Selfie Slow-Down

I have already blogged about one American judicial decision on the constitutionality of a “ballot selfie” ban, which has since been upheld on appeal by the Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. And I have also written about the history of the secret ballot, which in my view explains why measures to protect ballot secrecy ― including bans on something that might at first glance appear quite innocuous, like a selfie showing for whom a person has voted ― are actually more important than they seem. Another American decision issued last week, this one by the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, provides some additional food for thought on this issue.

Much of the discussion in Judge Sutton’s majority opinion in Crookston v Johnson is procedural. The case came up as an application for a preliminary injunction preventing the enforcement of Michigan’s prohibition on “exposing marked ballots to others”, (1) and Judge Sutton concludes that it is simply too late to grant one now in anticipation of the elections to be held on November 8. The people who will be running the election have already been trained and have received specific guidance on photography at the polling stations. Changing the rules at this point would create unnecessary confusion. So Judge Sutton does not rule on the merits of the case, which will be assessed later, assuming the applicant still cares. (This situation is reminiscent of the Canadian cases about election debates, which are invariably brought on an emergency basis when the debates are set up, and invariably abandoned before a full merits hearing once the election has taken place.)

But Judge Sutton does make some comments that bear on the merits of the dispute, and, although preliminary, these comments strike me as quite sensible and interesting. One observation is that

many Michigan voting stalls … are simply tall desks, placed next to each other, with three short dividers shielding the writing surface from view. In this setting, posing for a ballot selfie could compromise the secrecy of another’s ballot, distract other voters, and force a poll worker to intervene. (4)

My memory of Canadian voting stalls is a bit hazy ― I skipped the last election because I couldn’t tell which of the parties was worst ― but something like that might be true of them too. And indeed, even if it is not in any given case, it is worth thinking about whether our voting arrangements must actually be planned so as to cater to the “needs” of people wishing to snap a selfie.

Another practical point is that allowing ballot selfies could create a “risk of delay” at the polling stations, “as ballot-selfie takers try to capture the marked ballot and face in one frame—all while trying to catch the perfect smile”. (5) In a brief concurrence focusing entirely on the issue of delay, Judge Guy makes the additional point that “with digital photography, if you don’t like the way you look in the first one, you take another and so on ad infinitum.” (7) He wonders, too, whether “the allowance of taking a selfie also include use of the ubiquitous selfie stick”. (7)

And then, there are the issues that I have already discussed here ― whether the absence of evidence of ballot selfies’ harm shows that there is no reason for banning them or, on the contrary, demonstrates the effectiveness of the bans as a prophylactic measure. Judge Sutton clearly thinks that the latter is the case. Moreover, “[t]he links between [voter corruption and intimidation] and the prohibition on ballot exposure are not some historical accident; they are ‘common sense'”. (5, quoting US Supreme Court precedent.) Chief Judge Cole, dissenting, takes the contrary view, as have other American courts that have addressed selfie bans.

For own part, without expressing an opinion as to which of these views is correct as a matter of U.S. law, I have more sympathy for Judge Sutton’s. While I have been dwelling on the importance of evidence in constitutional adjudication for some time now, and critical of restricting rights on the basis of assumptions no later than yesterday, the evidence is actually there, albeit that it is mostly historical. Moreover, a court should be able to pronounce on the issue of delay without waiting for an “experiment” to take place. Common sense can be an unreliable guide to adjudication, but ― absent evidence to the contrary ― courts should be able to rely on it sometimes.

Prohibitions of ballot selfies might seem counter-intuitive or even quaint. In the United States, they run counter to the very strong tradition of virtually untrammelled freedom of expression. While I sometimes wish that Canadians took more inspiration from that tradition than they do (for example when it comes to the criminalization of “hate speech”), this is one instance where a more even-handed weighing of competing interests might be in order. Judges Sutton and Guy provide a useful reminder of what some of these interests are.

No Solution

The reasons people don’t vote suggest a mandatory voting law would be futile

Statistics Canada has released the results of a survey, conducted in conjunction with the November 2015 Labour Force Survey, to inquire into Canadians’ “Reasons for not voting in the federal election, October 19, 2015.” These results are interesting, albeit not quite inaccurate. To my mind at least, they are further evidence for the proposition that mandatory voting is not the solution to what ails Canadian democracy.

