Tag Archives: voting

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic National Committee

voting box with ballotHonestly, I have a lot of other things to get to this week, and within that, a lot of other pieces to write. But I have been so ubiquitously harassed by national-level Democrats that hey, I’ll take some time out this afternoon to respond to their litany of email.

Dear Representative Pelosi—

Perhaps there was a time in my life when receiving an email from the former Speaker of the House would have been at least a little thrilling, but the bloom is off the rose now. I don’t really even think you care about me, what with all of your messages—which are too many, honestly, it’s getting embarrassing—addressed to me as <FRIEND:VALUE!>. It feels half-hearted, Representative Pelosi. I know you are well networked in the legislative scene over on Capitol Hill. I used to see you around town from time to time when I still lived there. Okay; that’s a lie, it was Dennis Kucinich whom I saw, and mostly at the Greek restaurant on Pennsylvania SE that has sadly closed down. What I don’t understand, however, is how with all of your knowledge and connections and wealthy campaign contacts, you haven’t come across anyone who has mentioned even in passing that the Democratic National Committee’s strategy on getting donations for these midterms is abysmally bad. Here are the subject lines of just a few of the HUNDREDS of messages I’ve received these past few months:

  • painful loss
  • we. fell. short.
  • Friend we’re BEGGING
  • B O E H N E R wins
  • all hope is lost

The content in the actual email isn’t any better. Read More…

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part II)

Primary school government classes in the United States explain the ideals of representative government—that our democracy supports the election of (often ordinary) people who then keep access open to their constituents so that the needs in their local districts and states will have a voice in the voting body. Unfortunately, in many districts, this is not really how elections and governing operate anymore. Consider:

  1. From The Campaign Finance Institute

    From The Campaign Finance Institute

    Congressional elections averaged $1.4M for House elections in 2010 and and more than $1.5M in 2012. Senate races averaged nearly $9M in 2010 and more than $10.3M in 2012. The total cost for all congressional races for the 2014 midterm elections is estimated to run $3.5B. That’s billion. These extreme costs narrow the possibilities of who can run for seats, limiting elections to well networked or party-sponsored individuals, the independently wealthy, or people running on a cause that garners a lot of grassroots support. (See Table at the right.)

  2. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United has put a lot more money from organizations and corporations into elections, even local-level campaigns. Between 527 groups, PACs and SuperPACs, even small congressional districts see a lot of monetary input, often from groups outside of the state or district in contest. If candidate fundraising doesn’t come from kissing babies and shaking constituents’ hands anymore, then…
  3. Issues taken up by office holders may reflect the priorities of big donors and organizations rather than the general public. At the least there is evidence that so much corporate money spent in SuperPACs has been used to wage negative campaigns against the presumed opponent (SuperPACs are not allowed to raise money for a particular candidate). Thus candidates now must raise money to get their messages out and to defend against the negative campaigns from 527s and SuperPACs (hence the rapid rise in average campaign costs). Read More…

The Most Troubling Aspects of the 2012 Election

2012 election graphic8:15a.m., Pacific Standard Time on November 6, and it feels like this election started two decades ago. Finally we’re arrived at Election Day. Tomorrow we won’t have to sit through more attack ads blowing up our enjoyment of The Walking Dead or Leverage. I will deeply appreciate Wednesday for that, even if the country isn’t in agreement on who won or if the news cycle leads with which candidates are suing which other candidates for a recount. The dust won’t have settled on much of what Americans will vote for today, but even now, with the polls open and people queuing up for their moment with a ballot, there are a few issues brought up by the 2012 election. And some of them are disturbing. In no particular order:

The absence of medical expertise to inform laws that affect reproductive health, women’s health, and abortion—From Representative Steve King, candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, and carved into the Republican Party Platform came many moments of presumption and imagination about how human bodies function and what role God plays in conception or the biological prevention of conception. Sure, pro-choice advocates have fumed at disingenuous statements around medical care before and it’s not new that anyone would worry that conservative, ill-informed men feel free to write laws with no or misleading medical evidence taken into account. But this election cycle from the primary through the general election, and woven through many of the state races for Congress we saw wave after wave of misogyny and hate, directed at anyone with a uterus. The fight against women was multi-faceted, repeatedly hitting on access to contraception, defunding the “antiChrist” that is Planned Parenthood, attempts to install “personhood” legislation, demonizing rape survivors who chose to terminate a resulting pregnancy, inventing new restrictions on abortioneven to save the life of the mother—and on and on. That the rhetoric around these issues was so extreme and so consistently present throughout the range of races across the country speaks to a concerted effort to find new ways to control the domain of debate and the outcome. Read More…

The Name Game, or, Why Judges Matter

blind justiceUPDATE: There is now a petition to remove this jurist from office.

