Saturday, July 29, 2006

Election Follies, Part Eight

I was recently asked in an email why the Libertarians aren't running a candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner against Christine Altman, in light of the clear case we make against the high cost of light rail and mass transit boondoggles. After all, Altman is a Republican who is on record supporting regional mass transit, and this is an obvious case of wasteful pork. It should be a good place for a Libertarian to challenge where a Democrat could not- on grounds of fiscal conservatism. Altman represents Clay Township, which is to say Carmel, where fiscally conservative voters rule the day.

It's a good question, and perfectly well observed. This is a race that a Libertarian could make interesting. Here's the problem, and why nobody wanted to step forward:

Although the County Commissioner represents a district in the county, the whole county votes on the position, even those living outside the district that the Commissioner would represent.

This is per IC36-2-3-3:

IC 36-2-2-3
Election of executive; terms

Sec. 3. (a) The executive shall be elected under IC 3-10-2-13 by the voters of the county. The number of members to be elected to the executive alternates between one (1) and two (2) at succeeding general elections.

(b) The term of office of a member of the executive is four (4) years, beginning January 1 after election and continuing until a successor is elected and qualified.As added by Acts 1980, P.L.212, SEC.1. Amended by P.L.5-1986, SEC.33.

So what, you ask? Observe how it has played out in other Commissioner races.

Steve Dillinger has been a Hamilton County Commissioner since the mid-1980s. He has routinely lost in the townships he represents- Delaware and Noblesville. However, he has won in the townships he does not represent, and since those townships make up the lion's share of the county, he has been continually re-elected.

This kind of election is its own kind of gerrymandering. The incumbent can thoroughly alienate his district and still be re-elected, merely because his party holds a solid majority countywide. Because Republicans hold a countywide majority in Hamilton County, the incumbents really don't even have to campaign outside their districts. They go to the bank on the majority. It has the effect of reducing the accountability of the Commissioners. Why listen to the District if the others in the County will elect you?

It also has the effect of making elections non-competitive, where it's over with the May Primary Election. That's a huge disservice to voters, not only in November, but for the entire time from May to November, where the incumbent's best strategy is to be relatively invisible. Want to talk issues? Go talk to that wall.

For a challenger, it means that you have to campaign over the entire county, even though you will only represent a portion of the county. In the case of running against Altman, it means campaigning in nine townships for the privilege of serving just one- Clay Township. It's daunting and therefore prohibitive. You could go door-to-door in one township, but the County?

So, Altman runs unopposed in the General Election in November. She remains unaccountable to the district, and the people are given another reason to not bother turning up at the polls. Not to pick on Altman- this happens across our state, where most of the 92 counties are dominated by either the Rs or Ds. Only a handful- Marion, Monroe, and LaPorte come to mind- are competitive at the county level. (Is that why Mitch Daniels promotes elimination of Township offices? Well, that's another topic for another day.)

It is time for the Indiana Legislature to end this kind of election. It's time to make the Commissioners accountable to their districts by having only their districts vote for the candidates that would represent them.

It is time to revise IC 36-2-3-3 to read: "The executive shall be elected under IC 3-10-2-13 by the voters of the district within the county.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Election Follies, Part Seven

Is there any exhausting this topic? Actually, no.

Let's go up to LaPorte County, where the Libertarians are exceptionally active, and exceptionally aware. They have this notion, which I also subscribe to, that laws are laws, rules are rules, and if Ls have to follow them, Rs & Ds have to follow them.

There are many forms a candidate must fill out and file. The CFA-1 is the document that forms a candidate's committee. You can't just run as an individual. The corporatization of the process requires you to form a committee. This also applies to political party organizations at the state and county level. The CFA-4 is a lenghty document that details both the funds raised and the funds expended by a committee. There are various schedules for detailing contributions by individuals, corporations, and labor unions, and for expenses for operations, advertising, and the like.

