Getting on a ballot is the first challenge, then the real one appears

I’ve had my petitions rejected twice, once for being 3 signatures shy of 500 (and trust me- I had extras). So, how can the Montgomery County Board of Elections split on a failure to sign a petition? Only down party lines.

Since I don’t run with a party- I was doomed.

My last submission, 16 signatures were tossed because a notary didn’t write in the number of signatures she was notarizing- a stupid requirement, because the notary wasn’t there when the signatures were collected, but, that’s the system.

From today’s Dayton Daily News:

The mayor of Moraine’s political future is in the hands of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner after the Montgomery County Board of Elections tied in a vote to certify her petitions to get on the Nov. 3 ballot.

In a special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 25, the board split 2-2 on whether to certify a petition listing 16 signatures that was circulated by Moraine Mayor Jean Matheny. She neglected to provide her signature on the petition as a statement of candidacy.

If Brunner decides against certifying the petition, Matheny will have 49 valid signatures, one less than is required. The ballot then would list only council member Bob Rosenscrans for the four-year term…

Board members Gregory Gantt and James Nathanson voted against certifying Matheny’s petition. Dennis Lieberman and Thomas Ritchie voted in favor of certifying it…

The board also voted not to certify the filings of Donald Allen Domineck Jr., who was seeking a Dayton School Board seat, citing that he did not have enough valid signatures.

Four incumbents — Yvonne Isaacs, Joseph Lacey, Ronald Lee and Stacy Thompson — will have a contested race since newcomer James Weir was also certified for the school board race. The top four vote-getters will win in November.

via Secretary of State to decide if Moraine mayor can run in November.

Donald Allen Domineck Jr. was also cut from the Dayton Commission race for the same reason. A comment on this site said he was the guy who sued Dayton Public Schools to let his kid walk at graduation, without meeting the requirements.

Once candidates get past the technicalities of getting on the ballot, they face the next huge obstacle in our system: raising money, getting known, and the new dirty secret of elections: figuring out the databases of voters and how to target them effectively.

Anyone who studies the Obama campaign, knows that the basis of his success was a mastery of data collection and micro-targeting. It was a technological win as much as an ideological one. The parties have powerful access to data- and voter databases (controlled by Boards of Elections like ours- which are totally bi-partisan). The independents have to start, almost from scratch.

The two most important pieces of data for a candidate- your phone number and e-mail address barely appear in voter registration databases. I know you got a million robo-calls, but, I can guarantee they weren’t from independent candidates. We’ve found ways to get numbers- for free, in batches of 1,500 per day- but, the module to do it in CiviCRM is deprecated for Drupal 6- so we’ll have to build it ourselves. Or buy numbers at a price. This gets expensive.

(and by the way- if you don’t know what CiviCRM is or Drupal, or Open Source code- it’s not critical to the discussion)

Even the modules for canvassing and voter data manipulation died. They were being funded by the Green Party of Canada-but, once elections are over- the money flow stops. It would be liberating for a George Soros type to fund the updating of these open source tools, but I have a better idea: it’s time to put the entire voter database into a social media/open source environment that is open to voters- and to candidates- which will allow all candidates equal access (or no access- if you the voter choose) to the data.

Polling- would be available to all candidates. Contact preferences wouldn’t have to be established for every candidate (meaning you could say I don’t want to be contacted by the Republican Party- and they would abide for example). Millions of dollars wouldn’t be needed for campaigns- since candidates would be able to reach registered voters (who are still only about half the eligible adults) without having to waste billions on un-targeted TV, Radio etc.

Granted, those without e-mail or internet access would be subject to more phone calls, or literature drops, but a vast majority of voters would be much better informed and engaged. Our “democratic system” might actually start behaving more democratic.

This idea won’t help me win this election. However, if elected- I will forward this idea for implementation, and also, work on simplifying the petition process so that we can have less problems with deciding what the BOE wants- and more about what the people want. I’d also make my technology available to other candidates- but, unfortunately, without real-time connectivity to the voter database, it may be too obsolete to use (sorry)

I’m pretty sure the people want choice- and a level playing field. Elections should be about the power of ideas- not the money behind them.

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12 Responses

  1. Mike McDermott August 26, 2009 / 9:47 am
    Money is the big leveler of the political playing field. Party affiliation makes it very simple for us in this country to choose one.. or the other. Look at elections in Italy (or now Iraq) where you have to have a 6 page newspaper-style ballot to choose 15 candidates from a sea of choices. There have been circus clowns and porn stars elected for high political office in Italy. That is 100% democratic, but does it provide the best leadership for the country?
    I believe that money should stay as a leveler because it keeps uninterested buffoons from applying.
    Now, on your other point about information. Yes, I agree that information should be made readily available to those who have passed the first two hurtles (names on petition and $$ in the bank) so that all candidates can participate and carry out an even and targeted discussion with the voters. I also agree that it would eliminate the “carpet-bombing” and the useless spending we saw in 2008 when presidential candidates were advertising within Video Games (Obama).
    You have some nice ideas, keep it up!
     