A word, first, about accuracy. Elections Canada put turnout in the last election at 68.49%, though that doesn’t include voters who registered on Election Day. Adding the number of voting day registrations from the Elections Canada “Report on the 42nd general election of October 19, 2015,” I get to a turnout of 70.4% ― though the report itself actually gives a lower figure, 68%. Anyway, these discrepancies don’t matter for my present purposes. What does is that according to Stats Can, 77% of Canadians “reported that they had voted in the 2015 federal election.” So unless the survey’s sample was unrepresentative (which is unlikely though not impossible), anywhere between 7 and 9% of the respondents lied about having voted.

Of course, this suggests that, for these people anyway, voting already is a duty ― albeit one that they might shirk. Which way this cuts in the debate about mandatory voting, I’m not sure. On the one hand, these people don’t need the law to tell them that there is a duty to vote ― they already believe there is one. On the other, the probably need a relatively small nudge to act on their belief, so a mandatory voting law setting a small penalty for not showing up might be effective at getting them involved in the political process.

What about the quarter of the population who actually admit to not voting? Stats Can has a detailed breakdown of their reasons for not voting. Almost a third say they are not interested in politics. Would the threat of a (small) penalty get them to the polls? Quite possibly, though surely not all of them. But what would they do once they get there? The threat of a fine won’t make them develop an interest that they now lack. At best, they will be honest enough to spoil their ballots. At worst, they will cast reluctant, uninformed votes, which will surely not improve our democratic process.

A relatively small number ― only 7% of the non-voters abstained for “political reasons” other than a lack of interest. I suspect that most of these were people who ― like me ― did not find a candidate or party to their liking. If voting were mandatory, most of us would presumably spoil our ballots (or vote “none of the above” if that’s an option). As I’ve observed here, a spoiled ballot doesn’t really add anything to the democratic process either, and even a small number of “none of the above” votes (7% of 23% is just over 1.5% of the electorate) would not be taken as a serious message by the political actors).

Almost half of the self-confessed non-voters invoked what Stats Can terms “everyday life or health reasons” ― being too busy (almost a quarter of the abstainers), being out of town, or being ill. Quite a few of them especially, though surely not only, those who were ill, would be excused under a mandatory voting regime, after an inquisition into their circumstances ― which doesn’t strike me as something that the state should be engaging in, but I suppose the defenders of mandatory voting see things differently. Others, those who consider themselves too busy, may well regard a small fine as a cost worth incurring. Even if the fine does tip their utility calculus in favour of voting, it is difficult to imagine that they would be willing to expend the much more substantial amount of time and effort it would take for them to become reasonably informed about the issues. They would show up at the polls and, like those uninterested in politics (to whom, I suspect, they resemble more than they care to admit), cast an uninformed ballot.

Finally, 8% of non-voters said that they stayed home for “electoral-process related reasons” ― such as inability to prove their entitlement to vote, or to get to the polling station, excessively long lines, or lack or information about the process. I find it difficult to believe that the threat of a fine would change anything to situation of these people, most of whom would anyway be excused.

Making voting mandatory will not improve our democracy. It will not make people who cannot be bothered to take the political process serious invest their time in it. While it will doubtless force some ― though not all ― of them to the polls, they will not be good voters, whatever one’s definition of “good” in this context. Nor will mandatory voting make those who simply don’t like the options on offer change their mind. And it will certainly not cure the sick or provide identification or transportation to those voters who lack one or the other. Even assuming for the sake of argument that abstention is a problem, mandatory voting is not a useful solution.

Let Them Vote

I have a new post up at the CBA National Magazine’s blog, arguing that, with one significant qualification, a private member’s bill that would lower the voting age at federal elections to 16 is a good idea and should be enacted. I have already made the case for lowering the voting age, to 16 if not lower still, here and here. So I am happy to see that an MP, Don Davies, has taken up this cause ― and I hope that the government endorses it too, which would make the passage of the bill much more likely.

The one reservation I have about Mr. Davies’ bill as it now stands is that it makes no separate provision for, and indeed no mention of, a minimum age for running for Parliament. As I explain in the National Magazine post, under the Canada Elections Act, almost all eligible voters are allowed to be candidates. But it is not obvious that the minimum age for being an MP and for voting should be the same. At the very least, I think the issue deserves to be debated.

