The earnestness and diligence displayed by fellow bloggers amuses me. I wonder how many truly believe their favorite candidate’s election will solve all of our problems while the election of their opponents will destroy what’s left of our country.
After our local newspaper touts its choices, I expect it to take a strong stand on the importance of voting: We live in a democracy, yadda yadda and yadda, and voting is what separates us from the Iranians and the folks in Myanmar and Zimbabwe.
I remember the last election day in New York in 1973. The local TV stations there would broadcast editorials and, since the Fairness Doctrine will still the law of the land, the stations would announce their intentions to provide time for viewers who disagreed.
After one local station touted the virtues of democracy and the importance of voting, a local viewer went on camera to disagree. Don’t vote, he said; it only encourages the politicians.
That was 37 years before the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court ruling pretty much equating money with speech and an estimated $3 billion spent on politicians in this off-year election. Which leads me to conclude yeah, your vote counts if your name is Koch or you’re a big shot in ExxonMobil, Citi Corp, or some health insurance company.
But I temper my cynicism for national politics with my belief that democracy continues to work fairly well at the local level. I do have a voice in selecting who will represent me and my neighborhood in the state legislature.
As the Daily News has pointed out, some local elections can be extremely close. In fact a bush seat had to be decided a couple of years ago by a toss of a coin after both candidates tied in the election.
Such tales of races decided by a single vote are meant to inspire us. But they only make me chuckle. Because, you see, I cast the deciding vote in a local election.
In October, 1988 or 1989, Northwest Arctic School District voters faced some blanks on their ballots. Nobody had signed up for a couple of regional school board seats. So, the Saturday before the election, several local folks called the local public radio station, KOTZ, to announce they were running as write-in candidates. I suspect their campaign expenditures may have exceeded 25 cents if they had to pay long distance charges from their village to Kotzebue.
So I walked into the voting booth the first Tuesday of November 22 or 23 years ago with at least some people to vote for. Or so I thought.
There I was, the ballot in front of me, when I suddenly realized I wasn’t sure who was running for which seat. Was Diane Howarth running for Seat D and Jim Barefoot running for Seat E or was it the other way around? I had neglected to write a note to myself and was forced to guess.
That night, election officials tallied the votes. Diane Howarth had easily won seat D. But the race for Seat E was extremely close. Jim Barefoot won by only one vote. The second-place finisher in that race was—(drum roll, please)—Diane Howarth.
I had guessed right. If I’d guessed wrong, Howarth would have won two seats on the Northwest Arctic School District. I asked the borough attorney at the time, Dick Ehrlich, what would have happened then.
He scowled at me and said, “That’s a hypothetical question.” Clearly, he was a lot less amused than I was.
I’m not sure this story has a moral, other than Alaska politics can be totally wacky. But anyone exposed to the mega-posturing in the US Senate race already knows that.
Instead of sticking the obvious platitude that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, it’s your sacred responsibility to select our country’s leaders, I’ll simply state the truth:
My vote once counted. Who knows, yours may do so, too? Wackier things have happened.
For example, in the 1998, the Republican gubernatorial candidate finished behind the guy he defeated in the primary and who announced his write-in candidacy the Saturday before the election.
Then, of course, there was that regional school board race among write-in candidates in the late 1980s.
So, vote--but only if you want to. Admission to the circus is free, and you can always laugh at the clowns.