Do all voters use public transportation and listen to their iPods after stopping by Starbucks?

The US Democratic Party is gearing up to change its national party chairman, a process that seems to have more significance to the party's members than worrying about who leads the party in the Senate (post-Daschle) or the House of Representatives.

Charlie Cook weighs in with advice for the Democrats, most of which I agree with.

Cook writes:
My friend and colleague, Hotline editor Chuck Todd, points out that with the exception of black radio stations, the Kerry campaign and the Media Fund bought virtually no radio advertising in this campaign, despite the fact that outside of the cities themselves, people drive cars (and even trucks!) and an important way to reach voters is when they are listening to their car radios. It would seem that many Democratic media consultants believe that all voters use public transportation and listen to their iPods after stopping by Starbucks. Democrats would be well-advised to study how the Bush campaign found new ways to communicate with voters, while Team Kerry relied too much on television. Having spent a considerable amount of time in purple states this year, I can say with a good deal of authority that the law of diminishing returns on television advertising was long past exceeded in this campaign.

One bit I don't care for is:

Fourth, the next head of the DNC needs to be someone who knows how to raise money and isn't afraid of getting their fingers dirty doing it.

I think the last thing the Democrats need is "dirty fingers". Stories are circulating about Marc Rich, whose wife made a donation to Hillary Clinton's Senate election campaign fund. Somehow Mr Rich got a presidential pardon as one of Bill Clinton's final gestures as President. It seems that Mr Rich may have been involved in the sorts of oil deals with Iran and Iraq that would normally fit a Bond movie super-villain's profile, not an upstanding member of the community famed for his philanthropy. Point taken about the need for an effective fundraiser.

I agree with two out of three of Charlie Cook's final requirements for a new DNC chairman:

And finally, Democrats must find someone who will adopt the following party bylaws: (1) Don't nominate anyone from the Northeast; (2) Don't nominate anyone with an Ivy League undergraduate degree; and (3) Don't nominate a stiff.

If they can find a former Governor of a Southern State who has actually eaten at Wendy's when not on the campaign trail and has an outgoing personality, I'm sure the US electorate wouldn't mind too much if he or she happened to get a scholarship to go to an Ivy League college.

"Seconds out, round three..."

The Washington gubernatorial election saga reaches a new stage: the second recount. This will be the third count for the election to replace Governor Gary Locke in the State of Washington since November 2 this year, but this time it will be carried out by hand.

Democrat Christine Gregoire's campaign has posted a certified cheque for $755,000 to pay for the recount. Republican Dino Rossi currently holds a lead of 42 votes out of over 2.8 million votes cast.

Daily Kos seems oblivious to this development. But then they're too busy discussing President Bush's share of the Latino votes in Texas last month and whether Democrats are superior beings for using non-Microsoft web browsers.


Shambles in Olympia

The election for Governor of the State of Washington (capital: Olympia) has been certified - for now.

As the Secretary of State for Washington, Sam Reed puts it: another recount is a virtual certainty.

This is just as bad as Florida 2000, a shambles caused by idiotic election procedures made worse by a culture of extraordinary complacency.

Because the presidency is not riding on this election, there is not the same degree of venom or media scrutiny. Yet it is unbelievable that for the same election, different counties can use different criteria for issuing provisional ballots, can define a valid ballot using different standards. It is incredible that someone can post a ballot paper on November 2, the day of the election, and it will be counted whenever the US Post Office deigns to deliver it. It is surely a grotesque opportunity for election fraud to allow people to cast "provisional" votes, who are not on the electoral register and may not even be required to provide proof of address, let alone identity.

US election staff do not strike me as achieving the levels of professional competence of those of their British counterparts that I have dealt with. Even without turnout figures that mean that in Washington State more than two and three quarter million votes have been cast, I would fear for the reliability of the system. Having used note counters in banks as a teller and found them unreliable, I do not put much faith in vote counting machines, even without corruption.

Add all of these factors together, throw in a habit of not waiting for polls to close before announcing results, give losing candidates opportunities to appeal to the courts or to politically biased assemblies and it is easy to see why US democracy looks shabby.

To be fair, there are voices for reform in the electoral process that could improve matters. Sam Reed, the Washington Secretary of State himself has outlined proposals that would have helped in 2004.

Also to be fair, no election process involving millions of ballots could stand the precise scrutiny of modern media and the blogosphere.

God help the Iraqi people if the sort of election process used in the US is adopted in Iraq next January. There would be "absentee ballots" turning up in June, legal challenges lasting for years, and even the most mild-mannered democratic politician would find it hard to accept defeat gracefully.

I wouldn't.