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Stateside with Rosalea: Election, election...


Stateside with Rosalea

Election, election, election!

By Rosalea Barker

Jeesh! The lengths those East Coast folks will go to in order to be top of the news bulletins again. A power blackout! Some folks here are saying it happened because all the TV channels' OB vans plugged into the grid at the same time just to film Schwarzenegger saying "Hasta la vista, baby". Now fingers are pointing towards the first domino having fallen in Ohio, which is Dennis Kucinich territory. Perhaps he crashed his alternative-fueled presidential campaign bus into a power pole. No doubt there is more to the power outage than meets the comic eye.

2004 Presidential Campaign

An article at the bottom of the Kucinich for President webpage is subtitled: A Profile in Political Courage...and Vindication. One of the strongest reasons people support Kucinich is his battle as mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1977 to keep the city's power system from being privatised. Five of the six banks who held the city to ransom at the time - by refusing to roll over its debt unless it sold Muny Light - held stock in Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co, which was the very company that would have acquired monopoly status as a result of such a sale. Of the eleven directors of CEI, eight were also directors of four of those same banks.

Although ousted from the mayorality as a result of his stance, Kucinich revived his political career in the 90s by using a lightbulb as his campaign symbol during his successful bid for the state senate in 1994. In 1996, Kucinich was elected to the US Congress on the campaign slogan Light up Congress. The Cleveland City Council issued a commendation to him in 1998 for "having the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the city's municipal electric system."

2003 California Governor Recall Campaign

On Friday evening I met the mum of one of the candidates for governor. It was at a talk given by Merv Field from the Field Poll organisation, attended mostly by polisci and journalism students and lecturers, one of whom lightheartedly said he'd bought the "Georgy for Governor" thong but wasn't likely to vote for the lass. Her Mum works at the talk's venue.

The results of the Field Poll were released to the media the next day and are currently all over the airwaves and in the press. Bustamante and Schwarzenegger are now statistically tied, but there is 22 percent support divided between three other Republican candidates and only 7 percent support for an Independent, Green and Democrat whose voters might conceivably give their support to Bustamante instead.

A further poll released today by the same organisation shows people's reactions to certain statements about Schwarzenegger. But one thing the Field Poll has not been asking about is the extent to which people are simply reacting to the chance to poke someone in the eye at the ballot box.

2003 San Francisco Mayoral Election

You will have no doubt heard that there is a move afoot in Monterey County to stop the California recall election from being held in October. The legal argument is based on there being insufficient time and poll workers available to assist minority voters. The spokesperson for the lawyers' organisation that has brought this case refers to an "instant recall election".

Do not confuse this with the instant runoff voting court case that will happen in the Superior Court in San Francisco this week. However, the two things have such a bizarre synergy that it's hard not to look at them both at the same time. The Monterey argument to STOP the recall election being held in October is that the County is failing to meet federal requirements put in place to protect voters rights in districts with low turnout.

The San Francisco argument to REQUIRE the mayoral election to use ranked choice voting (aka instant runoff voting) in November is that the charter of the City and County of San Francisco was amended in March 2002 to require just such a voting system to be used. The San Francisco elections officer is saying such an election can't be done because there isn't enough time to educate voters on how to use the system, nor enough time to have the mechanics of the election process in place.

When the same argument about disenfranchising voters is used in two different localities to support stances that are on opposite sides of the legal fence, the word that comes to mind is "expediency". Nonetheless, I have a great deal of sympathy for the folks charged with running elections here in California. It seems to be a popular political and media sport to say that the people who are employed to run elections are not up to the task.

But then again, it's also a popular political and media sport to convince voters that they themselves are not up to the task of voting.


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