Monday, October 25, 2010

Voting Stories

Or: Great Moments in Democracy.

As promised, here's the thread for your voting stories, for those who are voting early.  I love voting stories, and I'd love to hear yours.  How many different positions/questions did you have on your ballot?  What was the goofiest or most obscure office?  How did you go about choosing candidates in obscure, non-partisan contests, if you had any of those?

In the previous thread, the longest reported ballot had 42 choices, in LA County; the shortest was 10, in Wisconsin.  Can we beat those?

I'll won't be voting until election day, so I'll tell whatever story I have then, but if you've voted early and didn't tell your story in the previous thread, here's your chance. 


  1. Hmm. Okay, time to start doing my homework. I like to go to the polls on election day -- the family marches in en masse around 7 am to cast our ballots with premarked sample ballots.I used to be a pollworker but no longer have the stamina for a 14-hour day.

    Checking over the LA County ballot, I reflect briefly on how pathetic is the California Green Party when I see their candidate for LG is a "cultural spiritual adviser" by trade. Sigh.

    We have 6 parties to choose from this year. Besides Dem, Repub, and Green, there's Libertarian, American Independent, Peace and Freedom. Hmm wonder what happened to the Natural Law Party this year.

    State offices will be solid Dem. For State Assembly, I bitterly defer my decision for Dem Gil Cedillo. You can't vote for the Repub and encourage the strategy of gridlock they've visited upon the State government for 20 years. The Repubs are such a fringe group in Cali that they have put all their eggs in the basket of retaining that one marginal seat that constitutes the one-third of the Assembly and Senate that blocks every budget, every attempt at sane governance in Sacramento.

    Skipping the 19 judgeships for now. Let's see. Skipping the Superintendent of Public Instruction for now. Assessor's office. I see that Noguez is backed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Automatic disqualifier. I'll go for the other guy.

    Nine State Measures. For these Propositions, my default position is a big fat NO!!! Initiatives have been the bane of California Politics for 30 years. Anyone with money can buy their own law, their own Constitutional Amendment, by sucking in the lazy, apathetic California voter. Think of a warm, cutesy title for your law, fashion yourself a warm fuzzy ad with soothing narrator and rousing music, and you've got yourself a law.

    19- Legalizes marijuana. No.

    20- Removes elected reps from redistricting - HELL NO.

    21-Vehicle license surcharge to fund State parks. No. What did you do with all those other surcharges to fund State parks? Raise admission prices, why don't you?

    22- Prohibits states from taking funds from local government. Hmmm. That's a hard one. I support the concept, but it's an "initiative constitutional amendment." Bears more research, deferred.

    23- suspends implementation of air pollution law - ah, yes, Koch's Law. HELL TO THE NO!

    24- The Tax Fairness Act. Hmm. warm and fuzzy title, anti-business, backed by progressive groups. Still, we aren't reflexively anti-business. Nothing intrinsically wrong with tax incentives for business. Requires more study.

    25- Majority Vote to Pass the Budget Act. YES! YES! A thousand times YES!

    26-"Requires that certain state and local fees be approved by two-thirds vote. Fees include those that address adverse impacts on society or the environment caused by the fee-payer's business." Uh. HELL no!

    and finally

    27-Eliminates state commission on redistricting. (See Prop 20.) I'm of the opinion that redistricting needs to be done by elected officials. State commissions are a bad idea. I don't mind gerrymandering, I don't think gerrymandering is intrinsically evil, and these state commissions tend to operate outside the watchful eye of the public. The appointments tend to be political plums so don't try to tell me they are non-political bodies. Think the Deficit Commission, otherwise known as the Catfood Commission. Just a bad, bad idea. I prefer gerrymandering, thanks. Still, is this initiative the right way to address it? Bears more research.

    Okay, that's my first pass. Much hard work ahead.

    We should have a debate on gerrymander versus crayon commission, Jonathan. You're a crayon commission advocate, aren't you?

  2. James,
    As someone who voted against Prop 11 (to create the redistricting commission), made it to the last round to get ON said commission, and wrote an article on how CA needs redistricting reform, let me address your points on 27.

    I would argue that the method of selection for the commission does not make the gig a political plum. I'd like to think that my making it pretty far in the process is an indication that it's not the worst selection process in the world, if only to stroke my ego.

    Now, that said, the commission still requires 3 of 5 Dems, 3 of 4 Indies, and 3 of 5 Reps to vote for whatever maps "they" draw, fully understanding that staff are likely doing the actual drawing. I'm not sure what that produces. My guess: absosmurfly nothing, and the commission won't be able to draw lines before the deadline, and it'll go to special masters and the court.

