Election Day in America, with big news out of Ohio, Maine and Mississippi.

A real quick post because I am still reading up on local results in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Off year elections are usually small bore affairs. Out of the total number of possible voters, maybe 30% show up. That means the rest of the democracy sits it all out.

Tuesday’s election, though, had some interesting ballot initiatives.

In Ohio, the public has the ability to counter laws of their state government. One was passed earlier this year, that sharply curtailed the rights of government unions to organize. It was not an issue in 2010, and basically came out of the shadows once the Republican governor (John Kasich) was inaugurated.

The people of Ohio voted overwhelmingly to overturn the union-stripping law.

In Maine, the new Republican governor eliminated same-day voter registration, which people in Maine have enjoyed for 38 years. This allowed people to go in and vote the same day as they registered to vote. This change was also put before state voters in a referendum, and the result is that the people of Maine have restored the same-day registration rule.

In Mississippi, there was some screwball amendment proposed to their state constitution, that would make using birth control a felony. The amendment sought to define “personhood” as more than a living person, or a viable fetus. The amendment would have legally defined life as beginning at conception, and anyone using medicines or agents to interfere with that conceiving would be guilty of a crime. (Presumably murder, right? If the state is defining human life as beginning at conception.)

Even in nutty Mississippi, a rule like that got swatted down by the voters.

Last year’s Republican wave did nothing for the United States. Our economy is still in a funk, and the Republicans seem to do everything BUT address the critical issues–as you can see from the efforts today’s voters made in three states to undo the messes that these same politicians created.

Job #1 is jobs. Don’t interfere with people’s right to collectively bargain. Don’t do a bunch of tricks to make voting harder or impossible. Stop refighting culture-war issues from the 1960’s that you already lost.

[More later about Pennsylvania and New Jersey.]

[Update 11/9/11: Really not a lot to remark about New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania only had judges up for either election or retention. Believe it or not, Pennsylvania elects judges, which is about the worst way to choose. Whichever candidate has the most money or the best party backing ends up a judge, and the retention elections (after they are on the bench 10 years) are an even bigger joke! Yesterday, all the judges up for retention got in the 70%’s.

New Jersey’s entire 120-member state legislature was up for grabs, and the Democrats handily grabbed it once again. Except for governor, New Jersey Republicans are non competitive statewide.

You might wonder why New Jersey held an “off year” or “odd year” election for its entire legislature. This is the result of the 1947 Constitution. (New Jersey has a constitution that dates from about the same time as the one in Japan!) The constitutional fathers (mostly all men) believed that it was better to hold state elections in the off year, so that federal elections didn’t insert themselves into a season where state issues should be prominent in the media and public discussion.

What it means, practically, is that the odd year with the Governor’s election has a big turnout, and the other odd year has incredibly LOW turnout. I haven’t seen the number for yesterday, but I bet it isn’t any more than 30%.

One interesting note: When I started blogging in 2003, one of my key focuses was on the Bridgewater, New Jersey (population 45,000) mayor’s race. The eventual winner had sicced her campaign manager on me that whole season, and so I was an early recipient of the kind of internet abuse that is such a big topic nowadays. I forget how many derogatory remarks that person–who was, incidentally, a land-use attorney–made about me, but I stopped counting at 115. (I used to have a Word file of them.)

Well, that mayor retired from the position, and the person I supported in 2003–Jim Ventantonio–ran again. And, unfortunately, lost.

New Jersey may be a Democratic state, but Somerset County, where Bridgewater is located, has been Republican since the Lincoln Administration. Shame that the Republican party has changed so much, as I have been saying, that the Democrats are now more reflective of the old party’s ideals than the current crop, who are basically ex-city whites (the so-called white flight) who vote Republican because they associate the Democrats with the big city. Additionally, “low tax” voters who never realize that the $200-or-so annual tax breaks they manage to get are eaten up in other fees and inconveniences, while the rich in the state get tens of thousands and live in sheltered communities.

Overall, not much has changed in New Jersey. Little ever does except the landscape.]

[Update #2 11/10/11: New Jersey state department says that voter turnout was 26% — a record low. WSJ link and here. When people don’t vote, it’s a lot easier for big money, or for small groups of people, to have an outsized influence on an election.]

2 thoughts on “Election Day in America, with big news out of Ohio, Maine and Mississippi.

  1. I disagree. Appointees are selected by the governor, usually with the consent of the local senator within a judicial district. In most states that do this, there is no public election at all, and the judge’s retention election is also in the senate. (This is maybe at seven years in New Jersey.)

    You are right that a prospective judge has to be known to the local politicians in order to be on the radar. But it does not involve campaigning, and, the most repugnant thing about Pennsylvania politics, it does not require the judge to go raising money. Judge-elect Wecht raised something like half a million dollars from Philadelphia law firms? Well, now, what happens when those same law firms go to argue a case before Judge Wecht? And that’s not saying he won’t be impartial—I think he will be. But what does it look like? How confident can the average citizen be in a system like that?

    With judicial appointment and life tenure to age 70, the judge “owes” nothing to the people who put him or her there. The judge does not have to campaign–which, as I say, in and of itself, is odious.

    Pennsylvania needs to get with the 21st century. If they don’t want appointment here, at least do a half-and-half, like New York, and appoint the appellate bench.

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