Mistakes and Blame
An independent candidate is listed on the ballot as a Democrat. A county sales tax measure is titled as a city general tax issue. A candidate’s campaign statement is omitted from the voters’ informational packet. The description of a ballot measure is convoluted and leads to the inversion of a yes or no vote. Who is responsible? Are these simple errors? Can the blame lie on sloppy work by employees? Is it impropriety in the election department or criminality and corruption?
A candidate for the California Assembly was recently listed on the ballot as a member of the wrong party in one of the counties in the district. The county was apologetic, blamed inexperienced personnel and under-staffing in the office. They promised to send a correction to the voters, but refused to take any other corrective measures.
A county tax measure was headed by a totally erroneous title that had no relationship to the issue on the ballot. The county blamed a computer glitch and the lack of adequate proof-reading and editing before the material was sent to the printer. These errors necessitated a $20,000 bill for the taxpayers in order to mail a correction to every voter.
The campaign statement for an assembly candidate was not printed in the voter’s guide (this was in the same county that switched the party affiliation for the previously mentioned assembly candidate). The excuse given by the county was a misunderstanding between the election department and the candidate.
At the state level, the courts have already issued opinions that the Secretary of State is required to attach to every initiative and proposition a title and description that clearly, understandably, and without confusion describe the issue contained in the measure on the ballot. It is obvious from past experience and elections that this mandate is often ignored or evaded.
Volumes could be written on how and why these electoral abuses occur, who is to blame, and their effects on our elections. However, for this problem there is a simple and absolute remedy that is 100% effective and can offer a complete and permanent cure: an informed populace!
Thomas Jefferson wrote that “A well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.” So, the ultimate and obvious responsibility for honesty and clarity in our elections is ours. It does not matter what appears on the ballot or in the voter guides if we perform our due diligence in making sure that we are knowledgeable about the issues and the candidates. An educated voter cannot be fooled.
Make it your job to investigate the candidates and issues from a variety of sources: actually read, and study, all of the information printed in the voter guide; investigate the motives for those who favor and oppose the issues and the candidates; read newspapers; seek out several websites and Facebook pages online; attend town halls; call the campaign offices and ask questions. Be skeptical about the claims of campaign advertisements on the radio, TV and newspapers. Question the assertions in campaign literature that you receive in the mail. Never trust government and candidates running for office! Always get a second – or third – opinion on your own.
Be a source of information in your neighborhood and community: post signs in your yard, distribute campaign brochures, wear a button that shows your support for your favored candidate and welcome the opportunity to tell why you support that candidate when people ask, host a “voter” party in your home by inviting friends to an evening of discussion on the candidates and issues before all of you decide how to mark your ballots.
Demand accountability and consequences from those who perpetrate the errors, especially if they occur with regularity. We should not tolerate incompetence and sloppy performance from our public employees, just as we should not accept laziness and a lack of involvement from ourselves.
Frequently officials within the government count on your ignorance of the issues and the process to sway your vote and your support so they can dictate and control the outcome of an election. If you are an active and informed participant in the election process, it will not matter what errors or irregularities appear on the ballot. Knowledge is the best defense against disinformation and corruption within our election process. Do not blame the liar when you have it within your power to learn the truth.