Friday, February 29, 2008

Did you love your precinct caucus? Do you live in King County?

Go here and register, neighborhood and civic love for all. Become a citizen councilor and set the course of King County transportation policy.

Culled from the herd (Or, how I learned to love descending from the pillar of power in Thurston County)

I'm no longer a member of the Thurston County Democrats executive committee. Just as campaign season is heating up, I step back because of family commitments. I'm not looking for a slap on the back as I head to the political showers, but I did have a couple of thoughts.

Just for the folks who use me as a conduit to the insiders: I'll be less knowledgeable for now. I'm sure you'll find a way to deal.

I don't like campaign season all that much. Our new 1st vice chair recently said "this is the reason we exist, to elect Democrats." I don't criticize her for saying this, as 1st vice, she is the supreme political operator in our operation. But, my reason for existing is to try to pull our little organization away from thinking that way.

Our reason to exist should be to give people a way to engage in the political and civic life of Thurston County. If that ends up electing Democrats, so much the better.

Rep. Brendan Williams wants to buy an ad for homeowners

Rep. Brendan Williams (from my own 22nd LD) is looking for folks to feature in an ad in the Olympian, supporting the homeowners bill:
Dear Friend:

Once again, Sen. Brian Weinstein (D., Mercer Island) and I are working to pass a Homeowners' Bill of Rights. Once again, we're opposed by the powerful Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW). We need your help!

There is no accountability in our state for defects in new homes, unless such defects actually cause a home to collapse. Your new home need not even be fully-constructed. Senate Bill 6385 would grant to buyers of single-family homes the same statutory warranty protections condominium buyers have.

Although many other states provide statutory warranty rights, and many go further and allow homeowners to sue builders for negligence, BIAW claims protecting consumers would destroy the building industry. Indeed, they actually blame consumers for their builders' negligence!

Of course, BIAW has also claimed women are "eradicating manly jobs"; denied global warming's existence; denied the Puget Sound needs cleanup; worked in concert with far-right civil rights' opponents to try to take over the Washington Supreme Court; attacked unions; and has even described Governor Gregoire as "a heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead"!

Look at the facts: D.R. Horton is the nation's largest homebuilder, and does business in other states that provide substantive protections to homebuyers. Obviously it's profitable to do so.

To counter the homebuilders' millions in campaign contributions,there's no organization for homeowners who've been victims of homebuilder's negligence. That's why I'm personally paying for an ad in The Olympian to promote this issue (if BIAW has not already killed the bill in our fast-paced session).

I would be honored if you would lend your name to the statement, "We support Representative Williams' efforts on behalf of homebuyers' rights." I'll list all the names in the ad and include a photo of a local home damaged by negligence.

We cannot allow the voice of consumers to go unheard, and this is the best way I can think of to create visibility. Will you please lend your name to this effort? If so, please respond at your convenience with your full name and address. Thank you so much.

Best,

Brendan Williams
State Representative
House Majority External Relations Leader
22nd District

P.S. Let's not let dreams of homeownership turn into nightmares.

I have my own questions about the legislation, but if you're interested you can email him at olylaw -- at -- gmail -- dot -- com.

To me the most interesting thing isn't the ad he's going to buy with his own money, but the already used way he refers to the BIAW. When in doubt, go with the "they claimed women are “eradicating manly jobs”; denied global warming’s existence; denied the Puget Sound ecosystem is imperiled;" line.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Freedom of Association and PCOs

If you're into that kind of stuff, you can see how a state mandated primary election can be a violation of a political party's freedom of association. You can't tell a political organization how they're going to decide who their nominee is.

But, I've been wondering if you can tell a political party how to organize itself, from the lowest grassroots level, to how it chooses a chair, and still not violate its freedom of association.

I've been trying out the argument (here and here) that the election of precinct committee officers, mandated by the state, is a violation of the same freedom of association. So far no one has bit, but I think that has as much to do with the sidewayness of my argument as it does that I've come late to both comment threads. Gotta be on me toes.

The reason I think the party's don't mind these requirements because in a way they help build their parties, especially the PCO elections.

Electing PCOs in a public forum (no matter how little participation there is) gives the parties an easy way to keep activists involved in organizations. Because of state law, the people elected as PCOs put together a local organization, its almost like it happens on its own.

Or, it could just be that the state party would want to put together local branches anyway, and that it is codified is just a happy coincidence. And, that local government is on the hook for low participation PCO elections, they don't mind that either.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oly-er than though

That, I am. Slog links to me here and comments ensue.

