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I’m not the most avid reader of the Smart City blog, but my friend and brother Leftwing Cracker sent me a piece of theirs today that raised my eyebrows— And didn’t all at the same time.

From Smart City:

*Willie W. Herenton 16.38 percent
* Carol Chumney 13.35 percent
* Herman Morris 8.21 percent

Those abysmal numbers are the turnout from the city elections last Thursday. And that’s the top of the ticket— It doesn’t even factor in the trailing off that we typically see once we get to the bottom of the ticket and ordinary voters are starting to see names that they don’t recognize. I suspect that the typical full third quit paying attention by the time they got down to court clerk positions.

On November 2, 2004 (Black Tuesday, as most Democrats know it), voter turnout in Shelby County was 373,409. It was a presidential year, and both parties put on impressive Get Out The Vote campaigns.

Two years later, turnout was down a little bit. That’s to be expected— Midterm elections always draw a little bit less than presidential years. 284,217 turned out to vote.

The top four candidates for mayor got only 163,633 votes— And I’m defining “top” very loosely, as John Willingham’s sad 1118 votes were counted in that total (Total votes cast are not yet available from the Election Commission). We have yet to find out whether all were actually alive when they cast their votes, but those are the numbers as of now.

It’s clear that some things have to change— So the rest of this post is directed toward the members of the Charter Commission, who are the only ones in a real position to implement the necessary changes.

First, we need to change the election cycles in this city. We certainly can’t do anything about the federally mandated cycles— Nothing can change there, nor should it. Every two years sounds perfectly reasonable.

For the moment, let’s assume that you live in the Evergreen district in Midtown. You voted in the Shelby County primary on May 2, 2006. Three months later, you went to the polls to vote in the Congressional primary and county general election. In November, you went to the polls yet again to vote in the congressional general election. That’s three times in the span of nine months that you’ve had to take time off from work and get out and stand in line at the polls.

Of course, if you live in Evergreen, your State Senator, Steve Cohen, was sent to the US Congress in November. So on January 25 of this year, you voted in a primary to decide who would go on to the special election— Which you voted in two months later.

Your state rep was elected to fill the vacancy in the state senate— So it’s time for yet another primary in May 2007. And another general election in July 2007.

Three months later, it’s time for the city election. For Evergreen residents, that is eight votes in the last year and a half (Depending on where you live in the city, you might well have a runoff in a few weeks that could easily be alleviated by another of my proposals.).

Personally, I’m experiencing voter fatigue, and I haven’t had as many votes as them. I shared their fatigue part of the way, as my address falls into the same Senate district, but I was able to coast from March to October election-free— And even that seven months didn’t feel like much of a break.

We have got to quit holding municipal elections in an off year. I realize why the politicians that made that choice did so in the first place— It allows them not only greater access to the finest election staff out there, but it allows them to buy air time to annoy us with at a much cheaper rate than in a year where there’s a congressional, or God forbid, a presidential election season.

This isn’t about the cost of holding elections on off years. Democracy is always well worth an investment that pays off. But this one has not.

I can already hear you saying it. “But Rick, that’s going to be a ridiculously long ballot”. I’ve got such good hearing that I heard it before you said it. How about that? But don’t worry— I’ve got an answer for you.

There are elected positions that are so obscure that not even a politico such as I really gives much of a damn who fills them. Unless Republicans and Democrats use a different alphabet, I really do not care who is filing papers in the courts. And to be perfectly frank, the only people who do are the ones running for the position. I have no issue with a position such as that one being filled on an appointment basis. Unlike the voter, the Shelby County Commission/Memphis City Council would at least get the opportunity to confirm whether or not the candidates did indeed know the alphabet.

These positions exist merely as a Single A team for players to earn experience on before trying out for the AAA team. And that’s simply the wrong reason to hold an election.

For many Memphis voters, it’s still not over yet. The elections are a gift that just keeps on giving, as several city council races aren’t even over yet.

This could easily have been taken care of in one night rather than spreading the misery over several more weeks. And there is a solution that has been employed in areas before us, works very well, and gives the voter a much needed break.

It’s called Instant Runoff Voting.

It sounds a lot tougher than it is. Instead of simply voting for a candidate, you list your candidates in order of preference.

We’ll take the Mayor’s race as an example. Let’s say I walked in and broke it down with Morris as my #1 choice, Herenton as my #2, Chumney as my #3, and Willingham at #4 if I even chose to rank him at all (And it should be noted at this point that you are not required to pick so much as a second place.  If you were a hardcore Morris guy and wanted to be sure your vote went to no one but him, you would be well within your rights).

If the race was close enough to demand a runoff, judging from the results the other day, Morris would have been voted off the island first. His votes would be cast out, and my vote would have been among the thousands redistributed to Herenton and Chumney.

Might it have led to a Mayor Chumney? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But there is one feature built into Instant Runoff Voting that would have all political hacks salivating—

It completely nullifies the “spoiler” vote. Can there be any doubt that the Democratic votes Mary Wilder managed to leech would have ended up going to Desi Franklin?

That’s not to say that it would work out in favor of Democrats all of the time— In one of my favorite races this year, assuming that all of Joe Saino’s voters would have picked Kemp Conrad as their second choice, and Frank Langston’s would have made Shea Flinn their #2, Conrad would have won that race by 1500 votes.

