The Pandemic Encourages Us to Experiment

We experiment with new routines

Traditions often get disrupted when we experiment. As we shelter at home and change our routines, we experiment with new ways to live our lives. Commuting may be different for you – a shuffle in your slippers to a makeshift desk in your kitchen, perhaps. If you stay in touch with friends, you reach out via Facebook, FaceTime, Zoom, or other social media, proving there is a need to “see” them. You escape (perhaps a harsh descriptor) from your spouse or the kids or the family pet or work your minute-by-minute schedules around them. You experiment with new schedules, methods, and priorities. Life changes.

041320 Experiment

Since I’m retired, being sequestered in the home is not really so new. Not seeing other people is. Not freely going to the stores or out to appointments is a “lock-down” rather than a safety precaution. But I’m lucky.

Our neighborhood is relatively close-knit. We know each other. We know their kids and they know us. We know their pets and some even claim parts of our yard as their own. Even some of the neighborhood birds seem to think our lot is really theirs. The idea of home extends up and down our street.

Our neighbors and I have met virtually via Zoom a couple of times. In some ways we’re getting to know them even better than before. We are viewing the insides of their homes, for example. We discuss their wall hangings, window views, and their new schedules. We even ventured out to the cul-de-sac and shared a portable fire-pit evening, all at safe distances of course, to touch base in person.

The pandemic is an opportunity to experiment

The pandemic changes our lives, of course. So, we experiment. We try things out. For some, the circumstance provides a wonderful opportunity.

Warren Cornwall reports in Science Magazine about how “Social scientists scramble to study pandemic, in real time:”

If pandemic lockdowns have people feeling a bit like lab rats stuck in cages, in some ways that’s exactly what they are.

Cornwall’s explanation continues:

James Heckman, a Nobel Prize–winning economist at the University of Chicago, suggests researchers need to take to heart former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s adage: Never let a crisis go to waste. “Here, scientifically, I think we need to operate on that credo,” Heckman says. “We’re getting new information. It’s very valuable information.”

With help from a National Science Foundation grant, Ellen Peters at the University of Oregon, Eugene, has already surveyed 1300 people to see how their emotional state connects to what actions they take to protect themselves. [Peters notes:] This time, “We’re actually trying to catch people as it’s happening.” The results could be of immediate use to policymakers, who have already asked Peters for advice. It could also shed light on long-term questions about how people interpret risk and decide what to do in a disaster. 

It reassures me that such considerations – these experiments – are being conducted. I like it that people, smarter than me, are not ignoring the current situation; they’re not “letting the crises go to waste.”

Our nation can experiment with better voting practices

Our nation is a giant laboratory. The national experiments are not limited to disease and social adaptations. The 50 individual states afford us an opportunity to compare and contrast our various governance approaches, if we be so bold. States are trying different responses to COVID-19, for example.

The willingness to experiment can extend to our presidential elections. Each state is free to try a new way to convert its popular votes into electoral votes when electing a president. Our voting can be more inclusive, an interesting concept as we distance ourselves from each other.

Currently, we employ a Winner-Takes-All (WTA) methodology, which only serves to disenfranchise a large portion of voters. If you fail to vote with the plurality of voters in your state, for example, your vote gains no representation. Your vote is worth nothing – nada – zip! Across the nation in 2016, we set aside 46% of those votes. In my home state of Oregon, we ignored over 51%!

Equal Voice Voting (EVV), in contrast, removes the WTA problem and ensures that all voters matter! All it takes is for you, reading citizen, to let your legislators know it can be done. Let them know that you prefer a popular voting approach, meaning all of their constituents would matter. There is no need for amending the U.S. Constitution nor accepting an interstate compact with the National Popular Vote states. Respect your state’s sovereignty, the constitution, and retain your vote’s representative power.

All it takes is a little experiment.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team

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