Maybe my point wasn't really that clear, but it isn't about people saying "Oly" or "Olympia," but rather the term "Oly" eventually meaning "Washington state government."

The first comment:
I am from Oly and people like you this person are why I left.
This is where I started to think I was Oly-er than though.

At least one got the language thing:
Metonymy is not going away because you say so. Crown for royalty? Washington for the federal gov't? You've got a big crusade on your hands.
Also, someone who thinks about the language thing way to hard:
See, all I'm thinking about is if he's used the concept of "metonymy" correctly. "Oly" is an abbreviation, and it's stretching it a bit to consider an abbreviation to be a piece of something that represents the whole. Or is what he's saying that "Olympia," which is connected strictly to the the state government, represents only a piece of "Oly," which is the complete place, so "Olympia" is the metonymy? Hm.

Also, I wonder if he gets mad about people using "Washington" to refer to "Washington, DC," which in turns refers to the federal government in Washington, DC. I'll be looking for his next post on that pressing matter.
Overall good talk.

The thing that really makes me sad is that after calling my first post "awesome," Josh Feit is still saying Oly. All for naught, but at least I'm still smug about it.

Finding wikileaks

Finding wikileaks, not that hard. Actual wikileaks site, sans url. Other mirrors here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cheryl Crist gaining attention in run against Brian Baird

Crist will meet the press on February 27.

Politics is a blood sport chimes in, but takes a shot at her credibility:
Cheryl Crist is a nice person, but will simply get ignored by the Baird campaign. No credible challenger emerged, and that's too bad, as a healthy debate on the war would have made for an interesting race. It goes to show you that maybe the Donna Edwards primary win over Al Wynn might be an isolated event, even in this wave year.

...

A growing congressional district deserves a lot more clout, especially when there's this little $4 billion bridge project to get done.

So indeed, there's more than just Iraq to challenge Baird on. Too bad there's no one credible to go after him.
albaum over at DKos points to Cheryl:

Check out Cheryl Crist's website. This is probably the best opportunity we'll get to replace a pro-war Democrat with a Peace democrat, so send her $10. Now would be the time to show lots of small donor support.

What I'm thinking right now is that before Baird, this was a district that elected Linda Smith. And, before that Jolene Unsoeld and Don Bonker held the seat. While Unsoeld could be considered fairly liberal, she did have some very strong guns rights beliefs that would put her in
the libertarian wing. And, Don Bonker was Don Bonker, much like Baird is Baird.

I'm just saying, defeating Baird in the primary could end up handing the district over. Not a big deal to some folks, I understand.

Contact your Superdelegates (credit where credit is due)

I take a lot of time to criticize the state Dems, but this was a great idea:

The Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) has six superdelegates. Superdelegates are unpledged Party leaders who will have a vote for the Democratic nominee for president. Because the race is so close this year, superdelegates could play a vital role in choosing the nominee. The six WSDCC superdelegates are Chair Dwight Pelz, Vice Chair Eileen Macoll, and DNC members Ed Cote, Sharon Mast, David McDonald, and Pat Notter.

Use the following form to send a message to the superdelegates about which nominee you think they should support. You can choose to lobby individual superdelegates or choose to lobby all of them.

I never thought of emailing my super delegates to get them to vote one way or another. Honestly, I think of them as isolated activists that weren't likely to care what I thought. But, now I will because Dwight showed me how.

I don't say this often so: Thanks Dwight Pelz!

Stop Josh Feit before he ruins Oly

I've been quiet throughout most of the legislative session about the cruel metonymy of Olympia.

While I'll probably never be able to stop reporters, bloggers, pundits and conservative politicians from using the term "Olympia" to signify "state government" or rather "everything I hate about state government," Feit of the Stranger has gone too far.

In recent posts on Slog, Feit has started to use the shortened "Oly" when talking about state capital campus goings-ons:

Oly Update: Take Heart Carless in Seattle
Oly Action
Oly Inaction

I'm sure you'd say: sure, Feit writes for the Stranger, so it could be assumed that he'd use the hipper, shorter "Oly" when writing about state politics.

Hell no!

Olympia is not Oly.

Olympia is the capital of the state of Washington, identifiable on maps in classrooms and travel lodges nationwide. It is a city that every elementary school kid memorizes (do they still do that?) as a state capital of a state near the end of the list of states. It was the first state capital and through a hard fight with Yakima and Ellensburg, stayed the state capital. Now we have fancy greek type buildings on a hill. It is home to state agencies, even the ones that are in Tacoma. And, for a couple months or so every winter, we're home to folks like Josh Feit, though we actually try hard to ignore them.