Naturally, the filing of these forms has deadlines attached to them. With deadlines come penalties for late filing. As shown below, when I was late, I was called before the Election Commission to explain myself, and was assessed a reduced fine. So, what happens when the LaPorte County Republican committee and its candidates fail to file a CFA-4 in a timely manner? Apparently, nothing, until the Libertarians hammer the issue.

The Republicans failed to file papers in 2003 without repercussions, according to the LaPorte County Libertarians. The Rs similarly failed to file this year. From the LP's letter to the LaPorte County Clerk:

Please consider this letter as a formal complaint by the Libertarian Party of LaPorte County (LPLP) against the failures of the LaPorte County Republican Central Committee and/or the LaPorte County Republican candidates for office to file Pre-Primary CFA-4 Reports in a timely manner as prescribed by I.C. 3-9-5-6. These reports should have been filed by noon on April 17, 2006, and as of July 6, 2006, they still had not been filed.

From the LaPorte Libertarians' press release:

The law requires candidates and regular party committees to file the report by noon on April 17 and provides for a $50 per day fine up to a maximum of $1000.

LPLP Vice Chair Andy Wolf expressed his frustration with the Republicans failing to file the forms. "We submitted a similar complaint in 2003 against both the Republicans and the Democrats," said Wolf, "when neither filed the required forms, and there were no repercussions. This latest violation just goes to show that the parties who wrote the rules think that they can get away with habitually breaking them with impunity. This year the LaPorte County Election Board should send a clear message to those parties and individuals who violate the campaign finance laws."

(Incidentally, Andy Wolf is one of the Libertarians that has been barred from the ballot by the Elections Division. Repercussion?) A full exposition of the issue can be found on the LPLP's website, via this link.

At any rate, rattling the cage seems to be what it takes to get people to comply with the laws their own party helps write. LPLP reports thusly:

UPDATE: Republicans admit guilt and will pay fines (7/26/2006)

Really, I would rather see being a candidate and a political party become easier and less complicated. I detest these pointless for-filling exercises. Nobody feels safer because a committee filled out more paperwork. Nobody feels representative government is strengthened by more copious and minute reporting, especially as you get down to the local level, or where small amounts of money are being raised and spent. But, if Republicans are going to help make the process more tangled with paperwork, then they should lead the way, setting the example for what flawless reporting is. No excuses- you're a Major Party!

I urge the people of Indiana to contact their State Senators and State Representatives, urging them to strip out needless filings. If a committee raises less than $100,000 in a calendar year, let's make it exempt from quarterly filing. If a committee raises no money in a calendar year, require it only to file an end-of-year statement.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Report on WXNT Appearance

I was delighted to be back in the studios of Newstalk 1430 WXNT-AM on the northside of Indy, on the "Abdul in the Morning" program. Abdul invited me to take the opposition side on mass transit and light rail. Mark Fisher of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce was on the "pro" side of the issue.

Two things struck me about the Chamber's position:

1. They are talking now about backing a comprehensive system for the Central Indiana region
2. They seem willfully ignorant of the effect the tax burden would have on our regional economies

The Chamber touts this as an investment in the region. I said I felt like Carl Sagan, because I was explaining that honestly that investment is "billions and billions" of dollars. The proposed Nickel Plate corridor is not a system. It is a route. It would cost a billion dollars. That's $1,000,000,000.00! It would serve only a handful of the region's commuters. I believe it is unfair to serve this select, tiny subset of the region's population, at the expense of the whole region.

The Chamber replies that it plans to serve everyone, with a regional system. So, I'm Carl Sagan again- billions and billions... Have to get to the airport. Have to go to Carmel, and Zionsville, and Greewood, and Mooresville, and... billions and billions. It's an investment, but it's also a process that strips money away from everybody, regardless of whether or not you have an interest in riding. That's an inequity, and should not be instituted by law.

IndyGo's model is positively awful. More than 80% of the operating revenues come from taxes. Why on earth would we desire to expand this drainage? Why is the Chamber so willing to tax us into oblivion?

