Blogs > Cliopatria > Voting in a Vacuum

Sep 24, 2004 12:33 am

Voting in a Vacuum

Well, I voted. Yes, Hawai'i's primary is very late, but our parties don't wait for their convention nominations: they have in-party caucuses open only to actual dues-paying members.

The most interesting race locally is our county council seat race, which is between a seven-term veteran who was elected for the fourth time the same time an eight-year term-limit was voted in, and a beekeeper who is running on some pretty peripheral issues. The question of whether the four-term limit includes the election in which it was enacted (which seems intuitively obvious to me, but nothing in law is 'intuitive' or 'obvious') is already before the courts, but they didn't even start considering it until after the deadline for candidates to file papers had passed. So, if the courts make the right decision and allow that voters knew what they were voting for four terms ago, then we'll get a county councilman who seems . . . underqualified (and who waited until after the filing deadline to challenge his opponents' registration); if they decide to allow our incumbent to get away with an eighth term, then we get a veteran who doesn't really care about process. (Yes, I am assuming that the incumbent will win. Since his opponent isn't a rock star or actor, it's a safe bet.)

I don't, I admit, follow local politics as closely as I follow national and international affairs, though I do read the local paper regularly. But our paper, as with most newspapers, still feels enough public service pull to produce a voter guide, with basic descriptions of the candidates, and some question-and-answer on basic local issues. You can't tell everything about a candidate from a fifty-word answer to questions like"why are you running?" and"what are your three highest priorities if elected?" and yes/no/decline answers to questions like"should development be slowed while our infrastructure catches up?" and"Should the University Place Development be allowed to go ahead?". But you can tell an awful lot, particularly if you have some sense and awareness of your surroundings. So when I went into the voting booth, I had a good idea of who I was voting for, and why. Sometimes the choices weren't fantastically clear, but this time around there really wasn't much of anything in that category. Sometimes the choices aren't fantastic, but that's another set of issues. Here's the thing: I don't understand undecided voters, either [Listen to the Opening Panel Round]. I suspect that pollsters are right: there really aren't many, but their polling methods are so out of date that the 'margin of error' is much wider than their formula admit.

If it weren't for the Honolulu mayoral race, there really wouldn't be much of anything to recommend this primary as anything except a practice run on our new, no-paper-trail electronic voting machines. The real fun is in November.

Non Sequitur: I can't believe I'm commenting on Madonna/Esther's Kabbalistic pilgrimage, but this sentence from AP caught my eye:"Adherents of Jewish mysticism believe that praying at the graves of sages can help achieve one's wishes." Mysticism ain't what it used to be. There's a big gray area in Judaism between myticism and devotionalism, and the"Kabbala" practiced by Esther/Madonna seems to me to fall much closer to the devotional tradition, in which sages are not just teachers of wisdom but objects of reverence in their own right with some intercessory power. Diana Moon and Head Heeb guest-blogger Danny probe the deeper meanings.

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