Drama intensifies for Nov. 2 election




Notes, quotes and anecdotes about the national, regional and local political scenes:

Please, ditch the partisan labels — If it really doesn’t matter if the chief of the Washington State Patrol — or a city police chief — is a Republican or a Democrat, why should it matter if a county sheriff is a Republican or a Democrat? Of course, it doesn’t matter, yet in our state candidates for sheriff must declare party affiliation, or independence. In Clark County we have GOP incumbent Sheriff Garry Lucas running against Democrat challenger Tim Shotwell. Both say they hate having to declare a party affiliation, and they see no possible way that partisanship could play a role in law enforcement. It’s time for state leaders to ignore entrenched defenders of the status quo and make sheriffs’ elections nonpartisan.

Reminder about polls — Before taking any poll seriously, find out if the calls to participants were made on both land lines and cell phones. Many pollsters use land lines only, and that excludes a significant group of people. According to the Arizona Daily News, more than one out of five households now use wireless phones only. In fact, almost half of people ages 25 to 29 live without land lines.

What does this mean politically? Hugh Gladwin of the Institute for Public Opinion Research at Florida International University explains: “Land lines will get you much more female and much older people, and the demographics for cell phones are almost the reverse. There’s a slight majority of males and definitely more young people.”

Then again, young people also have the lowest voter turnouts, so their lower participation in polls might not matter.

Stop complaining — To everyone who detests voting by mail, remember: Voting by mail is optional. If it bothers you, feel free to take your ballot (it will be mailed on Wednesday) to one of 34 ballot drop-off sites on Election Day. But feel free, also, to respect other folks’ right to vote by mail if they choose.

Stop complaining, Chapter II — And to everyone who abhors voting before Election Day, remember: Voting early is optional. If it bothers you, feel free to wait until the last day, as long as your ballot is postmarked by the Election-Day deadline. But feel free, also, to respect other people’s right to vote early if they choose, either by mail or by visiting the 24/7 drop-box at West 14th and Esther streets, one-half block east of the elections department.

Speaking of voting early — USA Today reports that early voting in this year’s primaries increased 50 percent nationwide over the 2006 midterm election. Most states use some form of in-person early voting, also known as “no excuse” absentee voting.

This trend is throwing a real monkey wrench into campaign spending and planning. Purse-string pullers are pulling their hair out, trying to guess how many folks have already voted when that expensive TV commercial is aired.

Personally, I prefer the “election season” over Election Day. If it takes a week or more to play the World Series, there’s nothing wrong with stretching out the elections, too. For that matter, it took six months to finalize our state’s gubernatorial election in 2004.

Our next long national nightmare — Don’t look now, but it could be caused by the fine folks right here in Washington state, as we go about deciding the race for the U.S. Senate. The Associated Press describes “a troubling ballot-box scenario that has hundreds of lawyers from both parties preparing for battles that could drag on for days, weeks or even months past the Nov. 3 day-after.”

Our state, and a few others, have postmark ballot deadlines, and finalizing results could take a long time. Worsening this nightmare is the fact that majority control of the Senate could hang in the balance. Yikes!

And this horrifying scenario could get even worse. If Sen. Lisa Murkowski wins her write-in campaign in Alaska, will she declare allegiance to the GOP that spurned her, or join Democrats, or become an independent? Regarding the multiple levels of election uncertainty, “Alaska has the real potential for a meltdown,” said Reed College professor Paul Gronke.

So stay tuned. Meanwhile, ain’t democracy great?

John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at john.laird@columbian.com.