May 29 2014

Tyranny of the minority

Published by at 7:14 am under First Take

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Think about this: if State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian had won the Republican nomination for governor and upset two-term incumbent Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter, he would have been a prohibitive favorite to win the governorship in November. After all, he’s a Republican.

Now ponder this: a Governor Fulcher would have been nominated and elected by just one out of every eight eligible voters. That’s correct. Do the math. The Secretary of State said the turnout was approximately 25% of the eligibles and with 12,000 more votes Fulcher would have captured slightly more than half of one-quarter, or one eighth of the vote.

Something is rotten in Denmark, to quote Shakespeare. Why don’t more Americans and Idahoans use their God-given, patriot-blood derived precious right to vote? The percentage of eligible voters who withstood threats to their very lives had a higher degree of participation in the recent Ukrainian election.

While campaigning with Governor Andrus, I sometimes saw this scenario unfold: usually before or after an Andrus speech or a Capitol For a Day, some loud-mouthed, white male in his 40’s or 50’s would come up to Andrus and demand the answer to some incomprehensible question.

Once they swore, or got obnoxious, Cece would invariably stop their diatribe cold with a question: let me ask you this—are you registered to vote and did you vote in the last state-wide election? He had a sixth sense because invariably they were caught so flat-footed they answered honestly and admitted they were neither registered nor had voted.

In general, Cece was an excellent listener, but he always wrote these folks off. Yes, he knew represented all the people of Idaho, even the none-voters, but if they couldn’t take time to register and vote, he seldom took the time to listen. “There are real voters to meet and help,” he would say.

Another voter “tick” that neither of us could understand was why so many of the few Idaho voters who showed up, would only vote on the marquee races – governor, U.S. senator and maybe lieutenant governor, and then not vote on the down ballot races.

It happened again in the May 20th primary.

Unofficial, uncertified vote totals indicated 155,333 voters cast ballots in the Republican gubenatorial primary with Governor Otter receiving 79,786 votes. In the Republican Senate primary there was a drop-off of almost 7,000 votes with the total being 148,824 ballots of which incumbent Jim Risch received approximately 118,000.

Amazingly, almost 30,000 ballots were cast for the Senator’s virtually unknown challenger. That figure tells one there are a lot of Republican voters that just plain don’t like Risch.

The next highest vote total occurred in the Republican race for Lt. Governor with 144,895 ballots cast of which 96,790 were for incumbent Brad Little who easily dispatched with his Tea Party opponent. Note that 18,000 more Republican voters cast their ballot for Brad but did not vote for Butch.

In the attorney general’s race there was another drop off of about 3,000 voters with 141,555 ballots cast and incumbent Lawrence Wasden easily taking care of his Tea Party challenger by taking 83,651 votes.

Now look at the Republican primary for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Despite polls showing that education still ranks as the highest and most important issue for many Idahoans, especially parents, only 106,372 ballots were marked with Sherri Ybarra, a virtually unknown Mountain Home school district curriculum director, winning the nomination.

In other words, almost 50,000 Republican voters, a full one third of those that voted in the gubernatorial primary did NOT mark their ballots in the SPI race. If Ms. Ybarra, as the Republican, wins in November, she will effectively have been elected by just over 1/16th of Idaho’s eligible voters.

One has to ask why? One can anticipate the excuses with “I didn’t recognize any of the names so rather than cast an ignorant ballot I chose not to vote at all” leading the pack.

This is simply inexcusable. Between voter guides, newspaper inserts, debates and social media who these candidates are and what they stand for is easily ascertainable. It’s just plain laziness and a total failure on the part of non-voters and the all too many ignorant voters who can’t be bothered to exercise responsibly the most sacred aspect of a participatory democracy – the right to cast their vote and have their say.

Perhaps it is time to start culling the eligible voter lists by a “use it or lose it” requirement. That someone like a Sherri Ybarra could have responsibility for handling a multi-million dollar budget and be the lead advocate for education is inexplicable and inexcusable. It is quite simply the tyranny of the minority.

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