American Democracy


I must have talked about the Cultural Cognition Institute to you at least half a dozen times in the past however many years now, right? Anyway, they’re a group that conducts studies on similar techniques, so it’s conceivable that somebody may have performed research related to this topic. They specifically answer questions like this one:

And the short, incredibly over-simplified answer is “yes,” people believe things more readily when they come from a source they already believe to be trustworthy, and it’s a whoooooooooole mess of shit.

Anyway, I want to circle back to this point:

By your own admission, you don’t actually know that, you assume it to be true. But now we have evidence that Democrats have used these tactics in a 2017 race, so why do you still believe that 2018 was a “clean” win?

That’s the crux of the problem; this story has raised a red flag, and now that red flag has thrown distrust into the mix.

It’s like the bowl of brown M&M’s in the concert rider. When you raise that flag, you have to look at everything else too.

Of course, that’s also a problematic line of reasoning because I’m implying a false equivalence. “Democrats did it once so they’re just as bad as the GOP so both sides are equally bad.”

I suppose that would be one benefit of disclosure laws - right now, we exist in a state of “we can’t know so we can’t draw firm conclusions,” but if we knew more we might be able to draw a clearer picture.


You’re right, I don’t actually know that, but when the Russians messed with the 2016 election, we knew about it. We actually knew what they were doing before the election.

In the case of Doug Jones in Alabama, we also found out about it relatively soon after the 2017 special election.

If the Democrats were resorting to these kinds of tactics, or other shady stuff, on a wide, or even moderate scale, it would come out. There would be more news articles just like the one I shared. While absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, it’s a pretty good indicator.


This line of reasoning absolutely supports my confirmation bias, BUT.

Don’t get too comfortable with it. We in the food safety world see this sort of reasoning manipulated by manufacturers all the time - if a company supplies their product test results, and it shows that their product is clear, it must mean that their product is safer on average than their competitor.

Right? Right?

It is reasonable to say “we would see evidence of this if it happened, and if we don’t, it didn’t happen,” but that rationale presupposes an earnest controlled investigation into the phenomenon. Has such an investigation been undertaken regarding Democratic victory in the mid-terms? I honestly don’t know. Sure we’ve found a bunch of evidence pursuant to 2016, but we’ve been actively looking.

And we are back to the crux of the disinformation problem - that absent additional information, we simply cannot know what results to trust.

But this is convincing me more and more that no matter what, we should ramp up disclosure laws.



The legislative package also includes a proposal to implement no-excuse absentee voting to help reduce queues at polling stations on Election Day, which would further expand voting access for Virginians.


I’ll say this much about voter ID laws: even if they were shown to reduce voter fraud (and I know that there is no evidence that voter fraud is a significant enough problem to merit the voter ID laws people have proposed/passed), then you should be able to get a valid voter ID at the same place and time you register to vote. For example, if you need to visit your local town/city hall to register, then you get a voter ID right there, on the spot, if you don’t already have an alternate acceptable form of ID like a driver’s license. If your state has “Motor Voter” you’re already all set as you get registered at the time you get your license.

Alternately, a local community facility, like a police office, may work as well, though I prefer getting the ID on the spot when you register to minimize hoop jumping. Apparently that’s where you get your ID, passport, etc., in some countries in Europe.

Heck, you can often get a passport at your local small town post office even. Also not a bad idea, except for my preference to minimize hoop jumping.

But of course, the voter ID laws people want are not meant to reduce fraud but to disenfranchise people as they make people go through all sorts of hoops in order to get a valid ID, like somehow going halfway across the state to a DMV office, even if you don’t drive, to pick up a state ID.



About freakin’ time. This should be the same in any other states that ban ex-felons from voting.

We can debate the merits of allowing or not allowing current incarcerated felons the right to vote, but there is no justifiable reason to deny ex-felons who have served their time the right to vote.