Subject to that, I wish Mr. Davies’ good luck with his bill. Its enactment would make our democracy more inclusive, and thus better.

The Core of the Case against Electoral Reform

Why the concerns of those who want electoral reform do not move me

When I wrote about the constitutionality of electoral reform, I did not want to discuss its merits, beyond saying that I did not believe it had many, or the process by which it should be determine upon, beyond saying I favoured a referendum. While I thought it important to mention my positions in order to avoid my constitutional opinion being interpreted as self-serving, I did not mean to argue for them, not least because I did not think I had any arguments to make that would be very interesting or original. Prompted by some of the comments I received, I have thought about these arguments again, and come to the conclusion that one of them may be of some interest, because it is seldom if ever made.

The two main problems that electoral reform is usually said to address are those of “disproportionality” and “wasted votes.” Disproportionality refers to the discrepancy between the percentage of the votes received by a party and its percentage of seats in Parliament, any such discrepancy being, in the view of those who make this argument, undemocratic. Wasted votes are those that apparently do not serve to elect anyone ― that is, under the first-past-the-post system that we now use, those cast for candidates who do not win the riding in which the votes are cast. Proposed reforms ― ranked ballot and mixed-member proportional representation are the main options, if I understand correctly ― address these issues in different ways and to different degrees, but I take it that those are who support reform are usually motivated by these concerns. (Or at least, those who support reform on grounds of principle rather than partisan interest.) There are other arguments for electoral reform, of course, such as that ranked ballot is supposed to make for kinder, gentler politics (like in Australia, I guess), or increased voter turnout (like in Switzerland, I suppose) but they strike me as speculative at best.

Here’s why concerns about disproportionality and wasted votes do not move me. Imagine a simple election between two candidates ― like the run-off stage in a French presidential election. Say the winner gets 55% of the vote, and the loser gets 45%. But the winner gets the prize, the French presidency for example, 100% of it, and the people who voted for the loser go home and their votes have no apparent effect at all. On the account of our would-be electoral reformers, this election results in substantial disproportionality, and a large fraction of the votes cast in it is wasted. Its democratic character should, therefore, be regarded as very questionable. Except that, of course, nobody actually thinks that. Similarly, nobody thinks it undemocratic that a party with, say, 55% of the seats in Parliament gets to govern 100% of the time while that Parliament exists, and nobody seems to say that the votes of the opposition parties are “wasted.”  The disproportion between 55% of the seats and 100% of the power is actually more significant, both in sheer numbers and, more importantly, in effect, than, say, that between getting 40% of the vote and 55% of Parliamentary seats. Yet it is only the latter that is said to be somehow undemocratic. I just don’t see how that is the case. The complaints of the proponents of electoral reform sound in principle, but they strike me as selective and inconsistent with what they are happy to accept in other situations.

For my part, I am no more bothered by the disproportionality or wasted votes in the elections for Parliament than by the same “problems” that arise within Parliament itself. What concerns me is how to limit the ability of a Parliamentary majority, however constituted, to harm both the opposition in Parliament and the citizenry at large ― including its supporters of course ― while it is in office, and how to prevent that majority from entrenching itself so as to become impossible to remove from office at the next election. Electoral reform is not a solution to these concerns. (Indeed some version of it may ― though this too is a speculative argument ― make the entrenchment problem worse.) It is therefore, in my view, an unnecessary disruption of our politics, and a distraction from the issues on which we should be focusing.

NOTE: Feel free to comment, but I doubt I will respond unless I think your observations respond directly to the point I’m making.

A Civic Choice

This is the last substantive post in my duty-to-vote series. I have already addressed a number of instrumental arguments in favour of such a duty: claims that it allows better aggregation of information about the voters’ preferences, that it enhances the legitimacy of our political system, and that it improves the quality of election campaigns. In this post, I address a different type of argument: that we must vote not because universal voting serves some other purpose, but just because it is a “civic duty.” One cannot, it is said, be a good citizen if one does not vote.