    Prop 27 actually has a nasty little hook to it, though: it gets rid of the commission, then specifies that the legislature's plan could be taken to the ballot box. So, while I'm more torn than you are on whether a legislature is the right venue to draw the lines, 27 is really tough for me, because I'm positive that the ballot box is the absolutely worst way to do it.

  3. Prof Jarvis,

    Thanks for weighing in. I'd love to read your article. Got a link?

    That's what I most dislike about these initiatives: they always seem to have a nasty little hook that we regular voters don't really have the tools available to fully appreciate. The devil is usually in those details.

    Thanks to you as well for being willing to be involved in the unrewarding meat of governing. I'm sorry you didn't make the commission cut.

    I'll have to give your points some thoughts, but I fully concur that putting this stuff up for a vote is a terrible way to do it. We elect legislators to do this kind of stuff, and they ought to do it.

    See, let's look at the composition of this commission as you outlined. Tell me why Republicans should have equal representation as Dems. Dems constitute 43% of the Cali electorate, Repubs are only 31%. That heavily biases the commission in favor of Repubs, right? And I assume that "Independent" includes all the fringe parties. What about the "Decline to State"? They constitute 20% of the California electorate. Seems like you could really pack the commission there. Decline to States are *not* true independent voters. They are often the most partisan of voters who think they are working some kind of "strategy voting" game. Which is another factor of Cali politics that burns me: who are these people to dictate to MY party who shall stand for election? That's the party's job, their raison d'être. But that's another debate for another time.

    I just don't think a commission, heavily biased in favor of a particular minority party, is going to do a satisfactory job of drawing district lines. The legislature might not do a satisfactory job either, but at least they are directly accountable. That's their job, after all.


  4. I wrote in about my absentee ballot last time, but I wanted to piggyback on James' first post.

    Michigan had 6 parties too, and Natural Law was one! They survive. The other "third parties" were Green, Libertarian, and U.S. Taxpayers... The last of which was a new one for me.

  5. Further on this question of CA Props 20 and 27: Am I correct that they directly contradict each other, yet (in theory) could both pass? And do any of you guys know what would happen then?

  6. Jeff, in case both propositions pass, the one with more votes wins.


  7. James,
    That link for you:

    As to your point, yes, the commission isn't representative. (oh, and the Indies on the commission include DTS) I hope what I said wasn't coming off as an endorsement of it nor an attack on 27. I simply meant to note that what we seemed presented with is a choice between various somewhat distasteful choices. 27 gives us the legislature, plus appeal to ballot box. No on 27 gives us a commission that allows a majority of any of the subgroups of the commission to kill anything.

    Suppose you liked the commission doing these things. What are you to make of 20? Yes, Congress included, so a supporter of 11 should be in favor of that. However, it also (for reasons I've never figured out) moves up the deadline for producing the lines a month, making it less likely the commission will be able to finish, what with 33% more work to do in about 80-ish% of the time it used to have.

  8. No office too obscure or nonpartisan on the ballot here in southwest Multnomah County, Oregon, thank God (well, excepting five judgeships, but no one bothered to run against the incumbents). In fact, of the seven competitive races, only one was nonpartisan: the runoff for Metro President. Thankfully, the position isn't all that obscure, given how hugely important Metro is and how obsessed with land use Oregonians are.

    This is the first general election since fusion voting was revived. It doesn't seem like the minor parties are taking advantage of it; looks like only the Independent and Working Families parties bothered to cross-endorse anyone. Oh, wait, the Greens and Progressives cross-endorsed some of each other's candidates. Thanks guys.

    Oh, spoke too soon: in the 43rd state House district, Lew Frederick is running unopposed with the endorsements of the Democrats, Republicans, and the WFP. He must be one hell of a candidate!

    We have seven state measures this year (you beat us this time, California, but next time you won't be so lucky!), two city measures, one Trimet (local transit authority) measure, and a whopping seven county measures. To be fair, that last one is unusual: the county set up a commission to recommend changes to the county charter, so we usually don't have quite so many local measures to consider.

    And, since we have all mail-in ballots here in Oregon, I voted the way God intended: rip-roaring drunk.

  9. @Matt,

    Thanks for the link. Unfortunately I couldn't find a way to get the entire article, but the abstract had some interesting points.

