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Stateside With Rosalea - One in twenty

Stateside With Rosalea - One in twenty

Poor George. The golden apple slipped from his grasp, after all. Ironically, the Republicans' success in the South, on the East Coast and in the Midwest was probably the cause of their loss here in the California Governor's race. By the time the polling places in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State closed at 8pm Pacific Standard Time, the only other state with polls still open was Alaska.

Here's when they closed, PST - and first results were not long in coming: 4pm: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia 4.30pm: North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia 5pm: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississipi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee 5.30pm: Arkansas 6pm: Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming 7pm: Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah

It would be interesting to know if there was an upsurge in votes for Democratic candidates as the early vote counts started coming in. One thing that can be said for sure is that there was such a run on ballot papers in San Francisco after 5pm that as many as 100 polling places were without them and some had lines of 40 or 50 people waiting for ballot papers to arrive. Some people waited over two hours - others gave up and went home. On this morning's TV news it was reported that the acting SFelections officer was caught by surprise by a turnout of over 60 percent of voters in some precincts.

Let's give credit where credit's due. Karen Hughes' appearance on last Sunday's 'This Week' - with a timely reminder about 911 terrorism, the lack of homeland security and the weakening effect of energy dependence - no doubt helped the Republicans enormously. As did her reference to recalcitrant Democrats in the Senate holding up legislation - specifically that to do with terrorism insurance - which would get the economy moving again by creating jobs.

If the US really is a 50/50 nation then this election is proof that in the land of the bland the one-tune man is king. Even if that tune was just the drum beat of war, spiced up with the occasional drum roll of terrorism. Many Democrats felt obliged to march to that tune; those who didn't made it back into Congress anyway. Barbara Lee, here in the East Bay, received 81.5 percent support for her stand against giving the President blanket powers to wage war without the approval of Congress.

Here in California the Democrats took a clean sweep of all the elected offices. If I might yet salvage Mama Rosa's reputation in respect of her March prophesy that the (Republican) Secretary of State, Bill Jones, would be a winner in November, take a look at this excellent website he was responsible for, which updated election results every ten minutes.

And while you're there I urge you to look closely at the results for the Green candidates in all of the categories under "Statewide Contests". Let me list the percentages for you here:

Governor: Peter Camejo 5.3 (10.2) Lt. Governor: Donna J. Warren 4.2 (8.8) Secretary of State: Larry Shoup 3.9 (11.4) Controller: Laura Wells 5.8 (9.6) Treasurer: Jeanne-Marie Rosenmeier 5 (10.1) Attorney General: Glen Mowrer 3.9 (8.3) Insurance Commissioner: David Sheidlower 3.9 (11.8)

The figures in brackets are the total percentages for non-D/R candidates. Except in the case of the Attorney General, those percentages were higher - often double - the percent difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates. Averaged over the seven races, the Greens captured 4.57 percent of the vote for each statewide office; votes for all non-D/R candidates averaged 10 percent in each race.

Put simply, almost one in twenty voters in the California statewide contest voted Green, and one in ten chose to vote for neither of the two major parties.

I think those are the most significant statistics of this election, because they show that the disenchantment people feel about Republicans and Democrats is not being translated into voluntary disfranchisement, i.e. by people not voting at all. Even with the fear factor of a Republican victory in a traditionally Democratic state, and the closeness of the races, voters opted for candidates who more nearly represented their own beliefs and expectations.

Not all of them did, of course. Here is what one voter told me early in the day: "As soon as they called the race for Gore in 2000 I went out and voted for Ralph Nader. It's too important this time, so I've voted for someone I don't like - Gray Davis." I'm sure many Republicans voted for Bill Simon against their better judgment for just the same reason. There are many things that need to be in place before the US will have a truly representative electoral system, but the more that voters show themselves willing to take a risk and vote true to their beliefs, the quicker those changes will happen.

In other races, Arnie got his way with statewide Proposition 49, while, closer to home, Berkeley's PC coffee bean proposition was defeated, and so was the incumbent mayor, Shirley Dean. In Oakland, voters approved adding another 100 police officers to the force, but turned down all three tax measures that would have paid for it. San Francisco voters announced that they preferred to pay homeless people only $59 of their general assistance cheque directly, putting the other $270 into "expanding service delivery and guaranteeing access to those services", as the proposition's sponsor said in an interview this morning.

As for the touch-screen voting machines, they seemed to work well. However, one comment by Alameda's election official that I heard on the radio seemed to point to a cultural problem with their use. He referred to a voter who said that when he went to vote, all the votes had already been made. It turned out that the voter had been pushing the button that took him to the previous screen. Perhaps its not just other languages that need to be made available but other concepts of reading - going from right to left - as well.

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