Not going to happen this next year, but it could happen:
Since 1998, Beaver State voters have dropped their ballots in special mail receptacles or popped them in the regular mail.
Could New Mexico be next for similarly easy, and cheap, elections?
Maybe, says Secretary of State-elect Mary Herrera.
She's got mail-in elections on her to-look-into list, although not for the 2007 legislative session.
"Mail-in is a lot cheaper and you get a lot higher turnout," she said.
The turnout statewide was more than 52 percent in this election, in which voters picked a governor, statewide officials and members of Congress. In 2002, about 53 percent of voters showed up at the polls on Election Day.
By contrast, Oregon in recent general elections has seen as high as a 90 percent voter turnout, said Connie Higgins, Curry County, Ore., elections administrator and chief deputy county clerk.
There are so many reasons for all states to move to the vote-by-mail system - turnout, cost, ease of use, general enfranchisement and promoting a deliberative voting process (voters get time to consider the issues and candidates, instead of just voting on the spot).
Coming from Oregon to New Mexico, I must admit I was a little frustrated by the voting process. I'm not saying it was especially hard to vote here but rather it is so easy in Oregon. Every year I would just receive my ballot, take my time to consider it and then send/drop it off. If we had systems like this in place across the nation, let alone out west than we could make vast strides towards a more more healthy democracy.
In a modern democracy, the people's will must be able to be freely expressed through fair and honest voting systems. We all know the stories of Ken Blackwell in Ohio and Katherine Harris in Florida. Because of their malfeasance, the true intent of their state's voters will never be known.
Out in the West, we sense a growing demand for honesty and integrity in elections. Arizona has a clean money system for finance, New Mexico has a mandated paper trail for all its ballots and Oregon, with their vote-by-mail, sets a great western standard for civic participation (turnout in 2004 was 70.9%) and strengthening democratic ideals.
Enter the Secretary of State Project:
The Secretary of State Project was created by concerned citizens to provide an easy-to-use, low-cost vehicle for online donations to key Secretary of State races.
The Secretary of State Project evaluates candidates based on their positions on election issues - primarily support for a voter-verifed paper trail and transparency of the voting process, strict enforcement of laws preventing voter intimidation, opposition to any and all barriers to voting by and registration of citizens, and a committment to increasing voter turnout rather than suppressing the votes of traditionally disenfranchised groups. While a progressive enterprise at its heart, the Secretary of State Project does not screen candidates for issue positions unrelated to the duties of the office of Secretary of State, including but not limited to the war in Iraq, gay marriage, a woman's right to choose, or U.S. trade policy.
Money spent in these races will go much, much, much farther than money spent elsewher due to the nature of their usual competition and media markets. It's great to see organizations like this making the move and organizing off to the sides where it matters quite a bit.
Under the gun to meet tight election-day deadlines, the Secretary of State's office certified a kind of voting machine for Jefferson and Mesa Counties that does not meet state requirements.
The information comes from the deposition of John Gardner - the man appointed by Gigi Dennis as an expert and charged with certifying the machines.
But Gardner testified he is not an expert in the areas required by state law. He also admitted that the Secretary of State's office was under pressure to certify the voting machines because counties had already purchased them.
Democratic candidate for Secretary of State and state Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon issued a release today criticizing Dennis.
"I call on Secretary Dennis to immediately hire competent staff and perform adequate and thorough testing, as the law requires her to do," Gordon said in the release. "There must be a competent examination of these computerized voting machines before the election. There are critical decisions for Colorado to make this November. We cannot have trust in the results on election night if serious doubts surround our computerized voting machines."
Though Congress is definately the dog and pony show of 2006, down-ballot races such as these will make all the difference in the world. If you believe the battle for Congress is key to the future elections, how can we count on elections when we can't count our votes?
Support The Secretary of State Project.
At least eight states applied Friday to join Iowa and New Hampshire in voting early in the 2008 presidential contest.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina had put in a bid by Friday afternoon. Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera said he wasn't sure how many more states might apply.