    Your basic argument, as I understand it, is that California needs more "competitive" districts in order to alleviate the gridlock in Sacramento, and that redistricting reform would (might) accomplish this.

    I'm obviously no match for your academic credentials. But I disagree with your argument on several points.

    1) Though we don't like the gridlock in Sacramento, the fundamental problem isn't district boundaries. The fundamental problem is term limits, balanced budget laws, two-thirds majority requirements for taxes and budgets, unfunded mandates, and all the myriad crazy initiatives that the California voting public foisted upon themselves these past 30 years.

    2) There is no guarantee that "reform" by commission or otherwise would produce competitive boundaries, whatever competitive means.

    3) There is no guarantee that, if we attained competitive boundaries, it would alleviate the gridlock in Sacramento. You are proposing that California elect more Republicans. (After all, that's what "competitive" means, yes?) But the Republicans have the strategy of obstruction, so electing more Republicans would mean *more* gridlock, not less. More elected Republicans in Sacramento, in fact, would ensure that there would be no chance of peeling off a Senator or two to pass a budget.

    I see these commissions as just another gadget in the Rube Goldberg machine that is California politics. I can't see how adding yet another gadget that doesn't get to the fundamental problem is going to be helpful. Let's fix what is actually wrong with the process instead.

    In fact, instead of yet another commission, one could easily set district boundaries by GIS analysis. ArcView could easily draw boundaries by equal population parameters, taking into account similarities in communities by income or whatever parameters agreed upon. If we want to be fair, let's take politics completely out if it and set them analytically. But that would make so much sense, it would please nobody.

    NOTE: I didn't take your comments as supporting or opposing the props, but I did find them helpful.

    I'm moving to Oregon.

  10. I won't be able to vote until election day (by the way, did you see the analysis of the affect of early voting? evidently removing the barrier of having to vote on a certain day does not outweigh the social component!)

    But on my ballot there are three - 3!!! - state constitutional amendments. We amend the state constitution, it seems, at least every other cycle if not every cycle (for at least 3 cycles we had a "define stem cell research" - repeal definition battle going on). This year, we are considering whether we will write into the constitution that:

    (1) County assessor must an be elected official where there is a charter government except in counties with pop. 600K-699K (grand total of 1 county)
    (2) POWs with total service-related disability will be exempt from property tax (cost to the state: $1,200)
    (3) No jurisdiction can levy a new tax on the real estate sales and transfers.

    We also have 2 statutory ballot measures.

    (1)Having the entire state vote every 5 years on the state-granted right of 2 jurisdictions to levy an earnings tax (2 urban centers in a rural state -- I drove through the state's most distant corner were I bet there is not a single person who pays the 1% earning tax and they had huge signs out in favor of putting it to a vote)
    (2) A puppy mill measure.

    Aside from those, we do have a senate race -- doesn't look at that competitive but it is an open seat. And finally comes the range of supreme, appeals, and circuit judges (13 in total) that are up for election -- I do not recognize a single name... and have not criteria for judging whether they should retain their seat.

    I am a big proponent of voting but this is just an ugly, dispiriting process...

  11. Here in Richland County, Ohio, the ballot is short on initiatives but still long anyway.

    At the federal level, there's elections for Senate and Congress. There's five candidates on the ballot for Senate, plus one official write-in. That's the most I think we've had for a Senate race for quite a long time (D, R, Libertarian, Socialist, Constitution). The Constitution Party candidate has been indicted for having sex with a minor!

    In my congressional race (OH-4) there's a third-party candidate (Lib) for the first time. Maybe he'll prevent the incumbent R from crossing the 65% threshold.

    State-wide offices include Governor (Lt. Gov. elected on the same ticket), Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Attorney General, and three state Supreme Court seats.

    Notable among those races are that the Cleveland Plain Dealer endorsed the Libertarian candidate for Treasurer. Not sure if a major paper has endorsed a third-party candidate recently. In the AG race, retired Senator Mike DeWine is making vying for the office against the incumbent Democrat. The democrat swept all major newspaper endorsements, and DeWine looks like a guy who's simply trying to win an office, any office.

    The race for state Supreme Court Chief Justice (an elected position, specifically) pits the appointed Chief Justice against an incumbent Justice. One race has a D and R (incumbent) candidate, and in the other the R incumbent is unopposed. The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that judicial candidates can openly identify with their parties, but party labels can not appear on the ballot.

    Also on the ballot are the State senator and Representative positions. I'm in a super-Republican area, so my votes for the D's in each race amount to a protest vote. The state Senate candidate is currently in the House and led the push in Ohio to challenge the healthcare law. Ew.