The only argument I can see for not allowing someone to vote is if they are truly incapable, like someone with extreme dementia. Also if someone is going to be executed the day after election day, they won’t be around to experience the consequences of their vote, but I’m also anti death penalty, so…

Even if someone is in prison right now, even if it’s for a heinous mass murderer with multiple life sentences, and they definitely did it, they should still be able to vote from prison. They probably believe that their crime should not have been against the law, and that viewpoint can only be represented if they are allowed to vote.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say there is a new law that makes anime illegal. All the weebs are now in jail and can’t vote to make anime legal again. If it’s the case that the vote of those weebs in jail would be enough to get pro-anime candidates elected, then that is fucked up. It means that currently elected politicians can create felonies and enforce them to choose who gets to vote for them. And that’s exactly what they did, primarily with the war on drugs.

All citizens should get to vote under almost any circumstance. Someone may lose many of their rights if they commit a crime, but voting should pretty much never be one of them. I feel like any crime that warrants someone losing their right to vote should also warrant someone losing citizenship altogether. Like, actual for real treason.


You raise some good points there, but the thing is, when you’re in prison, you already lose many of your rights, such as free speech.

I concede that a politician passing a law that puts a bunch of people they don’t like in jail so they can’t vote is a problem, but said law would also need to pass a Constitutional test with regards to being actually legally enforceable and the penalty not being “cruel and unusual.” Your example of banning anime probably would fail on first amendment grounds, for instance. That said, unless the penalty for possessing anime is either death or lifetime in prison without parole, those weebs ideally should be able to overturn the laws once they get out of jail so long as their voting rights are restored. If the penalty for the anti-anime law was something like death or life in prison, it also would probably fail the “cruel and unusual punishment” test as the punishment certainly does not fit the crime.

That said, you do raise points about how the war on drugs played out, especially given how many of the people were locked up for extended period of times for the relatively harmless crime of merely possessing drugs. That’s a separate issue, but still a valid point in this case.

The right of incarcerated felons to vote is certain a gray area, and I see enough validity on both sides of the argument (provided the Constitutional protections against unfair laws and penalties are actually working) that it’s not a hill I’m going to die on, one way or another.

As far as someone committing real treason losing the right to vote, well, the penalty for actual treason is death and it’s kind of hard to vote from beyond the grave…


I agree with everything you say, but I wanna comment on something you didn’t say. I say the hypothetical person in the quoted section probably doesn’t believe their crime should be legal or at least that’s not their most pressing concern. More importantly than the rights of convicted criminals retroactively legalizing their crimes through their voting rights, how about the significantly more likely scenario that they vote as a bloc to improve conditions for the incarcerated.

The fucking incentives for prison conditions are so fucked. The only people who can vote to change them are also conveniently the only people unaffected by them. It’d be like if the only people allowed to sit on the board at NVidia were survivalist types who live in the woods without electricity or society.


Yes, it’s just like taxation without representation. You need to have a say in the laws and policies that affect you, even if you’ve lost your other rights.


Oh wow, it feels kinda good not being the one doing this but, can I ask you to advocate for those who say felons shouldn’t be able to vote while incarcerated? I genuinely don’t see their point.

Well let me rephrase, I see their point in a similar way as I see the point of like… people who don’t want gay marriage, or woman’s suffrage, or freed slaves, or something else like that. They have an argument built on top of a trash heap.

In the case of my examples, I guess it’s odd reading of the bible. In the case of incarcerated voting I guess it’s just this belief that part of the punishment for crimes is loss of voting rights.

I just view that similar to the way I would if they were saying part of the punishment for crimes is broken fingers, or body parts or some other thing that has no reason to be part of it. I have notions that punishment isn’t even part of why we incarcerate, at all.

So are there any, like good faith arguments for taking away the voting rights of felons? Only one I can think of is, practicality? But that seems like tissue paper to me, it’s more practical for them than for the rest of the population.

I got nothin’


Agreed, but if you only lose the say in those laws temporarily, is it still bad or not?

One could argue that if you have just been released from a horrible prison experience and had your right to vote returned, you would vote to improve those conditions given your own personal experiences even though you were no longer in prison.


This would fly if we had more reasonable short prison sentences like other countries. We have a lot of sentences that are way too long, and a lot of life sentences. Maybe more reasonable sentencing is something that convicts would vote for as well.


It’s absolutely still bad. MAYBE, MAYBE there’s a case for temporary having an upper bound. Incarceration has no upper bound and it’s length is elastic. Even then, say with a short upper bound of like 10 years, 70 year old who just got a 10 year sentence may have effectively lost their right to vote.


