Friday, August 18, 2006

My ballot

My pet peeve about voting is not knowing who's on the ballot before I get to my polling place and read the ballot for the first time. I'm not talking about the marquee offices, I'm talking about the district court judges and the county races, where the money is smaller and campaigning less visible. The ballot may be published in the newspaper a week or two before election day, but shouldn't it be easier to find out who these candidates are earlier, so we can cast an intelligent vote?

The Star Tribune has linked data from the Minnesota Secretary of State's office and its own candidate statement files to create myVote, which displays the ballot choices you will see at your precinct in two clicks: ZIP Code and street address. If you check the "Remember my precinct information" checkbox, myVote saves a cookie to your computer so you won't have to enter it again. Then your ballot and, when available, election results will appear automatically.

After your ballot is displayed, click on any candidate name to read the statement that they submitted to the Strib. For example, a Minneapolitan named Phil Willkie is running for Hennepin County Soil and Water Supervisor Seat 2. Here is what he told the Strib:
Background: Activist/organizer in independent politics, drug reform, peace and justice, freedom movements, gay, civil liberties; associate publisher of Pulse; AIDS service activist.

Endorsements: Marv Davidov; Polly Mann; Ed Felien; Peter Camejo; Medea Benjamin; Paul Krassner; Flo Kennedy; Matt Gonzales; Grassroots Party; Green Party of Minnesota.

Essay: Fighting for the environment; resisting war and military madness; fighting for an independent media; fighting the Patriot Act and government invasion of privacy and consensual and individual rights; election reform, instant runoff voting and breaking two-party duopoly; single-payer health care; nationalize banks, utilities, transportation and all energy sources.
Just what we need in a Soil and Water Supervisor! NOT!

Willkie's opponent for this nonpartisan office, Dan Flo, did not seek endorsements; he's playing it a little closer to the vest:
The Hennepin Soil and Water Conservation District [HCD] is a low-profile organization that does good things for this county’s natural resources. The dedicated board and staff work closely with residents and other government officials to implement the provisions of the Wetland Conservation Act. We do this by providing money and other assistance for projects that curb soil erosion and improve water quality. As the Legislature works to develop a working, dedicated clean-water legacy program for cleaning up the state’s impaired waters, HCD will play an integral role in managing those funds in Hennepin County. Thank you for your support.
We don't know whether Flo shares comrade Willkie's passion to "nationalize banks, utilities, transportation and all energy sources," but at least he is using his 15 minutes of fame to explain to us what the HCD does.

The candidates' statements for HCD Seat 4 highlighted their views on soil and water conservation. One of the three candidates on the ballot, Ryan Wilson, has been endorsed by an interesting mix of elected officials and organizations: U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad; Minnesota House Majority Leader Erik Paulsen; Log Cabin Republicans; Taxpayers League of Minnesota; Plymouth Mayor Judy Johnson; State Rep. Ron Erhardt; State Rep. Neil Peterson; State Sen. Geoff Michel; Edina City Council Member Scot Housh; Edina City Council Member Linda Masica. Wilson's resume reveals a lot of volunteering as a Republican Party of Minnesota delegate and campaign worker. I have met Ryan; he is articulate and seems very well-informed on a wide range of issues.

Sometimes a Soil and Water Supervisor is just a Soil and Water Supervisor, but some candidates seem to have aspirations to move closer to the top of the ballot someday.

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