Friday, February 24, 2012

Elections Mayhem In Indiana

All I can conclude at this point is that Indiana elections are a complete mess. The law really needs to be thoroughly overhauled to create simplicity and uniformity.

I am astonished that Rick Santorum can so easily make the signature requirements when one day he is lacking, and changing nothing, he suddenly has the signatures.

Then, the next day, Republican Jim Wallace is barred from the statewide primary ballot as a gubernatorial candidate because he is 14 signatures short of the needed 500 for the 7th Congressional District. From the Indy Star:

He blamed his apparent failure on a flawed process in Marion County which rejected a much higher percentage of petition signatures to be on the ballot than other counties. He said he submitted 1,282 signatures in the 7th District, entirely located in Marion County, but the Board of Voter Registration only certified 486.

“A fair number of Marion County voters are being disenfranchised regularly, not to mention the 5.8 million Hoosiers in the other eight congressional districts who have now seen their choice of the ballot vetoed by a single county,” said Wallace, a Fishers businessman and former member of the Hamilton County Council.

Wallace, who has put more than $1 million of his own funds into his campaign, did not have an attorney with him today.

Asked if that was a mistake, Wallace said that “I won’t second guess our citizen-first approach, but perhaps. I would like to think you don’t need to lawyer-up every time there’s a challenge like this. The issue is pretty simple. Voters deserve a choice in a democracy, and in this process today they were deprived of one.”

I completely agree with Wallace here. The voters have been cheated. He made the grade in 8 districts, so why not put him on the ballot there?

Apart from that, I don't see what the value is in causing a candidate to collect petitions for certain offices. Let voters decide at the ballot box! I don't want candidates denied ballot access for lack of performing the act of signature gathering. It doesn't prove anything of value relative to being an office holder.

Underlying this is again a desire to eliminate certain non-establishment challengers. Pence is a long-sitting Congressman. Wallace was once a Fishers Town Council and Hamilton County Council member, but that dates back several years. So, who brought on the challenges to Wallace?

Wallace’s candidacy was challenged by former Indiana Economic Development Corp. chairman Mitch Roob, who argued that Wallace did not collect the required 500 petition signatures in each of the nine congressional districts, falling short in both the 2nd and 7th districts.

Wallace today disputed that, arguing that he had 505 certified signatures in the 2nd, in northern Indiana, in addition to the 1,282 in the and had turned in the 7th District. Tom John, an attorney representing Roob, said there were questions about many of the 7th District signatures, suggesting some had been forged. Wallace, he said, should not be given the benefit of the doubt in face of evidence that “he does not have clean hands.”
Tom John, the former Marion County Chair of the Republican Party? The article might have mentioned that, alas.

Time to truly reform the election laws. Time to eliminate the petitioning requirements, and make uniform the processes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts On Charlie White

I have many, many thoughts on the Charlie White saga, so I may use multiple posts to put it all across. Some of my insights come from being a Fishers resident (White was on the Fishers Town Council), a former Hamilton County political boss (I chaired the Libertarian Party, I believe he is still chair of the Republicans... he was chair at least during the times of my tenure), and a former candidate for Secretary of State (White had been elected Secretary of State prior to being stripped of office).

The main thing that has bothered me about this case is that I absolutely detest this kind of ticky tack law. I have long maintained that the real purpose of these laws is as a 'gotcha' device. This case fairly well shows how that works.

But I also know it from other cases. Interestingly, Charlie White was able to remain on the ballot, despite the world knowing about the case prior to the election. Libertarian candidates who have the most minute, meaningless errors on their paperwork routinely get bounced from the ballot summarily. In 2006, while I was running for Secretary of State, and handful of Libertarians from around the state got bounced from the ballot because the Elections Division decided to enforce a technicality that hadn't been enforced before, and that our party was unaware of statewide. Too bad, no mercy for us. Bam! Gone. I called a press conference, and a couple of reporters turned up. I stood behind the would-be candidates, shouted from the Statehouse steps, and the item wasn't even reported.

So, it bothers me about the haphazard enforcement and standards. I mean, just today, by some miracle, it was found that Rick Santorum does have enough signatures to be on the ballot after all. He was 8 short before, and now, voila! he has enough. If a Libertarian is short? Rules are rules! Fire and brimstone!

Just days after the 2006 removal of 11 Libertarian candidates, 10 Fort Wayne Republicans had signature issues. Ha- issues. They fired their executive director for FORGING signatures on their forms. It's kind of interesting to look back on what I had to say:
The Libertarian Party just had eleven candidates withheld from the ballot for failing to meet a technicality. Well! What's good for the goose is good for the gander. These ten or so Republican candidates need to disappear from the ballot immediately if the law is the law, and the Elections Division is providing consistent outcomes.

Now personally, I think the booting of candidates is a great disservice to the people of our state, but the bar has been set. I think a better outcome would be that the eleven Libertarian candidates would be certified, and a fine levied against the Libertarian Party for missing the technicality, and everyone there moves on.

In the case of the Republicans, the best outcome might be that the ten or so candidates are put on the ballot, and the Executive Director might face some jail time, if in fact he committed perjury when forging the signatures of candidates.

Jail? From Indiana Code:

IC 3-14-1-13
Filing fraudulent reports
Sec. 13. A person who knowingly files a report required by IC 3-9 that is fraudulent commits a Class D felony.
As added by P.L.5-1986, SEC.10.

All of the State's campaign forms specify at the bottom of the first page:

A person who knowingly files a fraudulent report commits a Class D felony (IC 3-14-1-13).

