Tag Archives: presidential election

Why the disinterest?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

An earlier post on this blog saluted the “courtesy” that Princeton City Hall gave to its residents with a significant credit in their monthly water bill.

I intended to call attention to local governments’ ability to respond to taxpayers’ needs in time of suffering. Princeton answered the call.

Now, for my point: It is that government at the local level often is the most responsive and its actions have the most direct impact on citizens’ lives. Thus, it baffles me that local government elections usually draw such little attention among voters.

Local government responds | High Plains Blogger

You know what I’m talking about. Voter turnout for municipal elections often languishes in the single digits. That is, fewer than 10 percent of those who are registered to vote bother to actually vote. I have witnessed this astonishing apathy play out over and over again during by 37 years as a daily print journalist. I watched it happen in Oregon City, Ore., in Beaumont, Texas, and in Amarillo, Texas, where I worked before retiring and moving to Princeton. It’s happened here, too.

Texas is going to the polls again on May 1. We will choose our city government and school district elected leaders. Will many of us even bother to vote? Hah! I am not holding my breath.

And that is the ongoing shame of our democratic process.

The 2020 presidential election produced an astonishing turnout among registered voters, something on the order of 65 percent. The raw numbers of voters, more than 158 million, also was staggering. Don’t misunderstand me. Presidential elections are important as well. However, presidents and those we send to Congress make decisions that occasionally have little to do with our daily lives.

City council members decide how much property taxes we pay; they make decisions on the quality of police and fire protection, on our parks, whether we have streets lights in our neighborhoods and, yes, whether we have potable running water. School board trustees decide how much to pay public school teachers, which has a direct impact on our property taxes, the books our children and grandchildren read, the curriculum they study.

I am not suggesting we should treat national elections with the apathy we demonstrate at the local level. I am suggesting that local races deserve at least as much of our attention as those elections farther up the electoral pecking order.

2021 channels 2020?

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

— Roger Daltrey, singing, “We Won’t Get Fooled Again

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It seems like a lifetime ago. We said goodbye and good riddance to 2020. Remember that? I do!

Then we welcomed the new year with the hope that turning a calendar page meant we could turn the page on an era of tumult, turmoil, tempest … the works.

The pandemic had killed many thousands of Americans; we endured the nastiest presidential election campaign in memory; then we watched the outgoing president foment the Big Lie about the election outcome being the product of political thievery.

The pandemic muted many traditional celebrations. Times Square was not full of revelers on New Year’s Eve.

Then the new year arrived.

To be candid, 2021 seems to have just continued the misery we felt in 2020. The nation endured the insurrection at the Capitol Building; five people died. The House impeached the outgoing president for the second time; the Senate then “acquitted” him by failing to get enough votes to meet the high threshold required to convict him of inciting the riot.

That all happened within the first month of the new year.

Then came the Storm of 2021. We in Texas are suffering from this event.

I am merely venting. I mean, what else is there to do? I cannot make the weather change, other than wish it would as I desire. Perhaps a prayer or two will help.

That all said, I won’t dwell on the misery we are experiencing in this new year. I am going to look forward. For one thing, the weather is going to improve. Spring is on its way. The grass will turn green; flowers will bloom; the temperature will warm up; the ice will melt.

The pandemic infection rate is beginning to decline. I get that too many Americans are dying and my heart continues to break over it. More of us are getting vaccinated, protected against infection.

A new president will not lie incessantly. He is going to act the part of head of state and commander in chief. The POTUS will function the way the holder of that office is supposed to function. As we turn the corner from the pandemic, my sincere hope — and belief — is that our economy will rebound.

The new year looks a whole lot like the old year … so far. It is testing my patience, but my reservoir of hope is deep.

Vote by mail in case of emergency? Hmm, let’s think about this

They’ve been voting for president by mail in the state of my birth, Oregon, since 2000.

Now the state’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, has come up with an idea to nationalize this practice in case of a medical emergency that prohibits Americans from traipsing to their polling places on Election Day.

Man, oh man. This gives me fits. Here’s why.

I like what I consider to be the “pageantry” of voting on Election Day, of going to the polling place and casting my ballot. I like handing my ballot to an election judge or placing it into a bin where it’s counted once the polling place closes.

Oregon and a few other states do it differently. They send ballots to voters in the mail. Voters then fill out their ballots and send ’em in also by mail. They’re collected and then tabulated.

Sen. Wyden’s idea might be worth doing … but only if the current pandemic escalates into something far more dangerous than it is at this moment.

As The Oregonian reports: “No voter should have to choose between exercising their constitutional right and putting their health at risk,” Wyden told The Washington Post. “When disaster strikes, the safest route for seniors, individuals with compromised immune systems or other at-risk populations is to provide every voter with a paper ballot they can return by mail or drop-off site.”

Wyden is asking the federal government for $500 million to help states get ready for a vote-by-mail program if national health officials determine it’s too dangerous medically for voters to cast their ballots the old-fashioned way.

If that’s what happens, then I’m all for it. I will not surrender my right as an American patriot to do my civic duty, to perform my role as a citizen.