A regional newspaper from Oklahoma reported this weekend that District Court Judge Bill Graves repeatedly denies legal name change requests from transgender people when their cases are assigned to him. But let me take a step back and provide a little context for why I’d pluck this one sad story out of the bin, and why this matters to transpeople and all of us.

Several hurdles stand in the way of any individual’s transition; in addition to the social shifts involved in telling one’s friends, coworkers and family about their gender identity, and on top of navigating the health care and mental health industries to make one’s chosen medical changes, there is also the myriad of legal rules and guidelines to manage. Making the legal changes even more complex for transfolk, most of the laws that transect gender identity weren’t designed for this purpose, leaving us to cobble together a paperwork patchwork to get what we need in the way of identity documents and necessary legal guidance (like wills or power of attorney). And just to throw another monkey wrench into the mix, consider that the requirements for obtaining new identity papers or altering old ones are different not only from state to state, but sometimes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, some states will grant a new birth certificate with no notation on the form that there has been any change from the original name or sex marker, other states will show that the certificate has been amended, and some states, like Ohio, forbid any changes to their issued birth certificates, no matter the reason.  Read More…

The Persistence of Lies

two men holding anti-immigrant signsI’ve devolved as a news-watcher over the last 25 years. If I waited until the evening to get the news, during dinner with my parents in the late 1980s, I hardly ever see broadcast news now. The promise of American 24-hour news channels never came to pass, in my opinion; instead of thorough coverage from news desks around the world, it’s mind-numbing commentary from uninformed talking heads who seem much more interested in their own product placement contracts than in communicating about our global goings on. Those news syndicates and news desks in other countries have dried up, but what was their other option after years of little funding or support from the channel executives? Now big name news outlets like CNN use amateur video–even solicit it openly–to serve as content providers. So it is that people’s backyards were frequent film footage sources during every large snow of the winter last year.

The GOP primary race has put me over the edge, though. On top of the sensationalized headlines, anemic interest stories, vapid policy analysis, and over-reliance on technology gimmicks (I’m looking at you, hologram interview), now there are countless stupid sound bites from what looks like little more than well funded bigots running to disassemble the Office of the President. Read More…

Guest Post: Seattle, toddlers, and voting, oh my!

This morning’s blog post comes courtesy of a friend of mine, Hafidha Sofia, a 30-something mother of one, who writes about her takes on Seattle after living here for a few months. Please give her a warm welcome.

Honeymoon Interrupted

I’ll just say it: I love Seattle. Maybe the love won’t last – maybe it’s all too new and its flaws are not so glaring to me yet – but for now it’s true, and I’m not ashamed to say it: I love Seattle.

What first attracted me to the city were its money and looks.  Hubster was offered a job here, and after three years of being un(der)employed and broke, the promise of not having to borrow money to pay the rent was a big draw.  We arrived in June to spend several weeks in corporate housing downtown. Our first day here we sat in patio chairs wearing short sleeves and drinking pink lemonade; we watched the ferries crisscross the Sound under a blue sky; and we felt like the luckiest people on the planet living in Paradise. Read More…

Ballots other than butterfly

Election Day came and went, and the Walla Walla County’s Web site put up the results of the vote the next day. After looking at the statewide referendum and initiative results, I skimmed down to the city council tallies, and as expected, I did not win the Position 3 race. Technically unopposed, each of the three people running for the open slots on the council won by more than 95 percent of the votes cast. But I did note something interesting: Positions 1 and 2 received more than 97 percent, but Position 3 only got 96.35 percent. What was going on here? Were people getting fatigued—after all, they’d voted for two statewide contests, a state representative, a school board member, port commissioner, and depending on the ballot, other local offices, before getting to the city council seats. I could infer that some of the lost votes. Surely there wasn’t something qualitatively different about the guy running for the third slot, was there? Or did I really get 1 percent of the vote with my 3-week-long Facebook-focused write in campaign?

Seriously?

I had to know.

I emailed the county elections board, not without a fair amount of irony, because several months ago I’d applied for the job of county elections supervisor (hey, I’m grasping at the employment straws here, what can I say). I figured they wouldn’t remember me, or even if they did, that they’d respond to me anyway. I presume the conversation would go something like this:

County Employee #1: Hey Glenda, get a load of this?