People in Central Indiana may react emotionally to gas prices and say that they will ride the train. But, do the reality check.

Once you get off the train, are you going to walk to your other destinations? Or, take the bus? Don't you really actually like having your car for the freedom to stop and impulsively by that $4 latte, or to run a couple of errands on the way home from work? How will you achieve that if you are taking the train? Will you mind a train ride that takes 40 minutes when the car ride is 25 minutes? Each way?

Name the biggest, most constant target for terror attacks in the USA. It's the New York Subway, isn't it? Think of what it will be like when you become dependent upon mass transit, and your route is interrupted, by an accident or yes, a terror attack. Ready to walk that 20 miles? My best friend Steve, had to do just that in NYC when service was recently interrupted. That's one long walk from Manhattan to Queens.

A caller said that he believed that light rail systems are the darlings of socialists. I couldn't agree more. It makes the Chamber's position, and the Republicans in Hamilton County that back it so stridently, less surprising by the day, but all the more disappointing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Letter in Fort Wayne

Many thanks to Mike Sylvester, who had a letter published in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel today. He mentioned me by name:
Indiana election law should be written so that citizens can easily understand it. Indiana election law should be written to encourage citizens to run for office. Indiana election law should not be a barrier to the democratic process.

Indiana needs a secretary of state who will push the legislature to simplify Indiana’s election law. Indiana needs Mike Kole, Libertarian candidate for secretary of state. He says, “The law should be easy for average citizens to understand, should encourage participation from candidates of all parties and should encourage participation by voters because their views are best represented when all parties participate.”

Thanks, Mike Sylvester!
Election Follies, Part Six

It is July 25, 2006. I have a hearing today before the Indiana Elections Division. The reason is that I filed late- in January, 2005.

If I have to pay a fine for being late, so be it. I was late. It was an honest mistake. I went to visit my son for his birthday. Alex was living in Spain at the time, and he was first on my mind. The Committee to Elect Mike Kole was in its' infancy, and I was managing all the paperwork. We have a team that does this now. Major thanks to Ken Johnson!

I was a few days late, and will likely be fined on a per-day basis. So, can I get a $10/day reduction in the fine for every day that passed beyond one year of the filing date?

Probably not. It would mean the Division would be owing me money. So, why is it that the deadlines and timeliness are to be followed as a matter of law, but timeliness on the part of the Division is a joke? Shouldn't the Division be accountable on this in some way? I'll be accountable for being late, which is as it should be. It should be a two-way street.

Update: The hearing was delayed by 40 minutes, because one Election Commission member failed to arrive on time. Yep- we get fined for being late, the Commission or the Division is late? Laughs.

At any rate, being that this was my first time before the Commission, it was moved and passed that my fine should be reduced from the proposed $1,000 to $250, plus $2.50 postage costs.

The late filing was my mistake, so I want my supporters and contributors to know that the fine will be paid by me, out of my pocket. Your contributions will not be used to pay for my rookie mistake.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Election Follies, Part Five

After introducing the reader to four minor irritants caused by our election laws, now we come to a serious malady, as inflicted by the Elections Division. Observe this slap in the face, as delivered by the Legislature, via the Elections Division.

About 12 Libertarian candidate have had their candidacies declared invalid.

Are they felons? No. (Then again, a felon can still run for Congress...)
Have they made misleading statements with their filings? No.
Have they failed to file their papers? No.
Have they accepted a bribe? No.
Have they made threats against voters or opposition candidates? No.