    Then there's county offices (auditor, commissioner), two appeals court judges (one unopposed), and three common please judges (two unopposed).

    Lastly, there's two issues, both county-wide. One is a levy for mental health services (for which I cast a proud "yes" vote) and one for a sales tax increase, which I abstained. The more I think about it, the more I wish I'd voted "yes."

    So that makes, by my count, 21 candidates/issues, with 17 of them having two or more options.

  12. @James,

    bepress has a very generous guest access policy-- you have to provide an email and they ask you recommend to your library that it purchase access but otherwise, you should be able to access it.

  13. Dude, even if I don't vote on judges (which I prefer not to), I still have 19 voting decisions to make here in Denver, CO. That's nine offices and ten ballot measures, including Denver Initiated Ordinance 300, which reads as follows:

    “Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an Initiated Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts and donations?”

    I love this town.

    For what it's worth, there are 24 judges on the ballot, as well, whom I may choose to retain or fire. No party labels.

  14. Wow, I would for sure vote "no" on Denver Initiated Ordinance 300 if I lived in Denver. (And by the way, I'm chagrined that Colorado got to this issue before California.) I mean, it's good to be prepared, but look: According to Wikipedia, "there are an estimated 85,000 extant political entities in the United States." Do we really want 85,000 separate and conflicting local responses to extraterrestrial first contact? Surely there are few events more clearly in need of some kind of coordinated federal (at least) response?

  15. Hmm. I don't know. What if the federal response is sluggish?

    Health and safety I get, but I wonder how Coloradans propose to ensure "cultural awareness" during encounters with extraterrestrials?

    Onward: Doing due diligence with the 19 judicial slots on the California ballot, I first go to tea party and Christian Coalition sites to see who they are recommending. The right always does a great job vetting the judiciary, and so they are a great resource for me. I highly recommend it.

    I discover Chin is a true wingnut, and Cantil-Sakauye is a tea party and Republican favorite, so they are Nos. On the court of appeals, Chaney looks like a total wingnut, as is Suzukawa, Armstrong, and Coffee. Jackson Bigelow and Grimes are acceptable to the Christain Coalition and Southern Cal Republicans, so there are my Nos.

    Moreno issued a compelling dissent on the Prop 8 case, so he's a Yes. The candidates who are left, I googled and searched LA Times for major scandals or bad behavior, also checking League of Women Voters, and finding them acceptable candidates, they'll get a Yes.

    Unless any Californian out there has any additional info?

  16. Jon, I should have done the addition in my previous post. The Denver ballot contains 43 choices, beating the LA County record of 42 you mentioned. What do we win?

  17. James,
    The argument isn't that redistricting reform (which I leave vague, and I'm not a fan of the Prop 11 version) is the best cure. My argument was that the voters simply won't let us fix the parts that are REALLY wrong with the system, which you list. So, my argument is essentially: this system is really dysfunctional, so let's try this, as a shot in the dark. It won't do much, and it may have some negative consequences. But, occasionally, we might elect enough Democrats to get over the 2/3 hump. Essentially: the situation is dire, so let's throw the hail mary into triple coverage, because we have no other options.

    Now, with Prop 25 on the verge of passing (which surprises the heck out of me), the assumption in my argument goes away. Naturally, you'd rather attack the real problems of 2/3, term limits, Prop 13, all the other Props, etc. And, it seems like voters are willing to pass 25. Personally, I think 25 will do MUCH more to restore some sanity than redistricting ever could...but 2 years ago when I wrote that, I just never thought something like 25 would ever pass (because every similar prop has failed).

  18. Only exciting things on my Kings County, NY, absentee ballot were the number of candidates running on Democratic, Republican, and at least one minor party line (e.g., two judges were nominated by D, R, and Conservative -- oh fusion voting), and the number of parties in the first place. Besides D, R, Conservative, Working Families, Libertarian, Green, the Tax Revolt Party, Anti-Prohibition Party (!), and the now-notorious Rent. Is. Too. Damn High! Party all nominated candidates for at least one office. I think Constitution was on the ballot this year but no Natural Law in Brooklyn, either.

    Well, I guess voting for Governor and both Senators in one election might count as exciting, too; except that none of those races' outcomes have been in question since the candidates became clear about two years ago. Oh, and that Food Network star Sandra Lee is about to become my First Lady. Better herthan Kerry Kennedy, that's for sure.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?