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March 18, 2015

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At least he has the wit to note in passing that this would be politically impossible.

Maybe they could hand out donuts.

Cast a vote, get a cruller.

People fought and died for our right not to vote.

Mandatory voting: The political class's natural response to it becoming too evident that the public finds both major parties revolting.

Tell you what: Add NOTA to the ballot, and if it wins, they hold the election over again with everyone who was originally on the ballot barred from running for that office. Then maybe it would be worth considering.

Russell, that might actually be illegal (outside straw polls). I know it is over here. It might not be much of a bribe but it is specifically stated in the German regulations that handing out food or drink to entice people to vote is forbidden (even absent partisan intent).

Brett, I do not know about the US but over here something similar is the standard for plebiscites, i.e. a 'none of the above' option is or even has to be provided. We had a recent one where this won, so all the proposals had to be scrapped. If just not enough people had voted, the decision-making would have returned to the government (which was behind one of the proposals). They are still working on the solution since the plebiscite blocked the main alternatives too through that mechanism.

Tell you what: Add NOTA to the ballot, and if it wins, they hold the election over again with everyone who was originally on the ballot barred from running for that office. Then maybe it would be worth considering.

I'm not sure about mandatory voting either way, but I kind of like this idea. I just wonder about the practical side, when elections have to be redone, possibly multiple times. Do the current office-holders stay until there's a resolution? How much would it cost?

I do agree with this quote from the article:

"It should be the state's business, not the citizen's, to ensure that every citizen is issued with a voter card. The state taxes us, drafts us in time of war, enforces laws restricting our actions, and arrests us when we break them. By what right does it do all of this if it has not also made voting for these officers as widespread as possible? What right does the state have to erect any barrier, however trivial, to citizens participating in the election of those who will govern them?"

Statistics are generally above my pay grade, but it seems like the sample size there is fairly small.

So, spent some time over lunch reading it. The overall population of the surveys is large (~30K and ~50K), but non-citizen responders is about 1-2%. I think it is a concern, and does lead to some larger confidence intervals in there final data.

The statistics seem legitimate. While I'm not as comfortable with social science studies and associated statistics, most of the tools/tests they use would be what I would chose for similarly formatted data. Again, there are different concerns in social sciences, so I can't speak to its rigor, but it at least passes my smell test.

My interpretation is their conclusion is *reasonable*: That non-citizen voting could have swung incredibly close races for democrats. That doesn't mean its necessarily true. In reaching that conclusion, they used their middle of the road values, they didn't reach to the top of their confidence intervals, so I don't think its a wild conclusion.

As noted, the non-citizen sample was small, so a larger size might increase confidence.

They also do some validation of non-citizen voting (for example, confirming a subset of there population against voter rolls), etc. I can go into more detail, but the long and short of it is that I feel they checked the data thoroughly enough to give a degree of confidence to their findings.

Overall, I am a little surprised by the result, and while I think they have identified a potential problem, I haven't really changed my view. The two races they noted specifically (North Carolina presidential and Al Franken's senate run) were razor close...their analysis basically precludes an noticeable impact on the vast majority of races. As it stands, I would still err on the side of not worrying about it, but I think there is likely a need for further work to be done.

Add NOTA to the ballot, and if it wins, they hold the election over again with everyone who was originally on the ballot barred from running for that office

For the record, I'm OK with this. Kind of an electoral vote of no confidence.

I'd say the current officeholder stays put until a successful election (i.e., one in which NOTA doesn't win) completes.

Even if the current guy stinks, and loses to NOTA, somebody has to answer the phone.

Thompson,

A critique of the article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/10/27/methodological-challenges-affect-study-of-non-citizens-voting/

The authors reply:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/11/02/do-non-citizens-vote-in-u-s-elections-a-reply-to-our-critics/

Allowing non-citizens to vote was widespread in the 19th century....Isn't that when the US was a paradise?

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/05/24/2008961/non-citizen-voting/

All this talk of mandatory voting prompted me to go look at the turnout percentages from 2012.

