Ballot issues, one in particular, had everyone’s attention Tuesday. Mainers didn’t turn out in record-setting droves like they did in last year’s presidential vote, but it as close. The vote on the marriage equality law really drew folks. Big votes on excise taxes and a TABOR-like tax reform drew people, too.
I spent the day at the polls, talking to voters about why they voted the way they did. Everyone had an informed opinions on the same-sex marriage issue, whether they wanted to let gay people marry or not and on tax reform.
That has had me thinking.
The TABOR/Tax reform issue went down in a big way, and the people I spoke to had a simple pragmatic reason for turning it down.
It’s called representative government, they said. We elect leaders, councilors, selectmen and legislators, to do the hard work for us. They review the issues we don’t have time for, studying budgets and ordinances and coming up with decisions. As voters, if we don’t like their decisions, we just have to vote them out.
But TABOR would have short circuited that, replacing representative government with rule by initiative. For the Mainer’s I talked to, that would have been an unnecessary, potentially expensive, extra step.
That’s all there, on the video. What didn’t make the cut is the stuff that came first.
I started out asking them how they voted in the local races, for the Lewiston and Auburn’s mayor and City Council seats. Their answers were mostly uniform. None of them could recall how they voted for City Council, few had any memory of the mayoral races. It didn’t matter which city they were in, the local races didn’t register with them. On the college campus, many didn’t even bother to fill out the city questions. They just left them blank. One guy in Auburn said he just picked names at random on the ballot.
These were the same folks that declared their undying support for representative government, but they couldn’t name a single one of those representatives.
Which brings me to the signs. I had a candidate tell me last week that he didn’t’ spend any money on signs. Signs don’t vote, he said, and he devoted his time to one-on-one conversations.
That candidate got his ass handed to him at the polls. True, signs don’t vote. But they sure do seem to work.
When people pay no attention to what’s going on at a city council level, a name means a lot. Just having it on a sign and having more signs in more convenient places means winning the election.
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.