Andrew Coyne, although he also makes a number of instrumental arguments in favour of a (legally-enforced) duty to vote, invokes this idea of civic duty when he asks, presumably rhetorically: “[w]hy should voting, the fundamental act of democracy, be an option, and not, like jury duty or paying your taxes, a basic obligation of citizenship?” When I first announced this series of posts, Craig Forcese responded (on Tiwtter) that “Civics, like reading, is [a] muscle that atrophies [without] regular use,” and further that “[v]oting [is a] collaborative civics ritual in an atomized society [with] very few” of those. It is, he said, “[a]s much about membership as governance.”

I have to admit that I am somewhat perplexed by the idea of a “civic duty” that exists for no particular reason, just as an incidence of membership in society. Mr. Coyne’s examples of jury duty and taxes can be justified (if indeed they can be), on instrumental grounds. Jury trial is (so we think) a bulwark of liberty, while taxes are needed to keep government running and to help the poor or those otherwise in need of their fellow-citizens’ assistance. But instrumental justifications for a duty to vote, I have argued, do not succeed.

But let’s put that doubt to one side, and let’s stipulate that we can have some duties as a result of our membership in society, regardless of whether fulfilling these duties actually serves any useful purpose. And let’s stipulate that one such duty is to take public affairs seriously, to concern yourself with the way your society is governed, and to share this concern with your fellow-citizens. I’m actually very skeptical that we have such a duty. It seems to be, at best, an instantiation of a broader, and more plausible, duty to contribute to society ― but as Jason Brennan argues in his book on The Ethics of Voting and in a post over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, we have any number of ways to contribute to society, not all of them having anything to do with politics or public affairs writ large:

For any given citizen, given what other citizens are doing and are good at doing, there will be an optimal mix of political and non-political ways for her to pay her debt [to society, assuming that there is one]. For some citizens, this will mean heavy political engagement at the expense of other pursuits. For other citizens, it will mean complete disengagement so as to free the citizen to pursue non-political activities. For most citizens, the optimal mix will be some combination of political and non-political engagement.

(I’m not sure, by the way, that prof. Brennan is even correct to say that “for most citizens” political engagement will be part of the “optimal mix.” The average levels of political ignorance are so high that “most citizens” may be doing more harm than good by becoming involved in politics in any way. But let’s put that to one side too.)

Anyway, let’s stipulate that we have a duty to become politically engaged together with our fellow citizens. Does it follow that we have a duty to vote? I do not think so. To be sure, voting is a way to fulfill this hypothetical duty, but it is not the only one. Surely, debating public affairs, whether just with your friends on Facebook or in some more public forum, is a form of political engagement. Surely, working for some organization that contributes to the public good, as it sees it, is a way of taking part in the polity’s affairs. I would, indeed, go further, and say that such ways of becoming engaged are actually much more significant that voting. I am pretty sure that I have contributed a good deal more to the res publica, over the last three and a half years, with this blog than I would by casting ― or, a fortiori, by spoiling ― a ballot next Monday. Perhaps we have, as Sean Hunt put it to me on Twitter, a “duty to consider” our options. But then what? If, having considered the choices on offer, you find none of them palatable, I do not think that you do anything wrong by staying home.

For those who, like prof. Forcese, worry that the civic instincts of the abstainers will atrophy without a quadrennial exercise in walking to the polling station, I think that a “duty to consider” or a duty to be engaged in public affairs should be enough. If you follow politics and think about it, you will surely not fail to vote if or when you finally see a party that actually deserves your support, or perhaps even one that is so much worse than the others that you vote strategically against it. It is interesting, I think, that a recent poll found that people who think that voting is a choice are not much less likely to vote as those who think that it is a duty. Among the former, only 5% said they would not vote, while 11% are undecided as to whom they will support. Among the latter it was 0 and 5%, respectively. (26) The absolute numbers are probably lower than they are in reality: overall, 72% of those who were eligible to vote in 2011 said they voted, while the true turnout rate was closer to 60% ― people lie to pollsters (and I wonder whether the purportedly duty-bound do not lie more than those who allow themselves the choice). But in any event, it’s not those who think that voting is a choice who fail to vote in large numbers: it’s those who “don’t know” whether it’s a choice or a duty. Among them, 19% say they will not vote, and 31% are undecided.

In short, voting is neither necessary to promote some ulterior good, nor in itself a duty. It is a right which, as I pointed out in this earlier post discussing the claim that we ought to vote out of gratitude to those who helped secure and defend our right to do so, like all other rights, we can choose to exercise or not. This choice should not be made lightly, but it can, and should, be made freely.

