🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (I): Introduction & Presidential Primary

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

In Los Angeles County, this election is bringing big changes. I predict chaos. Los Angeles is getting rid of the old “Inkavote” system, where you would go to your local precinct, and use an inked stamp to mark a ballot, which you then took to a precinct worker to confirm you didn’t mismark (i.e, vote twice for an office, not ink dark enough), and then you put your ballot in the collection box.

Under the new system,  everything — and I mean everything — changes. Gone are your local polling places. Instead, there are regional voting centers — fewer in number, but open for between eleven to four days before the election. You don’t have to go locally — you can go to any center in the county and they will verify your registration and pull up and print your ballot for you to vote.

Here’s a description of the process, somewhat edited, from LAist: “First, a county poll worker looks up your information on new digital “e- pollbook.” The election worker confirms your address and prints a custom ballot specific to your precinct. You then walk that ballot over to a machine, insert it into a slot. The tablet reads your ballot, and presents you the selections to vote on a touchscreen. It then lets you review your selections at the end, and prints it out for you again. After looking things over and confirming they are correct, you insert the ballot back into the machine and you’re done.

The project is called VSAP, There are even videos explaining things. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, lots. They’ve done tests, but small scale. I can just imagine the lines when the electronic verification of registration gets backed up or goes down (here’s your first point of failure, with no backups). There are printers, and tested demonstrated problems with getting ballots printed. Then there are the ballot readers — and remember anything with mechanical collection can break down. That’s not to mention all the behind the scene risks related to the software, counting, collection, and such.

There’s also the user interface: it takes multiple screens to see all the candidates, and on a touch screen, people are more used to swiping as opposed to a “more” button. Some security experts are concerned about independent test results showing vulnerabilities, and there is a vocal contingent of election advocates who believe the only way to safeguard voting is by requiring hand-marked paper ballots whenever possible. Luckily, as the County Registrar notes, “It is still a voter-marked paper ballot. This device is not retaining your voter choices, it’s not tabulating your votes.  It’s just allowing you to mark the ballot in a way that’s clear. For tabulation, the printed ballot is the official ballot.”

Note that, as part of the conditions for certifying the system, everyone has the option of hand-marking a paper ballot.

As for me, I’ll be voting early. Partially, that’s because I’ll be out of town (in Madison WI) on election day. But I also want to try this system when it is less crowded. That’s one reason I’ve been pushing to get this analysis done.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary (this post)
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. Ballot Measures
  5. Summary

This part covers the Presidential Primary.


Democratic Presidential Preference

The candidates on the Democratic Presidential Preference ballot are as following (in the order from my ballot):

That’s a big list, so let’s winnow it down a bit. But first, I want to reiterate a key set of rules that I’ll come back to again and again:

  1. You will not find a candidate that 100% matches your political positions.
  2. Any broad policy initiatives must be approved by Congress, and will assuredly change.
  3. ANY of the Democratic candidates is better than Trump.
  4. Not voting is a vote for Trump.
  5. A Democratic Senate Solves Many Problems.

For my explanation of those rules, see this post.

That said, let’s eliminate the low hanging fruit:

So does that leave us with? A much more managable set: Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg, Gabbard, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, and Warren. Remember the rules above: our job is to field a candidate that can beat Donald Trump, and comes close to your personal position. You’re not going to find perfection, and even if your favorite doesn’t get the nomination — they are still better than Trump.

So, let’s look at some things I want:

I want a younger candidate. I’m tired of having really old guys running for office. They don’t understand modern technology, they are often resistant to change, and they often have old ideas. They also don’t speak to the bulk of America — the future generation. That’s what was inspiring about Obama — his youth and optimism. For me, that eliminates ❌ Bloomberg, ❌ Biden, and ❌ Sanders. In many ways, it also eliminates Warren, for she’s up there in age as well. But given the choice between Warren and Sanders, I’ll take Warren.

I don’t want someone with excess baggage. We will lose this election if Trump, his minions, or the Russian bots can wage a major disinformation or propaganda campaign against the candidate. Simple as that. We saw it with Hillary Clinton: the Trump-minions were able to sow discontent about the candidates and convince the moderates and those who were against Trump to go against her. So who has too much baggage?