Oly is a hometown, its where a lot of us are from. Though, tons of us are not from here (I'm from here, btw), the transplants will defend Oly with the fervor of a converted Catholic. Oly's connection to Olympia is that we have some activists and many of us feed at the public trough. But, Oly as Oly has more to do with Evergreen, Lakefair, the house that Kurt Cobain lived in, and the Spaghetti Bowl. And the wood bat tournament. Oly is Oly in relation to Tumwater (Scumwater) and Lacey Sucks.

While I'd rather people use terms like "state government" or "the state legislature" when they'd rather be lazy and say "Olympia," using the term "Oly" is entirely unacceptable. Please stop.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

re: Speaking of how we nominate people here in Washington

On this, not this week:

Although the U.S. Supreme Court released four opinions on February 20, it did not release any election law opinion. The two cases that are awaiting a decision are Washington State v Washington State Republican Party, and Crawford v Marion County, Indiana. The next date for release of opinions is February 25.

See you on Monday.

Thomas à Kempis on partisanship

My Lentin mission is reading and listening to Imitation of Christ.

One very good passage that got me thinking last night about more than Jesus:
If God were always the sole object of our desire, we should the less easily be troubled by the erring judgment of our fancy.
Better translation for my purpose here:
If God were the sole object of our desire, we should not be disturbed so easily by opposition to our opinions.
Granted, this is a very small quote from a very thick book where every sentence seemingly has great meaning. So, I'm not trying to say that Kempis was talking about politics, just that that passage made me think about politics.

The debate going on between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, and their supporters, on the style of politics that works best, I think relates to this. And, the overall debate over partisanship, whether working together is actually a good thing.

Opposition to your belief shouldn't result in knee capping your opponent. Some things are bigger than winning.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Speaking of how we nominate people here in Washington

The Supreme Court could issue a decision in Washington Grange vs. Everyone tomorrow.

The oral arguments were heard in October, and the court usually takes care of these things within the same court year. So...

Anyone in the mood for Top Two in August? I'm just saying that why would the court pick up the case if they were just interested in upholding a lower court ruling?

Ideas on how we can improve, "not ditch," the caucus system

Andrew over at NPI blog writes a post about I guess improving the precinct caucus system, but spends the entire time defending them against folks that like the primary. Good for him, but I would really have liked to hear some ideas on improvement.

Seriously.

Because it's been a demoralizing few months leading up to the precinct caucuses.

Anyway, I'll start a list. Feel free to join in when you're ready.

1. Hold caucuses more often. Why do we only force folks to attend a precinct caucus when we want them to choose a presidential nominee? If all that hooey about getting out of the house, meeting your neighbors and freedom of association was not a big lie, then we should hold caucuses to nominate every Democratic candidate, from governor down to state legislator and county commissioner. Not dog catcher, because we don't elect dog catchers in this state.

Pros: Like I said, we would actually do what we mean when we defend the caucuses.

Cons: If you thought it was hard to pull off the presidential cycle caucuses, what makes you think we can do this all the time? Then again, fewer people will turn out for non-interesting caucuses.

This stuff costs money too, and the primaries the state pays for.

And, can't we just have it both ways? Private political organization when it suits our needs and public, primary based party when we don't have the money?

2. Hold them in separate rooms. One of the major complaints that I keep on running into following the caucuses was that people couldn't hear what was going on because there were more than one being held in one room.

That was reality because a) we couldn't book classrooms because of student privacy issues and b) we didn't expect 10 percent of the voters to show up. More like 6 percent or something.

But, we as Dems should make a list of all the publically available small rooms in the entire state that are ADA accessible, just so people can have quiet civic conversations.

And, that's it. I don't have any more ideas.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Candidate public financing in Olympia

Just some quick thoughts on the possibility.

SB 5278 was passed by the Senate. I'll just go ahead and assume the bill will be signed by the governor.

You need 15 percent of registered voters to send an initiative to the polls in Olympia. Close as I can figure that's about 1,900 people.

No limit on petition size in this case, so we can do 8.5 x 11.

The next step, I guess, is to look up ballot language. The old ordinance in Seattle might work, I guess. Oh, that was quick. Here it is.

Anyone have any experience writing city code?

Comparing other states, Washington Dem caucus turnout not so great

Particle man says:
In fact, the Washington caucuses were the largest caucuses in the nation with more attendence than in any other state. This is what it looks like anyway.
Well, that's of course true. Raw numbers wise, Washington does have the largest amount of caucus goers. But, because Washington is the largest state to still use the caucus system, I should hope we had the most.