But it’s not about partisan angling at this point. Voter apathy is spreading like a sickness across this city, and most elements of it— Namely Voter Fatigue— Are utterly preventable. We simply need leaders who are willing to step up and make the right choices.

And at this point, it falls on the Charter Commission. As they rewrite the Memphis City Charter, they need to ask themselves— Do we do right by the gladhanding politicians that thrive on vote suppression, or do we give Memphians a greater voice?

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And when she grows up…

… she wants to be a Republican Congresswoman!!

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Hope Runner

As many as you know may already know, our dear friend and star marathon runner Stacy is raising funds to support the Komen Arkansas Race for the Cure on October 20, 2007 in the fight against breast cancer. She will be participating in this race as well (go girl!).

According to the information she provided, one in eight women will be stricken with breast cancer in her lifetime. That, sadly, means that it is highly likely that a woman you know and love may someday become a victim of this deadly illness. That may very well be one of us, if you are woman.

This is a golden opportunity to contribute to an invaluable cause –one that may some day save your life, or that of someone you know. Also, it is a great opportunity to reach out to our Arkansas neighbors and help them out with this great effort. The Arkansas Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure raises funds to promote vital breast cancer education, develop screening and treatment programs in the community, and support the national search for a cure.

Please join Stacy, and all the other women involved, by pledging in support of her participation in the Race or contributing generously to Komen Arkansas Affiliate.

Your generous tax-deductible contribution will fund innovative outreach and awareness programs for medically underserved communities in Arkansas and national breast cancer research.

It is faster and easier than ever to support this great cause – you can make a donation online by simply clicking RIGHT HERE.

 Your generosity and support are greatly appreciated!

 Now, go give!

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The Behavior Detection Officers are now being deployed inside airports.  It is their job to study the facial expressions of people at the airport to discern the people who are stifling their anger over long wait times and lost luggage from the people who are stifling their anger before launching a terrorist attack.

The TSA hopes to have 500 “face police” on duty by the end of next year.

So while they’re confiscating your shampoo, your bottled water, your baby’s bottle, and asking you to drop trou with your cheeks spread far enough apart that airport personnel can see your lunch, make sure you don’t make a sour face about it.

Now, we here at The Freedonian think it’s probably a good idea that we assist in efforts to make our airport safer.  As it happens, I have some facial expressions that are indicative of people that want to destroy America.  And I will share them now.

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Happy birthday, dear!!

Best wishes and many many more!!!

XO

Pam

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Also On This Day…

I just saw Dabney’s “This Day In History” post over at Confessions of a West Tennessee Liberal.  There was one thing she forgot on her list of things that happened on August 14.

Dabney and I have pretty much a foolproof way of remembering one another’s birthdays— We were born not only the same day, but the same year.

You don’t owe me a birthday cocktail, Dabney— We’d just be buying them for one another, so it’s a wash.  I hope you’re having a wonderful one.

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I thought there was something suspicious when I watched it last night.

CBS added a “twist” to Big Brother this year. Eric is “America’s Player”— At 99 cents apiece, you can send text messages to assign him certain tasks over the course of the game. Some of those tasks, particularly over the last couple of weeks, have left him vulnerable. Votes weren’t adding up right, and Evel Dick, by far the smartest player in the game, accurately surmised that the “hinky” votes were being cast by Eric.

Over the course of the week, several players should have been alienated by Eric. He bragged to Evel Dick before things went south for him that he had some vicious gossip to spread about Amber should she ever make a move against him. He trashtalked sweet little cornfed airhead Jessica, one of the few people in the house that ever trusted him completely. And he slipped up and admitted to Zack that he had orchestrated the eviction of Nick, one of the few cast members that everyone liked.

Predictably enough, he ended up on the block against Kail, a contestant who, as the result of a bad agreement, is unable to compete for Head of Household for the next five weeks, effectively rendering her powerless.

So on a personal and strategic level, it made sense for everyone to vote to evict Eric. Yet he managed to stay in the house, winning by one vote. All of the people he had betrayed over the course of the week inexplicably voted for him.

I decided to check out the Big Brother board on CBS’s website and found this. The spelling is not mine.

producers tryed to keep Eric VIDEO

Apparently, I was not the only one scratching my head over the vote. Others who are much more obsessive than me wath the CBS Live Feeds on the website and captured video of two different houseguests, Jen and Amber (If you watch the show, you know the odds of the two of them colluding are incalculably low) saying that the producers, during diary room sessions, asked them to vote for Eric. Amber did; Jen did not.

Exactly why I could not tell you. Perhaps CBS mistakenly believes people actually like Eric. Perhaps they really like the 99 cents per text message they make by getting America to vote on his actions. But something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark.

Oh— And Exhibit B. Since Eric’s survived and Jessica (Inexplicably his best friend again) is now Head of Household, their next logical target is Evel Dick, the only houseguest that brings any real entertainment value to the show. So those watching the live feeds have told us that there will be a “twist” this week— Which in Big Brother parlance means that there could be a double eviction or an evicted houseguest returning. I don’t think CBS wants Dick being evicted; The upcoming rigging will likely find a way to protect him.

Newscoma, Blinders Off, and others have been talking about BB8 at Comaville. I thought this might be of interest to both of them.

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