Blog about to close out a record year

The year is about to pass into history. We’re getting set to enter the third decade of the 21st century. What a year it has been.

With that I want to take a moment to look back on High Plains Blogger’s year.

For starters, I set another record for page views and visitors to this blog. It’s my fourth year in a row setting records from the previous year. Two stupendous months in early 2019 set the pace.

I cannot predict if another record will fall in 2020. Some of that depends on the news that will unfold.

We have an election coming up. We’ll have a trial in the U.S. Senate (eventually!) to determine whether Donald Trump remains as president. My guess is that he will. So he’ll keep this blog full of grist on which to chew for the coming year. That’s how the president rolls. He craves being the center of attention, so he’ll likely be at or near the center of this blog’s attention.

I also want to thank those who have chosen to read this blog’s musings. Some might call it spewage. It all depends on whether you agree with yours truly’s world view of politics and public policy.

Moreover, take my word for it that I appreciate the constructive criticism I get. Some of it, though, isn’t so constructive. Some folks prefer to scold me. That’s OK, too.

All told, though, critics keep me humble. They serve to remind me in real time that the world is full of diverse points of view. Some of us choose to express our view out loud and for the record in forums such as, oh … blogs!

I appreciate those who take the time to read this blog. I appreciate even more those who spread the blog’s word among their own social media networks. All told, I have posted more than 12,800 blog items during the life of High Plains Blogger.

Let us proceed toward a new year with a tinge of optimism. That’s how I prefer to look toward the future. If it disappoints, though, I’ll be ready to unload my frustrations through this venue.

We’ll all just be able to enjoy the ride.

Is this the year midterm turnout blows up?

Americans generally take far less interest in midterm elections than they do in presidential elections, not that presidential election years are much to brag about.

Sure, about 60 percent of Americans vote for president. When it comes to voting on those “off years” for members of the U.S. House and Senate, the turnout drops off considerably.

There’s some chatter in states that have opened early voting for this year’s midterm election that turnout might actually approach presidential election year numbers.

That would be a very good thing.

As important as it is to elect presidents, it’s the congressional races that produce more of a direct impact on people’s lives.

In Texas, the top of our ballot includes a race for the Senate that is generating a lot of interest: Democrat Beto O’Rourke is challenging Republican Ted Cruz for Cruz’s Senate seat. O’Rourke is drawing big rally crowds; Cruz is going to campaign next week with the president of the United States.

The issue for O’Rourke is whether the interest he is spurring will produce big vote totals on Election Day. The jury is still out on that one. Indeed, Democrats are beginning to worry out loud that they won’t.

Still, Texas’s vote turnout performance lags at or near the bottom of the 50 states in these midterm cycles.

Oh, how I want that to change.

Maybe it will, given the stakes. Many millions of Americans — including me — want Democrats to take control of Congress to act as a check against the Donald Trump agenda. The House might flip from GOP to Democratic control; the Senate remains a much steeper hill to climb.

However, the turnout looks as though it will exceed recent midterm election percentages. Hey, it’s a start.

Why not ‘celebrate’ Election Day?

This isn’t an original thought but I am going to pitch it here with vigor. Election Day should be an event Americans should commemorate, indeed even celebrate.

Thus, I am leaning heavily toward proposing a national holiday for the day we go to the polls to elect the leader of our government. I make this pitch partly out of frustration as well.

I spent a lot of years as a journalist trying to boost voter turnout on Election Day. It was an exercise in futility. I ran out of ways to say the same thing. We cheered when turnout at the national level exceeded, say, 55 percent when we chose our president. I consider that to be a disgraceful turnout. Fifty-five percent turnout among all Americans who are eligible to vote? That means more than 40 percent of those Americans don’t bother to cast their ballot.

Here’s my thought: Make Election Day every two years a national holiday. I include the midterm congressional election as deserving of this extra attention.

Why don’t people vote? I guess it’s for a variety of reasons. Frustration with the choices. A feeling that their vote doesn’t matter. Not enough time.

Ah, about that last item. The time element can be fixed by declaring a national holiday. Give working Americans the day off from work, the way we do for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day.

We can remove one key barrier from Americans who might want to vote, but who say they don’t have the time, that their bosses won’t allow them to take a few moments to go cast their ballots.

I understand fully that we cannot give everyone a day off from work on Election Day. Medical personnel, police officers, firefighters, public utility workers all need to be on the job.

I much prefer the national holiday idea to other efforts to boost turnout, such as mail-in voting. I have noted many times already that I like the ritual associated with going to the polls, of waiting in line, of kibitzing with fellow voters. Mail-only voting has boosted turnout in many states — such as my home state of Oregon. I stand by my preference, though, to cast my ballot in a polling place.

I live in state, Texas, with a shamefully pitiful voting turnout. We tend to vote on everything here, so there might be some voter fatigue that suppresses turnout. I don’t know how to deal with that.

However, I want there to be a national push — for the midterm election and for the presidential election — to give this process the level of veneration it deserves.

Declaring Election Day to be a national holiday might do the trick.