Despite the applications it is worth it to note that the proposal to allow up to two other states to hold caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire, and then allow up to two more states to hold primaries shortly after New Hampshire still has to be voted on by the DNC Rules Committee and the full DNC. Even then, look for New Hampshire to make a lot of noise on the issue. After all, in New Hampshire "First in the Nation" primary is a birthright.
Would Florida moving its primary forward really be that big of a challenge to the Western Primary? Yes, I think so. A big electoral state (27 evs) with a consolidated media market vs. a diverse range of Western states. Am I getting too worried about this?
State Rep. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican in line to become the next Speaker of the Florida House, says he has the necessary, bipartisan political backing to move the state’s presidential primary to a date one week after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.
Florida is “a social and economic microcosm of the United States” that has been frustrated by its inability to affect the primary selection process, said Rubio. “We are committed to moving the Florida primary up.”
If Florida did shift to the top tier of the primary calendar, it could siphon advertising money, press coverage and the attention of candidates from a group of Western states that are also considering such a move.
I'm especially frightened by the statement that Florida is “a social and economic microcosm of the United States."
Editor's note: The following is a guest column by Scott Bellows of Eugene, Oregon. Scott describes himself as a "lawyer, mediator, writer, parent, and politics geek."
From Sunday's Washington Post:
The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee yesterday dealt a blow to New Hampshire Democrats hoping to keep their coveted place in the presidential nominating schedule, agreeing by voice vote to a plan that would place one or two caucuses between the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.
The proposal, which grew from recommendations by a commission studying how to make the nominating process more diverse both racially and geographically, would also add one or two primaries after the New Hampshire contest but before Feb. 5 -- the date after which any state is free to schedule a vote.
The next step in the process is for states hoping to win an early place in 2008 to submit their proposals to the Rules and Bylaws Committee by April 14. Representatives from states hoping to move up can also make a personal pitch to the committee during the Democratic National Committee's spring meeting April 20-22 in New Orleans.
Most observers believe the additional states will come from the South and the West -- two rapidly growing areas that offer a diverse electorate. South Carolina, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama and Mississippi are among the states under consideration.
Which for me raises two questions:
1. What states are most likely to result in an early victory by a dark horse other than the presumptive frontrunner? THOSE are the states we want to add, because power-broker-engineered juggernauts (more here) both are bad for democracy and, contrary to conventional wisdom, tend to result in candidates who lose in the general election.
2. Why are the only Western states being considered located in the Southwest? Marketing experts commonly test new advertising campaigns in Oregon because it's representative of the nation's overall demographics (it has everything from hippies to farmers to cowboys to millworkers), and because advertising costs are relatively low; those same factors, plus the fact that the state demographically mirrors parts of the more influential states California and Washington and would draw strong media coverage from those larger markets, make Oregon a great choice for an early primary.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is the latest example of why campaign finance reform is necessary. Where else but in the United States of America could a high school student find the resources to give the maximum donation of $44,600 to Governor Schwarzenegger for his re-election campaign? Does anyone out there know of a teenager with $44,600 to their name? Capitol Weekly has the story.
Because Elizabeth Arkley is 18 years old, she, like any other adult, can donate up to $22,300 to Schwarzenegger for both the gubernatorial primary and general election. Elizabeth's parents, Cherie and Robin Arkley and her college-aged sister, Allison, each gave $44,600 to the governor's reelection campaign.
This process, for the uninitiated, is what is known as bundling. Elizabeth Arkley may not have $44,600 but because her parents have more than enough, and because she is at least 18, under California law, she can donate the maximum to the Governor under her own name. So what politically active, rich parents do is donate the maximum in the names of all of their family members who are legally eligible to donate.
In all fairness, Schwarzenegger's Democratic challengers, Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, have donors who have bundled their donations and done the same thing.
It is has been proven that young people aren’t the most politically active age group, so while Elizabeth Arkley might be politically active, what about all of the other youth who have donated large sums to Governors, Presidential candidates and others? Are they all politically active, and if so why aren’t they voting? Also, teenagers are notorious for rebelling against their parents. Are we to believe that Elizabeth Arkley and all the other teenagers who have donated actually support the candidates their parents support?
