Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Holy Primaries, Batman!

I know, I know. I should be over the vagaries of the MA electoral system by now. I mean, what do I have to be nostalgic about anyways? The death-by-ballot-initiative that characterizes my native CA political environment isn’t exactly enviable. But there are a few things CA does right, that we could learn from. Namely:

(1) Today I voted in the Presidential Primary. (MA participates in Super Tuesday). In September, I will vote again in the State Primary (including the much-watched Senate race). Both of these primaries will lead to the same general election.
Sunkist Miss’s Rule 1 of Electoral Politics: Limit the number of times you expect people to turn out to vote -- have a single primary election. The more elections, and the fewer items per ballot, the less interest people will have in voting. Duh.

(2) I should not have to do extensive searching online to find out what will be on my ballot. It should be easy to find out. Actually, take a play from the CA play book, and tell me before I ask! The Sec. of State and LA County Registrar of Voters were always good about that. The county sends you your sample ballot (with a form to request an absentee ballot on the back) before every election. The state sends a voter guide with more information including official statements from candidates and ballot measure campaigns (and official analysis of the legal impact of the ballot measures). I love you, CA.
Rule 2: Educate voters about what will be on the ballot, or at least provide them with the tools to find out. Before they arrive at the polls.

PS. Our representative in the MA Legislature is also on the City Council. Say what?!


Becky (DC.Nerd) said...

I am not an expert in electoral law or policy, and I agree with your points.

I'd add, though, that I thought the September primary is now legally problematic due to a new federal law, name escaping me, that requires ballots to be sent to people living abroad a certain length of time before a general election, so the primary results would need to be known before a September primary would take place.

That said, it's entirely possible that I am wrong about the application of the forgotten-name-federal law. And Massachusetts at least does it better than some states that seem to have some sort of election every month. (We just have extra elections in DC because 1. we have staggered Council terms so people will run for citywide office while still maintaining their seat, and then resign, so there needs to be a special election, and 2. our politicians plead guilty to federal crimes and are forced to resign their seat, so there needs to be a special election. And then there was the person who just got a new job while holding office and resigned, so there needed to be a special election.)

Sunkist Miss said...

Thanks for the interesting perspective, and DC comparison!

I did a quick google search about the new federal law you referred to, which I hadn't heard about previously. It does seem that states are now required to send ballots out to expats 45 days before the general election:


The Sept 6 primary is exactly 2 months (61 days) before the general election (Nov 6). So that would in fact seem to be pretty tight timing for getting the ballot out by that deadline. Even more interesting: the primary was originally scheduled for Sept 18th but was moved due to conflict with Rosh Hashanah (49 days before the general election). There's no way that could've met the deadline!