November’s Mail Ballot Election – Is Voter Fraud the Motivation?

Voting has always been considered a cornerstone of our democratic processes. It is how we keep our government officials in line, hiring or firing them as we see fit.

As voters, we must always look closely at government officials who endeavor to change the process by which we hire and fire them.

Democratic Tucson City Councilman Richard Fimbres brought up the idea of making November’s city election a vote-by-mail affair at a City Council meeting in March. The public hearing was held at the council meeting on April 5, and the council voted 5-2 to make November’s election vote by mail.

The city charter does allow for the designation of any election to be a “mail ballot election.” However, the questions that immediately come to mind are, “Why?” and, “Why now?”

Councilmembers Fimbres and Regina Romero spoke of saving money and increasing voter participation as compelling reasons for mail ballots, and they point out a national trend toward mail ballots; Oregon has been using mail-only balloting since voters approved a citizens’ initiative in 1998. I don’t argue that there is a trend; I am happy to stipulate that the rise of mail ballots is a national problem. Regarding voter participation and supposed cost savings, they are more wishful thinking than fact.

Research performed in California, and sponsored by the Pew Center on the States, shows that the introduction of mail-ballot-only systems actually reduces participation by 13.2 percent overall, while reducing participation of urban, Asian and Hispanic voters 50, 30.3 and 27.3 percent, respectively. It also shows a 5.99 percent participation advantage for Democrats over Republicans.

Research done at the University of Oregon contradicts these findings, but the data were derived from survey responses, not by tracking individual voters through four cycles, as the California study did.

Anyway, I am not the only one who believes that the act of voting should not be equivalent to the act of paying your sewer bill. Voting is something for which you should take time. It is serious. Right now, “early” or “absentee” ballots may be requested from the city clerk by people who may not be able to go to polling places. The change to all-mail ballots seems to make a difference only for those who are not serious about elections.

This is better?

There are some good arguments for cost savings, though much of what is saved on poll workers is spent on additional printing and postage. Though this November’s election will be a mail-ballot vote in Tucson, by law, the city must still provide at least one polling place per ward, and the city will also provide drop-off facilities for those who prefer hand-delivery to mailing the ballot. The duty of ensuring accurate elections is probably not the first place to turn for cutting fiscal corners.

So, what’s the real story? If the Democrats believe in mail ballots, why don’t they go for a charter change instead of this one-time deal? Well? Republican Steve Kozachik, with a second from Democrat Paul Cunningham, made a motion to put the idea on the November ballot so the people could decide whether or not to change the way we hire officials. It was voted down by the rest of the officials.

The answers to, “Why” and, “Why now?” may be one and the same. In the last City Council election, the Democrats lost Ward 6 to Republican Kozachik, and came within a couple of hundred votes of losing Ward 3 to Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia. Those results, and current national trends, must have Democrats squirming in their chairs. Something must be done to influence the outcome of the election this go-round, and what better way to do that than with mail-in ballots? We all learned in grade school about “chain of custody” of ballots, whether they were machine ballots or paper cards, which prevent any hanky-panky. There is no chain of custody with mail ballots.

I’m not accusing Democrats of conspiring to commit voter fraud. I’m just trying to come up with a believable explanation for this one-shot mail-in deal, and the rejection of the more reasonable referendum suggestion. Any ideas?

Tucson City Council moves meeting to Civic Center, bracing for big crowd

On Tuesday, January 5, the regular session of the Tucson City Council was move to the Civic Center in anticipation of large protest crowds. The agenda that day included the discussion of budget options, including cuts to public safety and a new “Landlord’s Tax”.

Many people from groups representing police, fire, and renters were there. Volunteers from Tucson Tea Party were selling T-shirts. Trent Humphries, of Tucson Tea Party, was there chatting with people. He said that during the study session earlier that day, Ward VI councilman Steve Kozachic, with budget book in hand, offered a number of specific items in the one to two million dollar category that could be cut from the budget immediately. Humphries also reported that both public safety cuts and the “Landlord’s Tax” were now “off the table.”

The abandonment of the public safety cuts and the new tax appeared to take much of the energy out of the crowd. While many people milled around outside the hall, there were few signs and little excitement among the protestors.

In related news, a committee was formed to recall mayor Bob Walkup and councilmen Regina Romero and Karin Uhlich. The committee includes Umberto Lopez, local developer and investor, and the Tucson Tea Party. Papers are to be filed January 6, 2010.