Mainly, bundling is a way for big money donors to skirt campaign finance laws and to gain favor with the candidate of their choice. How many of George W. Bush’s Rangers bundled donations?
It’s time for serious campaign finance reform. More power to the 18 year old who is able to donate $44,600 in an election cycle, but I’m willing to bet there are less than 5 of them out there. And while the Supreme Court has equated political donations with free speech, there has to be some way to stop the madness. I’ve been hearing more about it lately and perhaps public financing of elections is the answer.
Of course, the Western Primary is a “the more the merrier situation” (except for California), so its good to see that Democrats in Montana are talking about it. Also, it would be good to see the state that brought us Brian Schweitzer and will bring us Jon Tester or John Morrison voting on the same day as Utah and New Mexico (at least) in 2008.
A coordinated Western states primary could go a long way to asserting the Western voice in the selection of presidential candidates, writer and thinker Dan Kemmis told the Missoula County Democrats Tuesday night.
But figuring out how and how much to change the system is not as easy as it might seem.
Proponents of a Western states primary suggest that the eight Rocky Mountain states band together to hold primaries and caucuses closer together and earlier in the season than Montana's is held now. That would compel candidates to visit Western states instead of flying over. And it would encourage Westerners to identify the regional issues they hold in common.
“It's trying to get presidential candidates to pay some attention to the West,” said Kemmis, who is working on the idea from a bipartisan perspective in his work as senior fellow in public policy at the University of Montana's Center for the Rocky Mountain West.
Kemmis also has a good review on how things are going right here.
Emmett O'Connell | January 16, 2006 | Comment on This Post (2 so far)
Scott Chacon, Rep. Richard Pombo's open source opponent in the CA-11, has pulled out of the race. His reason for leaving the race is the same the one he has for joining in the first place: whether any suitable candidate is challening Pombo:
Margee is unbelievably qualified, technologically savvy, internationally and politically experienced and still amazingly humble. We are continually impressed with her passion, kindness and strength of character. She is exactly who I want representing me. I have volunteered to do whatever I can to help her campaign and she has very graciously accepted.
If you look at Ms. Ensign's website, you might see why he likes her so much. She has picked up almost exactly where Chacon left off with his ground breaking website package.
Chacon also reminds us that Pombo, as many congressional Republicans are, is vunerable in the next go-round:
Pombo has gained national attention for his questionable and controversial acts while at the same time his congressional mentor Tom DeLay is being prosecuted for corruption charges. Because of this negative attention, the DCCC and other democratic-leaning organizations have targeted our eleventh district. Pombo and the Republican party are vulnerable, so now candidates and money are pouring into this race.
There is a move to make Nevada or possibly Colorado an early caucus state.
This could give a greater voice to several underrepresented and important groups in the early selection process: residents of urban areas, Hispanics, and Westerners. As a bonus to office seekers and the press alike, January in Nevada is likely to be a lot more pleasant than January in New Hampshire or Iowa.
An early Western caucus is a great complement to a Western primary.
Utah's Governor Jon Huntsman (R) is saying that the number of state's that will participate in a likely to participate in the Western Primary will be three (UT, NM and AZ) and not six (take out MT, CO and WY). On a purely partisan basis, this isn't really bad news because two of the three states left are arguably stronger Democratic states that the ones that Huntsman now says aren't likely.
But, this isn't a partisan thing. If it was, I would be arguing for one big primary in the Northeast or a Pacific Coast primary to boost Democrats in places we are already strong. But, one of the points of the Western Primary is that it would help transform the Democratic Party from a Northeast/Pacific Coast party to a party from (partly) the West. Whichever Republican that said "...Democrats (in Utah) could be hurt because national candidates tend to be more liberal" is wrong in outlining the effects of a Western Primary. Only a certain type of Democratic candidate would bother spending time out West. Having a Western Primary at all, especially a big one, would even change who would be running to begin with.
If you make the path for the Presidency run West, you change the party.
So, I would argue that including some deep Red Western states where Democrats have shown some success (such as Wyoming with Gov. Dave and Montana with the big Schweitzer) is a vital part of the entire Western Primary.
Emmett O'Connell | August 31, 2005 | Comment on This Post (2 so far)