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Monday, October 16, 2006

`Throwing away your vote' is a trashy notion

By Dennis Byrne

Election Day cometh ...

Asked by a talk-show host if she would be willing to vote for Tony Peraica, the Republican candidate for Cook County Board president, a newspaper reporter suggested that she'd be throwing away her vote.

Her presumption is one shared by many voters--a vote for a potential loser is a wasted vote. I guess people who believe this think a vote is like money: If you spend your dollar, you should get something in return. Otherwise, you're just giving it away.

Of course, it's nonsense. But how sad to find that kind of thinking by a journalist who is supposed to know something about public affairs. Thankfully, the reporter was quickly challenged by the host of WTTW-Ch. 11's "Chicago Tonight: Week in Review," Joel Weisman, who pointedly asked, "Why would you be throwing away your vote?" By then, the conversation had moved on, and an answer never came.

"Throwing away your vote" ranks right up there in the stupid department with another Election Day cliche: "I'd love to vote for someone for a change, instead of having to vote against someone." Considering the two major candidates running for Illinois governor, I can understand the sentiment. But let me ask:

What's wrong with voting against someone?

Where is it written that you must vote for someone? Why is it wrong, when so many candidates are unsuited for office, and prove it after they are elected? Why does voting against a blockhead somehow demean democratic ideals?

I've voted against people for decades, because they're the worse of two. It's not my fault that political parties stock the ballot with fish. Our job is to cull the real stinkers.

Speaking of voting against someone, I hope voters inclined to vote for Todd Stroger for Cook County Board president realize something. The Democratic Party selected Stroger in a most undemocratic way. Actually, it wasn't even the party, but a crew of ... ? Come to think of it, we don't even know what or who. As if the Kremlinlike secrecy surrounding the health of Stroger's father, John, wasn't enough, Cook County will be run by a camarilla. We won't really know who's in it until the contracts and jobs start getting handed out.

Speaking of undemocrats, some believe that we shouldn't be able to vote at all, especially when there's a chance they might lose. Thus, the misnamed Fair Illinois coalition fought against an advisory referendum on the November ballot asking if the Illinois General Assembly should consider a state constitutional amendment saying that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in Illinois.

Never mind that approval wouldn't create the amendment; the referendum only asked if the General Assembly should submit the amendment to the voters in a referendum. In other words, it was a referendum suggesting that the legislature think about conducting another referendum.

More than 400,000 citizens petitioned to have the advisory (first) referendum placed on the ballot, but the undemocrats, including the American Civil Liberties Union, found enough flaws in a small sample of the signatures to meet a legal requirement to have the referendum thrown off the ballot.

Fair Illinois' justification for challenging the advisory referendum in the first place ultimately comes down to this: Citizens don't have the right to vote away the "rights" of gays. Point taken.

But I guess that means citizens can't even express their views on the matter.

Jesse Smart, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Elections, was mystified when the technical question came before the body: "Personally, I can't understand why anyone would object to allowing the people to give their opinions. ... People in America have the right to make some choices."

Wrong, this is Illinois.



Trouble ahead

A return to last week's topic, as required by the soaring irresponsibility that Rep. George Scully (D-Flossmoor), House Utility Oversight Committee chairman, revealed in his reaction to ComEd's warnings that it might go bankrupt if the General Assembly extended a rate freeze for three years. He said he wouldn't mind a judge overseeing the utility.

Two words for Scully: Chicago Skyway. For years, the highway linking Chicago and northwest Indiana kept tolls artificially low, in response to political pressure. The skyway came under the oversight of a federal judge, who approved a 15 percent toll increase.

If you think ComEd's rates are high now, wait until a federal bankruptcy judge, who answers to no one but the law, gets his hands on them.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

4 comments:

Mike N said...

As always, Mr. Byrne, people who read your column should fact-check anything you write. Just a couple of examples in your column today: "The Democratic Party selected Stroger in a most undemocratic way. Actually, it wasn't even the party, but a crew of...? Come to think of it, we don't even know what or who." All false: a vacancy was created due to the illness of John Stroger, the winner of the primary. The Cook County Democratic Central Committee, comprised of 80 ward committeemen from Cook County, selected his replacement, as provided for in the party by-laws.
Want another? "More than 400,000 citizens petitioned to have the advisory (marriage) referendum placed on the ballot, but the undemocrats, including the ACLU, found enough flaws in a small sample of the signatures to meet a legal requirement to have the referendum thrown off the ballot." How many ways is this one false or misleading? The supporters of this referendum say they had over 400,000 signatures--but for some reason they only turned in 347,000. All petition gatherers, for whatever purpose, know that you need to have a healthy cushion of signers in case of a challenge, as some will certainly be invalid for one reason or another. Despite this being the great moral issue of our time, which should surely have garnered a million or more signatures, no such cushion. Next, "enough flaws in a small sample": the sample was 10%, a huge sample as samples go, and with enough bad signatures for the State Board of Elections to deny certification. As to "a legal requirement" that this came afoul of? Uh, that was the reason for gathering the signatures in the first place: you must have a minimum number of valid signatures. But surely the courts would correct this miscarriage of justice! No; contested in lower courts, denied; contested in the federal Court of Appeals, denied out of hand, with a pretty tart opinion written by a pretty conservative judge, Richard Posner. So, if you're reading one of Mr. Byrne's columns and he assets anything to be a fact? Doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the fact that Stroger Jr is a dissapointing choice to lead the County Board, however, I disagree with your assesment of his selection as the candidate. I know who my Dem. Committeman is and I have voted for him on numerous occasions because I genuinly like him and feel he does a great job in that role. I also know that he voted for Stroger and while I'm not thrilled with that choice and understand that in his role as committeeman one of his duties may be selecting candidates to be on the ballot in situations like this. I also know that this will be a criteria I consider next time I vote to fill the committeman's office.

Anonymous said...
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Stephen Schade said...

Fair Illinois is certainly not a misnomer. One of the problems with democracy is that it can be a tyrrany of the majority. Fair Illinois is trying to prevent that.