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Sun, Aug. 18

Column: Everything about voting you were afraid to ask

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill

I have a friend who thinks anyone who votes should be required to pass an IQ test. Recently, someone proposed that candidates should be required to take a civics test. In this country, we have the right to vote or run for office regardless of our mental capabilities. What amazes me is that people take this right for granted, while in other countries it is treasured and protected.

Independents are the largest voting bloc in Arizona now. The irony is that they are the least likely group to vote, with an average of 10 percent turning out at any given election. Also, the ability to run as an independent is discouraged in this state with rules that require a disproportionately higher number of signatures for nomination petitions to get on the ballot and more hurdles to get campaign funding.

A little more than half of Yavapai County residents are registered to vote, fairly evenly divided between the two main parties and independents. The deadline for registering to vote is Oct. 6 - and the county elections department begins mailing out early ballots on Oct. 10.

"Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters."-Abraham Lincoln

In 2012, a presidential election year, of the 124,156 registered Yavapai County voters, 101,268 actually voted, or 81.57 percent - a fairly respectable result. Approximately 220,000 people live in Yavapai County, an 8,000-square-mile area that's bigger than four states - Delaware, Connecticut, Washington D.C. and Rhode Island.

The easiest way to vote is by registering on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). The PEVL allows voters to receive their ballots in the mail and vote at their convenience by mailing in or dropping off ballots at one of several locations. A voter can sign up for the PEVL by filling out a postcard. When registering, check off a PEVL box on the form. For more information, go to www.yavapai.us/electionsvr.

Even so, some people like to vote in person. Others wait until the last minute to register and have to vote on a provisional basis - and yes, those votes are counted, too. I've been a volunteer with the elections department since 2010, which has been an honor and a privilege, since every effort seems to be made to ensure the election process is fair and professionally run.

Recently, I spent a few hours registering people to vote at the Prescott Library for the National Voter Registration Day. Most who filled out forms changed from a party to Independent status. Though I don't ask, they usually tell me why - they're disaffected with their party and think all parties are corrupt.

Just as I disagree with people who say all broadcast news stations are biased, I disagree with that statement. While Fox News uses Republican Party talking points daily, most news stations actually are balanced. Some candidates are corrupt or ethically challenged, of course, but the majority of officials try to improve their state or communities.

However, when one party controls the political scene completely, there are few checks and balances. In Illinois where the Democratic Party has been dominant for several decades, a series of corruption scandals have erupted. Republicans in this state, also, are led into illegal or at least unethical territory frequently because too few people from other parties are represented as a counterweight.

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."-Plato

So when someone tells me they don't plan to vote because, "it won't matter anyway," like the gas station attendant who noticed my bumper stickers, I say, "wrong, wrong, wrong." As a matter of fact, lots of Arizona elections have been won by razor-thin margins. For instance, in 2012 one Congressional primary in this district and one Camp Verde school district race were won by only 19 votes. NINETEEN VOTES. In the 2012 Congressional race between Ron Barber and Martha McSally, Barber topped his opponent by only 1,402 votes - statistically a 50/50 split with results of 143,173 to 141,771.

The potential for independents to wield political power has state Republicans worried. In August, 16.2 percent of Republican primary votes were cast by independents. However if the majority party tries to remove independent access to primaries via legislation, expect a backlash like the one against the voter suppression bill HB 2305, which was quietly repealed after a referendum was heading toward the ballot.

If you're interested in voting rights and the referendums on the ballot this November, on Saturday, Oct. 4, the League of Women Voters of Central Yavapai County is holding a forum at Las Fuentes Resort Village, 9-11 a.m. Sheriff Scott Mascher and County Administrator Phil Bourdon will talk about the need for a new county jail and the proposed jail sales tax, too. You can ask questions, and if you aren't registered to vote, the League will be happy to help. Go to www.lwvcyc.org for more information.

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