The first half of Election 2014 is complete. This was our first full run at a top-two primary. We have heard “increasing voter participation” as a justification for several election policy changes, including the top-two primary, and at a local level, shifting elections to even-numbered years.
Are we getting the intended results?
Solano County Board of Supervisors 4th District voters re-elected their supervisor with around 5,000 votes; only around 10,000 people bothered to vote for anyone. The 3rd District had around 10,000 votes submitted as well. For a district of more than 80,000 people, this means less than 10 percent of the population is determining the leadership and course of the district.
Are things running so well that complacency is setting in? Was it a case where all the candidates were such great choices that regardless of who came out on top, the district would be adequately represented? Is the actual physical activity of voting too much of a burden? Is sitting at home, filling in bubbles and slapping a postage stamp on an envelope too much effort?
Why would so many people shirk the privilege and responsibility of voting?
Perhaps the lack of knowledge or choice is to blame. This ballot, I found myself stumped on whom to select for some positions. Many times, I don’t know enough about the candidates and/or positions, particularly the lower ticket state constitutional officers.
I still don’t know why we need an elected lieutenant governor, and why we do not combine the state treasurer and controller positions (beyond the fact they are constitutional officers). The vast majority of California voters are unclear as to what the State Board of Equalization does. If it were renamed the “State Board of Redistribution,” watch people get educated.
Positions such as a city clerk, who serve an administrative role, and do not have any policy-making authority, nor independent audit/compliance authority, should be appointed, not elected.
Additionally, there were several positions where there were no challengers for whatever reason. In the private sector, if I have a job opening, and none of the handful of applicants who applied are top-caliber performers, I don’t just pick the best of the worse. Hiring a bad employee is worse than not hiring anyone at all.
Faced with this lack of information or choice, oftentimes voters will facetiously respond with “None of the above!” What if “None of the Above,” or “NOTA,” were an actual choice a voter could have? Sometimes, I would rather have the position remain vacant than hire any of the choices provided, particularly when the position pays well in excess of $100,000 a year.
NOTA would also be a welcome change from the “lesser of two evils” voting strategy that more voters seem to embrace every year. Rather than voting for a crummy candidate because the other candidate is even crummier, voters can express their displeasure by wholeheartedly supporting “nobody.” If the political machines who essentially select and fund their candidates saw their puppets (sorry, candidates) lose to “nobody,” perhaps they would be compelled to rethink their strategy.
Nevada has this option, and NOTA has actually won a few times. Several other states have the NOTA option, and if NOTA wins, a new election takes place.
The responsibility of voting entails more than just filling in random bubbles. Studying the qualifications and responsibilities of each position is vital, as well as the resumes of each of the candidate applicants. Without vigilance, we the people will get the representation we deserve, even if it is “none.”
Get ready: The second half of Election 2014 starts now.
Brian Thiemer is chairman of the Solano County Libertarian Party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.