Glenda: What, Ralph?

Ralph: That nutjob Everett guy wants to know how many votes he got yesterday.

Glenda: Isn’t that the guy who tried to get your job, Ralph?

Ralph: Sure is. Apparently he had some jerky write-in thing going.

Glenda: Wow, he really is crazy. I bet he named himself after the city of Everett.

Ralph: If he did, he should have stayed west side, then. What a loser!

After having such a conversation, they collected themselves and replied to my email, saying that the county is only required to tally write-in votes if the person on the ticket didn’t get a majority of the votes. Since we can go ahead and say that 96.35 percent is a majority of the votes cast, I don’t think I’ll ever know how many votes I really got, but I’m betting it was more than 20, and certainly more than Mickey Mouse and Yoda combined. I am a little reminded of Richard Pryor’s “None of the Above” campaign in Brewster’s Millions, which, when I first saw it, made absolutely no sense to my 12-year-old brain. Why on earth would anyone cast a vote for no one?

But I’m glad that I started a dialogue, at least among some Walla Wallans, about their local government and how it seems to work (or not, as the case may be). Nobody I talked to seemed to know what these councilmen-elect stand for, what their goals are, how they feel about things like repairing the 25 percent defective water infrastructure in the city.

Along the way, the woman running to retain her seat in the state legislature, Laura Grant, intimated to me that should I want to run “for real” next time, I should let her know. So I think I’ll try to put my toes in the water and see how things really work around here. And sheesh, find some stimulus money for the pipe and road rebuilding, people. That’s got to be better than raising water rates by 50 percent.

In the meantime, I’ve been working of putting several recipes into a cookbook for some holiday presents to our family. This started out as a small idea and has grown rapidly, the point that many more people want a copy of the cookbook than we can afford to produce. So starting next week, I’m going to open a new page on this blog dedicated to our cooking and baking, and links to other foodie blogs we like. I hope you all enjoy it.

Running for difference

Walla Walla has a City Council. This I knew before we moved here. The Mayor position is filled on a rotating basis with someone from the Council, voted on by members of the Council themselves. So the good citizens of Walla Walla don’t directly vote for a mayor. Representative government at its best?

Possibly not. I received my ballot in the mail on Friday, which I still find unsettling as a process, this whole vote by mail thing, and looked at what was on it. The Referendum 71, to keep or ditch domestic partner benefits for Washington State, and the Initiative 1033, to gut funding for programming from libraries to nursing homes, I already knew about. There are signs all over for the state representative job, so I knew I’d see that on the ballot. I’d heard a peep about the two men running for the commissioner of the Port of Walla Walla, but not much, and I’d heard absolutely nothing about the three people running unopposed for the open slots on the Council. Unopposed. All three of them.

What was this about? Were they all shoo-ins? Or did no one care who sat on the Council?

I ran to the Internet—okay, I didn’t run, seeing as my laptop was a few feet away—and looked up information on the races. Well, when I say “looked up,” I typed in a few keywords (namely, walla walla election city council 2009), and then voila, I got bupkus. Maybe on page 2. Nope. One article on the contested Port Commissioner job, and nothing else. Apparently “Walla Walla” is a link at the bottom of many pages on Washington State politics, skewing my results. Three pages into my search I gave up.

On the Walla Walla city Web site it lists the current members, and with five minutes more of digging, I found the name of the mayor, Dominic Elia. Sheesh, no need to put your names out there, folks, you’re only running the city.

So where were these people who were campaigning for positions 1, 2, and 3? What were their ideas about making the city a great place to live and work? Where did they think we need improvement? How are they prepared to handle the tax revenue issues in these difficult times? And my biggest question of all:

Why didn’t you jackasses move the snow off the streets last year?

Feeling frustrated and fanciful after inking in oval after oval on my ballot, I wrote in my own name on Position 3. Too bad for you, Daniel Johnson, who I’m sure will be elected anyway. I sealed up the envelope, avoiding the paper cut of last year, and put my poll tax—I mean, stamp—on the front.

Later that day, a friend who’d just lost her grandmother came over for some apple crisp and tea. As we were chatting, I mentioned I’d audaciously written myself in to the council, figuring I’d be right down there with Mickey Mouse and Yoda. Her reaction surprised me.

“I’m voting for you!”

“Oh, really, you don’t need to do that,” I said, waving my hands in front of me like they’d save me against her 18-wheeler of a response.

