Disclaimer: Emmett Hanger won the Republican Primary on Tuesday 12 June 2007 for the Virginia 24th district. There is NO dispute to the fact that Hanger won the election and got the most votes during this election...
Tuesday was an interesting and important election for it showed the democratic process in action and how it works. Emmett Hanger won the Primary election with the advantage of 6.03% and 868 more votes then Sayre and will continue onto the General election in November where the process will work as designed again.
There have been numerous close elections in the past and this is just another example of the political climate we now live in. Just look at 2006 race for Virginia Senate where Jim Webb won by 9,329 of the States total votes or just a .39% advantage. And lets not forget the “Landslide” election of Attorney General Bob McDonnell who “Thrashed” Creigh Deeds by 323 votes or 0.01% of the vote…
It becomes apparent that with close elections like those mentioned each and every vote becomes that much more important to the final outcome. A “Quantity” issue. Always after close election results there are the inevitable questions of what more could have been done or “What-if” scenarios.
With that there is always another factor that influences the outcome of elections and that is the “Quality” of the voters involved. This is an area which encompasses a wide range of aspects and examples. Each American citizen has the right, opportunity, and responsibility to vote in the numerous elections that make up the local, state, and national governments. Unfortunately the majority of eligible voters do not exercise their rights and responsibilities and below half turnout for the Presidential elections has become common place.
During this past Tuesday Primary election I witnessed several examples of questionable “Quality” votes that factored into the final vote count for this election. As I said in the beginning of this post these are NOT excuses why the election went the way it did but reasons that should be noted and discussed.
In Virginia primaries all registered voters are allowed to vote in a primary no matter what party they are registered in or support. This may work well for the “Independent” voter and allow them to be part of the process to determine which candidate\party they eventually support. But it also provides an opportunity for the hardline Democrat or Republican voter to “Crossover” and vote for the weaker candidate for the opposing party. This topic has gotten much attention recently in this last local election I have heard the “Crossover” argument both ways. Some have said that the “Crossover” Democrats were voting for Sayre for he was the ’Apparent” weaker Republican Candidate. Others have said that the “Crossover” Democrat were voting for Hanger for the 24th district is a very strong Republican voting area and they will get more “Left-leaning” votes in the Senate out of Hanger as compared to Sayre if elected. It was noted that many people arriving in cars with Webb, Warner, and Kaine (Democratic Party) stickers on them were seen voting in Staunton City that went overwhelmingly for Hanger. Many times during elections you hear “bumper stickers & yard signs do not vote”. But still…
At one voting precinct I heard a voter state that they had to get Emmett re-elected because the voter stated he was just years away from getting pension and the “New guy” would foul that up with his cost cutting promises. Now each voter has the right to vote as they see fit and which way they believe will benefit them most. But what of the “Union” voter who is only fed one sided information and scarred into voting with only that information? Uneducated voters are not a new thing and will always be part of the election process, but are without a doubt a tactic used to influence voters.
While working one voting precinct I was in the company of a elected official who placed many cell phone calls to citizens of the district reminding and telling them to get out and vote for one of the two candidates. This person also instructed those called to get husbands, wife’s, children, and other relations out to vote and be sure to vote for the one candidate. The interesting thing is while listening to these calls the caller had to identify, sometimes numerous times, the candidate they should vote for and it was obvious the potential voter knew little or nothing of the candidates. These people were voting for a candidate because of the recommendation they were getting from another person. Not exactly the same as an “Endorsement” that you see in a newspaper or hear on the radio. Especially when the person making the recommendation has to say the candidates name numerous times because the potential voter does not even know who is running or what they stand for in this election.
While working this same precint Candidate Scott Sayre stopped by and worked the line to meet the voters and talk issues with the voters of the day. At one point Sayre introduced himself to a potential voter who responded in a irate manner and became loud for all to hear. The irate man expressed his dissatisfaction by saying that the candidate had run a negative campaign. He went on for a bit and would not allow Sayre to ask or discuss the campaign. Finally Sayre was able to ask the man what part of the campaign did he find “negative” and maybe he could explain his stance on the issue. The irate man became more “flustered” and continued claiming negative campaigning and then blurted out “Immigration” as a issue that he felt was portrayed in a negative manner. I was impressed by Sayre in the manner that he held his composure during this incident and allowed the irate man to continue without attempting to shut him down. Once the man finally produced an issue as an example Sayre asked if he could present his stance on immigration to clear up any misconceptions about the issue. It appeared the irate man then realized that he was not going to get the reaction from Sayre that he wanted and continued with the “negative campaigning” claim without discussing the issue. Sayre told the man that he was sorry that the man felt that way and would not allow him (Scott) to discuss the issues. Another form of voter who is convinced that there was a “Negative” campaign but when asked for an example they are unable to provide or discuss an actual issue proving their point. If a candidate asks a question or challenges a voting record is that considered “Negative campaigning”?. What is the proper term for the candidate who will not address a challenge on an issue or voting record? Incumbent?
Many people have questioned the value of a Primary election and that it endangers the Republican party in possibly losing the secure seat. “Not Larry Sabato” had a great post and thoughts on this process:
Betrayal? Insubordination? Primaries are a CRITICAL part of the political process. Without them, a Democrat could vote with the Republicans 100% of the time, or vice versa and they would be rewarded with no general election opponent and another term in office. Primaries are the only part of the process that keeps an incumbent honest with their political base. So challenging an incumbent in a primary is not insubordination, it is AMERICAN
By no means is this “Quality” issue limited to local elections and campaigns and in fact it is more apparent on the National level. Just a few examples to look at and discuss:
Absentee ballots: Any registered voter is allowed to vote by absentee and the regulation of this form of voting is somewhat limited. Absentee ballots have been issued to people who no longer live in the voting area, state, or are even living anymore! What about the absentee ballot for the elder person who is not able to go to the polls and must rely on somebody else to get the absentee ballot and even fill it out for them. Can the elderly person be sure that the proper vote was cast?
Union Influence: We live in an era where a labor union is able to collect “Union Dues” from their workers and spend that money on the candidate that the “Union” supports. The actual union worker is required to pay the union dues if they want their job but in most cases are not able to direct where the money will go to support a candidate.
The “Chad Challenged” voter: During the 2000 Presidential election there was the famous “Chad” incident in Florida where voters either did not completely punch out the Chad or failed to vote in the correct box. During this election I lived in Monroe County Florida and voted with an optical ballot and had to fill in the box with a black marker before it was inserted into the optical scanner. I recalled looking at the ballot at least three times to ensure that I marked the correct box for my candidate and that the mark was clear and obvious. Voter responsibility? And what about the voters in other parts of Florida where numerous voters became confused with the “Butterfly: ballot?…
Photo Identification: We have yet to pass a law requiring all voters to produce a photo identification card proving who they are before they vote. Seems common sense that we would want the positive identification of each voter before they voted but the same political party seems to consistently vote against this requirement. They claim that requiring Photo identification is a form of discrimination and not all people can afford or get a photo I.D. Many offers have been made to provide these photo identifications at no cost to the voter but yet this one political party continues to vote against this requirement. If these people are not able to obtain or afford a photo identification how do they get other services that require proper identification? What is the “Quality” or functionality of this voter?
Last week I was watching C-SPAN2, it was a slow day around the house, and our Senators were once again voting on a bill to require photo identification by voters. Once again this bill was defeated by the same political party that consistently votes against this photo identification requirement. Coincidentally while watching the C-SPAN coverage I saw my Virginia Senator cast his vote of this important bill and Issue…