It Won’t Help

This is yet another post on the duty to vote. Here, I address arguments according to we have such a duty because if everyone votes, the quality of election campaigns and, possibly, of governance, will be better than under the current state of affairs, where some people vote, and others do not. This argument, like the information- and legitimacy-based ones that I addressed previously, is instrumental, in that it says universal voting not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve another desirable result. And indeed this result ― campaigns and governance (is there even a difference between the two anymore? was there ever?) that are oriented toward the public good rather than to pandering to specific segments of the population ― is a most desirable one. But can it justify a duty to cast a ballot?

Susan Delacourt has argued that if voting were mandatory, people tempted to engage in electoral chicanery destined to depress turnout among their opponents would refrain from doing so. Presumably, the same thing would be true even in the absence of a legal mandate, if they knew that everyone believed voting is obligatory. I have also seen suggestions that employers would more readily allow employees time to vote on election day. Yet it is already illegal to prevent people from voting, and employers already have a legal obligation to allow their workers three consecutive hours in which to cast their ballot. I do not understand how the existence of a duty to vote, whether legal or moral, would change the calculus of individuals already prepared to break the law.

Ms. Delacourt also worries that “[s]ome of the dumbing-down of discourse” that plagues our elections “has taken place because political campaigns have become preoccupied with simply getting out the vote (often with shiny baubles) rather than a debate of ideas.” Andrew Coyne has expressed the same concern, writing that “[a]ll of the parties would be … happy if voters outside their base got lost on the way to the polling station. Elections today are not about reaching out to uncommitted voters, so much as motivating yours — typically out of fear of theirs.” (Emphasis in the original)

Yet, tellingly, neither Mr. Coyne nor Ms. Delacourt has offered any evidence that the politics of nations with mandatory voting are more high-minded, or less prone to “the dumbing-down of discourse” or resort to wedge issues than ours. It is from Australia, the country that inspires the defenders of a duty to vote, that the Conservatives have imported Lynton Crosby, the purported guru of wedge issue campaigns ― though, in fairness, the use of wedge politics responds to much broader trends, which I briefly described here, and which affect all democracies, regardless of whether they make voting mandatory. The Australian habit of changing Prime Ministers every year, or perhaps after every poll, also does not strike me as a sign of good governance. There is, in short, little reason to believe that a duty to vote is a panacea, or even a moderately useful remedy, for what ails our politics.

On the contrary, Ilya Somin points out, a duty to vote might make things worse. The people who tend to abstain when voting is voluntary are on average more ignorant than those who vote and, as Jason Brennan notes, empirical studies suggest that even forcing people to vote “doesn’t cause uninformed voters to become any better informed.” An electorate enlarged by the existence of a duty to vote is thus a more ignorant one. The trouble is, as prof. Somin explains, that “[f]or fairly obvious reasons, relatively ignorant voters are more likely to be influenced by simplistic 30 second ads than relatively well-informed ones (who, among other things, tend to have stronger preexisting views).” After all, the problem for the parties does not end with getting voters into a polling booth. Even if the voters get there on their own, they must be made to pick one party rather than another. And if simplistic ads, wedge issues, and fear are the most effective means to do that, these are the means the parties will resort to. With voters who do not care very much about politics and only vote out of a sense of duty, this is even more likely to be the case than with others. A duty to vote, then, might mean more instead of less “dumbing down the discourse” and reliance on wedge issues.

A duty to vote will not improve the state of our electoral politics ― no more than it will make politicians take the interests or opinions of the voters into account, or make our democracies more legitimate. It will neither prevent those who are inclined to break the law to interfere with other people’s votes from doing so, nor discourage political parties from engaging in the sort of campaigning that debases our public affairs and prevents thoughtful discussion of policy issues. In short, in my view, a duty to vote simply cannot achieve any of the purposes that its proponents invoke to justify it. Having dealt with the instrumental arguments in favour of this duty, however, I still must address the deontological one according to which voting is simply a matter of civic duty. I will do that in the next post in this series, probably early next week.

Is It Legit?