54.9% of eligible voters showed up. Just over half.

And that's in a highly contested Presidential election, in a relatively high-drama political environment.

That's pretty lame.

Russell, I don't think the concern (of those pushing for mandatory voting) is so much for high visibility Presidential elections. More for off-year elections, not to mention special elections (of which we just had one, and will have a run-off in a month or so). Turnout for those tends to be far lower.

Just 36.4 percent of eligible voters turned out in 2014

My interpretation is their conclusion is *reasonable*

Reading the paper, I see that in 2008, out of a pool of 32,800 responders, 339 were not citizens.

Of that 339, 67 either said they were registered to vote, or were known from public records to be registered.

Of that 67, 38 either said they had actually voted, or were known from public records to have voted.

38 votes.

From those numbers, based on a total adult non-citizen population of 19.4M, they extrapolate that somewhere between 38,000 and 2.8 million non-citizens voted in 2008.

Is it statistically sound to extrapolate from 339 responses in 32,800 response poll, to a population of 19.4 million people?

That's my question. I'm not a stats guy, so I have no idea.

I understand that if you do the basic arithmetic, you get those numbers.

My question is whether it's statistically sound to extrapolate from sample sizes that small, to populations that large.

Turnout for those tends to be far lower.

If we really want more people to vote, we could start by making Election Day (a) a holiday, (b) not Tuesday, and (c) at a different time of year, when the weather is more likely to be nice everywhere.

Nothing like trying to carve an hour or five out of a working weekday to stand in line in 40 degrees F while it rains on your head to make voting attractive.

A holiday, not Tuesday, not in November, will improve turnout. With or without a cruller.

Do that, see where we land, and then worry about whether it needs to be mandatory or not.

if it's a holiday, who watches the kids?

at least they're in school on a Tuesday.

Thanks to climate change it was warm and dry in California last November, but turnout was only 25.5% of eligible voters, or something like 15% of citizens with a 'right' to vote.
That is more than lame it's pitiful.

I'd say the current officeholder stays put until a successful election (i.e., one in which NOTA doesn't win) completes.

Does NOTA have to win outright (>50.0%) or just get a plurality?

I'd say throw some randomly chosen NOTA schlub in there so they can inform us "how easy" governing is.

The study: The fact that the respondents were self selected (i.e., not a random sample) makes me fairly leery of the results.

Shorten the allowable campaign period for federal elections to 6 weeks with a week off for everybody at the end to consider their vote!

I'd say the current officeholder stays put until a successful election (i.e., one in which NOTA doesn't win) completes.

I'd be OK with this IF, and only if, the current officeholder was not on the ballot -- that is if he was retiring. Otherwise, having been explicitly rejected, he should definitely not remain in office. Have someone appointed temporarily, if the office needs to be filled in order to keep the government functioning (which a legislative position does not); or follow the process already laid out for filling the office if vacant.

Shorten the allowable campaign period for federal elections to 6 weeks with a week off for everybody at the end to consider their vote!

Which might make perfect sense for office workers, and others whose work can be delayed (at least if they were still getting paid for that week). But for folks in agriculture (the crops have to get in)? For those working things from gas stations to grocery stores? The police and fire departments? The military?

It's just not really viable to have the whole economy shut down for a week.

"It's just not really viable..."

Nobody can say that bobbyp is unwilling to compromise:

4 day weekend. We do those already. Polls open all 4 days. Requests for time off to vote by those still working cannot be denied under penalty of death.

"Is it statistically sound to extrapolate from 339 responses in 32,800 response poll, to a population of 19.4 million people?

That's my question. I'm not a stats guy, so I have no idea."

Yes, actually it does work. 32,800 people is a darned big sample.

"Shorten the allowable campaign period for federal elections to 6 weeks with a week off for everybody at the end to consider their vote!"

Campaigns consist of speech. It isn't constitutionally permissible to shorten the period during which people can speak about a topic.

Sure it is. It just needs to be done by amendment, not statute, regulation, or judicial fiat. And since we are in a thread discussing an electoral amendment...