“No, I’m writing you in, and I’m telling all my friends to do it, too!”

Oh my God. How . . . how, fantastic. I mean, there’s no way I could win, what with 30,000 registered voters in the county and me knowing exactly 138 people here. So they would be throwing away a vote for one seat in an unopposed race. Low stakes. So why not tell her to shout from the Blue Mountain range if she wanted to?

I’m up to 12 votes at this point, and kind of tickled pink. Maybe I should have a motto, but everything I come up with seems to have a serious drawback:

Vote for Everett Maroon, Because Maroon Means Mayor in Arabic

Because Someone on the Council Should Be Able to Rock a Bejeweled Blitz Game

Putting Walla Walla’s Nondriscrimination Clause to Work!

He’s Even Named After a City in Washington

Because Who Cares, Really?

I may even take a picture of myself mailing in my ballot.

In the den of a big, fuzzy beast with sharp teeth and a large mane

For better or worse, Susanne is teaching a class this semester on the elections. This sounded like a great idea, I’m sure, before we as a country traveled through the last 18 months of the primary and then general election. I was asking Susanne if she’d brought any of the Democratic Party voting materials I’ve gotten in the mail to her class, and she rightly informed me that she couldn’t do so before November 4, unless she had some things from the GOP side of the fence. So I offered to drop by our local Republican headquarters and gather some “collateral” for her. I think she thought I was joking. The woman ought to know me by now, right?

 

WW County Republicans Logo

WW County Republicans Logo

Twenty minutes later, I saunter in. All is quiet. Unlike the Walla Walla Democratic HQ there are no piles of yard signs, crowds of people buying “Hope” t-shirts and jerseys (seriously, I saw a veritable crowd two weeks ago), or lots of happy chatter. There was one older lady walking my way. She was wearing a t-shirt, all right, which I presume was not for sale (feel free to make a joke here about how many Republicans would sell you the shirt off their backs), and which read:

Just Another

Gun-Toting

Religion-Clinging

Bitter

AMERICAN

What a lovely message it was. I wanted to ask why the shirt didn’t work in the apathy portion of Obama’s quote about people in Pennsylvania, but I figured it was because it doesn’t make for a nice image, like toting guns or clinging to one’s religion. Instead of inquiring into her fashion’s political message, I just said hello. She gave me a big grin and asked how she could help me.

I realized only then that I’d walked into the enemy camp. What the hell was I thinking? I better come up with something believable, I mean seriously, the woman totes guns.

“You’re not uh, toting a gun now, are you,” I ask with a smile.

She laughed (good sign?) and said no, but she did have license to conceal, as did several members of her family. So great, she could be lying and is just ready to shoot me dead the minute she realizes who she’s talking to. Okay, she’s probably not going to shoot me dead and she probably doesn’t have an actual gun on her. So I say I’m looking for some McCain/Palin brochures and the like.

And then I was shocked by her response.

“Well really, we don’t have any anymore.” Wow. I think of the stacks of yard signs, bumper stickers, tri-fold brochures, and holograms of live-action Obamas giving speeches on the stump, like Princess Leia in Star Wars, only in full color and not with quite the same sense of life-and-death urgency. Fine, they don’t have any holograms over there at the Dems HQ. But by the 2012 election, they will. It’ll be the next big thing in gubernatorial races — like asking for money online was when Howard Dean stuck his virtual hand out to the nation.

She went on to explain that volunteers had been taking all of the collateral out on them in their canvassing. But really, McCain pulled his campaign out of Washington a long time ago when it was evident he wasn’t going to pick up our 11 electoral votes. At any rate, the table was pretty bare. There were a few things that the locals had cobbled together so that the single picture of John and Sarah, looking happy and victorious, wasn’t so lonesome at the back of the plastic folding table. I looked down and saw a strip of paper with some typing on it. It read something like:

The problem with Obama’s candidacy is that it’s socialist. He has been supported by the New Left, which wants to make the US a socialist state. Their first goal is universal health care. That’s just another term for socialized medicine. It hasn’t worked for Russia, the UK, France, or Canada, so why would it work for us?

I was mesmerized. The leaps in logic. The blatant untruths. The fear mongering that what, we’ll go straight to the dogs if we have an alternative to our private system that currently leaves 46 million Americans uninsured? I wasn’t going to argue the point, but I wished I could have taken the strip of paper out the door with me.