So, what horrible crime have they committed against the people of Indiana? Nothing at all. They were bounced on a technicality. From the letter to the Libertarian Party of Indiana, from the Elections Division:

After their state convention, the LPIN was authorized by state statute to nominate candidates for offices listed in IC 3-8-4-2 and IC 3-8-4-10 if the LPIN did not nominate candidates for those offices at their state convention. IC 3-13-1-20 proscribes the process for filing these vacancies and provides, in relevant part:

"A candidate vacancy that exists following the convention of the party shall be filled by the state committee of the political party.... The chairman of the state committe shall file a notice of intent to fill the candidate vacancy with the official who is required to receive a certificate of candidate selection under section 15 of this chapter, The notice must be filed not later than ten (10) days before the chairman fills the candidate vacancy. (emphasis added)"

The "notice of intent to fill the candidate vacancy" described in IC 3-13-1-20 is a filing subject to SECTION 3 of House Enrolled Act 1011, which enacted a new statute, Indiana Code 3-5-4-1.9, that became effective March 23, 2006.

In other words, the Legislature passed a law that was designed to trip us up, and succeeded.

Glad that Indiana Legislature is hard at work for us, aren't you? They sure made the democratic process a thing for the rest of the world to behold here, didn't they? Let's show those people in Iraq how it's done!

My first reaction was that I wanted to be shown in writing that the other parties we held to the same standard. I'm not interested in getting their candidates bounced unless the IED positively refuses to acknowledge our candidates, in which case, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. But really, I want leverage by which the parties who wrote this mess would pull the members of the Division aside and say to them, "Hey look, we stand to lose a whole lot more candidates than the Libertarians do, so make this disappear". Alas, Dave Washburn of Hendricks County pointed out that the new sections of law were directed specifically at the Libertarian Party, without naming the Libertarian Party.

Specifically, IC 3-8-4-10 and IC 3-10-2-15 include only those parties which win 2-10% of the SOS race.

There is only one party in Indiana that this applies to. The Libertarians.

We never had to do this notification before. It was just one more hoop placed in front of the Libertarian Party, and we missed it. Some of the now disqualified candidates were going to supply the only opposition to an otherwise unchallenged incumbent. A real service this bureaucracy provides to the people of Indiana.

Can you imagine what it would be like if Coke and Pepsi wrote all the laws regarding the manufacture of soft drinks? That would be called collusion. With our elections, the Republicans and Democrats write the election laws. Why isn't that called what it is? It is collusion.

And, what about due process and equal protection under the law? Apparently, if Republicans and Democrats collude to exclude a minor party, those arcane notions can sail right out the window. Here's the final slap in the face from the Division:

To be sure, the division is bound by our laws, as we are a nation of laws. Unfortunately, in this case we do not agree with your interpretation with respect to how the law applies to the facts of this case. In any event, we certainly respect the right of the LPIN to disagree and seek redress in our courts.

Don't you love that high and mighty tone? These appointed, unelected directors of the Elections Division making pronouncements like this, disenfranchising these candidates and the constituencies they represent- no matter the size. And at once stating that the law is the law, and yet it is their interpretation that carries the day. The phrase 'arbitrary and capricious' comes to mind. This utterly lacks integrity.

Going to court over something like this is a joke- a bad joke. I have seen the Libertarian Party of Ohio deal with similar nonsense many times. Oh, they've won every case against their state, it's just that the case gets decided in December or January. Oh! Is that too late for you to get on the ballot? Oh, that's a shame!

Where do I fit in?

I believe that these candidates belong on the ballot. There is no good justification for excluding American citizens from the ballot at a time when we have soldiers dying in Iraq, fighting to give the Iraqis what we ironically lack here in Indiana- full minority party representation at the ballot box.

When I am elected Secretary of State, I will use the authority of that position, as Indiana's chief elections officer, to review and scrutinize the election code for fairness, to educate the people of our state of the inequities in the law directly and via the media, and to use the position to lobby the Legislature to strip unfair portions of the law away.

This is what a Secretary of State interested in integrity and accountability does. It is what a Secretary of State who believes in fairness does. It is what I will do.
Parade Brigade Marches On!

Even though I was slowed down by a rather pesky kidney stone, Kole's Parade Brigade still marched on in Elkhart Sunday afternoon, at the 4-H Fair.

