Voting For Dummies™

by Jan Baughman

November 1, 2004   


(Swans - November 1, 2004)   "Enough about the candidates -- enough already," to paraphrase our editor. "Do something constructive..." Rest assured, I'm not writing about the candidates -- I'm writing about the voting, a topic Milo Clark's been covering, and one we'll surely hear more about for the next few weeks, long before anyone figures out who won and/or becomes appointed to the presidency.

So there's nothing like a rainy Saturday afternoon, a lazy non-Swans weekend, to sit down with my voting materials and exercise my god-given right in the envy of all democracies, with the mother-of-all-ballots.

My county (San Francisco) uses the optical scan system. First I inventory the tri-fold, tri-lingual (English, Spanish, Chinese) 19 1/2" x 10" ballots:

. Two double-sided, pink top with white bears, for the state, city and county propositions
. One double-sided, white top with pink bears, for the federal, state and city races
. One single-sided, green top with white bears, for the Board of Supervisors race and its first ever ranked-choice, instant runoff voting.

The layout and visual assault from these ballots make the convoluted issues contained therein all the more impossible to understand, so being a conscientious voter, I line up the instruction manuals.

. One Official Voter Information Guide to the ballot measures: 165 pages
. One Supplemental Official Voter Information Guide to the ballot measures: 21 pages
. One Voter Information Pamphlet and Sample Ballot for the local ballot measures and candidate statements: 208 pages
. [pam-phlet (pam'flit), n. 1. a short treatise or essay, generally a controversial tract, on some subject of contemporary interest: a political pamphlet. 2. a complete, unbound publication of generally less than 80 pages stitched or stapled together.]

First I search the 394 pages of Official Voter Information for the presidential candidate statements and analysis of what a vote for each means, to no avail. Page 11 of The Official Voter Information Guide states, "For information about the candidates running for the offices of United States President and United States Senate, please visit the Secretary of State's website at www.MyVoteCounts.org." Sure my vote counts, if I have a computer and Internet access. Perhaps the authors of these verbose materials decided to save a tree, since there's not much difference between the candidates who got their names on the ballots...

However, there's no shortage of information -- too much, perhaps -- on the candidates for Board of Education, from libertarian, log-cabin three-time candidate "Starchild:"

"My occupation is Escort/Exotic dancer.

My qualifications are: As a former student, I have many years of experience working in government schools.

Since then I have not had any education-related job that might tend to make me forget what it was like to be a student."

...to eleven other contenders with education credentials. Who says third-party candidates don't stand a chance?

There's some interesting reading on the propositions. Proposition after proposition is presented in point-counterpoint fashion, after a brief overview of San Francisco's debt and a definition of "bond financing" to explain to us why we need to borrow money for affordable housing, historic preservation, health care, police and fire benefits, and public transportation, and then still need to increase sales tax to finance the flailing infrastructure that the US military budget cannot afford. San Francisco, being San Francisco, has an anti-corporatization/anti-commercialization proposition to name Candlestick Park "Candlestick Park," so as not to follow the path of other cities that finance their infrastructure by selling their stadium names to the likes of 3-Com and Qualcomm.

The sanest proposition of all, and it won't cost a dime, is Prop. N: "Shall it be City policy to urge the United States government to withdraw all troops from Iraq and bring all military personnel in Iraq back to the United States?" (Though I would have worded it differently; e.g., "Shall it be City policy to urge the United States government to repeal its policy of war, destruction and global domination, and commit to peaceable civil policies that value and respect all of humanity, irrespective of race, nationality, ethnicity, religion and possession of natural resources?"). The opposing argument by Dr. Terence Faulkner, Past County Chairman, SF Republican Party, begins: "SADDAM HUSSEIN DESERVES A NUREMBERG-TYPE TRIAL FOR MASS MURDER. The best thing President George Bush ever did was overthrowing the morally bankrupt government of mass murder Saddam Hussein and his now dead criminal sons....The supporters of Proposition N -- like the backers of the pre-World War II "peace organization" AMERICA FIRST -- are arguing for a disgraceful cause: The only thing Saddam Hussein deserves is a hearing for mass murder modeled after the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials."

And thus we need to keep pummeling Iraq?

Howard Wallace, Union/Community organizer rebuts:

"RULE by THE UNHINGED: ...Dr. Faulkner's fevered rant about Saddam Hussein has absolutely no relevance to this ballot measure...This country's unelected president, in the embrace of oil barons, took us to war over the objection of most of the world's nations, using deception, disinformation and fear-based manipulation of public opinion. Every rationale for this war has proven fake. The continued presence of U.S. troops has done nothing to lay a basis for democracy, rather it feeds hostility and sows the seeds for more terrorism. It has greatly alienated many of our closest traditional allies.

"The puppet governing authority installed by Washington displayed its real character by threatening to shoot reporters on sight should they cover the military assault on Najaf. Continued loss of allied soldiers and countless Iraqi citizens deepens the moral bankruptcy of Bush's policies and further isolates the U.S. in the world."

Vote Yes on Proposition N!

As much as I'd like to cast my vote in person; observe the attorney-to-voter ratio; watch for confusion and stolen ballots, and hopefully witness the largest voter turnout ever, I'll complete my absentee ballot, write in my choice for president, and drop it in the mail, with the hopes that it arrives safely, and that it counts.

Now, I just need to follow the simple instructions on the ballot envelope...

Pic: Ballot mailing envelope - courtesy San Francisco Department of Elections - Size: 55k

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About Starchild

Voter Apathy? Whatever - Jan Baughman, November 2002

US Elections & Democracy on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Jan Baughman on Swans (with bio).

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Published November 1, 2004
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