Is it statistically sound to extrapolate from 339 responses in 32,800 response poll, to a population of 19.4 million people?
Maybe. It depends on how that sample was chosen.(I didn't read the paper, so I have no idea how the poll was constructed).

You can get 32,000 reponses on online polls easily -- which are heavily biased due to the way the sample is chosen (it is, in fact, made up of the sorts of people who do online polls which are not actually representative of the population as a whole).

Large samples are meaningless unless they're representative. There's a lot of ways to skew such a sample (from cherrypicking areas, to cherrypicking times of day, to cherrypicking....well, you get the idea) both deliberately and accidentally.

So to start with, you need to look at HOW that sample was chosen. How were those 32,000 people selected? What was the response rate?

Then you move onto the questions -- how was the poll constructed? What were the questions (you can skew responses just with wording. Was variant wording used?) Were the questions rotated (you can 'lead' people to certain choices by structuring the order of questions -- you ask questions you're not interested in to put people in the right frame of mind for the one you want certain results from.

And again, none of this has to be deliberate. It's easier to construct a bad sample, or a bad poll, than a good one!

So to circle back around: Your poll is only as good as your questions, your sample, and your methodology.

So if you want to know if it's representative, you have to start with those three things. "How was this built?"

If you're going to limit free speech via constitutional amendment, I demand an end to robo-calls, with the imposition of capital punishment, or at least drone strikes.

And I bet it would be about 1000% more popular than the other 28th Amendment proposal floated so far.

It just needs to be done by amendment, not statute, regulation, or judicial fiat.

(Well, it probably could be done by judicial fiat, but that's not really not the point, and it would require a Court with a different view of the public interest than the one that breezily decided Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Montana...)

"Campaigns consist of speech. It isn't constitutionally permissible to shorten the period during which people can speak about a topic."

this statement makes very little sense to me for many reasons and makes me wonder if mr. bellmore is disagreeing for the sake of not wanting to agree with an interlocutor he's already disagreed with. on a practical basis we already have some limits to the period during which people can speak about a topic: (1)the period is limited by the costs of getting out the message, (2)the period is limited by the interests of the public in the speaker or the subject of the speech, (3)the period is limited by the calendar of election campaigns, (4)given an infinite amount of money to purchase airtime, the period is still limited to the finite length of time available--i.e. 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 52 weeks/year. the suggestion of a 6 week campaign period is close enough to item (3) that i can't see how it could be unconstitutional if all candidates were required to adhere to it.

mr. bellmore, you and i have agreed on damned little over the years we've met in blog comments but our opinions do sometimes coincide. isn't it possible you were reaching a bit on the point i quoted above and conflated the weight of custom with the gravity of constitutional law?

Actually, Brett is correct in that the Supreme Court has determined that spending money on a campaign is equivalent to speech. And therefore, under the current constitutional restrictions, may not be limited.

It's possible to feel that the Court's view here was insane. But that is what it has said, so it's the law of the land until and unless reversed, by another Cpourt or by an amendment.

I don't think the view was particularly insane.

Suppose we said, "You can publish a newspaper if you want, that is freedom of the press. But if your newspaper is going to report on topics the government doesn't like, it may not spend money to purchase paper or ink, electricity to run the presses, or pay employees, and so forth. But, so long as you publish the newspaper without spending any money, you're fine."

I think we'd all recognize that this was censorship, and not really respecting freedom of the press.

How is it any different to say, "You may speak on campaign subjects, but we will prohibit people from giving you money with which to buy airtime, or space in publications."?

When the legality of spending money is conditioned on what sort of speech or printed material it is being spent to facilitate, it's fatuous to claim that it isn't the speech or printed matter which is actually the subject of the regulation.

bobbyp:

First, thank you for linking the criticism and the response. I'd encourage people to read them if they haven't already.

Allowing non-citizens to vote was widespread in the 19th century

If you'll look carefully, I haven't condemned non-citizen voting at any point. Indeed, I'm perfectly fine non-citizen voting.