Thanks to Rick Bowen for the picture, and my apologies to everyone in Elkhart County who hoped to welcome me there. I'll be back for the Millersburg parade on Saturday, August 19th!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Election Follies, Part Four

Perhaps you've heard, but there was a bit of a mess for Libertarians in Hancock County this year. It's hard to understand exactly what happened, because four quality candidates, including Phil Miller, Jennifer Bradshaw, and Tom Lake, all tried to file as Libertarians, were rejected by the Hancock County Clerk, turned to the Democrats and filed as Ds, with no objection from the Clerk.

Same people, different label, different result.

Now, it could be that Phil Miller is a scary name for a Hancock County Republican to observe on a Libertarian ballot. In 1999, Libertarian Miller ran for Greenfield City Council and won, defeating an incumbent who happened to be the Republican County Chair. Perhaps running as a Democrat is seen as a great albatross around the neck of Miller and the gang, whereas Libertarians have proven themselves able to dethrone powerful Republicans.

It's a pretty tough story to follow. I'm not sure I understand it completely yet, but here goes.

The Hancock County Libertarians held their county convention, but did not nominate any candidates at that convention. Instead, they chose to file post-convention, so that their candidates would be filed late in the filing period, so as not to give other parties time to react and file.

When the completed paperwork for the four candidates was presented to the County Clerk, Phil was told that their candidacies were invalid, because it was too late for post-convention nominations, and they used the wrong form. Panicked and desperate to keep four good candidates on the ballot, Miller contacted the chair of the Democrats and asked if they would accept him and the three others. After short deliberation, the Democratic Chair agreed to permit it.

Riddle me this- If it was too late for a Libertarian post-convention filing, why was it not too late for a Democratic post-convention filing? The deadlines for all three parties are the same! Also, if the Libertarians used the form the County Clerk supplied, why are the Libertarian candidates held accountable and not the Clerk? I would argue that the Clerk ripped off the people of Hancock County, and should be fined by the Indiana Elections Division. Tom Lake's letter to the Indy Star has more details.

Although these events have received scant press coverage, mainly in the Greenfield Recorder, there was a letter in today's Sunday Star:

Does anyone else find it odd that the Libertarian Party was not allowed to run candidates because of problems with forms and deadlines, but after they were denied, those same candidates were allowed to run as Democrats? We obviously have some problems with our election laws.

I constantly hear people complaining about having to vote for the "lesser of two evils." Maybe if we didn't have such prejudiced laws the voters could have more choice on the ballot and vote for someone they actually like.

Karen Valiquett
I know the Libertarian Party is officially classified as a "minor party", but I don't recall reading in the code where we would have to suffer arbitrary dismissal from the ballot because of it. L's do one thing and are disqualified. D's do the same thing and are a-ok. Yes, Karen. I do find it odd.

In fact, it raises a larger issue- Why are we keeping people interested in running for public office off the ballot on the political label of their first choice?

There is an awful irony here that while we have American troops in Iraq, ostensibly fighting to establish a more democratic government with free elections and minority party representation, here the Indiana election laws, and the interpretations made by the County Clerks and the Elections Division, make it so we have fewer parties on the ballot than the Iraqis now have.

The quote from Secretary of State Todd Rokita about multi-party elections was therefore curious, when he told the Indy Star:
"We have to have some parameters, or we'd be like some country in West Africa with 18 different parties on the ballot."
What's wrong with having 18 different parties on the ballot? What's the harm? Why should the State's chief elections official object? The purpose of a political party is to advance a particular political point of view. I would find it amazing to think that even 18 parties could reasonably well represent each voter to his satisfaction. That's the point of free elections and representative government- that any point of view can be carried to the ballot, and then the voters as a whole decide if that viewpoint carries the day. If a party can't carry the day, they fail to be elected. But, everyone has had the chance to vote for those parties, and nobody was silenced.

Neither the County Clerks, nor the Elections Division, nor Todd Rokita, nor the Legislature have any business limiting the number political parties on the ballot. What purpose does it serve to keep minor parties off the ballot, other than to preserve the power of the two dominant parties?

Ah. Of course.