Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Primary Elections

Yesterday, I voted in the Washington State primary. Although my wife likes the convenience of voting absentee, I've always liked the civic-minded feeling that comes with actually going to the polling place and putting your ballot in the slot.

So it stinks for me personally that the county is planning to go to an all-mail ballot. On the other hand, it isn't a necessary line item in the county budget to make me feel civic-minded. But anyway, I thought I'd tell you how I voted.

I consider myself an independent nowadays, but the first decision I had to make was to select a party for the purpose of the primary. (In Washington, you must pick a party for the day and select from only that party list, at least in the primary). I seriously considered not choosing a party and skipping on to the non-partisan judicial races, especially since exactly zero of the party primaries were in any way competitive.

But in the end, I decided to mark myself as a Democrat, and voted for Senator Maria Cantwell. Since her stance on the war is unpopular with her base, I think it takes some political courage to stick to her principles. There are a lot of things I disagree with her on, but I wanted to mute any protest vote by the loony left -- although there are good reasons to oppose our involvement in Iraq, the usual bunch of opponents are, as usual, invoking exactly the wrong reasons.

I didn't bother to vote in any of the other Democratic races, as they're all unopposed.

The judicial races were somewhat tougher for me decide. I happen to think that the initiative process is a fiasco, and my single biggest local issue is public transportation. However, I think far too much legislation is struck down by judicial review.

(I phrased that last sentence carefully: I didn't want to use the words "legislate from the bench", as I feel that terminology is hijacked by people who have an equally interventionist, but different, agenda from the sitting justices.)

So I had quite the dilemma: all of the conservative judges seemed more in line with my judicial philosophy, but I think they would have a very negative practical effect on programs that I care about. In the end, I split the difference by focusing on my perception of competence, for which I had to rely heavily on endorsements.

In the three supreme court races, I selected Gerry Alexander, Tom Chambers, and Stephen Johnson. One of these is not like the other. The first two are considered "liberal" incumbent judges, and the last is a Republican State Senator.

Alexander and Chambers were both facing weak opponents. Alexander opponent John Groen, though heavily funded, had no experience as a judge, and Chambers seemed to be universally endorsed as the more competent alternative in his race.

I had the most trouble with Johnson's race with Susan Owens. I'm concerned about the effect Johnson may have on efforts to control sprawl and complete infrastructure projects. On the other hand, Owens seems to get only lukewarm endorsement of her judicial brilliance. I also believe she failed to exercise judicial restraint in her vote to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While I believe DOMA is a bad law, I also believe it is the job of the legislature to decide that, and forcing it down the throats of Washingtonians is a poor substitute for convincing the electorate that the time has come.

This left me undecided until I entered the voting booth. In the end, it came down to election tactics. A lawyer named Michael Johnson was also in the primary, and it was quite evident that his only purpose was to confuse people who might potentially vote for Stephen Johnson. Owens' failure to condemn this anti-democratic maneuver clinched it for me.

The other competive race was for District Court, where Frank LaSalata was facing a serial also-ran and an incumbent that had been censured for judicial misconduct several times. I voted for him.

The last question on the ballot was to continue a levy that funded the county's subscription to a Fingerprint Identification Service. Here again was pragmatism vs. principle. On the one hand, this should come out of the general fund. On the other, where else will the money come from? It would be nice if they decided to keep it going by cutting a program I don't like, but in fact, it's likely to either die or be funded by cuts elsewhere in law enforcement. In the end, I had to vote YES on continuing the levy.

I promise, most posts won't be this long.


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