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January 05, 2012 - Image 4

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4A - Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4e Mic4t*oan wily

The caucus mythology persists

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

ogul ski runs usually
happen by accident.
The jutting of a left


knee contrasts
downward force
of a right. A skier
flows through a
sine wave down
the hill.
More people
ally cut nearly
the same wave
from the top of
the mountain -
packing snow


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Imran Syed is the public editor. He can be reached at publiceditor@michigandaily.com.,
OccUpV real ideas
Congress should enhance campaign finance laws
When the Occupy protests began in September in New York
City, the grassroots movement against corporate greed
and rising income inequality seemed poised to become a
liberal equivalent to the Tea Party. Critics noted the movement's lack
of central leadership, organization and a legitimate political agenda.
Months after spreading from Wall Street to cities and college campus-
es worldwide, the mostly peaceful protests have fallen from the media
spotlight. As 2012 begins, Occupy supporters are still looking for tan-
gible results. But the movement may be able to turn to Congress for
action, as a Constitutional amendment has been proposed to limit the
influence of corporations. Congress should pass the proposed amend-
ments introduced in the spirit of Occupy and work toward limiting

underneath their skis. Over time,
gravity pulls more and more skiers
into the same waves, which become
carved into the landscape. Small hills
form around the paths where the
snow remains untouched. Without
conscious intention, the process con-
tinues until the hill becomes a mogul
field - small, white islands in a lat-
tice of riverbeds.
Moguls are hard to ski. They
require quick knees and more than
a bit of tenacity. From the chairlifts,
watching unskilled skiers tumble in
them is a pastime for all.
Caucuses have a bit in com-
mon with mogul fields - they're an
antique pattern states have fallen
into. The meetings to pick presiden-
tial nominees are supposed to be
used as times for grassroots dialogue
and debate before each individual
votes. Caucuses are usually reserved
for experts, but they each have a sig-
nificant population that thinks being
headstrong is enough to take them
On Tuesday, I attended a caucus
at Drake University in Des Moines,
Iowa hoping for some students to talk
to. Not surprisingly, there weren't
many in the crowd of about 200
because they're still on break.
The frenzyofa nonstop press cycle
fooled me into believing the caucuses

themselves are exciting. I thought
the buildup would culminate in intel-
ligent debate from Iowans. While sit-
ting behind the red rope separating
observers from caucus-goers, I real-
ized how wrong I was.
It began a little after 7 p.m. The
caucus chair, a Drake sophomore,
asked for nominees to speak on
behalf ofreach candidate. Speakers
representing former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney, former Pennsyl-
vania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Ron
Paul (R-Texas) and former House
Speaker Newt Gingrich emerged. of
those who spoke, only the Gingrich
and Paul representatives seemed
prepared - the woman caucusingfor
Romney admitted she hadn't planned
on being the speaker that evening.
A bowl was passed up and down
the rows filled with votes written on
slips of paper. The caucus organiz-
ers took the makeshift ballots to a
corner and counted. An older orga-
nizer accidentally announced inac-
curate resultsbefore the caucus chair
stopped him.
The real results were announced,
and within minutes the room was
down to about twenty people in
seats and a handful more trapped in
the room by pouncing reporters. My
watch read 7:45.
There was no debate. Not a word
about Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-
Minn.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry or for-
mer Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Their
fewsupporters at the Drake were left
without any voice in the proceedings.
Those who did speak didn't even use
all of their five-minute slots and had
little substance or hard facts on their
candidate's platform. There was
no chance that predecided voters
heard anything to change their vote.
More importantly, undecided voters
weren't given convincing arguments
to choose a candidate. And isn't that
the whole point?
For a country obsessed with elec-

tronic and manual election fraud,
caucus-goers are given a lot of trust.
Anyone could have dropped in more
than one paper slip. The count took
place in the corner by people who
had just declared their allegiance to
a candidate. There are no recounts in
the Iowa caucuses - what happens,
Those I spoke to at the Drake
caucus said how great caucuses are
because voters get to mingle and
talk to each other. The press loves
that story. It's part of the caucuses'
charm. I'm not sure, however, what
they were referring to besides the
Primaries are
less quaint, but
better for voters.
Yes, it was quaint, personal and
definitely grassroots. But, the pro-
ceedings were unprofessional and,
more importantly, not educational
for voters.
Caucuses exclude voters who aren't
available at a certain time instead of
the relative freedom of primary elec-
tions. The early Iowa caucus excludes
students and those serving overseas.
A study from the University of Texas
concluded caucuses do worse than
primaries in ensuring proper demo-
graphic representation.
The anecdotal continuance of
caucuses isn't beneficial to voters -
that's why a majority of states have
gotten rid of them. We've acciden-
tally builtthem into mogul fields, and
each year we pound the snow down
- Andrew Weiner can be reached
at anweiner@umich.edu.