The woman and I chatted about the initiatives on the ballot, which include funding for transportation infrastructure changes in Seattle, a right to die law similar to Oregon’s, and increased training for long-term care providers. She asked another woman who she said was a staffer of Dino Rossi’s (the fellow running against the Democratic incumbent for governor), to come on out and talk with me. It was an interesting conversation, and we could have been discussing bowling on ESPN for how good-natured we all were. I certainly wouldn’t suggest Republicans are bad people. But I do wonder what it takes for people in the same country to have such a distinctively different opinion of the world than I do. And I’d been hoping that it wasn’t about building a foundation of lies and misstatements, like universal health care = socialism. But hey, maybe it is. Maybe they think all of us Democrats are blind, or liars, too. Maybe we’re actually closer than we think we are, but hot button issues like reproductive rights, gay rights, the role of government, are just so divisive we can’t make time for the things we do agree on. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, the only fights I remember seeing were on the softball field or in the hockey stadium. Life got more complicated somewhere along the way, sometime, I guess, when I first started stepping out of the mushy mainstream part of society, when I first started saying I was going to be my own person even if it meant a little gayness here, a little sex change there. But I love my country, flaws and all. So I suppose it’s no big deal to walk into GOP-land. I could just flash my Washington State University Visa card and then duck out while everyone is reflexively shouting, “Cougars!”

I voted, and all I got was this lousy sticker

 

voting sticker

voting sticker

 

 

Except that in Washington State, I didn’t even get a sticker. And I realized a few things with this no-precinct voting process:

1. It’s the one time of year I like to stand in line. I mean sure, I don’t want to stand in line for hours, but a few minutes whilst I make my way to the front of the M-S line or whatever it is that year, nodding knowingly to my voting neighbors, performing our collective civic duty — that’s absolutely fine. Only to be let down dramatically in a few hours, but I wouldn’t be a Democrat if I wasn’t pessimistic, right? I suppose in Eastern Washington I would more likely be in line with Republicans, but perhaps not this exact neighborhood, next to the college. But I really enjoy seeing who lines up to vote — young parents with their children in strollers, couples dressed for work who made voting part of that day’s commute, older folks who look so excited for their candidate. I realize this is colored by years of voting in the DC metro area, but I saw these people in upstate New York, too. And I suppose they’ll line up a week from Tuesday. I’ll just have already voted with my paper ballot.

2. Early voting kind of sucks. So I voted earlier this week when I got back into town. I went back and forth on some of the statewide initiatives, especially the right to die initiative. But I filled in all my ovals circa my 1987 SAT exam, put it in a bright pink security envelope (which makes me think they know nothing about security — “yoo hoo, security over here, people! nice bright pink security!!”), and then in the mailing envelope, and then I took a trip to the post office since I had to sort of “see it off” personally. If people are stealing Obama lawn signs out here — and they are — I’m not leaving my vote sitting in my mailbox. But here’s what really nags at me for voting 10 days ahead: it’s over. Of course the campaign continues, poll numbers shift and evolve at every second, it seems, but I’ve done my business now and there’s nothing else I can do. Voting on election day lets me have my say at the proper end of the process — I’ve heard everything, seen everything, political news junkie that I am, and I’m responding, and my response will be counted in the precinct results and talked about by the likes of Brian Williams, Katie Couric, and all the others. But voting by mail is odd that way. I either get to wait to the last minute like before, or I get to have my vote counted ON election day, just not both. Washington’s Governor race was settled by about 130 votes last time, and those two personalities are battling it out again this year. So I want my vote in there by the time November 4 arrives. I put myself on the sidelines, understanding of course that I wasn’t going to change my opinion before the big day, anyway.

3. That mailing envelope I referred to earlier? No bulk postage on it, so I had to affix a stamp. Okay, I actually got a lot of pleasure out of writing “affix” just there, but back to the main point, I was kind of shocked I had to pay for my own postage. Isn’t that a kind of poll tax? I found out that I could have walked it directly to the election office, but I didn’t know that from any of the voting print materials, so I feel a little misled here. Surely the State of Washington can pony up another $120,000 so that everyone can send in their ballots without putting a stamp on the envelope. I mean, if Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes can do it, our government can. They’re even going to make someone a millionaire in the process! Sheesh.

This year’s election has set a record for early voting, for people newly registered, for online fundraising, and a whole host of other trends. I just wonder: if I feel like I’ve lost something with this no in-person process, I wonder if others are feeling it too, and I wonder how people younger than me, for whom this is their first or second election, will know if they’re even missing anything at all.

Edited to add: But don’t take my word for all of this, even the Washington Post agrees with me.

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