If you look at the number of caucus attendees as a percentage of the voting eligible population (according to here) and Kerry votes in 2004, Washington isn't so great. Here's my spreadsheet.

VEP percentage is 5.42% (4th out of 11 caucus states so far) and Kerry vote percentage is 16.55% (4th of 11 again).

Guess which state had the most Democrats attending caucuses as a percentage of their population that voted for Kerry in 2004. New Mexico with a whopping 41 percent!

Record caucus turnout vs. actual turnout

Quarter of a million people turned out for the Democratic caucuses on Saturday. No wonder they were crowded and noisy.

That's including the 10,000+ that showed up in Thurston County. But like our attendance in Thurston County, if you put it against actual voter turnout, caucus turnout is depressing.

In 2007, there were 3,288,642 registered voters in Washington. If you double the caucus turnout to include Republicans (which I think is generous), you still only get 15 percent turnout. That's not great.

For only the Democratic primary two years ago, over 600,000 ballots were cast.

Obviously, primaries get better turnout than caucuses, but when we talk about caucus turnout, we should compare it to the participation we usually see and not just throw out raw numbers. 250,000 is better than four years ago, but nowhere near as good as we could be doing.

Plus, from the looks of things, we hardly had the capacity to take care of the 250,000 good people that attended their caucuses.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From Republican PCO to Democratic delegate in an afternoon

One story from over the caucus weekend continues to intrigue me. It starts out with the crashing sounds of web servers at the Thurston County Republicans. I assume because the state party website was sending all interesting parties to county party websites for caucus locations, the Thurston Republican's website crashed.

So, if you were an interested party on the morning of caucus Saturday, looking for your Republican location, you were sort of out of luck.

This includes on Republican Precinct Committee Officer from Olympia 15.

Now on the Democratic side, if a PCO didn't know where his caucus was weeks before, we would be screwed. Not only did we depend on that PCO to know where the caucus would be, but to bring with him or her a manila envelop full of paperwork so he could run the caucus. No so strict on the Republican side I guess.

But, this particular Republican PCO for Olympia 15 didn't let the failure of the internet stop him. He just went to a Democratic site and became a delegate for Obama:
I was all revved up to attend the Republican caucus as the PCO for the 215. Only I couldn’t find the place. The Thurston County Republican Party’s website was down all morning, and the information I had written down ahead of time–that I should go to the Madison Elementary School–did not appear to bear itself out in reality. I could not find the caucus’s location.

So I went with D to the Knox Administrative Center for the Democratic caucus instead.
Because there website failed, the Republicans lost a PCO who was "revved up" for the Republican caucus.

Granted, this is a guy who became a Republican PCO through the Ron Paul campaign, and then disavowed Paul because of some of the Texas Congressman's more... uh... weird stands. Someone who probably should have been on our side anyway. But, a failure on their side nonetheless.

What does the Reagan Wing think of Boss Esser?

Not happy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Day of caucus notes 2

Democracy crashed the county Republicans website. Cross our fingers for our website.

Day of caucus notes

Stopped by county headquarters to pick up some filled out proxy forms for my site, and a fellow came in to ask some questions about caucuses. Mostly had to do with how long it would take (you can sign in and leave, takes about 20 minutes at least) and how late he can show up (don't show up later than 1:30 or you're toast).

This is all information that was available online in a dozen or so locations, but he decided to stop by the county party headquarters to find out. Just reminds me that people like to get information in a myriad of ways.

I've been home for two hours sweeping and mopping
, and I've gotten two robo calls. This is added to the three I got earlier this week.

I was talking to one of my work mates all week about the caucus. We talked about where he should go, what he should expect and how to get the most out of the process. Late yesterday as I was leaving he tells me that it turns out he can't go, his roof is leaking and he needs to take care of it.

Leaks happen. Democrats should realize that.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Fuse points the light on our bad attitude about caucuses

One of the arguments for the caucuses back less than a year ago when we were debating which process to use was that people should get out of their houses and caucus. It wasn't an argument about whether people would, but that it was morally better to engage in person than through a slip of paper.

Sure, I'll agree with that. Showing up is way better in all regards of democracy. But, most folks (90 percent of voters lets say) still won't be bothered.

But, of course everyone that voted to have the caucuses will show up, so we tend to have a holier than though attitude about this kind of stuff.

Fuse Washington shows exactly how holier than though. They put together a list of all the reasons someone can't attend a caucus. Of course they forget about "I have to work," but they bother to put in my wife's reason for not going:
I don't have childcare

Bring the kids with you! Anyone can attend the caucus (although you have to be 18 years old by election day to particpate). Then you can make them write a paper on the democratic process.