Felons go to jail. Pretty simple.

Republicans and Democrats wrote this law. Republicans and Democrats should therefore be the standard bearer and the exemplars in how to do this correctly, and how to bear the consequences when this is done fraudulently- if there is to be integrity in our elections.
Nobody went to jail there. White isn't going to jail, but had the felonies hung on him, and faces a year's in-house detention. (Yes, the funny joke there is, "Which house? His ex-wife's?")

And yet, I still find White's case lamentable. Not only do I want every Libertarian on the ballot. I want every candidate on the ballot. If one loses an election, I want it to be because the voters decided, not a bureaucrat in the Elections Office decided it, or because they couldn't be on the ballot thanks to a legislature bent on political self-preservation.

But, the rules are the rules. I and other Libertarians may well detest the laws, but we comply. You have to pick your battles. Do you want to be on the ballot? Then you have to follow the rules. Make a case against the rules, but comply. Get elected and change the rules. We speak out about the rules all the time. I'll note that I never heard Charlie White once speak out against the rules. Nor did I ever hear him speak out in support of a candidate bounced from the ballot. He was a County Chair and a candidate for Secretary of State, which were all good avenues for speaking up about the rules. Never a peep. I guess he accepted the rules, right up until they ensnared him.

At the end of the day, here's what I would like to see happen:

1. It's just paperwork. At the very least, let's eliminate felonies for candidate filings. I'd like to see the most minimal paperwork requirements possible. Yes, we have to know who we're putting on the ballot. Yes, we need to know that this candidate is eligible to run, and lives in the jurisdiction for the office sought (White may have been out of his Town Council district, but he still lived in the state while seeking statewide office.)

2. Broaden ballot access. The Republicans got the scare of their lives, looking at the prospect of losing ballot access with the possibility of White being declared ineligible to be a candidate, with ballot access tied solely to the Secretary of State race. Let's broaden the access rules by tying the result to any statewide candidate in a four-year cycle, at the very least. I would also like to see the threshold lowered to the 1994 standard: 0.5%, The 2% requirement is keeping other 3rd parties off the ballot, especially the Greens.

More later.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reproductive Wingnuttery

All the demonization of Planned Parenthood of late has been a bit over the top. Indiana Republican lawmaker Bob Moore got more notice than he bargained for with his letter denouncing the Girl Scouts for association with Planned Parenthood. How over the top this wingnuttery? Republican speaker Brian Bosma passed out Girl Scout cookies at the Statehouse.

Look- abortion is awful. But it is legal, and as such, Planned Parenthood has a right to carry out the procedures. Opponents have the right to protest. I'd prefer it if no taxpayer money went to fund abortions, or to private organizations including Planned Parenthood. But I'm not going to denounce the Girl Scouts, or even Planned Parenthood as a whole. They happen to do good work for an underserved at-risk population.

I love, love, luv legislators who conclude, "You slither on your belly! Stand aside and let me show you how it's done!"

Democrats are showing that they can be wingnuts too. Get a load of this, from CNN:

As members of Georgia’s House of Representatives debate whether to prohibit abortions for women more than 20 weeks pregnant, House Democrats introduced their own reproductive rights plan: No more vasectomies that leave "thousands of children ... deprived of birth."

Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat from the Atlanta suburb of Jonesboro, planned on Wednesday to introduce HB 1116, which would prevent men from vasectomies unless needed to avert serious injury or death.

The bill reads: "It is patently unfair that men avoid the rewards of unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly ... It is the purpose of the General ASsembly to assert an invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men in this state and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men."

“If we legislate women’s bodies, it’s only fair that we legislate men’s,” said Neal, who said she wanted to write bill that would generate emotion and conversation the way anti-abortion bills do. “There are too many problems in the state. Why are you under the skirts of women? I’m sure there are other places to be."

Here's a better idea: How about both sides back off and leave people free to choose for themselves?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Issue Fatigue

The Indy Star ran an interesting article about 'issue fatigue', the idea that lawmakers get tired of dealing with an issue year after year, and finally it passes.
Many issues sort of hang around -- sometimes for years -- as advocates try to convince their colleagues that their bills are worthwhile.

In these cases, ideas become law through a combination of determination, familiarity and fatigue.

A statewide smoking ban and the elimination of the state's inheritance tax are issues poised to become Indiana's latest examples.

I found it fascinating as I consider the possibility of Libertarians winning elections and becoming legislators. Would they also experience issue fatigue? I doubt it. If there's one thing that characterizes most libertarians, it's dogged determination. You don't stick around as an ideology centered third party without tenacity.

At a meeting last week of the House Ways and Means Committee, lawmakers were hearing the details of a complicated Senate bill that would cut the inheritance tax by changing the definitions of some beneficiaries, increasing the amount of an estate that would be exempt from taxation and slashing the actual tax rates.

Even before testimony on the proposal could begin, though, Ways and Means members were impatient. They weren't interested in more proposals to cut the tax. They just want it gone.

"Do it and get it over with," Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, said. "Otherwise we'll be fighting this every year, and philosophies won't change."

Before you get the wrong idea, understand that Moses has been the one trying to get the estate tax cut or even eliminated. Yes, a Democrat trying to cut a tax. Give the man his due on that.

But, why pass it and get it over with? Why not fight it every year, if that's the conscience of the individual lawmaker? If that's the will of the people in a particular district? Libertarians wouldn't shirk the task.

But it is instructive. Once we get in, we need to introduce legislation and doggedly stick to it. If we understand that so many will capitulate rather than deal with things repeatedly, very well. We know what strategy to employ.