by Jonathan Bernstein
Yesterday was election day in Texas, and I voted. And I voted. And then I voted some more. If my count was correct, I voted fifty-two times. I voted for Governor, and I voted for U.S. House and Texas House and Texas Senate...OK, I didn't actually know the candidates for the state legislature, by I did feel a bit guilty about that. I voted for Lt. Governor (which is a big deal here in Texas). I voted for Attorney General, and Commissioner of the General Land Office, and Commissioner of Agriculture, and Railroad Commissioner. I don't know what the General Land Office is, no. I voted for judges -- judicial judges, and the county judge, who is the head of the county government, not a judicial judge at all. I voted for more real judges. We know someone who is running for "Judge, County Probate Court No. 2." I voted for her. I voted for District Clerk. I don't know what kind of district the District Clerk is clerk for. I'm pretty sure it's not pronounced the British way, though. I voted for party chair...actually, Party Chairman, although I voted for a woman, but what do I know?
There are democratic nations in which you can vote every time they let you, and you might not reach fifty-two marks on a paper your whole life. Here in Texas though...well, no candidate reached 50% in any of these elections, there will have to be a run-off election. If Kay Bailey Hutchison really resigns as she's promised, now that she was drubbed in her attempt to be Governor, well, that'll be another election (or two? I don't remember how Texas handles it; I lived in California last time Texas had a Senate special). I have no idea whether there will be any other elections, but of course in November we'll have the general election, and I'll get to vote another fifty-one times (everything, I assume, except the party office).
There are a lot of democratic nations in which you can vote every time they let you and not reach one hundred marks on a touch screen your whole life.
In the two-year cycle here in Texas, we also have municipal elections in the odd-numbered years, plus local school board elections, various authorities and boards (including local school boards) elections, and elections in which we vote on very obscure changes to the state constitution, which generally get no publicity and hardly any voters. In other words, something like 150 circled-in bubbles over a two year cycle.
And Texas isn't bad at all! I've voted in both Arizona and California, which have pages of judges to vote on and often a dozen or more initiatives and other ballot measures (although there are states, I know, that aren't nearly as bad).
I love elections, and I do believe that one mark of a strong democracy is keeping the politicians, and not bureaucracies, in charge of lots of things.
But this is ridiculous. The correct word for most of the elections that happened in Texas today, and that happen in primary elections around the nation all spring and summer this year, is farce. No one has any idea what they're doing (especially in primaries, and in nonpartisan elections, in which you don't even get a useful cue about what to do). I like the idea that Americans vote more often and for more things that just about any other nation, but we could vote for about a third of what we vote for now and still be very high on the scale, and people wouldn't have to fee like idiots on election day. I've never heard a good defense for most of it, and I really think we should cut it out.