I found the paper after searching for some indication on how fraudulent voting might influence elections, because I had early stated that I doubted it would have any effect. Non-citizens voting, regardless of how I feel about it, currently against the law, and is a relevant example to support or contradict my assumption.

russell:

My question is whether it's statistically sound to extrapolate from sample sizes that small, to populations that large.

My answer (based on a background in science with heavy use of stats, but no specific background in social sciences where stats are often held to a different level of rigor) is that their analysis is *reasonable*.

Morat20 has expanded on some important points and I won't repeat what he's said. Regarding the polling, if I understand correctly, YouGov (who conducted the poll) bribes people to join their 'panel' and than assembles a responsive/representative panel for the specific poll (so, even if whites are overrepresented in their overall panel, that can be adjusted down in their poll panel). Some groups are underrepresented, and that's noted both by YouGov and in the study. Again, IMO it's a *reasonable* source of data.

I again stress that word reasonable because that's my opinion of it. I think there analysis makes sense, and they appropriately note the substantial limits to the study. This by no means is definitive, or absolute, or unquestionable. But their analysis was conducted (as far as I can tell) properly, and they address many potential limitations, and discuss how that reduces the certainty of their values.

And, based on reasonable analysis, they come to the conclusion that non-citizen voting may have influenced very close races, and likely did not influence not close races.

My opinion of that finding is that it signals a potential problem that should receive further study, and does not indicate the need to reevaluate my existing assumption that voter fraud (of which this is a subset) is not a problem that requires an invasive government solution.

Science is done incrementally, and studies will always be flawed. But, to my knowledge, this is the best study available, and is worth considering, if not upended our current system.

On the concept of mandatory voting, I'm against it. First of all, voting can be inconvenient, until its a lot easier I think it could be a burden on some groups.

But additionally, I am concerned it will increase the influence of special interest groups, for the following reason:

It seems quite possible to me that current nonvoters (a) don't care and (b) are underinformed, which would be an ideal group to target with ads. It seems like grabbing the attention of (and generating name recognition in) that group would be among the easiest ways to bolster your vote. Ads cost money, meaning you'll have to fundraise more. Lobbyists, etc etc

It's possible current nonvoters who are underinformed would turn in blank ballots, but I don't know to what extent that would happen.

It's also possible current nonvoters are informed (at least to the same degree as voters) but simply lack motivation.

But I'm reasonably skeptical of either of those things, and therefore see them as a prime target for political advertising.

I'm curious about something.

Consider the level on non-citizen voting found by the study, and given the massive lack of evidence of other kinds of voter fraud. Clearly it is relatively easy to improperly get registered to vote. And, apparently, far more common than voting when not registered, voting for someone else, etc. And once you are registered, all the voter IDs in the world will have zero impact.

So if the concern truly is people voting who should not be, why all the focus on voter IDs? Rather than processes to tighten up who gets registered in the first place?

"Actually, Brett is correct in that the Supreme Court has determined that spending money on a campaign is equivalent to speech."

the prepositional phrase involving the supreme court is true, they have ruled that money is equivalent to speech. what i'm less clear on is where mr. bellmore made an objection to campaign spending limits earlier in these comments. perhaps he did and i missed it. what i was interested in looking at was how he saw making a change in the campaign calendar rose to the level of a constitutional problem. my 6:24 pm comment details my objections to his assertion that restricting the campaign season to 6 weeks would be unconstitutional. i had no interest in pursuing a discussion of campaign finance reform because it wasn't related to the discussion to that point and i have no interest in discussing it now since it has no relevance to my comment upstream.

When an election gets decided by a handful of votes out of a couple of million cast, what's the statistical confidence that the result represents The Will Of The People?

Is it unfair to attribute the result of such a race to what the most-marginal, least-motivated handful of voters had for breakfast that morning?

Had Al Franken's first Senate race, which dragged on for 6 months (6 months that right-wingers keep counting as time that Obama had a filibuster-proof Senate majority) been held on the next Tuesday, or the next day, how likely is it that it would have turned out equally close or gone the same way?

