Monday, September 12, 2011

How to Set Up an Elected Official 101: Democrat Beth White Puts Mayor Ballard on Spot on Early Voting

This morning I had the opportunity to watch the Election Board meeting at which early voting at two satellite locations was discussed. 

Marion County Clerk and Election
Board Member Beth White
Some background is in order.  State law allows county election board to set up early voting satellite locations as long as the bipartisan boards vote unanimously for the proposal.  In Indianapolis, we've traditionally had two locations located on the north and south side, in addition to early voting at the City County Building.  While the budget includes money for early voting at satellite locations, Republicans decided that the cost was too high and blocked the proposal through the vote of GOP representative to the Election Board,Patrick Dietrick

While the claim originally was that it was just a question of the cost, a fundamental political equation undoubtedly played a role.  Democrats are not as loyal of voters as Republicans are. Therefore the easier you make voting, the more likely it will be that Democrats who might not otherwise vote, will vote.  Conversely, the more difficult you make it, the more Republicans are helped.

But the advantage for the Republicans in not allowing early, satellite voting is marginal at best. We're talking, at best, a few hundred vote edge for the GOP.   On the flip side is the fact that early voting is very popular with voters.   If the Democrats can make the refusal to allow early voting into a political issue that will resonate with voters, Republicans stand to lose thousands of votes.

Most Republican politicians, especially those who are up for election, would be smart enough not to take the obvious political bait and instead would enthusiastically endorse popular early voting paid for by the money already appropriated for that purpose.  But the politician who heads the Republican ticket here in Indianapolis is Mayor Greg Ballard, a man whose lack of political experience has made him a pawn of his advisers, advisers who 1) either don't understand politics, or 2) don't care much about Ballard's re-election fortunes. 

The issue today before the Election Board was to accept the UAW's donation of $50,000 to allow for early voting at two satellite locations, thus undercutting the Republicans' claim their opposition was just about money.  During the presentation Clerk Beth White talked about the importance of early voting.   During several of her comments Clerk White made it clear that the proposal had been tendered to Mayor Ballard and whether to allow popular early voting was his decision. Technically though it isn't Mayor Ballard's decision at all - it is solely that of the Election Board, none of which members are appointed by the Mayor.

Republican Dietrick again voted against the proposal.

Why was White making the comments she was making about Ballard?  She was setting the Mayor up.  If the media doesn't specifically put the blame on Mayor Ballard for killing satellite, early voting, you can bet that mayoral foe Melina Kennedy will have a commercial ready to go to make the point.

Some politicos might congratulate Clerk White for a clever political maneuver.  But in reality it wasn't so much a clever maneuver as an obvious one.  White is guessing that Republicans, such as Mayor Ballard's advisers and Marion County GOP Chairman Kyle Walker, are not politically savvy enough to avoid the obvious political pitfall of opposing popular early voting two months before an election.   You know what?  She's right.

1 comment:

Marycatherine Barton said...

Beth is so smart. Greg, not so much.