Friday, November 02, 2007


(News-Herald, November 1)Halloween’s over, so we can move on to something really scary—local elections.

It’s probably a good year to learn about “bullet voting.” Bullet voting depends on one simple fact—you don’t have to use every vote you have.

Imagine a race in which four people are running for two seats: Tom, Dick, Harry, and Some Guy. Three voters go into the booth, each with two votes to use and only one candidate they really like.

So Voter A, a Tom fan, votes for Tom and Some Guy. Voter B votes for Dick and Some Guy. Voter C votes for Harry and Some Guy. And in the end, Some Guy is the big winner while Tom, Dick and Harry tie for last place.

It may seem counter-intuitive to “waste” a vote, but if voters A, B, and C use one vote to vote only for the candidates they really like, Tom, Dick and Harry tie for the lead and Some Guy loses.

Even with four people running for four spots, rationing your vote can still affect the order they come in; in some elected groups, that matters.

It’s a fine year to remember all this, because—well, the school board elections present No Choice At All, and other elections feature those jobs that nobody understands, like County Comptrolling Clerk of Electoral Records Secretary. Then there’s the race for County Commissioner.

I don’t suppose you could get a more disorganized, tragically doomed race if you tied a bunch of squirrels’ feet together, shook them up in a sack, and dropped them at the top of a water slide to go after a couple of acorns strapped to the bottom of the pool. In a thunderstorm.

We have the water muddied with write-in candidates. I suspect that the write-innacy of Horn and Smith is less about ego and more about some Powers That Be looking at the primary results and choking. But a write-in is tough going in Venangoland, and if the electorate has already rejected you once, that’s a pretty clear predictor. I give Smith the edge here—she came close in the primary and her name is easy to type. But while the electorate may be fickle, I doubt that several hundred voters have changed their minds since spring.

That leaves the duly selected candidates, none of whom have ever held elected office. I understand that every politician has to start somewhere; I wish these folks weren’t starting out by running the whole county.

Vance Mays stands out by being a Libertarian, a party that I like in theory. But Mays’s position on economic development seems a bit disingenuous. He says we shouldn’t spend taxpayer dollars on a development agency; it can be done by volunteers. Furthermore, he himself can pick up the phone and have thirty CEO contacts lined up to develop the county. Except that he apparently hasn’t actually done that yet. So I guess his point is that we shouldn’t hire someone to do a job that can be handled by a volunteer, and he will volunteer to do that job as soon as we hire him as commissioner.

The rest of the field is the usual mish-mosh of Republicrats. I remain unimpressed by the assorted posturings re: Two Mile Run Park. At this point we know two things about the park—nobody has a good long-term plan for the place, and it is a miniscule portion of commissioner responsibilities. Electing a commissioner based on a park position is like electing a President based on his plans for the janitorial staff at the Statue of Liberty.

In May, Jan Beichner said that if county government had better communication “you wouldn’t see so many lawsuits.” I’m willing to accept that Beichner is an expert when it comes to lawsuits and the county.

Troy Wood has actually bothered to learn something about county finances. Stan Grzasko has some actual experience with a larger scale union organization. Timothy Brooks is well-educated, but largely invisible during this campaign.

If these were all people who were getting ready to interview for a job, I would guess it was a job they didn’t particularly want. Little campaign material (including no web presence), statements vague to the point of uselessness, and none who appear to have done their homework. Everyone who ever ran for office in this county declared themselves in favor of lower taxes and more well-paid jobs. Big deal. Do any of these people have a clue about how to actually accomplish any of their goals? If they do, perhaps they should share those clues in the next couple of days, because they’re not entitled to our votes just for showing up.

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