Monday, November 25, 2013

Voting Is Just So Messy

The City of Richardson has a policy regarding electioneering at the Civic Center during early voting: "During early voting, political signs may not be erected on public property." The State of Texas has other ideas.
On June 14, 2013, the Texas Legislature passed HB 259, thereby amending Section 61.003 and 85.036 of the Texas Election Code by requiring a public entity that controls or owns a building used as a polling place to allow electioneering on the premises, subject to reasonable regulations.
So, let's amend Richardson's policy to allow electioneering at the Civic Center, so long as it occurs outside the 100 foot boundary state law specifies. Easy peasy. Next issue.

Not so fast, says Richardson's City Council. After the jump, their thoughts.

The Richardson City Council deliberated this issue last week.

Scott Dunn considered driving posts into the ground to hold signs to be "destruction of property." (Can't have people destroying dirt).

Steve Mitchell was concerned with those "big giant signs." People "will be putting those in and taking them out every day." (Can't have responsible candidates cleaning up after themselves.)

Mayor Maczka considered electioneering, even beyond that 100 foot boundary, to be activity that isn't "conducive to conducting city business." She considers it to be "distracting to people driving up and down Arapaho and Central." (Can't have voters actually see electioneering, now, can we?)

Steve Mitchell wondered if we just declare the grounds around the Civic Center a "park," whether that would allow us to deny electioneering there? (Can't have people electioneering in public parks, can we?)

Mark Solomon wanted to solve it by eliminating the Civic Center as a polling place. "What if we moved ... early voting to, like, Heights, which has only parking lot?" (Or maybe to a phone booth at a gas station?)

No one, no one, said, hey, the city has bigger issues than how to stop electioneering at the Civic Center. No one said electioneering isn't even a problem at all. It's a good American tradition. No one asked how can we encourage *more* interest in our elections, because they have such low turnout now. It's almost as if our city council feels that elections, candidates, and electioneering are a public nuisance. And that brainstorming ways to stop campaigning on the grass around the Civic Center is worth spending the council's limited meeting time on instead of, say, brainstorming solutions for neighborhood revitalization.

By the way, "electioneering" is one word that doesn't appear anywhere in the recently adopted city vision, goals or strategies. But, then, neither does the word "neighborhood." Nor, for that matter, does "focus."

1 comment:

mccalpin said...

Sadly, Mark, your comments are unnecessarily melodramatic and aren't particularly accurate.

Mr. Dunn (and several other Councilmembers) were concerned about sprinkler systems being damaged or destroyed by stakes driven into grassy areas at City Hall. Who would pay for that? The taxpayer, of course. That concerns the Council but apparently doesn't concern you.

Ms. Maczka and Mr. Mitchell were concerned about the visual distraction caused by these signs on busy streets. Richardson already has regulations to minimize visual distractions and obstructions on streets, in order to provide for safer roads. Are you against those regulations, too?

And if you read the actual language of the State bill, you would see that "electioneering" was expanded in the State's eyes to not just include handing out handbills, but to also include "tents" and other things...yes, so candidate Joe Blow could come in every day during early voting at City Hall, erect a huge tent on the grassy area just south of the west parking lot 30 minutes before voting begins, destroy sprinkler heads and drive stakes through underground pipes, tear up the grass, yell and scream at voters as they go in (whether they are there to vote or are there to do other business with the City), then at the end of the day, tear down the tent, rip out the stakes, and leave a tattered mess behind.

Are you OK with this? Because I have to believe that the vast majority of voters in Richardson are not interested in changing the rules so that taxpayers will be on the hook for property repairs, trash clean-up, or more harassment at the polls.

Anyone who has worked the outside of the polls knows that the majority of voters don't want to be approached or take handbills ("pushcards"), because they studied the issues and the candidates in advance. But the State Legislature apparently wants to make even EASIER for uninformed voters to show up at the polls and make a decision at the last second. Is that really in our best interest?

As for whether the Council should be spending its time on other things, you have glossed over the fact that it was the State of Texas, not the Council, who caused this problem, by deciding for us people in Richardson and every other city in the State that we aren't getting enough electioneering, so we have to have more, whether we like it or not.

This is yet another example of a new State law that wasn't thought through properly, and it's the municipalities that have to pay. I am sure that the Council would rather be discussing more important and germane topics...why don't you consider reserving your sarcasm for the State Legislators who inflicted this on us?