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Vignette: Boldest And Grandest
“Number 1 in the nation! Channel 13 brings you Decision 2016, live!”
The television blared a vaguely processedsounding tune that sounded,
despite its better efforts, neither like the national anthem nor the
normal jingle. A montage of disconnected images from past elections –
the ’74 debates, Wilson’s Hand of Liberty speech, Jim Hightower’s
eulogy for former President Richards – fly past, intercut with Dave
Ward’s steadily aging visage.
He’s become an institution,
It’ll be strange to see someone else up there next year. Not
that anyone is seeing him up there this year, what with the Hurricanes
playing the Vaqueros on Channel 12.
Ward faded into view in the center of the screen, his face not
betraying any hint of emotion over his coming retirement. “Good
evening, friends,” he began in the businesslike tone of a man who’s
repeated the same words for so long that they’ve become white noise,
“I’m Dave Ward. The polls have just closed in the Presidential
election, as well as in the elections to the House and for several
Senate seats. Now, we won’t have any results for a few minutes, but
we will be able to show you our exit polling data.”
There was a slightly awkward pause before the graphics deigned to
appear. Even then, they had to be heralded by an overlyelaborate
intro, which swirled into a pie chart just as Darren reentered his
office with a mug of coffee.
“Well,” said Ward, “that’s a bit more green than we were expecting.”
The graphics shrunk to the bottomleft corner of the screen as the
psephologistdujour came into view, with the expression of a puppy
left outside during the rain but suddenly allowed into the house.
Professor Thomas Brunell said, “A bit, but the swing is still well
within the expected margin of error. Plus, the countylevel electoral
system provides enough of a structural advantage to the National
Party to make this a fairly close race.”
“And,” prompted Ward, “for the viewers at home who may not know, what
is the countylevel electoral system?”
As if anyone in the Republic of Texas doesn’t
The person with the username CHESSPIECEFACE typed furiously,
switching over to the 345 website every few moments. The screen
before him read “HACKTIVITY: can someone explain the countylevel
election system? I’m afraid I don’t quite get it.”
He typed “Certainly.” and hit enter, but had to append “Give me a
moment.” as the small creature beside him attacked his hair
“Ow,” he uttered, “Ellie. Release the hair.”
He attempted to pull his sister off of his head, and eventually
succeeded when she let go of her own accord, smiling in bucolic joy.
He smiled back before glancing at the screen.
The user with a username too vulgar to contemplate had advanced a
theory about his delay that was both similarly vulgar and medically
impossible. CHESSPIECEFACE rolled his eyes and began to type.
“Alright, here goes:
“Texans do not elect their Presidents directly, as you know. Instead,
they vote to tell their electors what to do. The electors go to
Harrisburgh and elect the President.
“In theory, the electors have carte blanche to vote for whichever
candidate they want. In practice, they can only do that if no
President is elected on the first ballot, because ‘whichever
candidate they want’ turned out to often be ‘whichever of the
candidates could better intimidate them’.”
“So Johnson?” asked the vulgarlynamed user.
“Yeah. Convincing the electors to vote for their assigned candidates
one of the few things Connally did that I can actually respect. Pity
he didn’t do it intentionally.”
“But what does this have to do with counties?”
“I’m getting to that,” CHESSPIECEFACE replied, slightly acerbically.
“The electors are each responsible to their district. The districts
are identical to the counties, except for Comancheria and a few
historical quirks where they switched around the county borders
without updating the districts.
“Not only do districts overlap – in many cases, they are identical.
Galveston County sends 41 electors to Harrisburgh each election
“But each elector represents one and only one county – King County
and its hundred voters by themselves send an elector.”
“Hang on,” replied HACKTIVITY. “I thought the system was biased
toward Nationals because it gave rural voters more power than urban
“How, if the counties get extra seats to compensate them?”
“The elector for King County represents two hundred fifty voters. The
electors for Galveston represent sixty thousand each.”
“The bias is cancelled out by how the Galveston electors all go for a
single candidate, even if he or she only won by a single vote,
though. The real bias is against urban third parties like Citizens’
Alliance, who often can’t break in the way that
Partido Tejano, Liberty, or the GGG can in rural areas.
“Full disclosure – I’m biased, as I’ve campaigned for CA in the past.
Though not this election – my mother is so proRichards it’s not even
“She’s preventing you from campaigning?”
“Well, the thing is that I agree with her.”
He was about to continue, when he heard the voice of Dave Ward.
