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The Nickel-Plated JA

I think there are some *other* lessons to be taken from this though...

Something the Leg. needs to mull over seriously next session: It took two separate well-funded campaigns, a huge push from the business community, and widespread support from both parties, just to create a district, barely surpassing the two-thirds currently required, that includes the county with nearly 40% of the Dem. voters in the state. This *should* have been a slam-dunk, and would have anywhere else; the two-thirds threshhold is still too high, here -- good luck trying to pass one in, say, Custer County, where *ANY* additional educational offerings are direly needed.

A major reason why there *were* two *separate* campaigns in the first place: certain large businesses in the area and organized labor refuse to play nicely together. This isn't entirely unexpected, but the whole thing smacked of the uneasy alliance between FDR and Stalin.

No surprise here: Evangelicals understand the value of work, and support vocational education, as well as providing educational services to families efficiently. Adam Graham did a bang-up job getting the message out to his constituency, and reminds us in the process that there's more than one camp in the GOP tent; just because some of the gReEDpublicans didn't happen to "get it" didn't mean the rest of their party were about to close ranks and follow them off the cliff.

Oh, and my favorite: Canyon County isn't as "reliably Conservative" anymore as everyone thinks it still is... getting 62% Yes there tells me that urbanization and gentrification are finally starting to dilute the Luddites.

And just-in-case anyone was wondering why I was conspicuously silent during the run-up to all this: I didn't want to *become* a distraction from the real issues at hand -- and I can think of at least three different ways that would have been possible. We are who we are, and sometimes we have to know when it's better for all concerned to "sit this one out".

Julie in Boise

Interesting thoughts, NPJA, though I suspect you've possibly raised a few more inside-baseball questions than you answer here. Whatever: the final results speak for themselves, and the forces of moderation and cooperation have prevailed.

Yes, Canyon County did great. And so did Adam, himself the beneficiary of a community college education in Montana.

My hope is that we can see another effort like this on behalf of public transit in the very near future. Treasure Valley residents came together yesterday to agree to pay for a pressing need. We must do the same for transit. Like a community college, not everyone will use transit, but everyone benefits when it exists.

Julie in Boise

Just a point of semantics, totally unrelated to the topic but worth mentioning:

I believe Adam is a fundamentalist, not an evangelical.

Fundamentalists believe every word in the Bible to be literally true and that "man's law should be consistent with God's law" (wording taken from the Gem State Voter Guide last year; see http://www.gemstatevoterguide.com/2006generalraces.asp?raceid=4&racetype=2
See: Bryan Fischer, Brandi Swindell, Jerry Falwell (and from the looks of the GSVG, our current lieutenant governor).

Evangelicals usually believe in the Bible literallly, too, but their focus is less on biblical inerrancy and legislating morality and more on trying to live as Christ asked us to live. See: Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, Jim Wallis.

I have no problem with evangelicals. I have serious disagreements with fundamentalists. But I'm glad Adam was able to convince at least a few of them to vote for the college.

The Nickel-Plated JA

Apologies to Adam if I offended; I have always had problems keeping non-denominational denominations straight *grin*.

Now, as far as transit goes, the big public effort I'd like to see on funding is to pass an amendment to article VII, section 17 of the state constitution (gas taxes and vehicle registrations) -- but it'd have to clear the Leg. first, and apparently there's some impetus (among Legislative Dems) to sit on it for a few more years before trying *boggle*.

I'm also not sure why there is this urge (you aren't the first person to use the phrase "Inside Baseball" with me) to sidestep intricate questions of politics and demography. Know your enemy: if you want strategic results like Rove gets, get to thinking strategically like Rove. Fundamentally, it's what eminent 20th-Century political scientist William Riker (no, not "the guy from Star Trek") coined "heresthetics" -- changing the question and/or process sufficiently (and efficiently) to get the desired result.

Jim Hansen

I enjoyed working the campaign to turn out voters yesterday. The people I spoke with on the phone who were voting to create a community college understood that an investment like this benefits everyone. They voted "yes" even though they just had their sales taxes increased to fund a decade of tax cuts, expanded tax breaks and other public subsidies that disproportionately benefited the state's largest corporations and wealthiest residents.

