Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Secretary of State Issues - Elections

Since we just conducted primary elections in Indiana, and the Secretary of State is the statewide chief of elections, I'll start here. Look at these turnout numbers, per the Secretary of State's website:

Statewide = 23%
Allen County = unavailable as of posting time, one week after the election
Adams County = 17%
DeKalb County = 21%
Huntington = unavailable as of posting time
Noble County = 17%
Wells County = 21%
Whitley County = unavailable as of posting time

Makes you glad that the Secretary of State's office spent more than a million dollars to educate Hoosier voters on the Voter ID law, doesn't it? Per the Secretary of State's office news release, dated March 15, 2006:
In addition to the website, the Secretary of State's office is spending $1.2 million of state and federal dollars on television, radio and print ads encouraging Hoosiers to register to vote, bring ID to the polls, and provide general answers to voting and accessibility questions. Currently, print ads and six television and radio spots cover all 92 Indiana counties. Reminders to bring photo ID to the polls are also being placed on the inside and outside of transit systems in major metropolitan areas as well as at bus stops in order to target voters who may not drive or have a driver's license.

Maybe some effort should have been made to encourage people to get out and vote. It seems pretty pointless to have spent this kind of money advising people how to do something they weren't going to do.

Maybe the problem is that the primary elections are too much the private domain of the Republican and Democratic parties, and not inclusive enough to be of interest to more voters.

Should taxpayers really be funding the election of Republican & Democratic precinct committemen? That is obviously private party business, and should be eliminated from the primaries.

Should taxpayers really be funding the election of Republican & Democratic delegates to the parties' statewide conventions? That is also quite obviously private party business, and should be eliminated from the primaries.

Did you know that when you take a Republican or Democratic primary ballot, doing so is the legal equivalent of making the statement that you intend to cast the majority of your votes in the general election in November for that same party, under threat of perjury. People who do know this, and know themselves well enough to know that they scratch vote across the map, tend to stay away.

People who like to scratch vote often stay away.
People who vote Libertarian often stay away.
People who are independents, or Greens, or Socialists, or anything else have only exclusively Republicans or Democrats to choose from, so they often stay away.

In sum, the primary election process is a structural disaster, and an expensive one at that. As long as it is going to serve as the private domain of the Republican and Democratic parties, let them pay for it. Spare the taxpayers the expense, because it isn't anything like a public function.

These are things I want Hoosiers to consider, because I have a deep interest in fair elections and in high levels of participation.

The turnout for the Indiana primaries is embarrassing. Unfortunately, you can't count on a Republican or Democratic candidate for Secretary of State to raise these issues, because doing so might be seen from inside the parties as an assault on their well-built mousetrap, and they can't risk a loss of support, even in the name of more inclusive elections.


Jeff Pruitt said...

I take the opposite view on this issue. I believe we should have public financing of all elections. This would be THE most important piece of legislation in the last 40 years.

Lobbyists are costing this country billions of dollars in handouts, tax breaks, etc. By eliminating lobbyist money from the political realm this country can once again become a representative democracy. Anyone who believes that this will actually COST the taxpayers money just doesn't understand the current political climate.

Mike Kole said...


I think you are drawing a different distinction. I am in favor of publicly funded primaries when they act like public functions. Unfortunately, the Ds & Rs have made them their own private game. If they are going to collude to exclude, let them pay.

If I am not mistaken, you are speaking of limiting the amount of money any given candidate can spend on their campaign. That's quite a seperate issue than what I have proposed.

Please correct me if I am wrong in my interpretation.

Robert Enders said...

I can't even see how someone could be prosecuted for perjury if they lied about party affiliation during a primary, since they would be casting a secret ballot in the fall.

The way the law is written, Howard Dean himself could get an apartment in Indy, vote GOP in the primary in the hopes of getting the weakest candidate nominated, then coting straight Democrat in November. The only way we would know that he did it would be if he openly bragged about it. The only consequence he would probably face for voting in a GOP primary is negative publicity.

Mike Kole said...

Robert- I have had the GOP county chair in Hamilton County cite to me that some of our members took R or D primary ballots in the past. He cited them by name. While it is never pressed for enforcement, clearly there are party chiefs who pay attention to this stuff, and it isn't because they have a deep seated interest in voters choosing the candidates they prefer.

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