Not to mention Florida in 2000, of course.

Republican operative Ed Rollins used to quip that "Here in America, we hold elections to make sure the polls were right." I say that no matter how accurately you count the votes, any election is a poll with some margin of error -- depending on what you think the point of an election is.

If you see an election as a game of hopscotch, in the sense that a strict observance of the rules is the whole point of the exercise, then you'll worry more about the possibility that a few ineligible voters might swing a close race somewhere, sometime. If you see an election as an attempt to find out who The People really want to take the office, you'll worry more about what kind of breakfast people have on Tuesdays.

--TP

" what i was interested in looking at was how he saw making a change in the campaign calendar rose to the level of a constitutional problem."

I think I explained that: The "campaign" consists of speech and printed communications concerning the candidates. That's basically all it is, there is nothing else to it. The other stuff consists of "elections", not "campaign".

So, you say, "The campaign starts no early than October 20th!" Then, in July, somebody announces they're running, and starts making visits to various places making speeches. You can't stop them, because they're just exercising their 1st amendment rights. The outer limit of what you could possibly do, is to require them to say, "I will be a candidate for X office." rather than "I am a candidate for X office." And even that much would be questionable.

It's impossible to limit the length of the campaign in a country where the elections are pre-scheduled, and you have constitutionally protected freedom of speech and the press. There's no legally permissible mechanism for doing it.

Countries that have short campaigns, manage it because either they don't have much in the way of freedom speech, or they don't have regularly scheduled elections. You certainly CAN limit the length of a campaign under either of those circumstances.

But not under our's.

"I think I explained that: The "campaign" consists of speech and printed communications concerning the candidates."

as i noted above the conversation got sidetracked into campaign financing which, as i noted above, was not what i was interested in hearing you clarify.

i have to admit that in clarification your point is much better than i had imagined it would be. the only mechanism that could enforce a shorter campaign season under those circumstances would be by the customary practice on the part of the electorate to vote against those candidates that violated the attempt to establish a new norm of a shortened campaign season.

What Brett said about campaigns and free speech.

But, an addition: there's no constitutional right to give money to a candidate or party, there is no constitutional right for a candidate or party to receive money.

A candidate's money=speech rights means that they have unlimited right to spend their own money. An individual citizen's money=speech rights, the same.

The real fight is over what rules apply to organizations that are set up to collect/spend money in political ways.

I say that no matter how accurately you count the votes, any election is a poll with some margin of error -- depending on what you think the point of an election is.

Indeed. I couldn't have put it better myself. I think as part of that we can discuss what the margin of error is (and how to reduce it). Note, that many methods would merely just shift the error around among different populations.

The reason I linked the study is because it challenged my preconceptions and was the only quantitative data I could find on the subject.

I'm wasn't trying to imply that Obama's election was illegitimate (even if he had needed North Carolina to win) or Franken's, or even Bush's in 2000. My point was merely to bring data to a discussion that was sorely lacking in it. The data means no more or no less then the data means.

If you see an election as a game of hopscotch, in the sense that a strict observance of the rules is the whole point of the exercise, then you'll worry more about the possibility that a few ineligible voters might swing a close race somewhere, sometime.

I think adherence to the rules of elections is an important mechanism to ensure the results reflect the will of the people. I'm not, as I've said many times, particularly concerned that 'a few ineligible voters might swing a close race somewhere, sometime.'

If you see an election as an attempt to find out who The People really want to take the office, you'll worry more about what kind of breakfast people have on Tuesdays.

I do, and as little as I care about ineligible voters voting, I care even less about what people eat for breakfast.

Yes, actually it does work. 32,800 people is a darned big sample.

32,800 is a sample representing either ~200M (all eligible registered voters in the US) or ~100+M (the slightly more than half of them who actually voted). I'm not sure which.

The population under discussion is the total population of non-citizens in the US, which is apparently about 19.4M. The sample size for that, at least for 2008, was 339. For 2010, it was smaller.

