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Sun, Apr

Them Deep Dark Election Blues

LA POLITICS

ELECTIONS - Do elections in California, leave an odor of mendacity in your quivering nostrils or a rancid taste of spoilage on the tip of the tongue? As the election winds to a close 7 to 9 days after official voting ends, do the results seem skewed to you? Do you wonder why it always seems Californians vote against their self-interest? Do Cal voters put on blinders and vote for one specific part of a politician's platform, like renters' protection, and hold their noses about defunding the police or the inevitability that taxes are going to be raised? Are people in California really that altruistic? Do they cry out at the ballot box for more taxes to help those who can't help themselves or won't help themselves? I don't feel it; I don't sense it at the mall, supermarket, or on the street. A reasonable definition these days of a Good Samaritan is someone who lets you merge onto the freeway. 

Kim Alexander, the President of the California Voter Foundation, believes "long vote counts provide the opportunity for campaigns who see their election night margin shrink raised doubts about the accuracy of the process and undermines public confidence". Alexander also says, "that these long vote counts also delay the ability of the winning candidate to prepare to take office and serve his or her voters, putting those constituents at a disadvantage." 

In the November 2022 election, Rick Caruso was seemingly in a tight race with Congresswoman Karen Bass. As the votes trickled in after Election Day, seemingly every night, the total would be approximately 60% of the new ballots would go to Ms. Bass and 40% to Mr. Caruso. After eight days, on November 16th, with approximately 70% of the votes counted, Karen Bass had amassed the 46,000-vote lead, and The Associated Press called the race for her. Political commentators quickly and happily pointed out that Caruso, a former Republican, ran less than a perfect race. 

The same scenario played out with City Attorney Ethan Weaver, a newcomer to the political process in his race against Councilwoman Nithya Rahman (CD-4). On election night, it looked like Ethan Weaver had a great chance to go into a runoff with Ms. Raman, who has earned the ire of many residents in Encino, Sherman Oaks, and Studio City, with her policies. But as the counting progressed, the count inevitably kept getting more favorable to Ramen. Finally, after six days, she won over 50% of the vote, and Ethan Weaver, the pragmatic law and order candidate, lost. 

In the November 2022 election, more than 11.1 million Californians voted, but 26.9 million were eligible. In the last presidential election, in 2020, 17.8 million voted, of 25.1 million eligible. Usually, in California, less than half of the voters are eligible to vote. Is this because they believe elections don't have consequences and no matter who they vote for, nothing is going to change? Or is voting such a black box mystery that it discourages participation? Assembly Bill 969 has outlawed hand counting of votes. Therefore, all ballots need to be fed into a machine at a central location, which could have programming errors and skew the actual count. It is hard to say, but there is still a hangover from the 2020 election, where hundreds of parties and thousands of affidavits alleged voting irregularities. 

It might be better if we had elections more like those in Taiwan. Where everybody votes on a single day and is required to bring a photo ID and a notice to prove they are at the correct voting station. They use paper ballots and count the votes of each station 1 by 1, in public view. There are no mail-in ballots, and it's all done in a few hours, accurately. Virtually every developed country globally, including Canada and Mexico, and 43 of Europe's 44 countries require photo IDs to vote.   

Why is it racist to show an ID to vote, the most important function of being an American? Virtually every citizen in the United States has an ID, so why is it a problem to show an ID to vote? Are banks racist when they ask you to show an ID to cash a check? If you look young, is it racist to show an ID to buy alcohol and cigarettes? Is it racist to show proper identification to get a license to buy a gun or get a hunting and fishing license? Is the post office racist when it asks people to show an ID when picking up packages? Why is it so hard to show an ID to vote when people from the lower economic strata and minorities seem to have little difficulty getting Welfare, SSI, Disability, and Medicaid coverage, all of which require proving identity? 

If we had in-person hand counting at the polling places, it might be more participatory and help create more civic and community engagement. It would be good to know that you could ensure the signatures were matched correctly and that the votes accrued to the candidates as they were marked on the ballots, with your own eyes? Everybody talks about how transparency is such a good thing, but when stacks of ballots are shoved into a tabulating machine, how can you be sure that the votes are being counted correctly? Isn't more transparency good for our system? Can we as a democracy afford another contentious election in 2024? 

(Eliot Cohen has been on the Neighborhood Council, serves on the Van Nuys Airport Citizens Advisory Council, and is President of Homeowners of Encino. Eliot retired after a 35-year career on Wall Street. Eliot is a critic of the stinking thinking of the bureaucrats and politicians that run the State, County, and City. Eliot and his wife divide their time between L.A. and Baja Norte, Mexico.  Eliot is a regular contributor to CityWatchLA.com – [email protected])