corporations' political influence.
In homage to too-long acronyms, Rep.
Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced the Outlaw-
ing Corporate Cash Undermining the Pub-
lic Interest in our Elections and Democracy
Amendment on Nov. 18. The amendment is
one of several proposals aiming to reverse the
Supreme Court's opinion in Citizens United
v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled
that the First Amendment protects political
donations by corporations as a form of free
speech. The Citizens United decision forbade
the government from limiting political dona-
tions by corporations.
Though American democracy is far from
ideal, ashortage of corporate dollars is notpart
of the problem. Despite former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney's August statement that
"corporations are people," U.S. citizenship
should not be diluted to include for-profit cor-
porations. Corporations are set up within the
bounds of written law and should be regulated
as such.
Businesspeople can and should promote
their business interests by donating to cam-
paigns and political action committees.
Allowing corporations unlimited campaign
spending, however, enhances businesses' abil-
ity to influence political campaigns. Corpora-
tions should not be able to use profitsto support
or oppose candidates or legislative initiatives.
The OCCUPIED Amendment states that
"the rights of natural persons ... do not extend
to for-profit corporations." The amendment

would disallow the unlimited corporate
spending that has flooded elections since the
landmark Citizens decision in January 2010.
Corporations' political influence should be
subject to government regulation, and this
amendment reaffirms that.
Regulation guaranteeing that donors and
candidates maintain transparency in cam-
paign expenditures is vital. Non-stop elec-
tion cycles have created a never-ending need
for campaign contributions, which can lead
to clientelism that harms true representative
democracy. The amendment, along with sim-
ilar legislation introduced in the Senate, is an
important step toward returning the control
of government to living, breathing citizens
instead of resource-rich corporations.
National, city and campus officials have
spent significant energy containing the
Occupy movement's momentum. Police pep-
per-spraying peaceful protesters on the Uni-
versity of California-Davis campus displays
these efforts at their worst. Occupy's message
that the widening income gap is harmful to
democracy has started important conversa-
tions worldwide. It has direct implications for
students - President Barack Obama widen-
ing federal student loan forgiveness is one of
the few tangible results of the movement. The
OCCUPIED Amendment should move for-
ward through Congress, and dialogue about
negative implications of income inequality
and corporate influence should continue.

Check us out to keep up with columnists, read
Daily editorials, view cartoons and join in the discussion.
@michdailyoped and @michigandaily

Perfecting our elections

Kim Jong Un's North Korea

While many students were in the basement
of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library strung
out on caffeine cramming for finals or already
home for the holidays, a major event in world
politics occurred that could have detrimental
effects on the United States. On Dec. 19, North
Korean state media announced that Supreme
Leader Kim Jong Il had died after ruling for
17 years. Through absolute dominance of state
media, military, government and nearly every
other facet of North Korean society, Kim
thought of himself himself as a divine leader
who treated his country and his people with
great morality. Call it brainwashed, call it fear-
induced loyalty or call it whatever you'd like -
the people of North Korea viewed their leader
as a god. But what happens when a god dies?
Throughout winter break, the world
watched North Korea mourn its fallen leader
with spectacular parades and other - some-
times bizarre - displays. We watched count-
less North Koreans sobbing in the streets over
Kim Jong Il's death. And soon after he passed,
the North Korean government declared Kim's
son, Kim Jong Un, the country's new leader.
Every worldwide media outlet scrambled in an
effort to find out who this 20-something real-
ly is. Most sources don't even know when or
where he was born, and usually report his age
as "28 or 29." We don't know exactly who the
heir is, what his intentions are or how North
Korea will change under his leadership. We do
know, however, that like his father, Kir Jong
Un will be very unpredictable.
Perhaps the most unpredictable element of
this new leader is whether he will be able to
lead at all. Considering his young age and inex-
perience, it's unclear whether military leaders
will respect Kim Jong Un's power. According
to a 2010 article in The Guardian, some of the
military elite were noticeably upset when Kim
Jong Un was appointed by his father as a 4-star
general in 2012 though he hasn't served a single
day in the military.
The military could possibly see the new
leader as a threat to their power and stage a
coup. This option could result in violence,
intervention from China or many other plau-

sible scenarios - including South Korean
involvement. The possibility that Kim Jong
Un fears his ability to rule is being questioned
not only by North Koreans, but also the entire
world. In a rash, desperate maneuver to earn
respect, he could act with catastrophic con-
sequences. Considering that this young - and
possibly reckless - new leader commands a 1.2
million-troop army, and is likely in control of
a nuclear arsenal, this possibility is incredibly
About one month prior to Kim Jong Il's
death, President Obama announced the
deployment of 2,500 marines in Darwin, Aus-
tralia where they will further support our
nation in the Asia-Pacific region, as reported by
The Telegraph. Few deny that this was a proac-
tive military move in preparation for possible
conflict with China. Beijing immediately made
their discontent with the deployment public,
and insisted that America was inappropriately
involved in foreign territories. Unfortunately
for both China and the U.S., North Korea's
recent shift in power could put these Marines
in action much sooner than anyone imagined.
China's alliance with North Korea and the
United States' with South Korea could poten-
tially have disastrous effects throughout the
Asia-Pacific region. If North Korea - led by
Kim Jong Un or another military leader - was
to attack South Korea or Japan, the U.S. would
have little choice but to begin military engage-
ment against North Korea. Similarly, if North
Korea got involved in a war against the U.S.,
China would have little choice but to support
their ally.
While this World War III scenario may seem
oversimplified, it is terrifyingly realistic.
As America continues to pull its troops out
of the Middle East, be prepared for their pos-
sible relocation. Unfortunately, this change in
power could have massive global reverbera-
tions. For now, we can only sit back and watch
with unease as North Korea adjusts to its shift
in leadership.
-Patrick Maillet is an assistant
editorial page editor.

