Election 2016: How I’m Voting

So, the presidential election is a raging trashfire this year.  I think everyone is in agreement about that.  I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and that’s the end of that, but what about down ballot measures?  I’ve been thinking it over, and I figure I need to do my pre-election research on all the stuff that doesn’t get covered incessantly on national news.  Obviously, this stuff’s mostly going to be peculiar to Georgia and Athens specifically, so if you don’t live nearby then feel free to skip this post.  If you’re curious about your own local and state elections, I’d recommend checking out Ballotpedia for a starting point to find information about candidates.

  • President – Hillary Clinton. Next.
  • US SenateJim Barksdale.  Barksdale is unlikely to be elected in Georgia where Johnny Isakson has been a senator for twelve years.  Despite that, I like Barksdale’s positions on social issues and economic issues; he’s branded himself as a candidate in a similar mold to Bernie Sanders, who was my preferred candidate during the primaries.  I’m a little skeptical of Barksdale marketing himself as a political outsider (I think this campaign season has demonstrated very effectively the importance of treating the job of politician like a profession), but he’s a step in the right direction in comparison to Isakson, who recently gave me the brush off when I contacted him about my concerns over gun control following the Pulse shooting and who continues to endorse Donald Trump for president despite everything that’s come out so far.
  • US House of Representatives – Charles Darwin.  Representative Jody Hice is running unopposed in my district, and I am not a fan of the man.  He failed to answer my concerns when I contacted him about the Pulse shooting, instead taking the opportunity to send me boilerplate about terrorism rather than addressing my concerns about gun violence.  He’s also a former pastor and host of an evangelical Christian radio show.  If there were a Democrat on the ballot I would vote for them sight unseen against this man.  As it is, I’ll have to settle for a protest vote.
  • Georgia Public Service CommissionerTim Echols.  Echols is the Republican candidate running for re-election.  He gives me the impression that he’s a typical business conservative, but he appears to have an interest in exploring clean energy, and he’s done work in the state to combat sex trafficking and to de-stigmatize the pursuit of skilled trade jobs in post secondary education, something that I think is extremely important for helping students fully explore their educational options after high school instead of being stuck in the binary of college or no college.  Echols is running against a Libertarian candidate, Eric Hoskins, but considering this is a position that’s about utility regulation, I’d prefer someone who believes that government does actually have a role in people’s lives.
  • Georgia State Senator – No vote.  The incumbent, Frank Ginn, is running unopposed.  He’s yet another typical Georgia conservative who’s more interested in lowering taxes than actually trying to bolster the state’s infrastructure and local programs.  I actually think these things are good for everyone and would happily pay more in-state tax to fund such programs.  I may brainstorm a list of protest names to write in if there are an abundance of these types of races.
  • Georgia House of Representatives – No vote.  The incumbent is Charles Williams who espouses opinions very much like those of Frank Ginn.  I’m not interested in supporting elected government officials who don’t believe there’s a point to having a government.
  • Georgia Amendment 1 – No. This is the “Opportunity School District” referendum.  Georgia is currently considering enacting a special agency that would operate independently of the state Board of Education and assume control of schools that receive a failing score on a metric that was designed for a different purpose several years ago.  The schools that would be effected are disproportionately schools with majority Black and Hispanic populations.  Any school system coming under this agency’s umbrella would be run as a charter system independent of local input while simultaneously still pulling funds from local taxes.  That’s bad.  The evidence for the efficacy of charter school systems in comparison to traditionally run public schools is sparse and highly debatable; combined with the loss of local control of educational systems, this amendment is a bad one across the board.
  • Georgia Amendment 2 – No.  After doing my initial research, I was leaning yes on this amendment, but the things that bugged me about it continued to bug me, and after a few conversations and a bit more reading, I decided I can’t support it.  This amendment would place additional fees and penalties on court cases where a person is found guilty “of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children.”  It also has a provision for putting extra assessments on adult entertainment businesses.  The money collected from these extra sources would go towards funding the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children fund.  I don’t like that it includes what amounts to a sin tax on a type of business that Georgia is otherwise fine with allowing to exist within the state on the grounds that there might be a connection to sex trafficking rings.  It’s clumsy legislation, and there’s no reason the state legislature couldn’t levy increased fines against specific sex crimes without also penalizing legitimate businesses.
  • Georgia Amendment 3 – No.  This amendment proposes to strike the current state law enacting an independent commission on judicial discipline.  It doesn’t offer any replacement language that would immediately enact a new commission with updated standards.  Given the attitude in Georgia’s state legislature is overwhelmingly conservative, I’m skeptical that a removal of such a commission would be followed up with any sort of effort to replace it.  Judges matter a great deal in our legal system, and I’d rather that Georgia continue to have an independent agency responsible for keeping judges in check rather than eliminate it in the vague hope that a legislature I don’t trust to do their jobs will actually replace it.
  • Georgia Amendment 4 – No.  This amendment puts language in place that specifies how tax collected from the sale of fireworks gets allocated.  The three sources intended by the amendment, in descending order of portion, are the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council, and local governments for public safety purposes.  I don’t have any objections to the intended purposes of this amendment, but I realize now that it seems absurd for the state legislature to require a constitutional amendment to allocate tax revenue.  This could be done in the state budget without requiring a referendum.

You’ll notice that I’m planning to vote against all the state amendments.  In an earlier version of this post I was leaning yes on two of them, but then I saw this Facebook post from my friend Adam discussing the reasons why constitutional amendment referendums on Georgia ballots are almost always bad ideas.  The long and short of it is that the Georgia legislature almost always designs amendments to have misleading language on the ballot so that people will vote yes for things that don’t really require a constitutional amendment, expanding the legislature’s powers in weird, unnecessary ways.  I’ve been vaguely aware of this phenomenon before, but it was never quite articulated to me in this way.

And that’s it for this year’s ballot.  In most cases it’s not even a choice between poop and glazed poop, but what are you going to do?  The Opportunity School District referendum is a big deal, and I’ll absolutely be voting against that.  I’d recommend that anyone who lives in Georgia do the same.

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