Matt Hardin

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"Why is this taking so long?" A guide to waiting for election results

Matt Hardin is an attorney who lives in Des Moines. He has volunteered for, worked on, and donated to Democratic campaigns since 2004, and also worked in the Iowa legislature. He is interested in reforming political institutions so that voting is easy, convenient, and protected.

Maybe you’re on the couch with the TV on, checking Twitter on your phone and refreshing a county auditor page on your laptop. It’s getting late. You think, “why don’t they call these races?”

On Wednesday morning, you may ask yourself, “Dear God, why did I stay up so late?” The next day comes and goes, and some elections still haven’t been called. You think to yourself again, “Why? Why is this taking so long?” For the impatient among us (like myself), here are the big reasons why.

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Thoughts on the French presidential election and voter turnout

Matt Hardin suggests five reforms to make voting easier in the U.S., modeled on how presidential elections are conducted in France.

I recently took a vacation to Paris and got to see French democracy up close.

While my wife and I were there, France held the second and final round of its presidential election, which is a simple runoff between the top two candidates from the first round.

On April 24 the incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, soundly defeated the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen, 59 percent to 41 percent. One of the most reported-on figures in the French media was the abstention rate—the percent of registered voters who didn’t vote.

According to the French, the 28 percent abstention rate (so, 72 percent turnout) is an alarming sign for their democracy. Usually, only about 15 to 20 percent of French voters stay home.

Despite the hand wringing in France, the comparatively low abstention and high turnout stunned me. I wanted to understand how they do it.

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Polk Co. Soil and Water Conservatoin Commissioner

Howdy folks – 

I've got my absentee ballot in Polk County, and I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about the people running for Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner. It's a nonpartisan office, but I still I want to make an informed choice. I haven't been able to find much on their records, and emails to the current commissioners have not been returned. I can vote for three of the following:

Chip Mathis (incumbent, current chair) 

Sherrie Taha

Daniel Beougher

Elaine J. Ilvess

Anything you guys know about them would be helpful! Thanks! 

For all those ambitious Bleeding Heartlanders...

Juice Magazine, the Register's weekly aimed at young people, has a cover story this week on young people running for office.  They interview several young elected officials, including Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan and` Democratic State Reps. Kirsten Running-Marquardt and Elesha Gayman.

The article obviously focuses on Des Moines, but the rationale for having young people in politics can be applied to just about anywhere:

If Des Moines is going to be a great place for young professionals to live, we need more of us in public service. We need to be at the table, crafting the decisions that mold the direction of Des Moines.

 The article is hardly a detailed blueprint on how to run for office, but it's still interesting to read about the different strategies candidates use when they're first starting out. For example, Michael Kiernan used family and work connections to spread the word about his campaign and raise money, while Elesha Gayman actively sought support online from national progressive groups.

 In Iowa we get used to seeing presidential candidates and their large campaign entourages so frequently that it's easy to forget about the lesser-known campaigns without a big staff and gobs of money. On the local level, though, energetic young candidates with fresh ideas are still essential.

RNC Targeting Boswell (again)

(No time like the present for progressives to call Congressman Boswell's office advocating health care reform with a strong public option. Boswell's official website explains his primary concerns on health care. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Politico's Ben Smith posted a list of conservative House Democrats who will be targeted by a new RNC radio ad on healthcare. The list includes IA-03's Leonard Boswell.

Text of the ad:

Most Americans agree. It’s time to take action to reform our healthcare system. But the dangerous experiment President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want just can’t be the right answer. The question is what Congressman Boswell will do.

Look at their record. The stimulus package cost us hundreds of billions without creating new jobs. The national debt has more than doubled.

If Barack Obama and the Democrats get their way, the Federal Government will make the decisions about your health care. And, their plan costs a trillion dollars we don’t have. You have to pay a new tax to keep your private insurance. It’s too much, too fast.

Call Congressman Boswell at 202-225-3121, that’s 202-225-3121 and tell him to say no to this dangerous experiment.

Of course, the quote “Most Americans agree. It's time to take action to reform our healthcare system” is not followed by any Republican proposal or idea to actually fix healthcare. I hope Boswell doesn't cave on this, and it's heartening to know that he still supports a public option. Boswell's support is an apparent break with other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, whose opposition to a public option was deconstructed in this Paul Krugman article yesterday.

Iowa Prison Population Drops

DMR reported yesterday that the number of inmates in Iowa prisons is dropping. At the end of June there were 8,455 inmates, down from 8,740 last year and 8,840 in 2007. The state's top prison official tells us why:

Corrections Director John Baldwin said drug courts, substance abuse treatment and other programs are helping reduce the number of offenders returning to prison. There also was a drop in new commitments, due in part to a decline in drug convictions.

Shocking though it may seem, the rehabilitation efforts to move inmates back into the world as productive members of society are working. Reform of the nation's prison system in favor of smarter, more progressive policies such as these has become increasingly more difficult since the 1970s, when the mantra of “tough on crime” swept the nation. Since then, stricter sentencing laws coupled with the ruthless portrayal of any other viewpoint as “soft on crime” (see Bush v. Dukakis, 1988) has stifled debate.

So, after three decades of this, 1 in 100 American adults are in prison. 1 in 9 black men and 1 in 36 Latino men from the ages of 20 to 34 are behind bars. These policies, championed by fiscal conservatives, costs state governments nearly $50 billion each year, and the federal government $5 billion. One of the most vocal proponents of reform on the national level is Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) has been courageous enough to elevate smart reform of prison and crime policies to a higher profile. More on this in a post from Salon's Glen Greenwald earlier this year.

In Iowa, Iowa Public Television said just last year that the prison population was projected to rise from 8,800 to 9,700 by 2017. But, yesterday's news shows that the trend, which admittedly could just be temporary, appears to be reversing itself thanks to programs that are “tough on the causes of crime”, to borrow a phrase from Tony Blair. The IPTV piece also mentions Gov. Culver and the Legislature's efforts to reduce recidivism through community-based corrections facilities, which are cheaper and more effective than sending more people to prison.