M ost Republicans with
whom I have discussed
the Republican primaries
say they would
like anybody
but former Mas-
sachusetts Gov.
Mitt Romney to
be the Repub-
lican nominee. '
But with so
many other can-
didates splitting MATTHEW
the vote, Rom- ZABKA
ney narrowly
won the Iowa
caucuses and seems poised to walk
away with the nomination. Assum-
ing most Republicans have this "any-
body but Romney" attitude, it seems
unfair that he should represent the
Republican Party in the general
election. This raises the question
of whether different voting sys-
tems exist that would better reflect
Republican - and more generally
society's - preferences.
In a ranked voting system, voters
rank candidates in order of prefer-
ence. The voting system then tells
us society's preferences. Note that
the plurality rules voting system by
which Michigan elects its officials
is a ranked voting system: Voters
rank candidates (in their heads)
and then vote for their first choice.
Plurality rules tells us that the can-
didate with the most first choice
votes is society's preference.
For example, suppose Charlie,
Snoopy and Woodstock run for gov-
ernor of Michigan. In the election,
Charlie receives 40 percent of the
vote, Snoopy receives 35 percent of
the vote, and Woodstock receives 25
percent of the vote. Using a plurality
rules voting system, Charlie would
win the election.
But what if every person who
voted for Woodstock preferred
Snoopy over Charlie? That is 60 per-
cent of voters who would rather have
Snoopy as governor than Charlie.
But Charlie won the election. There
would seem to be a problem with this
voting system.

A runoff voting system, in which
more than one round of voting can
take place to find a winner, seeks
to rectify this problem by choosing
society's preference in a different
way. For example, in Louisiana's
gubernatorial elections, if no candi-
date receives more than 50 percent
of the vote in the first round of vot-
ing, a second round of voting is held
between the two candidates who
received the most votes in the first
round. The candidate who wins the
second round is elected governor.
Another example of a runoff sys-
tem follows: In each round, the can-
didate with the fewest number of
votes is eliminated. The next round
of voting has only candidates who
were not previously eliminated.
Rounds of voting continue until a
candidate receives more than half
of the vote, and this candidate wins
the election. This runoff system
is used for city elections in Min-
nesota's Twin Cities and Duluth.
Ann Arbor also used it for its may-
oral election in 1975. Using either
of these runoff systems, Snoopy
would win the above election.
Readers may now ask: What is
the best voting system, and why
isn't it used in all elections? Before
answering the question, one must
first define what "best" means.
Mathematicians say a perfect vot-
ing system must have the following
three properties: First, there is no
dictator. That is, there is no voter
whose vote completely determines
the outcome of the election. Second,
if a majority of voters prefer candi-
date X over candidate Y, then the
voting system should tell us society
prefers candidate X over candidate
Y. Third, the voting system is inde-
pendent of irrelevant alternatives.
This means that if the majority of
voters prefer candidate X over can-
didate Y and voters change their
preferences for other candidates A,
B, C without changing their prefer-
ences for X over Y, then the voting
system still tells us society prefers
X over Y.
We've seen above that the plu-

rality rules system fails the sec-
ond property, so it is not a perfect
voting system. But what about the
two runoff systems? They also fail
the second property, so these run-
off systems aren't perfect either. In
fact, the mathematical economist
Kenneth Arrow proved in his Ph.D.
thesis the amazing 'result that, as
long as more than two candidates
run in an election, one can find a
problem with whatever voting sys-
tem is used. No perfect voting sys-
tem exists. Both a plurality rules
system and the runoff systems have
their merits and problems.
An ideal
voting system
doesn't exist..
I hope readers walk away with
two thoughts after reading this col-
umn. First, many questions - espe-
cially in public policy - often have
no perfect solution. Competing solu-
tions can be suggested and it may be
that neither is wrong. This is a theme
I hope to explore in my remaining
columns - disagreement and debate
on such issues should be expected
and encouraged. It might sound pow-
erful when a politician labels his or
her opponent's position as "simply
wrong," but without further infor-
mation and a competing position,
intelligent citizens should . ignore
such empty rhetoric.
Second, mathematicians often
work on and find answers to very
interesting questions that, one
would think, have nothing to do
with mathematics. Question: Does a
perfect voting system exist? Math's
answer: No. You'll never invent one.
Stop looking.
Isn't that neat?
-Matthew Zabka can be
reached at mzbka@umich.edu.

Aida Ali, Kaan Avdan, Ashley Griesshammer, Nirbhay Jain, Jesse Klein,
Patrick Maillet, Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Timothy Rabb,
Vanessa Rychlinski, Sarah Skaluba, Seth Soderborg, Caroline Syms, Andrew Weiner


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