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Is Our Voting System Fair?

Howard Rien, Eureka Reporter Guest Editorial
February 21, 2006
Get Involved Today!The measure to prevent non-local corporations from donating to local elections will be an issue in the June election. While I can understand the frustrations of those who were successful in getting this measure placed on the ballot, I will not be supporting it.

Like many of the problems with our voting system, it just is not fair. My position is that anyone with a vested interest in a ballot measure, proposition or candidate can, and perhaps should, donate time, money, whatever, to support their interests. I would even go so far as to say that I feel anyone with a vested interest should be able to vote even if they do not live in the locale that is doing the voting. Unfortunately, as good as our election system is there's still much unfairness.

Consider, if you will, a businessman who might live in Cutten, who owns a business or property in Eureka. How fair is it that he cannot vote to oppose, or support, a tax on his city property, on utility taxes, on school bonds, just because his business property is just a short commute away? But he has to pay the tax, like it or not. Is that fair? I think not. At the very least he should be able to campaign and fund the campaign, for or against.

Then there are the "pass throughs," as I call them, those who are in an area for so short of a time that they know little, and perhaps couldn't care less, about the local political scene. Why should they be allowed to vote on issues that will have a permanent effect on local (and absentee) property owners when the impact on them will be for a very short time, if at all? Local bond measures are a prime example. The cost of repaying them increases every year for the property owner, long after college students have migrated elsewhere. Residency requirements and who pays the bill should be a requirement to vote. And anyone who does not pay property taxes should not be allowed to vote for raising the taxes on property. Sounds pretty simple and straightforward to me. Even fair. But it sure doesn't work that way.

Proposition 13 worked on this fault by ensuring that a two-thirds vote is required on some issues. That's not the final answer, but it at least helped. Now serious attacks are being made to reduce or eliminate that safeguard, hence two-thirds reduced to 55 percent for school bonds recently.

During my 20 years in the military service I had to move a lot and was unable to stay abreast of local issues, so I was always careful not to vote on something I did not really know much about. I never missed an election though, and always voted for president, which brings another fairness issue to mind — why don't we have a separate ballot, nationwide, for presidential elections, with only the candidates on the ballot. With that small ballot the same in every state, we should not have any problem with "hanging chads."

Perhaps the people who worked hard getting this current initiative on the ballot could work on a way to really make elections fair. They could get to that after their current measure (should it pass) gets thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional.

(Howard Rien is a Eureka resident.)

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Humboldt County Leaders Endorse Measure T!

Democratic Party of Humboldt County

Green Party of Humboldt County

Central Labor Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local #1684

Building and Construction Trades of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties

Carpenters Union Local #751

Operating Engineers Union Local #3 AFL-CIO

Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney

Peter LaVallee, Eureka Mayor

Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Council

Dave Meserve, Arcata City Council

Harmony Groves, Arcata City Council

Paul Pitino, Arcata City Council

Bob Ornelas, Former Arcata Mayor

Connie Stewart, Former Arcata Mayor

Elizabeth Conner, Former Arcata City Council

Julie Fulkerson, Former Humboldt County Board of Supervisors

... and hundreds of other individuals and local businesses! Join us today!

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Pros and Cons of Measure T

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Chris Kerrigan, Eureka City Counsel, and Kate Christensen, owner of The Garden Gate, support Measure T! (1 min)


Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney, and Nezzie Wade, community member, support Measure T! (1 min)


Larry Glass, owner of The Works, and Dennis Rael, owner of Los Bagles, support Measure T! (1 min)