So, the question is whether 339 is a sound basis for extrapolating to 19.4M.

thompson,

I hope you didn't take my original comment personally. I've made more or less the same comment in various fora since usenet was a thing, last millennium.

And I do appreciate your taking the trouble to dig up real data. Data are not information, I often say, but they are certainly the basic ingredient. Not being a stats wiz, I am inclined to take the data you pointed us to at face value and wait for more knowledgeable people to asses them.

My only point, which you seem to agree with, is that -- even taking the data at face value -- it's hard to say that close elections are decided by voter fraud rather than voter fickleness.

--TP

The 'winner takes all' (WTA) principle gives those close calls extra importance, especially when now even the closest shave 'win' is treated as a 'mandate', i.e. the licence to fully ignore the people of the other side, as if the candidate had won by unamnimous consent.
Not that proportional representation is without problems of its own but some of the most discussed problems in the US electoral system can be traced directly to the WTA and the way it is handled in the polarized political climate.

I hope you didn't take my original comment personally.

Not at all, beyond assuming it was addressed in my general direction. I just wanted to clarify what I took from the study, and why I linked it.

Data are not information, I often say, but they are certainly the basic ingredient.

This is very true, and the short form of what I was trying to get at. As bobbyp recently noted, I do enjoy my verbiage.

As a scientist, I often observe that media reports of studies tend to oversell or undersell. e.g. if the study supports what they think, than its 'true, because science says so!'. And if it doesn't, its bad science because it wasn't a quadruple blinded study that properly accounted for the formation of sunspots that day, etc.

In other words, almost any study on a politicized topic becomes either irrefutable proof or an example of gross scientific misconduct.

I exaggerate, of course.

When really, the bulk of studies just add a little to our collective knowledge and, over time, help us converge closer to truth.

Hartmut, I would say that the problem is the synergy between Winner Take All and the phenomena of very low turnout in the primary elections which determine the party candidates.

The result of the latter is that, because they are more strongly motivated and thus turn out more, the most ideologically extreme voters tend to have a disproportionate impact on who the candidates are. And on how much incumbants feel the need to pander to those voters, lest they get challenged by someone more extreme in the next primary.

The phenomena can be mitigated if you allow all voters, not just registered voters from the particular party, to vote for all of the primary candidates. And then make the general election between the top two finishers. Depending on the district and the candidates, this can sometimes end you up with two candidates from the same party. But the less extreme candidate will tend to win the general election . . . simply because most of the voters will be closer to his position.

We have been going with that approach in California for the past few years. And what we have seen is an increase in the number of moderate, or even mildly conservative, Democrats in office. And the occasional Republican who wins tends to be much more moderate than the bulk of the GOP. (For example, the lady from the GOP who won in my district last fall -- for all that it has about a 60/40 Democratic edge.)

So, the question is whether 339 is a sound basis for extrapolating to 19.4M.

I'd say yes, with caveats. The sample is large enough that if it was well sampled (in other words, if the sample is *representative* of the whole) it's probably a sounds basis.

I think the weaker point is the question of is it representative. The paper gives some detailed discussion about the question of how well the panel represents the non-citizens in the US. My take is there are definitely areas of concern, but that the sample is likely representative to a good approximation. But, that is by no means certain.

wj, that's an additional problem. But WTA also is closely connected to the whole gerrymandering complex. Over here we use a mixed system filling half of the seats in the federal lower chamber via directly elected candidates and half according to proportional representation (with some fine-tuning rules that primarily benefit candidates from minor parties that did not hop over the 5% hurdle but have local strong support; but there it gets quite a bit too complicated to explain in a short post).

It's impossible to limit the length of the campaign in a country where the elections are pre-scheduled, and you have constitutionally protected freedom of speech and the press. There's no legally permissible mechanism for doing it.

