Friday, November 2, 2007

What's the Deal with Texas Elections?

I hate to seem like I'm always railing on Texas' politics but this is my blog, so I thought I would call into question the way elections go here in celebration of this coming Tuesday's elections. At the risk of sounding like Dennis Miller, Andy Rooney or some horrible hybrid of the two I will proceed.

First of all, who are we voting for? I understand electing the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor but some of the other stuff is absurd to me. The Attorney General? I don't really feel great about entrusting the selection of the state's top law enforcer to what amounts to a fund raising and popularity contest. Then when he or she gets elected it's only to build name recognition to run for some higher office. I didn't even know what a comptroller was when I moved here as we didn't have one in NH, but once I found out it seemed kind of foolish to be electing someone to be in charge of our tax dollars. There are a bunch of other examples but the most heinous to me is the idea of electing judges. All of these positions I mentioned require education and special skills that would seem to make selecting people for them better suited for a meritocracy than democracy. Don't get me wrong, I like being able to influence my government but I don't trust many average joes or even myself to be picking who is the best person to decide court cases, try them or manage public accounts. It's not just that... the more things people have to vote for, the less they research each one and just pick the nicest name or something equally random.

Second thing is that it seems like people try to keep the election a secret here and the paltry voter turnout is evidence that speaks to that. I hardly so any ads in the recent elections save for presidential ads in 2004. Back in NH elections - and not just the "world famous" primary election - were veritable holidays. I ask people if they voted on election day here and they look at me like I'm crazy. They either have no interest or no idea that elections are taking place. I just don't know how people can't know or aren't old an election is coming up and how important it is. I remember people standing out in 20 degree temperatures just to hold their candidates signs at the polling place or waiting in lines in that cold to go vote. Here I see no people with signs and I can scarcely find the polling place and it's usually empty when I go in. It boggles my mind.

One thing I like about the elections here and that might be skewing my evaluation of turnout and interest is early voting. I understand how a lot of people can't get out of work or get transportation to a certain place on a certain day, so stretching it out into a window of time like Texas has done is a fantastic idea to me. Anything that gets more voters to the polls is a good thing in my estimation. That way we're coming closer to a consensus on who we've elected.

So in review, I think Texas would do well to follow the model of the federal government and give the Governor the levity to appoint people to jobs that ought to be based on merit rather then have us elect them. Also I'd like to see a little more promotion of the elections, whether by the state or the individuals' campaigns. Lastly, I commend Texas on the early voting system and admit that it could be why turnout looks low to me. Overall though, I think elections could be more voter friendly here.


Shatara Coruthers said...

I would have to agree. I am from Texas and I'm not really into politics. Most of the young people living here do not have a clue about state goverment. I know I don't, although I try to get involved. I only voted when I turned 18 years old, and that's simply because it was new to me. I would have to say that there are too many elections held here, and they aren't advertised that well, even if a person watchs the news or reads the newspaper. Nowadays people surf the internet, and unless it there's a major issue up for vote, the only thing you'll most likely hear about is the governor and presidential race, or at least it seems that way to me. The only reason I knew about this year's propostions that were up for early voting earlier this month is because I am also taking a U.S. Goverment class, and my instructor emailed evreyone a packet of what the propositions were and the dates that we could vote. I also did not even know the way judges were elected here in Texas until I took this class, especially since the eyes of justice are supposed to be blind. Here is a link expaining the propostions that came up for early voting at the end of October and the first week of November, if anyone is still interested as reference.

tkk246 said...

In many instances, a majority can not be trusted to make sound decisions. Politics are no exception. While popular vote may be the easiest route for its promotion of friendly relations, it is an imperfect method and proves disappointing often. Personally, it is hard to subscribe to a politics that would take any power whatsoever out of my hands. But, as my classmate noted, I, as well as the "average Joe" cannot always be counted on to make the best political decision(s). The general public cannot be expected to know recondite political information nor can they be expected to keep up with the many happenings and current events. "Texas would do well to follow the...federal government and give the Governor the levity to appoint people to jobs that ought to be based on merit rather than (popularity)". Voter apathy and voter ignorance (especially in the young. I'm guilty of this too! Sadly, I am no exception.) have no place in the lesser-known, arcane political offices.
Part of me hates admitting this. I wince at the thought of someone, anyone, presiding over me with contractual words and binding decrees. In theory, we would all like to be the supreme and absolute dictators of ourselves. But I concede that I cannot know and be everything.
For example, I have a hard time balancing my checkbook. Maybe I would not be the best candidate for determining the comptroller, who balances our state's checkbook.