About Me

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I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Top Two Primary vs Voter Apathy

In today's Tri-City Herald, the FAST FOCUS question was: "What are your thoughts on our top two primary system?"

My personal view is there is nothing inherently wrong with the the system. The problems arise when we factor in voter apathy. If the majority of people actually voted in my district, I hazard a guess that the top two winners would not both be Republicans.

RL Guillen of Kennewick writes: "The top two primary system ... was reinstated by former Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) ...  to enable Republicans to successfully hijack everyone's right to vote for anyone other than Republicans in November! Republicans knew that few people show up to vote at primaries and that by reinstituting a top-two primary system would help them to force voters to vote only for Republicans!"

A true accounting of the system as it functions in eastern Washington State, I'm sure. However, does it need to be so? If the Republicans are actually the majority of the those motivated to participate in democracy - as it appears to be - why is that? Should the system be thrown out because Democrats and other non-Republicans can't be bothered?

Guillen continues: "It is shameful that voters have not learned the lesson that your right to vote is important, and that you need to actively exercise that right. Because lethargic voters did not show up at the primary election, today eligible voters are being forced to vote only for two Republicans who have no interest in the real needs of the people in the 4th Congressional district they will represent."

It is shameful and appalling. That the future of the 100,000 registered voters of Benton County will be decided by around 20,000 people - as I have written about previously - is shameful. But it is not the fault of the system, not does it make the system partial to Republicans.

The fault is in us - the voters. I had great hopes for this latest primary. The Republicans seem to be out to alienate and disenfranchise - and even demonize - so many of the American people - women, African Americans, Latinos, the poor and the middle class. All of these have been affected negatively by the words and deeds of today's Republicans. 

So, I had great hopes. I felt sure many of these people would rise up against people like Didier. Unfortunately, things are much worse off than I thought. Online - on social media - there is a big push to get people registered. I feel, though, that voter registration is not the issue. The real issue is the actual act of voting. If only 37% of the registered voters are actually voting, what good does registration do? 

In the end, the enemy of democracy is not the top two primary or even party politics, it is US.

I welcome your contributions to this conversation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vote - A Duty, A Responsibility, A Privilege

I was originally going to write a letter to the editor of my local paper, the Tri-City Herald, complaining about the winners of the 4th Congressional District (Washington State) primary race. But I thought that sounded too much like "sour grapes". 

So I want to talk about something far more disturbing. Voter participation. It is appalling. Now, I have been voting in elections - ALL elections - since 1984 when I turned 18. When I say all, I mean all. I have voted in elections where the only thing on the ballot is a school bond issue. I have voted since the days where I had to go to a polling place (a local elementary school, usually) and wait in line. I have voted in presidential elections since the days when the networks - all 3 of them - declared the winner long before the polls in Washington State ever closed. 


So, I am suitably appalled at my fellow Benton County residents. According to bentonelections.com, out of the 99,283 ballots issued, 37,413 were returned. That means 37.5% of registered voters decided the future of Benton County. If this had been a school bond election, it wouldn't even be valid as 60% of the registered voters have to actually vote in those.

Our county has a population of 182,398 (as of 2012) - are you comfortable with the fact that 37,413 people have decided your future? In fact, it is probably not even an evenly distributed 37,413 that voted. Studies have shown (nationwide) that the majority of those voting in midterm elections are old and white. Do you think they will be voting in your best interests? 

Why don't you vote? I have heard over the years a few excuses:

#1 My vote doesn't count

Well, first of all, that's not the point. The point is to vote. Do the Afghanis worry about that? No - they risk their lives to cast their ballot and proudly show their inked finger to prove they have. Ar you proud to be an American? Do you celebrate Independence Day? If you say yes to those questions and don't vote - you've missed the point entirely.

Second of all, the one thing we learned from the Bush v Gore election is your vote DOES count.

#2 They're all the same

Really? Do you truly believe that? If they were all the same, why can't they agree on anything? One believes corporations are people, the other does not. One believes in separation of church and state, the other believes in the preservation of religious liberty. One believes in a social safety net, the other believes in protecting businesses.

These are just a few differences. What are the issues you care about? What makes your blood boil? Ask yourself, which candidate will protect and fight for your values?

#3 It's inconvenient

Oh, please. Washington State is 100% vote-by-mail. It is also one of the easiest states to register to vote in. Watching, listening, and reading the news, I am very grateful to live in this state. I don't live in a state that is establishing Voter ID legislation and restricting the right to vote. I don't have to live in a state where I continually have to re-register to vote. (I registered at my local library in 198 and have only had to make address changes since.)


#3 I only vote in presidential elections

I want to address this point. In my (humble) opinion, the President has very little impact in my life. (Except, perhaps, when he interrupts my favorite television program for an important message.) Think about it, which political or government figures have direct impact on your life?

Judges, sheriffs, city and county council members, these officials have a huge impact on your lives. Property taxes, use of public lands, law and justice, these are issues that are a daily influence in your life!

Also, since most functions of government are carried out by the state government  - and the US Supreme Court is frequently re-emphasizing this - the state elections are very important.

Even your Congressman has more impact on your life than the President. The President is answerable to all Americans as his (or her) constituency. Your Congressman (or woman) is answerable to his State's citizens (if a Senator) or his Congressional District (if a Representative). 

We need to vote. It is out duty, our responsibility, and our privilege. It is also in our best interest to vote. If only 30% of the registered voters actually vote, doesn't that make their votes worth three times as much as they would in an election where everyone voted?

A final thought... we always talk about how our fighting men and women are fighting for our way of life, that they are fighting for democracy. Does that mean that they are dying, they are being maimed, they are suffering from PTSD, so that you can NOT participate in the democracy they fought for?