Editorial: We Want this Election to be Decided by Voters, Not Lawyers
Ever since 2000 when Bush won Florida by just over 500 votes, lawyers have played an increasing role in every election. It used to be lawsuits over letting voters get to the polling places, then about accuracy of counts and 'Hanging Chads', now it is about keeping any opposition off the ballot in the first place. Many incumbents have found that the best value in a campaign spend is money spent on lawyers to keep an opponent off the ballot.
Some recent headlines give a clue:
- Federal Lawsuit Filed After Ohio Kicks Libertarian Candidate For Governor Off Primary Ballot;
- REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE'S SUIT TO REMOVE PRIMARY OPPONENT FROM BALLOT DISMISSED;
- Libertarians sue to keep Mitt Romney off Washington ballot;
- Independent American Party candidate sues to keep Tea Party candidate off ballot.
And here in El Dorado County:
- Challenger quits DA election (“After a very extensive investigation concerning the residency and background of Mr. Henry, myself and my lawyer met with him and it was decided he will be withdrawing from the race.”)
- Incumbent’s petition denied (El Dorado County Treasurer-Tax Collector Cherie Raffety filed lawsuit to keep challenger Supervisor Ron Briggs off the ballot)
In both cases the filing/threatening litigant argued that the candidates were defective by technicalities. With Henry it was said that he became a resident too close to the election to be trusted. In the other it was argued that he was not sophisticated enough for the job even though he has been a board member that actually has authorized the county budget of the entire county for the last seven years.
When asked about Raffety's last minute lawsuit, challenger Ron Briggs was quoted in the newspaper Edited by Cherie Raffety's husband as, "I think what she was doing was giving the voters the finger, because she doesn’t trust them. She needs to let them decide who is qualified. Let the voters decide.” But Ron Briggs was quick to dispute the qoute and to offer the correct qoute as:
“Another chopped up fascist article the Mt Democrat calls journalism. What I said when interviewed 'Cheri Raffety, the 27 year incumbent gave her royal finger to the voters of El Dorado County in her arrogant attempt to remove my name from the June ballot. She doesn't trust the voters. On her way to avoid the voters, Cheri Raffety impugned and insulted one of El Dorado County's most treasured and trusted elected official in Bill Schultz. Judge Smith rightfully denied Raffetys power grab thus allowing the voters of El Dorado County to cast our ballots. Whatever anyone thinks about a candidate, being denied our constitutional right to vote is un-American and fascist.'”
50 years ago it was lawyers working to ensure that voters got the right to vote, but today it seems to have changed to making sure the voters get no choice. It is a grave concern that the citizens’ ability to exercise democracy in the voting booth is being taken from them. This scenarios is a disaster. Elections are for voters to decide — not lawmakers or judges. If a candidate has lived here long enough, really lives there at all, and if a candidate has the financial bones for the job, are issues that are rightfully determined by the voters.
Failure to have any opposition is the subversion of Democracy.
Without competition, elections are meaningless exercises. Competition, the real option for voters to redirect their representation, is what makes elections important instruments of representative government.
An ideal political democracy is defined as: an institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals endeavor to acquire political office through perfectly free competition for the votes of a broadly based electorate.
The principal function of elections is to provide legitimacy for public authority and give officials a mandate for specific action. Election campaigns serve many functions, such as clarifying issues and policies, holding candidates to account, communicating information among candidates and voters, and offering the public choices of solutions to community problems.
Elections are also a critical means of promoting public accountability. This involves not just the ability of voters to vote out of office elected officials who have not performed well in the public interest, but also the opportunity for elected officials to give an account of their performance in office. This includes explaining how public funds are spent, what the priorities of the local government are and how they are decided, and how problems and challenges that confront the community will be addressed.
The critical issue with regard to elections is the element of trust. Voters must be able to trust that elected officials will carry out their campaign promises and that they will engage in open, corruption-free governance. Candidates must be able to trust that if they lose a particular election they will still have a fair opportunity to win the next one (the concept of alternation in power). All actors in local elections must trust that the administration of the poll is free and fair and that the will of the voters will prevail.
But that kind of trust seems to be absent from the lawyer's lexicon.
It is time for the people of El Dorado County to tell the lawyers of no-choice to butt out. We the people will decide at the ballot box who we trust, who we like, and who we will vote for. There is no need for you to save us from ourselves by stealing our options and ability to send the incumbents back home. Competition, the real option for voters to redirect their representation, is what makes elections important instruments of representative government.
What’s critical is that the election be settled by voters, ballots, and elections board, not by the legislature or courts.