I guess it comes down to trying to break down which rights felons should and shouldn’t have while incarcerated. I don’t know of any enumerations with arguments one way or another for all the collected rights a felon may or may not have.

Examples of rights felons generally lose while incarcerated:

  • Free speech (you can’t just say what you want, read what you want, etc.)
  • Freedom of association (you can’t just associate with anyone, especially given that you’re locked up behind bars)
  • Right to bear arms
  • Rights against searches and seizures – basically anything in your cell can be searched and confiscated at any time without need for a warrant.
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to vote (currently, though it may vary depending on state)

Rights that you still have:

  • Freedom of religion
  • Right to an attorney
  • Right to remain silent
  • Right to due process
  • Basically, all the rights related to criminal defense except for searches and seizures of stuff in your cell.

And since I’m not a constitutional scholar, I probably missed a few on both lists.

In that case, you could argue that sentences should be shorter for older people because of life expectancy. So Paul Manafort probably should only get like 30 days in jail instead of 10 years for his crimes because he’s 70+ years old, right?

I do agree that the prison terms for some crimes, especially minor ones, are way, way too long. These also tend to be crimes typically committed by poorer people and the penalties are ridiculously unfair. It’s insane that someone can go to jail for a longer time for robbing $200 from a liquor store than someone who committed $1 million of fraud.

I can certainly see a valid argument that the only rights a prisoner loses while in jail are those related to maintaining the safety of the jail. Limiting freedom of speech and association could be justified as to try to prevent prison riots. The right to bear arms is obvious. Searches and seizures without warrants are necessary in order to check for contraband and weapons. If we were to go along with that argument, then yeah, the right to vote certainly shouldn’t be in that list as it has no bearing on the safety of the prison.


I don’t see how.

If the prison population is large enough to overturn a law, there’s something utterly fucked about that law in the first place.


I don’t agree with the absolute numbers, but, yeah, you’re in the ball park. I’d restate it as follows:

Parrellel universe Paul Manafort who’s only 30 should probably get a longer sentence than our universe’s Paul Manafort. What and how that should work I don’t know. But I do think it’s reasonable. I believe that sort of thing already kinda happens though. Didn’t Al Capone die at home?

People get let out when they’re feeble already. I’m not against people dying incarcerated. I do think you’re conflating two separate but related issues.

Felons losing their right to vote while incarcerated isn’t the same as sentences needing to be shorter for old people. The only time I could see a felon reasonably losing their right to vote is if their felony is actual honest to god voter fraud. Then they should lose it so as to ensure they don’t commit the same crime again.


It’s a gray area only in that it’s a subject of discussion concerning what rights prisoners have vs. don’t have while incarcerated. Though I agree in principle that if the prison population is large enough to overturn a law, the law indeed probably has serious issues.

Now you’ve got me curious if there are any law review journals that have published articles on the subject. It’ll be interesting to see what people who actually have expertise in these areas think.

Al Capone had already completed his prison sentence (okay, technically he was out on parole) by the time he died, so that point is moot. However, as you said, there is a process to petition the court for mercy if a prisoner is feeble. Maybe the courts aren’t as merciful as they should be in this case. In which case, I’d be more inclined to agree with you.

So going back to Paul Manafort, he still gets his 10 year sentence because that’s what his crimes deserve. However, let’s say 7 years in, he’s in such bad health that he petitions the court for mercy. I’d be okay with the court granting him mercy in that case. I don’t think sentences should automatically be reduced based on advanced age (there are people doing long distance running at 101 years old, after all). However, it should probably be easier to petition the court for and receive mercy once someone is showing signs of age-related health degradation, or any sort of major health degradation (e.g. terminal cancer at a relatively young age) while in prison. So the base sentence should be age-independent, but granting of mercy should be on a case-by-case basis, provided it’s done fairly.

Hmm, that is a good point you raise there and I can definitely agree with that. In that case, they probably should also lose the right to vote after release.


I think you can point out some specific crimes wherein you should permanently lose your right to vote. Committing voter fraud seems like a fit to me. You show that you’ll cheat at the game, then you’re not invited to the table. Otherwise… I think even prisoners should probably have the right to vote.