My son will be napping throughout the caucus process, so we're under no circumstances bringing him to a crowded room full of excited Democrats. And, if we did have childcare, who do you think is providing that childcare?

Someone shut out of the caucus.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

And I thought our caucuses were bad (closed caucuses in Montana)

Our caucuses that will get a ten percent voter turnout are bad, but not this bad (via Left in the West):
Only party leaders will vote in today's Republican presidential caucuses in Montana, but many in the rank-and-file apparently didn't get the word.

"The public thinks there's a Republican election tomorrow," Deb Mart, elections supervisor for Cascade County, said Monday. "There's not."

Northcentral Montana clerk and recorders were besieged by calls from residents about where and when to cast ballots in today's Republican caucuses, which are advertised as part of Super Tuesday.
At least we invite the public, yikes.

By the way, I got the total turnout number by assuming about 200,000 turnout to both the Dem and Republican caucuses together and dividing it by the number of registered voters in 2007. Montana Republicans may suck more, but we still suck.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Crist v. Baird, will she get Move On help?

One interesting note from the Thurston Democrats meeting on Monday that I forgot to pass on:

Cheryl Crist, who ran against Brian Baird in 2006 2004, is going at it again. The difference this time is that Baird made waves in Southwest Washington (and the country for that matter) by supporting the Iraq surge.

Before finally announcing her run on Monday, she's been getting some vocal support:
Linda spoke about the need to get the attention of those who represent us in Washington, DC. The people are angry that their voices are not being heard. "I am pleased to tell you that Cheryl Crist is seriously considering running against Brian Baird in the Democratic primary," she told the audience. Cheryl rose to a standing ovation. It was another gift this holiday season for those who have begun to lose faith in the political system.
She was also listed at a potential "Peace Candidate" here.

Though not the most liberal of congressmen, Baird certainly didn't face much discontent among Dems in 2006, especially given the blue wave that year. No one was going to waste time challenging a sitting Dem when we had so many Republicans to beat.

But, this time around, it might be different for Crist. People have been downright disappointed with Baird. So, if Moveon is still as serious as they were last September when they were considering putting money behind D challengers, Crist might have a better (or at least better funded) chance this year.

From the Hill:

“There are a few key things to keep in mind,” the e-mail said. “We would only get involved in a primary race if MoveOn members in the district or state wanted to — and a majority supported that primary challenger. And we’d focus on races where a progressive had a good chance of beating the sitting Democrat and also winning the general election.”

Last month, the group began airing ads in Rep. Brian Baird’s (D-Wash.) district. Following a trip to Iraq, Baird had announced that he would withdraw his support for a withdrawal deadline and wanted to give the troop surge more time, saying that it is showing positive results.

Thurston County ballot drop off locations

From the Thurston County Auditor's office.


View Larger Map

We may not have to pay for postage on mail-in ballots

But, even more drop off boxes might be even more ideal. Maybe we can call it a "drop off" election.

Small brew-haha in Thurston County last fall when an old fellow decided not to put postage on his ballot. The ballot was delivered anyway, and the county started sending him stamps, avoiding pissing the guy off, but raising the question of why ballots don't come with pre-paid postage in the first place.

Previous entries on the topic:
Thurston County can afford to pay for our ballots to be mailed
Why do we need to pay for stamps to vote anyway?

Well, if a bill passes this legislative session, the state will require counties to pay postage on ballots. SB 6199 (HB 1483 in the House) will have a public hearing in the Government Operations & Elections committee on Monday morning.

The house version was heard last year. Here's the audio file.










Sam Reed, former Thurston County auditor and now secretary of state, pointed out that Thurston did at one point pay for ballot postage during special elections in the late 80s. He said that paying for postage didn't boost participation, and that the county would pay for postage anyway if someone didn't affix a stamp.

I think that Reed's experiment was too inconsistent to get a real sense of whether it would increase participation.

Kim Wyman said something interesting that by expanding permanent drop off boxes open during the election cycles, they were able to somewhat solve the postage as poll tax complaint. Twenty-five percent of voters in Thurston County used a drop box during the last election, she said. Here are the drop off box locations in Thurston County.

Here is the bill analysis (pdf file).

The fiscal note (pdf file) on the bill pegged the cost at $2.5 million every two years for the state (as they would reimburse the county for the cost). The cost per ballot could go about the going rate for mail because of the size of some ballots in some counties.