This is like saying there's no legally permissible mechanism for preventing people from shouting "Fire!" in crowded movie theaters: it willfully conflates all speech acts as being indistinguishable, and demands that no effort be made to distinguish them. There is a difference between publicly announcing your intention to run for office and giving a speech before an assembly expressly gathered for the purpose of hearing you explain how you would execute said office if elected. Still more between an announcement and speaking before an audience paying you to hear you discuss your presumptive policies. And there is a huge difference between publicly announcing you plan to run for office, and buying airtime to run ads stating the same.

The fact that edge cases would immediately crop up in the face of (and to circumvent) campaign time limits does not mean that the limits cannot be meaningfully set; Constitutional case law is fully of examples of legal limits being carved out by the "common sense" understanding of judges. Hell, that's what's currently defining the insane campaign finance limits (or lack thereof) that we currently "enjoy".

This is like saying there's no legally permissible mechanism for preventing people from shouting "Fire!" in crowded movie theaters

I've noted this before, but I find this example always seems especially bad. First of all, to be true to the original quote, it's *falsely* shouting fire. Shouting "fire" to inform people of an actual fire would be, I imagine, protected and even encouraged speech.

Second, it traces its roots to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr's opinion in Schenck v. US, which is pretty much the worst example you can come up with for 'good application of government censorship'. Others have said it better:

https://www.popehat.com/2012/09/19/three-generations-of-a-hackneyed-apologia-for-censorship-are-enough/

Note, this doesn't necessarily mean that the constitution forbids censoring campaign speech, just that I find the particular metaphor of 'fire in a crowded theater' overused and referencing back to a fairly dark time in 1A jurisprudence.

I don't disagree; beyond the very broad observation that we accept that public order is best served by limiting certain types of speech in certain places, times, and circumstances, it's a weak parallel. It's not of course the only limit we place on speech, though, just the first example that sprang to mind (it's threadbare and overused for a reason). We limit threatening, fraudulent, perjurious, and extorting speech, and free speech survives. I get the idea that Brett thinks it would be criminal for the President to call up an IRS branch head and mention in passing that all those Tea Party groups were a great nuisance and that they deserve to have something bad happen to them, yet I can't imagine him protesting me say that 'til I'm blue in the face. Which is to say, we routinely view some forms of speech as being acceptably limited because of what the impact on public order would be were we to do otherwise, and that routinely wanders off into the murky waters of "intent" and "context".

All of which is a long way to simply say that there's no reason to believe the bald assertion that limiting campaign lengths is a priori legally incompatible with freedom of speech or of the press. It's not compatible with unfettered freedom of speech and of the press, but we're talking about reality, and that's never existed anywhere, and certainly not in the US.

length of campaigns aside....

I don't think anybody here would disagree with the idea that the government preventing a newspaper from obtaining newsprint and ink would be an undesirable and unacceptable violation of the 1A.

There probably aren't all that many folks here, of any political stripe, who disagree with the finding, in the Citizens' United case, that the plaintiffs should have been able to show the movie about Hilary.

What I find objectionable, and what I suspect other folks also find objectionable, is the idea that the government may place no limit whatsoever on money spent by private persons on political campaigning, or on the kind of "nudge nudge wink", it's OK if it's only partly political campaigning spending that was enabled by the CU decision.

If we're going to discuss the topic, let's discuss the actual cases at hand, not hypotheticals.

All of which is a long way to simply say that there's no reason to believe the bald assertion that limiting campaign lengths is a priori legally incompatible with freedom of speech or of the press.

I'd agree with that statement, at least to the point where I think the possibility of constitutionality is not beyond conception. However, I have deep reservations about such laws.

First, while I'm willing to consider constitutionality, I'm mindful that political speech, of all categories, is IMO among the most important to protect.

Second, even if campaign time limits were themselves constitutional, I'd still have concerns about being able to craft a law that narrowly targeted (potentially) unprotected speech.

Without seeing a specific proposed law, its difficult for me to meaningfully engage on either of those two points. However, I'd like to offer an example of the type of negative impact such a law might have.

With apologies to russell, who specifically asked for no hypotheticals. But I think its a reasonable one.