I am continuing my series of posts about the duty to vote ― or nonexistence thereof. Earlier this week, I addressed what I called information-based arguments: claims to the effect that we must vote in order to contribute our views, either about what political option is best for us, or about which of them will make for better government in the general interest. I had addressed the gratitude-based arguments in an earlier post. Here I take on a different sort of argument, which I will describe as legitimacy-based. It is the idea that it is necessary for people to vote because the continuing legitimacy of our democratic political arrangements depends on widespread participation. If abstention rates are too high, democracy itself is at risk. This argument, in my view, is both empirically and normatively problematic.

Let’s start with the normative problem. The legitimacy-based government (like the information-based one) is an instrumental one: it considers that voting is a duty not for its own sake, but for a ulterior purpose. In order for democracy to endure and thrive, you ought to vote. But not everyone agrees with this purpose. A democratic society does not expect or require all of its members to be democrats. There are authoritarians in our midst, and there are anarchists. I happen to think that they are wrong; most people presumably think so too. But they are entitled to their opinions, and I do not see why they would have a moral duty (still less, of course, how one could justify imposing on them a legal duty) to nurture a political system with which they disagree.

Very well, you will say, but what of the majority who do believe that democracy is the best political system, or at least the worst except all the others? Don’t they have a duty to vote in order to reinforce this system? Indeed, there is some threshold of participation below which an electoral system can lose its legitimacy and will be in danger of being replaced by less democratic arrangements. The situation of Québec’s school boards is a case in point: the commissioners and chairpersons of the boards are elected, but in 2014, only 5.5% of the province’s voters bothered to cast a ballot ― and the government is now planning on scrapping the elections. (To be clear: I have no idea whether, in that instance, less democratic means worse.) But is the theoretical possibility of this happening enough to justify a duty to vote?

Nobody actually thinks that everyone must vote in order for an electoral system, or the result of a given election, to be legitimate. The Québec secession referenda were not illegitimate because turnout was “only” 85.6% in 1980 and 93.5% in 1995. Nor were Canadian elections grounds for legitimacy concerns when turnout fluctuated around 75%. Of late, however, it has been substantially lower ― around 60%. But for all the worries about the vitality of Canadian democracy that these numbers have provoked, they would be reasonably high for presidential elections (never mind, say, mid-terms) in the United States. I’m not sure anyone worries about the survival and legitimacy of democracy in the United States, at least not because of turnout figures ― though to be sure there is no shortage of people who would like them to be higher. The same goes, to the best of my knowledge, for Switzerland, where turnout in the three federal elections held since 2000 has consistently been below 50% (45.2% in 2003, 48.9% in 2007, and 49.1% in 2011).

All that to say that while there is some turnout threshold below which the viability of a democratic system can come into question, it is quite clearly situated well below the turnout levels actually observed in Canadian elections. Quite clearly, nothing like near-universal participation in elections is necessary for a well-functioning democracy. It is thus not at all clear that an individual’s commitment to democracy translates into a duty to vote. Besides, that commitment can be expressed in any number of ways other than voting, a topic to which I will come back in a subsequent post.

The legitimacy-based argument sometimes has a somewhat different focus, reflecting a concern not with the vitality of the democratic system as such, but with the legitimacy of specific governments. Thus Andrew Coyne worries that “‘[m]ajority’ governments are now formed in this country with the support of barely one in five adult citizens — about the same as elected governments a century ago, when women were not allowed to vote.” In his view, this amounts to “a crisis of democratic legitimacy.” As with the concerns about the legitimacy of democratic politics as such, it is not clear that the crisis is real. Was there a crisis of democratic legitimacy during the presidency of Bill Clinton, first elected in 1992 with 43% of the popular vote on a turnout of 55.2%, and thus the votes of 23.7% of the registered voters, re-elected in 1996 with 49.2% of the votes cast out of a turnout of 49%, and thus the support of 24.1% of the registered voters? If there was, why is it that more than 60% of the American people apparently approved of that job he had done by the end of his second term? Actually, I doubt that Mr. Coyne or others who trot out this particular argument really believe in it. It is a nice rhetorical flourish, and nothing more.

The need to preserve the legitimacy of our democratic system or even of the governments that it produces cannot justify a duty to vote even for those who accept that this need is a pressing concern ― which is not everyone in politically free and pluralistic societies. There are at least a couple of other arguments in favour of such a duty that I have not yet addressed, however. I try to do so shortly. And if you are worried that I will miss your favourite one, do not hesitate to tell me about it!