Two thumbs down, one thumb up on election reform proposals
Three election reform proposals are under consideration as the Kentucky General Assembly winds down its "off-year" session.
We support one of these initiatives and heartily oppose the other two.
The bill we support would allow gubernatorial candidates to wait until after the primary election to choose a lieutenant governor running mate.
We were not necessarily fans of the legislation requiring a gubernatorial slate back when was passed in the 1990s, although we understood the reasoning behind it. Most of us here at K-Pac are old enough to remember when Republican Gov. Nickel Louie had Democrat Wendell Ford as his lieutenant governor. And we remember the strife between Gov. Wallace Wilkinson and Lt. Gov. Brereton Jones, and then between Gov. Jones and Lt. Gov. Paul Patton.
Even the slate didn't end the strife. Patton and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry had a falling-out, and of course the rift between Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Lt. Gov. Judas Iscariot Pence still resonates. And Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo have had a parting of the ways in recent months.
The proposed system would mirror the federal presidential election process, where the nominee get to pick a running mate and then have that choice ratified at the party convention. This would allow more candidates to run for governor, including some who may have hesitated because of difficulty of finding a running mate. It would also allow a winning candidate to possibly choose a vanquished primary opponent to offer the strongest and best possible ticket.
This law would also benefit Beshear. Since Mongiardo has announced a run for the Senate, conventional wisdom is that Beshear will have to find a new running mate for 2011 since candidates raise money as a slate. (Money raised for the Fletcher-Pence re-election bid had to be refunded after Pence opted off the ticket in 2007 and Fletcher had to choose a new running mate). This new law would allow Beshear to go ahead and raise money and not be hamstrung by the decision of the voters in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.
The two proposals we hate with a passion are the ones for early voting and for allowing independents to vote in party primaries.
There's a reason they call it "Election DAY." Transportation is faster and easier than ever before. If a 12-hour Election Day was good enough in the days of horseback riders and covered wagons, it's good enough when people have cars and can usually get to their polling place in a matter of minutes.
In addition, absentee voting is rife with opportunities, and is the primary source, for vote fraud in Kentucky. And early voting is just another name for absentee voting, without the requirement to prove you'll be unable to cast a ballot on Election Day.
We think the election process, with a 12-hour voting day with provisions to keep the polls open as long as voters are waiting in line to vote, is perfectly appropriate and acceptable, and is just fine as it is. There are too many opportunities for abuse and fraud with an elongated early voting system. We hope this one gets shot down.
And we also don't support allowing independents to corrupt the primary voting process. Primary elections are designed to allow political parties and their members to select their party's nominees for the general election. Independents would be interlopers in the party selection process and should not be tolerated. Besides, any number of independents can file for office for the general election, bypassing the primary system altogether, so independent voters aren't left without a choice during the election process.
We also fear that allowing independents to vote in party primaries could be the first step on the way to open primaries, which is a complete bastardization of the nomination process. Why should Democrats get to help select the Republican nominee, and vice versa? For that matter, why should those without a party affiliation be allowed to choose a party's nominee?
We saw what can go wrong with open primaries during the 2000 presidential election. Since Vice President Al Gore was already assured of the Democrat nomination despite some opposition in the primary, in states with open primaries, the Democrats flocked to the polls and voted in the Republican primary to try to get the weakest Republican candidate (Sen. John McCain) the nomination over the candidate perceived as the strongest contender (Gov. George W. Bush).
Democrats though (and rightly so, as 2008 proved) that McCain would be easier to beat than Bush, which is why they supported him in open primaries.
Primaries are nomination processes for party candidates, and should remain so. It's embarrassing that a Republican (Rep. Jimmy Higdon) is pushing this legislation.
The General Assembly should say "yes" to allowing gubernatorial nominees to pick their running mates after the primary, and say "not only no, but HELL NO to early voting and opening party primaries to independents.