Let's assume the law is passed that no campaigning for president can occur before September. I think evaluating what is and is not a campaign would be difficult. Is a book tour? Is a series of speaking engagements?

In the case of a 1st term president, is a series of speaking engagements specifically criticizing the performance of the president campaigning? What if it was by the de facto nominee, like Hillary?

Conversely, is the president touring the country campaigning, or performing outreach? Connecting to constituents? Can we have confidence that the FEC, or whoever administers it, will not be biased against 3rd parties, or anti-establishment voices?

In short, I am willing to consider the constitutionality of such a law, but even if there was a class of unprotected speech, I thing there will still be grave challenges associated with narrowly stating and administering the law.

The problem I have with laws limiting campaigning is that I am seriously conflicted. I really don't want to see restrictions on political speech. On the other hand, I get seriously sick of the hard-copy version of spam which (especially local) candidates inflict on my mail box.

One or two flyers may (may!) have someting to communicate. But by the 5th one saying essentially the same thing? It's pollution, nothing more. The most impact it has on me is, if one candidate is doing far more than another, it's a great way to lose my vote. (But obviously I'm not typical in this. Else candidates would have stopped doing it long since.)**

P.S. Does anyone know of any actual studies of the impact of repeated mass mailings on actual voting? Or is it just one of those bits of political received wisdom among campaign consultants?

I really don't want to see restrictions on political speech. On the other hand, I get seriously sick of the hard-copy version of spam which (especially local) candidates inflict on my mail box.

USPS decided a long time ago who the customer is, and its bulk mail. Otherwise I'd suggest the obvious solution: being able to pay a nominal fee* to the postal service to filter bulk mail to your address.

Once the mail stopped getting through, they would stop sending it.

But I, for one, am willing to boldly take the mail out of my box and promptly drop it into the recycling bin conveniently placed by my front door. We all make sacrifices for living in a free society :)

*I suggest paying a fee, because the economics of the USPS would require something to make up the lost income.

http://stateimpact.npr.org/new-hampshire/2011/09/27/how-junk-mail-is-helping-to-prop-up-the-postal-service/

our's

*ours

"But I, for one, am willing to boldly take the mail out of my box and promptly drop it into the recycling bin conveniently placed by my front door."

I save it up to light the fireplace in the winter. Back when I had chickens, it was shredded for bedding.

The local grocery store circulars, though, actually got read before being dumped in the bin. They actually conveyed useful information, and even with 60MPS internet, I find paging through the paper copy more convenient.

I think a lot of us, having grown up reading paper, still prefer it for a lot of things. Electrons take a lot less space to store, but a book just doesn't feel the same on a tablet.

Still, I wonder if the next generation is going to have the same view....

i'd really like it if i could stop receiving phone books. i haven't used one in years - 10 years, 15 years? we don't have a land line (we didn't even get one strung up to the house, when we built it, three years ago). but we still get two sets of phone books every year - because the yellow pages are just ways for businesses to advertise and the white pages are the attempt to legitimize.

I know what you mean. Those phone books don't burn worth a darn unless you tear the pages out first, which is a fair deal of work. Though keeping a phone book by the fireplace, instead of a stack of newspapers, is convenient.

Those phone books don't burn worth a darn unless you tear the pages out first, which is a fair deal of work.

Really? I find if you put them on a hot fire, they burn quite efficiently. The key is to keep the stove as hot as possible.

Yeah, but I'm using them to *start* the fire. I've got no shortage of logs to keep it going once it's started.

probably not a good idea to burn glossy stuff in the fireplace.

And I've got reservations about burning too much newsprint stuff with too much ink as well. No evidence; just nervous about it for more than kindling.

Indeed, the ink is a potential health hazard, esp. if it's glossy stuff.

probably not a good idea to burn glossy stuff in the fireplace.

Which would be the cover, pretty easy to remove and recycle. My understanding is newsprint is pretty clean burning, with the further advantage that it burns hot. I use stacks of it to transition from a bed of coals to a new stack of wood, to reduce the smolder time.

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