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Posts published in “Day: March 24, 2008”

Formerly known as

Ben Ysursa

Ben Ysursa

Voter confusion does happen, and a guy immersed for a third of a century in running a state's elections certainly would be sensitized to that. And to attempted end runs around the system, too.

So Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa seems right in his proposal - which looks likely to fly this week through the soon-ending legislature - to require that when a person legally changes his or her name to a political slogan and then runs for office, that the ballot include (just as record store rack jobbers did with the musician Prince) a note that this person was formerly known as, whatever. In this case, the candidate name "Pro-Life", formerly known as Marvin Richardson. Ysursa pointed out that some voters may check off "Pro-Life" thinking they're supporting an issue, and another candidate for the Senate as well, resulting in an "overvote" - invalid balloting.

Richardson's - ah, Pro-Life's - response was predictably negative: “It’s pretty stupid, really, to say that a voter doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

The problem is that Richardson's name-change gambit has to be premised on just that kind of confusion: To encourage a voter to approve him based on approval of an issue. Why else would Marvin Richardson, running as Marvin Richardson campaign on a pro-life platform, not be good enough? You periodically see candidates with unusual names on the ballot (say, the perennial Mike the Mover in Washington). Most of them don't generate any real confusion, though. "Pro-Life" does. If ballots should be clear and simple, and they should be, the added bit of information Ysursa calls for ought to help.

Candidate deficit

The candidate filing deadline still is months away in Washington, but there are indicators that Republicans in the Evergreen state may be as troubled in their candidate recruitment this year as they were south of Columbia, where a bunch of challenge-able Democrats were left with a free ride.

The Tacoma News Tribune has been tracking some of the fallout from internal disputes in the state Senate Republican caucus growing out of allegations against Senator Pam Roach, who was described as abusive toward the party's caucus staff. (And there have been issues with her own staff too, but that's another story.)

Something else the paper ran into was a letter sent last week to fellow caucus members from Senator Don Benton, R-Vancouver, who is disquieted at the level of Republican candidate recruitment so far: “This is a sad commentary on the effectiveness of our whole team in recruiting candidates. Think about it seriously, 16 Democrat seats up, seven where we stand a good chance … and only two candidates. Holy cow does anyone see a problem here?” And the Republicans are pretty far down as it is; the Democratic 32-17 edge is near to two-thirds control.

On one hand, candidate recruitment is far from done; the deadline is June 6. But the reality is that legislative candidates challenging incumbents have been running and organizing long before that; five months ordinarily isn't enough to pull off such a major effort. Legislative districts in Washington are large enough, especially on the Senate side, that serious work on such an effort should be underway toward the start of the calendar year.

Benton's concerns seem solidly based.