I Voted! Spring 2020 Edition

We’re mail-in voters, but between the move and everything else, I ended up heading to polling station yesterday anyway.

I wanted to be sure I got in, because San Diego holds its local elections on the same day as the primary. So I got to vote for mayor, some state reps, judges, etc, as well as some voter-sponsored initiatives that got on the ballot.

Oh, and I got to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary ­čÖé

Confession time: I really, really, seriously enjoy voting in California.

They send us a little booklet before the election, where every candidate who agrees to accept spending limits can issue a statement, laying out their case. (Naturally, I only vote for candidates who issue such a statement). It’s also got the full text of the ballot initiatives, plus pro and con arguments, and a fiscal impact analysis for each measure.

It’s homework, but it also means I feel much more informed going into the election than I would otherwise. Not only from reading the booklet, but using it as a jumping-off point for further research.

The last election we spent in Arkansas, I felt so disconnected and lost. No booklet. No easy-to-navigate state-gov-run website to look everything up. Nothing.

What does your state (or country!) do, to make sure its voters are as informed as possible before heading to the polls?

The Limits of Law by Peter H. Schuck

A mixed bag of interesting, well-thought out essays mingled with articulate but specious arguments in favor of traditional conservative opinions.

The first half of the book, made of the first 8 essays, is the better half. His arguments in these essays about the limits of law are based on evidence, as when he uses the conflicting conclusions reached by medical studies and the legal system in the Benedictin cases in the 80s and 90s to argue that courts are bad places to decide essentially scientific questions.

In the second half of essays, he begins to twist logic and ignore evidence in order to forcefully insist on the positions he’s adopted.

He claims that the states have changed since the Civil Rights Era, and so there’s no need to worry about devolving power from the federal government to them, ignoring┬áthe many groups — women, the LGBT community, non-Christians, immigrants — whose rights the states routinely trample on.

He dismisses Proportional Representation to elect legislators as absurd and unworkable, despite its use in the majority of democratic countries around the world.

In one of the last essays, he goes so far as to say that pushing power down from the federal level to the lowest level possible — county or city — is an alloyed good, a goal to be pursued even if the evidence shows that it makes things worse.

Despite the uneven nature of the essays, though, I did learn a few things:

  • In product liability cases, defendants that rely on statistical evidence are more likely to lose in jury trials.
  • Making employers check their employees’ immigration status is an example of private gatekeeping: when the government delegates part of its regulation powers to private individuals.
  • Modern mass tort litigation (in the US) is only a few decades old. It was basically invented in 1969, and continues to be a cobbled together reaction to the fact that a single company can now affect so many lives all at once.