  • Biden.  We all know how Trump will paint the Ukraine stuff, true or not. Just like with the “emails”, Trump will turn Ukraine into much more than it is. Add to that Biden’s gaffee and the details of his record, and that’s a distraction we don’t need.
  • ❌ Sanders. Much has Bernie has his strengths, he has weaknesses as well. The primary one is failing to strongly differentiate between Social Democracy and Socialism, and once Trump paints Bernie as a Socialist, gone are all the moderates and Republicans that might potentially vote Democratic and give us the landslide we need. Bernie’s ideas may have mostly won, but he’s got to go if we’re going to get rid of Trump. I also fear the antisemitism that would work against both Sanders and Bloomberg.
  • ❌ Bloomberg. Bloomberg has a number of problems. First, he’s a rich white guy using his own money to buy the election. Trump’s the same, but he knows how to use Bloomberg’s money against him. More importantly, Bloomberg has a racist history. Sure, he’s less racist than Trump (Bloomberg isn’t antisemitic or homophobic), but it is enough to turn the minority vote against the Democrats, and to get them to sit on their hands or hold their noses and vote for Trump. If Bloomberg is the nominee, he is less racist and more progressive than Trump, but that’s not saying much.
  • ❌ Warren. Much as I love Liz Warren (she’s my second choice), that whole Pocahontas shit from Trump will be used against her, and she still hasn’t developed a strategy to fight it.
  • Buttigieg. Mayor Pete is great. But he’s also gay, and we’ve started to see how Trump is using that against him. Sure, we want to believe there isn’t sufficient homophobia in America that this won’t matter. But we thought the same about racism post-Obama, and look what the Trump administration brought out of the closet. Do we want to do that to America?
  • ❌ Gabbard. Although it hasn’t yet been brought up in this election, the fact that Gabbard is Hindu and not Christian will be fodder for the right and their conspiracy theories, who can’t distinguish one type of brown from another.

I want a moderate who can give us the biggest election victory possible. Donald Trump will not leave office unless he loses in a landslide. It can’t be a close election that he can contest. As such, the candidates on the far left are a sure recipe for failure: they will attract the party faithful and enthusiastic, but they will push away the moderates and those Republicans who are sick of Trump and are looking for an edge candidate they can support. What does that mean? Good bye ❌ Sanders and ❌ Warren. If we want to win big, you’re not the way to do it. Again, Warren is a maybe, because she’s a bit more of pragmatist.

So who does that leave at this point? Gabbard, Klobuchar, Steyer, and perhaps Warren and Buttigieg, depending on how you view their baggage. Let’s look at each.

  • Gabbard. I agree with about 80% of Gabbard’s position, but I strongly disagree with her views on the DOD and foreign policy. She’s certainly not strong enough against Russia. I also disagree with her views on the impeachment of Trump. She just doesn’t resonate with me.
  • Steyer. I generally agree with Steyer’s positions overall. My problem with Steyer is that he is a billionaire, with no political experience. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Electing an older white man is not the way to excite people, although he was great in his recent debate performance.
  • Buttigieg. I like Mayor Pete, and I like his positions. I don’t like his lack of experience. I could easily vote for him, but he’s not my first choice.
  • Warren. I agree with many of Warren’s position. For a while, I was in the Warren camp. But I think she’s much more vulnerable to Trump’s attacks, and I don’t think we need a President who is that old. She’s my second choice.
  • Klobuchar. This has been building for a while. I’ve gone through Klobuchar’s positions, and I like them. I think she’s a candidate that can speak to the left, and draw in voters from the right, as she’s done in the midwest. She speaks the midwest language. She knows how to attack Trump and get under his skin. She has a few negatives. There is the comb incident (which would be viewed differently had a man done it, so I discount that). She has some history of problems from her time as a prosecutor, but I think any prosecutor would have that (Harris had similar problems). I think she can handle addressing those.

So where does that leave me? I’m with Amy. Is she perfect? No, but I think she’s a lot closer to where my views are, and more importantly, I think she can beat Donald Trump.

📋 Conclusion

[✔] Amy Klobuchar

Note: My second choices are Buttigieg and Warren. But come the general election, I will be strongly behind whomever the Democratic candidate is, for any Democratic candidate — even Bloomberg or Gabbard — is better than Donald Trump. Any Democratic candidate will be less racist and more progressive than Trump. Even Bloomberg, because although he may be equally racist for brown and black, at least Bloomberg isn’t antisemitic, anti-women, (ref) and trans/homophobic (ref) … oh, FFS, at least his positions are more progressive (please, let’s get a different nominee, so we don’t have to hold our nose for this one).  Even Bernie, for his radical ideas will be moderated through Congress. Even Gabbard, for her odd ideas on foreign policy require congressional funding. I’ll repeat again my “things to remember” this election:

  1. You will not find a candidate that 100% matches your political positions.
  2. Any broad policy initiatives must be approved by Congress, and will assuredly change.
  3. ANY of the Democratic candidates is better than Trump.
  4. Not voting is a vote for Trump.
  5. A Democratic Senate Solves Many Problems.

For my explanation of those rules, see this post.