Since many of the big corporations in the Valley were also supporting the community college (because they need a skilled workforce), I think they should honor the investment that ordinary working people continue to put into vital public infrastructure like community colleges and k-12 schools. They will honor it by supporting greater fairness and stability in the state's tax system. In Idaho, those earning the lowest wages pay the highest percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes. The legislature creates structural deficits and uses that as an excuse not to make the kind of investment that 68% of the Treasure Valley did yesterday.

In honor of yesterday's vote by ordinary (mostly moderate income) taxpayers, those earning the highest incomes - including the state's largest corporations - should agree to sunset the tax breaks and cuts the legislature has given them over the past decade.

Julie in Boise

I'm not accusing you of speaking inside baseball (my native tongue, too), NPJA. I'm accusing you of spilling only half the beans!

That's OK; believe me. Strategically speaking, we don't need to discuss everything in the blogosphere.

And strategic thinking (and action!) was THE reason this won, vis a vis the targeted absentee vote and the Ada Dems' machinery.

Julie in Boise

Jim, thanks for your comment, your phone banking, and your continued commitment to economic justice in Idaho.

It is indeed all about investment. Working families are already paying more than our share, as you note, and yesterday we agreed to give a little more. Big business needs to do the same.

Julie in Boise

Just received this from Idaho Dem HQ ... a statement by state party chair Richard Stallings:

“It is truly a joy for me to see that voters from Western Idaho came together in such great numbers to take charge of their future through the miracle of education,” Stallings said. “Everyone involved in that campaign – Republicans, Democrats, independents and others – should be recognized for a job well done.

“It is magnificent to see a community like the Treasure Valley come together and work toward a common solution. Democrats have supported the concept of community colleges for many years in Idaho , and I am particularly proud of our legislators and activists who contributed to this effort. Some led this effort behind the scenes, while some answered the call to `soldier in the subdivisions,’ knocking on doors and talking about the need for this bold new school. Together, you have set an exciting and brilliant new course.

“Education is the doorway to a better life, and now, thousands of future students will benefit from the Western Idaho Community College ; raising the quality of life and standard of living in southwestern Idaho . If we keep up this attitude, we may have to add a second motto:

“ Idaho – The State of Education !”

theresa

I missed all the late night counting, but was PLEASED to wake up and see the headline :)

Nice to win one!

t

shtmlf

I'm very pleased with the results, I did a little volunteer work for the campaign. It is a very good thing for the valley.
The one thing that really stands out for me is the percentage of absentee votes. Can we start calling it vote by mail now ? I was puzzled when I got my 4th direct mailing of absentee ballot requests from Community College Yes, but it was a very sucessful tactic.
Is this a one time thing, or can we look forward to a lot more direct mailings with ballot requests in the future ?

Julie in Boise

shtmlf,

I know my District 17 legislators and others are really trying to advance the idea of Vote by Mail. People love it! I think it's just a matter of time.

That said, the existing absentee ballot packages are weird. I have only voted absentee once in my life, for the 04 general, when I knew I wanted to take off the whole day to do GOTV.

The package felt really odd, with the tiny little stylus and styrofoam backing. It didn't really feel like voting to me. I did early voting at Barrister last fall because I wanted to feel like I was really voting!

But that's just here in Ada, where we're one of the last counties in the country with punchcards. (I think.) Once they get replaced by the optically scanned ballots, it'll feel OK, I think.

sharon fisher

I got an absentee ballot and the directions were so unclear I was afraid I had spoiled it, so I took it to my polling place and voted in person instead.

I did GOTV phonebanking on Tuesday and it was really nice. First of all, it's the most organized campaign I've worked on here ($300K can buy a lot of organization). Second, it was nice to feel like I was working on something that most people supported. :) I called a whole lot of people between 60 and 95 and it was a trip.

I've picked up some tactics from this campaign and hope to make use of them for the future.

Idagreen

In absentee form, the punch ballot may appear unusual, nut is certainly no more complicated than say, a cell phone or a computer. And several Idaho counties are retaining the punch card system, and are in fact trying to purchase the old Votomatics from Ada county.