“Our first results have begun to come in,” he said. “First off,
Comancheria, as usual, held its election a day early in its effort to
be the first to declare – it’s unique in Texas for having the legal
ability to do so, but it was not allowed to count its votes yet. They
show an unsurprising victory for Nʉ
. There was some
talk earlier in the campaign of the Populists managing to unseat them
here, but that was a bit farfetched even in this election.”
A swathe of Cimarron turned rustbrown as the newscaster began to
prattle about swings and voteshares. The Scouts ignored the
newscaster as he began to talk with the newly reelected delegate for
After all, this was the celebration for the Godly Government Group.
They all knew that George Strake had made a deal with Sam Houston
Area Council to furnish Scouts for the cameras. And if they were
going to make them sit still for hours while pretending to be excited
when counties turned purple, at least they certainly weren’t going to
be happy about it.
A smattering of Prairie counties turned blue as the clock ticked
forward to 10:00. The crowd outside the Capitol erupted in scattered
cheering, but it was mostly silent. After all, for most of those
counties, the National Party winning was about as interesting as the
sun coming up.
There were dispersed moans and cheers as Snyder County turned gold.
“So, Mr. Phelan, with the exit poll and now your loss of some
formerly safe seats, is this a bad night for your party?”
The Senator for Northeast Beaumont smiled, with a slightly strained
“Well, maybe, but at this point it’s too early to call. Remember, in
1992 we all thought that Doggett was going to win at this point.”
Ward gave the tightlipped smile of someone who remembered it
differently, but was too polite to correct him. “Perhaps, but hasn’t
your party taken Snyder County consistently since the ‘70s, at
“The Liberty Party is strong there, though. This happened about two
decades ago, you thought that George Strake winning in East Texas
meant that the National Party was on its last legs. It’s not. We’re
going to win, either in this election or in the next one.”
Ward smiled enigmatically. “Well, we’ll see. Thank you for your
“It won’t be the same without you here,” Phelan professed.
Ward looked amused as he said, “Thank you, but I’m sure that Iola
will do just fine. Coming up next, we have...”
The elector diagram at the bottom of the screen shifted slightly as
Hays County was called for the Populists, but with the audio muted
and facing away from the screen, Jeff was unaware. Not that he would
have particularly cared he already knew that the election was going
to go for the Populists.
Three more years.
The call connected. “Alright, you got me. I’m ready.”
The other end replied inaudibly. The man who would in another word be
called Jeff Bezos swallowed and replied, “Yeah. Jorgensen ‘19.”
He set down the phone, rolled his eyes, and said, “Goddamn it.”
An outside observer would assume that the blue sea, dotted with small
islands, that covered Texas according to the map represented the
winning party. But the diagram of electors, coming in in short bursts
by the end of the night, told a different story.
Harris, Trinity, Jefferson, Williamson, all green. Conroe flashed
green, blue, and purple as more results came in, before settling on
blue. Bexar turned red before eventually turning green.
The clock struck midnight as Nueces and Austin Counties turned green.
Thirtyfour green stick figures zoomed into the bar at the bottom as
the green rectangle extended past the dotted centerline.
There was a palpable silence on the Strand before the crowd started
cheering. The map faded away to an image of PresidentElect Cecile
Richards, the distant sound of the national anthem and screaming
fireworks began, and Cara Sneed began to wonder if they would still
be cheering for her in three years.
The living room was empty and the conversation forgotten as
CHESSPIECEFACE watched his final interview for the night.
“So, Bob,” a noticeably tired Dave Ward said, “are you expecting to
be reappointed as Secretary of State?”
“To be honest,” he said calmly, “not really. But it’s possible, and I
will go wherever President Richards tells me to go.”
“How much of a role, do you think, did foreign events, play in the
“Well, I don’t know. I suspect, though, that Richards was elected
because voters thought that she could better deal with Kennedy, with
Romney, with Kahwagi, with”
“You listed Romney up there,” said Ward, “with the Presidents of the
United States and Mexico. Does this mean that the Richards government
supports independence for the Mormon Colonies?”
Krueger looked taken aback. “Well, we support it if the people of the
Colonies support it. I don’t want to speak for everyone before we’ve
looked at all of the options, of course, but I do want to reaffirm
our commitment to democracy in”
The TV turned off, and CHESSPIECEFACE walked off, wondering whether
that had been an intentional slip. It could be what it appeared, a
slip of the tongue, or it could be a tacit endorsement of a
referendum with plausible deniability.
Either way, it was going to be an interesting three years.
Cecile Richards (P)
Susana Martinez (N)
Michael Berry (L)
Roger Rocha (PT)
LaDonna Harris (NS)
Kinky Friedman (FIESTA!)
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