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  2. David Lauri August 26, 2009 / 10:36 am
    The number of petition signatures is an already quantified qualifier, Mike, but “$$ in the bank” is not.  Just how much money do you propose a candidate have in the bank before he or she be allowed access to public records such as voter registration information?

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  3. truddick August 26, 2009 / 11:41 am
    But look:

    For most of history, policital power meant that you had enough money and influence to raise an army. Caesar, Cromwell, Alexander, Washington, Napoleon–wealthy men who used a superior army or superior tactics to start or expand empires.

    But now the technology of the military is so extensive that upstarts cannot possibly hope to succeed at military revolutions. That wingnut with the semi-automatic rifle saying “it’s time to water the tree of liberty (with the blood of tyrants)?” Let him and his buddies try it; they’ll be the ones providing the fertilizer in the fact of the US military’s superior numbers and weaponry. (That’s why they turn to terrorism rather than civil war–another tactic that won’t succeed, BTW).

    So how does one foment a revolution now? In a democratic nation, it comes from controlling lots of money, and also using the media effectively. The wars have gone from violent ones on the battlefield to verbal ones on cable and internet; the armies are named Fox and Sinclair and MSNBC and Huffington.

    One may bemoan this evolution, or one may accept it; one who wants to be a revolutionary needs to learn how to work it.

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  4. Larkin August 26, 2009 / 1:32 pm
    David, I wish you’d worked “on the ground” with the Obama campaign, just so you could see what a full scale “to the people” campaign looks like.  You can lead a voter to the information, but you can’t make them think.  And while government and elections should be about ideas and not about money; there is a reason why it is only the wealthy that get to play. It’s because their money opens the door. Maybe you can find a patron, with very very deep pockets. 

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  5. David Esrati August 26, 2009 / 2:06 pm

    @Lakin- I did work on the ground with the Obama campaign- that was my first clue on how this data-manipulation works. It’s slick, it’s efficient- and it’s a huge barrier to entry unless you have the start-up capital.

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  6. Larkin August 26, 2009 / 9:56 pm
    David, I’m not challenging you, I’m curious. What did you do for the campaign?  I know you are running a demanding business, so you couldn’t give it the day by day, but the election day machine and the get out the vote mechanism was remarkable. (Nag people until they vote.)  It’s hard to convince the disenfranchised that their vote matters. 

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  7. Gene August 26, 2009 / 10:15 pm
    Nag people until they vote? What if they don’t care? Why bother people who are apathetic?

    Disenfranchised………. so if the Republicans get a hold of them then you are fine with that?

    I think we should let people decide themselves without hassle – they should not vote if they don’t care or if they are uninformed.

    No, it is not our job to inform them. For “C” sake can’t we expect people to act adult and do something for him or herself every once in a while?

    As for state and national elections, 99.3% of the time it does not matter. Statiscally if I fail to vote another person voting opposite of me fails to vote as well. Statiscally speaking.

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  8. David Esrati August 26, 2009 / 11:32 pm

    @Larkin- I canvassed- door-to-door. I also donated the big poster at HQ- and lent the campaign furniture and a laser printer. In the primary- I was running- for Congress, which took up a bit of my time too. :)

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  9. Brian August 28, 2009 / 5:38 am
    Just when I think I have my naivety about local politics in check, a new local situation wakes me up. From the petitioners trying to run in this past May’s Dayton primary having their petitions rejected, to the recent (and ongoing) Husted situation. Now, this problem with the Moraine Mayor’s petitions.

    Interesting how the system works – Matheny is a Democrat; Rosencrans is a Republican. Both Lieberman and Ritchie (who voted to certify Matheny’s petition) are Democrats; both Gantt and Nathanson (who voted not to certify Matheny’s petition) are Republicans.

    Many of the rules — at least this one, for sure — are quite straightforward. Matheny was supposed to provide her signature on the petition as a statement of candidacy. It’s beyond belief that the board could split on something as simple as this.

    But, that’s my own naivety showing again.

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  10. David Esrati September 6, 2009 / 7:56 pm

    and btw- Ohio is one of the states that doesn’t keep voter data at the State level-

    each county chooses one of 5 different vendors for their voter registration data tools. Totally backward.

    Walking with voter lists- it’s easy to see how we could have so many questions at the polls. As a candidate- data integrity can make a huge difference- but, with the system in Montgomery County- we’d almost have to start from scratch every election to properly keep track of voters.

     

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  11. David Esrati November 23, 2009 / 12:07 pm

    I’m pretty excited to find out that an organization is building the next version of CiviCRM- with the abandoned modules: http://ourpowerbase.net/

    Check it out- it will be a key part of the Dayton Process.

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