While the optical scan system may have some advantages, there are also some drawbacks. The optical scan ballot it is intuitively more obvious, with the candidate's name or ballot issue immediately next to the circle to mark. The ballot can also be folded, and can be mailed more easily. However, these ballots also take much longer to count (50-100 per minute, compared to 1,000 for punch cards), so election results will be greatly delayed. We would not, for example, have had the results from the CC vote until at least the next day. Election night parties may never be the same.

Interestingly, these ballots will come from the same company, ES&S, that produced the Automark system for disabled voters which Ada County currently uses (to settle a DOJ complaint, btw). Too bad not one of those machines are operational today.

Watch for demonstrations of the new system at the Western Idaho Fair and other venues later this year.

The Nickel-Plated JA

In Texas (Denton County) we were using optical scan ballots when I first moved there in '96 -- they've subsequently moved to a newer system that supports the HAVA requirements; the trick to counting them is that the systems scan them in real-time -- they can carp about a spoiled ballot quickly enough for someone to mark a replacement, and you get the totals *very* quickly... all you have to do is add up the memory contents of each of the precinct scanners to get your initial totals!

Idagreen

Yeah sure, that is, if there were scanners at each precinct. That is not the plan in Ada county, as the counting will still be done in a central location, where around 160 workers will process the ballots (compared to about 30 now).

The push from most county clerks is for a complete vote by mail system which will eliminate the polling place (and in effect election day) and render the question of on site processing moot.

I'd prefer to see mail in options combined with traditional election day polling. Oh, and designate election day as a holiday.

The Nickel-Plated JA

Don't get me started on vote-by-mail again... it's such a catastrophic non-starter, it's not even funny.

I'm with you philosophically, at least in part, on letting people off work on election day -- but I think it needs scientific scrutiny; the fear is people would take Monday off too, go away, and drive *down* turnout instead -- or that if schools etc. were closed, people would become bogged down by other obligations and *also* vote less.

Personally, I'd like to see an income tax credit for people who vote consistently... people generally respond well to cash-carrots, I think it would do wonders for turnouts.

Jim Hansen

When there is competition on a grassroots level, voter turn out rises. People need to be engaged in the process of governing, not just voting. Incentives might make turnout go up a couple points but the goal must be to keep trying to create a government of the people not to emulate the voting of American Idol.

When there is a lot of money being pumped into campaigns, lots of people don't run (reducing the chance of competition) and/or the campaign is played out in advertising which treats people as consumers not as full-fledged participants in their own government. Powerful private interest groups like to keep us in a position of passive consumers who may vote when prompted but who will not question who really gets to control the future of our communities.

The more people gain skills in grassroots democracy and then put those skills to work through campaigns on issues or to elect someone, the more people will feel invited to participate. Voting (whether by mail, early, on a day-off, or in person) is one of many manifestations of participation.

The Nickel-Plated JA

But Jim, have you read Riker's "Liberalism Against Populism" ? One of the central theses of the book is that the only thing you can accurately gauge from elections is the *disapproval* of the electorate. The whole point of Madisonian (small-r) republicanism is that people elect representatives whose job it is to interpret/translate their perception of public will to public policy, because public will is, in and of itself, impossible to determine accurately. Ideally, there would be *no* issue campaigns; I say that as someone who used to be a strong supporter of the "Oregon System" until I became better-grounded in late-20th-Century political theory.

I'm not put off by high barriers to entry, financial or otherwise, because mathematics tells us that the possible outcomes of multicandidate (ie. more than two) candidate elections are inherently inconsistent. Paradoxical results like Minnesota's election of Jesse Ventura in 1998 despite research showing him the *last* choice of a majority of the electorate (he won with a narrow plurality) only serve to shore-up this contention. And frankly, the financial barriers to entry are really more of a high-pass filter anyway: you don't have to *have* a lot of money to run, you just have to be able to muster enough support to *raise* a lot of money; fund-raising capacity is a good yardstick of candidate viability -- how committed *are* his staunchest supporters? Without barriers to entry, our elections begin to look *precisely* like the worst features of American Idol -- check out u4prez.com for a great example of this phenomenon.

