    Deadpool pulling out some weapons. (Played by Canadian Ryan Reynolds)
  7. Canadians are very cultured. Even hockey players can break into a broadway tune!

Hope this helps you through your angst. As an alternative, you can just figure out how to make your own country into the one you want. Like VOTE!

Vote in local and state elections. Vote for school board. Vote for city council. Vote for your state representatives, state senators, elected judges and attorneys general, and governor.

Vote for your federal officials. It counts.

A special note for Millennials. You now outnumber the old Baby Boomers. They are in charge, though, because they vote and you don’t. So VOTE!

You don’t want to have to learn the words to a new national anthem–in FRENCH! Think about it. And poutine is weird.

Disproportionate Representation


Today is the first presidential primary of the 2016 Presidential Election Cycle. (I know that’s not really a proper noun, but SOMETHING should be proper this cycle. Something.)

Also, the Iowa election thing doesn’t count as a primary, because it’s a caucus. Whatever that is.

People in early primary states have an undue influence on the outcomes of our elections. Like New Hampshire. They have 0.4% of the U.S. population. (Data from here.) And they have about 95% of our news interest right now for their 48 or so delegates to the party conventions. It takes 1,237 delegates to win on the R-side and 2.383 on the D-Side. So these are drop in the bucket numbers.

In New Hampshire, they are so done with the attention. Some posted signs to keep away the “personal” attention.

“No solicitation! Political or otherwise. Please respect our privacy. We promise not to knock on your door. Thanks.” via NYTimes

Other facts about the little granitey state of New Hampshire? They have two Senators and two members of the House of Representatives.

So I live in a place where we have ZERO Senators and ZERO members of the House. That doesn’t stop people who we don’t get to vote for from telling us what to do. Nope. It’s worse to be left out.

Oh, and one last thing. Our Presidential primary date? Used to be in April. Got moved to June. You know, when everything has already been decided.

And then we have to physically LIVE with the winner. Insult to injury. #notaxationwithoutrepresentation