Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh yeah, there was an election yesterday.

Well, sort of. Because of the county's shift to an all-mail ballot, wasn't so much 'election day' as 'postal deadline day.' As a result, we not only lack clear outcomes in a number of races, we don't know how many people have voted or where the votes that have been counted come from, so a couple of key data points that traditional post-election analysis is based on are missing.

Although ballots continue to arrive and only about half of the predicted 33% turnout has been counted, there are some safe projection. Congratulations are due to Dow Constantine, who's been given the opportunity to defeat stealth Republican Susan Hutchinson in the race for King County Executive. Although Hutchinson has tried to exploit the new non-partisan character of county elections by denying her ideological roots, she's left a substantial paper trail in the form of checks written exclusively on behalf of Republican candidates. I've known Dow for years and had the chance to work with him and watch him work quite a bit during my days as a state and county committeeman and district chair. He built his base in West Seattle the old fashioned way, with hard work and shoe leather, and that work ethic, and his strong record as a reform-minded public servant should serve him well going forward.

I don't live in Seattle, but the big city makes waves we feel out here in the hinterlands, so I've followed the race for mayor of Seattle with some interest. Unfortunately, I can't say much about it today. There are three clear front runners with less than a point and a half separating them. The incumbent, Greg Nickels, is running third by about 400 votes, but that could change with this afternoon's count. Even if he makes up the gap, though, about 75% of the votes counted were cast by people looking for a new mayor. Third terms are hard to come by.

Here in Shoreline only one city council race drew the three candidates required to trigger a primary. Incumbent Janet Way is 134 votes short of the second place finish she needs to advance to the general. Of course, my ballot, mailed Monday, hasn't been counted, and I voted for Janet. Will Hall and Patty Hale are both attractive candidates, for different reasons, it was my appreciation of Janet's work as a grassroots Democratic activist, before and since her election to the council, that tipped the balance for me. We'll have to see if the missing half of the projected votes tip the balance for her.

The Seattle bag fee initiative failed. (Chemical industry) Money talks. Not much news there.

So stuff happened, and some stuff is still happening. Just the same, an all-mail, non-partisan election seems as emotionally incomplete as it is statistically inconclusive. Andrew's right...
"Nonpartisan" elections and our ridiculous statewide "top two" primary have succeeded in reducing voter choice and removing information about candidates from our ballots. These changes are not good for democracy, and ultimately, to protect the public interest, they need to be repealed.
We should toss the all-mail ballot while we're at it. I miss my polling place.

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Anonymous Terry Parkhurst said...

I miss the polling place too; not only because I made money working as a poll worker, but it really gave one a sense of democracy at work.

But I don't think there's any going back. In fact, given how most younger people interact, I believe that the next step will be enabling cell phones or PDAs such as Blackberries, to download a ballot,vote and then send it to election central.

Hey, people already bank on-line, so how hard could it be to encrypt things? If we don't go in that direction, likely the younger folks might never vote until they are 35 or older. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad thing.

9:33 PM  

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