Friday, September 10, 2010

So that’s what ballots and elections are for!!

Who’d have guessed that our democratic process of elections could provide so many opportunities for cognitive dissonance, mischief, and downright distortion of common sense.  At the same time they allow us to tell our elected officials what we think about things they have nothing to do with, or have no say about.  And to purposes we can’t comprehend.

Here’s some examples.

  • In this state, election law has been so neutered and perverted that the simple act of asking for ID at the polling place can be interpreted as “voter intimidation.”
  • The voter registration process, and maintenance of the resulting voter rolls, are so lacking in rigor and discipline that they are an embarrassment, if not a threat to election outcome integrity. 
  • Selective compliance with residency law, which itself has been manipulated to the point of absurdity, is perfectly OK.  You’re supposed to get a Maine Driver’s License within 30 days of becoming a state resident.  But if you suggest registrars should ask to see your license as proof of residence, out come the intimidation claims again.  You’ll be registered as a resident on the thinnest of claims, including a simple signature affirming that you are one. 
  • There is absolutely no follow up to see that you comply with other requirements of residency, like a Driver’s License, vehicle registration and excise tax payment to the town of your residence, and filing Maine Income Tax returns.

While these are largely generic issues, they are particularly applicable to Bowdoin College students, who frequently vote in large enough numbers in our elections to effect the outcome of local races for town officials, and even members of the state legislature.

  • During the prior school year, editors of the Bowdoin College campus newspaper, The Orient, opined that it is entirely appropriate for students to vote in that locality where they “most feel like a resident,” and that it’s perfectly acceptable to change their registration from election to election based on where they would like to effect the outcomes.

I suppose if you’re used to getting your way, no matter what it means to others, that makes perfect sense.

And now, let me touch on the recent local event that stimulated this particular post.  It has to do with the proposal of two town councilors to place a “non-binding resolution” on the November ballot.

From the Forecaster on 9 September:

The proposal was: “We, the citizens of Brunswick, want our tax dollars spent on education, health, safety, environmental protection and the infrastructure of Brunswick, rather than on war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.”

Atwood ….. emphasized that the matter was “not about whether any of us agree with that statement; it’s about whether we are willing to give Brunswick residents a chance to tell us whether they agree with it or not.”

Clearly, the subject of the proposal does not fall within the purview, the authority, or the charter of the town council or municipal government.  No matter, Councilor Atwood believes it’s important to use our election process to tell “us” what they think on any and all subjects.

And we wonder why we have government intervening and intruding on aspects of our lives that were never intended.  And why government at all levels is growing out of control, and unable to live within its means.

We here at the editorial offices are starting to compile a list of issues that we residents should have a chance to tell the council that we agree with or not, regardless of their falling within the scope of town governance.

And we’d like to have your ideas as well. 

Just think of the fun we can have at future council meetings as we muster 20 or 30 supporters to demand that Danny’s Dogs be declared “The Official Hot Dog of Brunswick.”

Or that non-organic granola be banned from the shelves of local merchants.

Or that residents be required to wipe their mouths on their sleeves when dining in local establishments, rather than using paper or cloth napkins, but only in the months from September to May, when long sleeves are the norm.

Or that the crime fighting elements of the local Police Department be dis-established to discourage lawlessness.

Or that ground beef prices be limited to no more than $1.99 a pound.

Or that ‘tramp stamps’ be barred from public display within town borders.  (I’m particularly interested in this one, having had a number of instances where my appetite was compromised by such a display.  This can’t be good for our restaurant trade.)

Clearly, the possibilities are endless.  Keep the cards and letters coming, folks.

Now that we think of it though, perhaps the best way to forward the Atwood/Pols theory of public sentiment is to expand the concept of “write-in” voting.

Let’s have our local ballots modified to include a “comment” section of 250 words or less, where we can each tell our town council what we agree with or don’t.  Or even more democratically, submit a “letter to the town council and the world about anything we want to.”

I don’t know how anyone could disagree with such an idea, but if you do, we can always have it put before the electorate to see where they stand on it, just so we know.

Right, councilors?

1 comment:

  1. One thing that has always been missing from the ballot has been an opportunity for the voter to declare his/her dislike of any of the candidates.Therefore, all ballots should have a blank saying "none of the above". In addition, if the candidate running for office does not get get a majority of the registered voters in his/her district, they lose and the district goes unrepresented. (Note I used the PC his/her so as not to offend)