Tucson Elections Wrap-up

The votes have been cast, and Tucsonans sent clear messages regarding the ballot proposals. Council races are now official.

Candidates:

Richard Fimbres won Ward V beating Shaun McCluskey. Karin Uhlich hangs on to Ward III by 195 votes beating Ben Beuhler-Garcia. Steve Kozachick upsets incumbent Nina Trasoff in Ward VI by well over 1,000 votes.

Props 401 and 402, TUSD Overrides:

Both attempts by Tucson Unified School District to exceed its its budgets limits were defeated, both by substantial 20 point margins. The failure reflects a basic distrust among Tucsonans. From the many financial scandals, to the “Post Unitary Status Plan”. Greg Patterson of Espresso Pundit credits the controversial “La Raza” (The Race) program.

Young man with Karin Uhlich tee-shirt holds SEIU generated ant-prop 200 sign at Tea Party


Prop 200, Public Safety:

This ill-conceived proposal would mandate specific police and fire response times, officer/population ratios, etc.The idea was to force the council to fund basic services rather than pet projects, favored charities, and payoffs to supporters. The promotion effort was terrible, and the Left seized on the general anti-tax mood to attack the proposal. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) activists were seen at the last Tucson Tea Party parading around with signs saying that Prop 200 would increase taxes. It lost 70% to 30%

Be a Part of History!

At the national level, the Republicans are wandering around shell-shocked in the wilderness, while the Democrats are lookin’ fly and rollin’ phat.

Many Republicans, who dare to look at the future, see a glimmer of hope in 2010. They know that, historically speaking, the mid-term elections usually result in electoral advances for the party that is out of power – if ever a party was out of power, it is certainly today’s Republican Party. Between 1946 and 1996, the president’s party suffered an average loss of about 24 seats in midterm elections, according to the book The American Congress, by Steven S. Smith, Jason M. Roberts, and Ryan J. Vander Wielen. The authors went on to state that the only time this does not happen is when the president’s approval rating is very high.

President Obama’s approval rating is still high, but so are the people’s expectations for his presidency. If, in two years, the economy has not recovered dramatically, unemployment is high, or the voters generally feel that their desires have not been fulfilled; they maybe inclined to make it a good year for Republicans. Two years is a long time in politics.

What the Republicans need are a few good candidates, and campaign organizations. Perhaps there will be some past successes from which they could glean ideas.

Let us now go back in time from 2010 to 2009 (that would be now), and narrow our focus from the nation to Tucson (that would be here). We may have here today a microcosm of the national scene in 2010.

While the big change on the national scene was the last election in which Democrat Barack Obama won the presidency, and Democrats strengthened their hold on Congress. The big change here occurred in 2005, when Democrats Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich succeeded Republicans Fred Ronstadt and Kathleen Dunbar. This put Tucson firmly under Democrat control. The newly elected Democrats were to transform Tucson into a happy, crime-free, traffic-jam free, neighborly city with a vibrant downtown in which one could not swing a cat without hitting some kind of artist. The big plank in the platform was the elimination of the trash fee, originally instituted by those nasty Republicans.

The reality, of course, turned out much differently. People are not moving around town on greenways and bicycles; rather, the City Council has approved plans by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to make roads bigger and better for *gasp* automobiles. The Rio Nuevo project, that was to “revitalize” downtown Tucson, has been so poorly managed that there is little to show for the ten years, and 60 to 100 million or so dollars, apparently spent on design concepts and artist’s renditions. I just checked my water bill and, and yep, the trash fee is still there. Then there is the goofy stuff like facilitating classes that teach kids how to spray graffiti. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So, Tucson really is the laboratory in which the Republicans can test ways to win against floundering Democrats. The old loser approaches should be abandoned. A focus on technology, particularly social networking, would help. More resources directed at grassroots efforts, with more autonomy at that level, would bring the campaigns into the 21st century. There is certainly enough disenchantment throughout the community that money should not be a problem.

The only major stumbling block is the party itself – they are, as of this writing, three months behind already! I asked Bob Westerman, chairman of the Pima County Republicans, if they were on it. He said that they were actively recruiting. I hope so. This is an opportunity that ought not be missed.

If you have been griping about how you find the current council embarrassing, if you are aggravated by what you see as an anti-business climate in this town, now is your chance to step up to the plate. Imagine, being on the cutting edge, beating the majority party, being the example to which the big boys look for ideas and guidance, making history….any takers?