Idagreen

I think the Jesse Ventura or American Idol phenomenon is more a result of the current winner take all, simple majority system of determining a “winner”. I want more candidates and more choices, as well as more participation. Instant run-off voting and publicly financed elections would do more to enhance the outcome of the elections than perpetuating barriers to potential candidates or voters.

Relying on financial resources as the singular determination of support only reinforces the economic oligarchy that is strangling small d democracy. Rather than being a “high pass filter’ it really leaves us with the lowest common denominator of a campaign war chest and little attention to substance. Now that’s American Idol.

Julie in Boise

NPJA, vote by mail doesn't seem to be a nonstarter in Oregon. Most critics I've read say it's been a huge success there. So I have to get you started ...

The Nickel-Plated JA

Idagreen, on the subject of wanting "more candidates" what became of your 3rd party? Much as I disagree with the Greens philosophically, I do believe their existence serves an important function. And just to make myself clear, I'm not opposed to multicandidate elections in general -- but absent a majority winner, they should ALWAYS end in a runoff between the top two vote-getters, a la the French model; unsurprisingly, many of the mathematicians who did early work in this area, like the Marquis de Condorcet, were French.

Either way, Idaho has fairly low threshholds for the founding and continuity of 3rd parties... but it seems like over the last few years, more have folded than started. Where did they go?

The Nickel-Plated JA

Ok, I'll be brief... my chief concerns with vote-by-mail:

1. People won't take it seriously enough... can you picture a room full of drunken partygoers deciding collectively to "all vote for Howard Phillips" on a lark?

2. It admits additional forms of voter suppression; in Texas our postal carrier was busted as part of a check-stealing scheme... if the system admits that kind of corruption, imagine what it must allow for the potentially lower-bar of stealing something with no *cash* value?

3. It admits voter coercion; picture the wife and college-age daughters of an abusively-strict-type whose model is "here's your ballot, all filled out, all you have to do is sign it...."

4. It admits disingenuous behavior on the part of caregivers; for a long time while my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's she was certainly capable of signing ballots, checks, etc. but couldn't complete the documents themselves without assistance.

5. It admits a fairly-low standard for outright fraud; at the very least, a precinct election judge and his or her alternates/assistants are potential witnesses -- "You mean THAT is John Smith? He's not the guy who cast John Smith's ballot...."

The bottom line is that (and again, I rely on election math) voting systems can be secret or secure but not both; in order to at least aspire to a *modicum* of security, given how much people say they value ballot secrecy, we need to admit a *modicum* of inconvenience to get there.

The Nickel-Plated JA

Ok, I'll be brief... my chief concerns with vote-by-mail:

1. People won't take it seriously enough... can you picture a room full of drunken partygoers deciding collectively to "all vote for Howard Phillips" on a lark?

2. It admits additional forms of voter suppression; in Texas our postal carrier was busted as part of a check-stealing scheme... if the system admits that kind of corruption, imagine what it must allow for the potentially lower-bar of stealing something with no *cash* value?

3. It admits voter coercion; picture the wife and college-age daughters of an abusively-strict-type whose model is "here's your ballot, all filled out, all you have to do is sign it...."

4. It admits disingenuous behavior on the part of caregivers; for a long time while my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's she was certainly capable of signing ballots, checks, etc. but couldn't complete the documents themselves without assistance.

5. It admits a fairly-low standard for outright fraud; at the very least, a precinct election judge and his or her alternates/assistants are potential witnesses -- "You mean THAT is John Smith? He's not the guy who cast John Smith's ballot...."

The bottom line is that (and again, I rely on election math) voting systems can be secret or secure but not both; in order to at least aspire to a *modicum* of security, given how much people say they value ballot secrecy, we need to admit a *modicum* of inconvenience to get there.

The Nickel-Plated JA

Sorry for the double-tap on that one; typepad appears to be having problems. FYI, they *also* appear to be showing "held" articles in the RSS feed before they're released -- there's a "Holiday Weekend Water Cooler" in the feed that isn't on the site yet....

Julie in Boise

That's my fault ... I published it yesterday, then rescheduled it for today. IT's up now.)

But yes, commenting seems to be having some glitches lately. I personally just lost two. Grrrrr.

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