Sunday, October 28, 2012

Voting (initiatives)

So, those not interested in politics shd just ignore the next few posts, where I share my thoughts about how I'm voting and why.

Voting is already underway here. Washington no longer has voting in person at polling booths,  but does all its ballets by mail -- a system that seems fraught with potential for fraud, but luckily this is a state with a really good record for squeaky-clean elections, so it shd be okay. In any case, it's what we've got so we'll have to hope for the best.

The ballet is so long and complicated this year that I thought I'd break it down into sections. First up are the Initiatives (what some other states call Propositions) and Referendums and, God help us, Advisory Votes (where we're asked what we think about laws the legislature passed).   If we want a democracy rather than a republic, we shd redo the whole system, not try to have it both ways at once.

The big two are Initiative 1185 and Initiative 1240, both of which are on the ballot because of petitions, and both of which actually change the law if passed.

Initiative 1185: NO.
This one wants to keep in place a supermajority rule whereby the legislature needs a two-thirds vote to pass any tax. Because filibuster-type rules worked so well in the national congress and senate these past four years. A recipe for gridlock, this is the Tax Deadbeats' initiative of the year. We elect people to make hard decisions, including raising taxes when necessary; to then try to prevent them from carrying out that job is, shall we say, counter-intuitive.

The Wife Says: "'That operates on the assumption 
that at any given time two-thirds of the people 
are brave enough to do what needs to be done"

Initiative 1240: NO.
This is the Charter School initiative, which would create a publicly funded charter school system. Since, as I see it, the goals of the charter schools movement are (1) to loot public schools' funding till the system collapses (they're alarmingly close to success there) and (2) re-establish segregation, I'm against this one. We shd have a well-funded public school system, with those who want to home-school or private school doing it on their own dime: it's wrong to take public money to fund private schools.

Referendum 74: YES.
This  is the Gay Marriage bill, which would confirm the legislature's legalization of Gay Marriage here in Washington State. Not much I cd say one way or the other on this, except that how people vote here is a pretty good indication whether they're living in the twenty-first century reluctantly or with hope.

Initiative 502: YES.
Here's an odd one: a prohibitionist voting yes on legalizing marijuana clinics. Why? Because it makes no kind of sense to have alcohol be legal and marijuana illegal. Hypocrisy poisons the system: The sooner we stop "The War On Drugs", the better.* Treat marijuana like alcohol -- taxed, regulated, restricted -- and punish its abuse, not its use, as we do with drunk drivers.
   As for harder drugs, it's better to set up clinics to treat addicts and keep them functional than it is to put them all in jail.

Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8221: ???
Honestly, I have no idea. The description of what this measure is supposed to do is such gobbledegoop that I'm just guessing at what we're being asked to approve. It seems that the goal is to reduce the state's ability to borrow money. Not being a big fan of the government going broke in a crisis, I'm voting against this one -- but I wish I had more confidence in knowing what I was actually voting for or against.

The Wife Says: "The one part I cd understand 
made no sense to me at all"

Senate Joint Resolution 8223: ??
Another poorly described measure, this one relates to where to Univ. of Wash. can invest its money. I'll be voting no: if they can't explain what they want to do differently and why, then they haven't made the case for changing the law.

Advisory Vote of the People 1: MAINTAIN
Here's we're just getting silly: a non-binding vote on whether we approve of a closed loophole. It's disguised as "they raised our taxes!", which makes it a Tax Deadbeats' measure, which is reason enough to reject it. Though it gives me pause that while the state senate passed the measure being questioned 35 to 10, my own state senator is one of those who voted against.

Advisory Vote of the People 2: MAINTAIN
Another beauty contest without legal weight, and another poorly described measure. Sorting through the double negatives, it apparently relates to keeping a petroleum tax going after it wd otherwise have expired. I think.  When in doubt, I consult who supports and opposes this bill. Those favoring a "repeal" vote are the Tax Deadbeats, who call it "a tax increase". For the "maintain" side, we have the fact that 93 of 98 members of the state house voted in favor of the extension (including our own two representatives, Upthegrove and Orwall, who are pretty reliable), with only one voting against and four abstentions. So it's a bipartisan measure and almost unanimous; good enough.

At this point, I have to switch over to the second voters' pamphlet, for county and local issues.

King County Proposition 1: Approved
This is to fund a regional fingerprinting database. Have to admit I'm tepid on this one, given how fingerprints aren't nearly as reliable a form of identification as people think (there are strict rules as to its legal admissibility in a trial, where fingerprint experts have to carefully hedge how they voice their conclusions). But they're still useful (e.g., to identify people who for whatever reason can't speak to identify themselves), and the argument against is pure Tax Deadbeat ("The Council uses homeowners as its ATM and . . . conducts business in air-conditioned offices . . . Property taxes are too high and going higher because valuations are rising . . ."**), so this one gets a (qualified) approval.

City of Kent Proposition 1: APPROVED
This local measure authorizes the city of Kent to raise property taxes a fraction to maintain parks. This one's pretty much a no-brainer: those who like parks and walking trails will vote yes, those who can't abide any tax for any reason will vote no.***

Whew. That's it for the initiatives, much the stickiest part of the ballot. From here on out it's voting for people, not measures. 

--John R.

*actually, there may be developments on that front soon: the civil war in Columbia is now winding down.
**they also complain, in their reasons against, that city bus drivers are getting paid too much. No, really.
***here the anti-tax people argue that this tax will prevent people in $300,000 homes from being able to afford milk, and suggest that it's better to discard assets than pay for their maintenance.


Jason Fisher said...

Thanks for this, John. As a recent transplant to the area (quite taken aback by vote-by-mail!), this helped to make some sense of the ballot.

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Jason
Glad it helped. For a thorough and even-handed discussion of the various issues and candidates, check out
--John R.

Oh, and welcome to the area. Hope you're settling in nicely.