Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hold Em Poker for February 2010 tournament....the best World Series of poker in a decade

I've been playing Texas Hold Em lately. Probably way too much for my own good, so if my analogy is strained, you know what to blame. But as we approach the 2010 Democratic primary, it's a huge poker tournament. Let me explain.

Eric Zorn kicks off the campaign season with his call for Attorney General Lisa Madigan to go all in and announce now that she is running for governor.  Think of the 2010 primary, as I have increasingly done, as a poker table. There are savvy players around the table. Lisa Madigan, Pat Quinn, Dan Hynes, Paul Vallas, Jack Franks, Alexi Giannoulias and, of course, Rod Blagojevich. These are all smart, aggressive, good players. And they are all holding their cards close to the vest.

Now, if someone bets hard (say, Lisa announces that she's all in, or Alexi announces he is running for sure), that will cause some players, even with good cards, to fold. No one is folding now. So who will go in first? If a player with a low chip stack goes all in (say, Jack Franks) and announces that he is running, will that cause anyone else to fold? Probably not. What if someone bets lightly by announcing an exploratory committee? Probably won't cause anyone else to fold. So who is going all in?

That's the delicious season of anticipation that we're in now.

Then the fun part is in the ripple effect. For the first time in a decade, lots of offices can open up. Senator Obama's seat will be open in 2010, as will every statewide state elected. So if both Dan Hynes and Pat Quinn run for governor, then Comptroller and Lt. Governor are both open. In other words, in one way or another, every part of the Illinois Democratic Party is around the 2010 poker table with seven different offices to fill, at least half of which are likely to be open seats. So everyone in the state gets to play. It's going to be very exciting.

People who are better at hold em than I am can explain how most of the game's success is in the strategy of betting. And over the next six months, we get to see how the best players in the party bet with the hands they've been dealt.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Great idea: a federal same-day voter registration law

Thanks to Upper Midwest Democratic Members of Congress Russ Feingold, Amy Klobuchar and Keith Ellison for introducing legislation in the House and Senate for same-day voter registration in federal elections.

This news article from the Dickinson Press out of North Dakota has the skinny.

The idea that citizens who want to vote are told by the government that they are not permitted to do so is appalling. And it happens every election.

Same-day voter registration puts more of the burden on the government -- as it should be -- to make sure that every citizen who wants to vote has an opportunity to do so.

Of course, Congress only has the authority to require same-day voter registration for federal elections, as the Constitution gives the authority to states to run their own elections any way they want.

But just like the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (usually called "motor-voter") that required federal voter registration forms in drivers' license facilities and public welfare offices where government officials regularly interact with citizens, these bills are also the right step led by Congress that most states will probably choose to follow for their state and local elections as well. Only a few states (notably Illinois under then-Governor Jim Edgar) petulantly ran two systems of voter registration, one for federal elections to comply with the NVRA and one for state and local elections. Now the entire nation largely follows the NVRA for state elections as well.

This is real progress and I predict and hope that with President Obama (a guy who got his start in politics with a huge 1992 voter registration drive in Chicago) and a Democratic Congress, the bill will be enacted into law in 2009, effective for the 2010 federal elections.