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The High Cost of Partisan Politics

Rich Galen

Friday March 2, 2012


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  • Super Tuesday. Ten states this year (21 on the GOP side four years ago). In most cases only registered Republicans can actually vote, but Democrats and Independents, citizens and non-citizens, likely voters and people who have never darkened the door of a precinct polling place all get to participate.

  • How?

  • Public tax money is used to fund this most partisan of activities so everyone who pays taxes gets to help Republicans choose their nominee.

  • I have a friend, Maxene Fernstrom, who used to say that in Washington no one is more than three phone calls away from anyone else.

  • To test that theory I called my friend Alex Vogel and asked him if he would ask his wife, State Senator Jill Vogel (R-27th) if she could find out how much the primary election was going to cost the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

  • He did, and she did.

  • You may remember that neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum could get their collective acts together enough to qualify for the ballot in Virginia. It's not that complicated.

  • The law in Virginia states, that minimum number of signatures of qualified voters required for candidates for statewide office (including running in the Presidential primary):
    For a candidate for the United States Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, 10,000 signatures, including the signatures of at least 400 qualified voters from each congressional district in the Commonwealth

  • I am offering that official language to help you understand that the signature requirements in Virginia are neither onerous nor, as I once wrote, arcane. Thirty two words.

  • I have lived in Virginia off and on since 1977 and I do not remember a time when an election for a statewide office could not be held because the potential candidates couldn't figure out how to get on the ballot.

  • Santorum and Gingrich could not.

  • A difference between running for Attorney General and President is this: No write-ins are permitted for candidates for President. Not sure why, but there it is.

  • I went into vote early last week on the theory that I would be out of town - likely in the District of Columbia - and if I am asked to be a pundit, I didn't want to risk not getting back to Alexandria, VA in time to vote.

  • It was very eerie to see only two names on the ballot: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.

  • No constitutional amendments, no candidates for city council, nor for soil and water conservation district director.

  • Nothin'

  • Which, of course, got me thinking about how much this whole thing was costing.

  • St. Sen. Vogel had a member of her staff contact the State Board of Elections and the answer to my question was:
    The cost of the GOP Primary is over 3 million dollars.

  • Whoa! Check please!

  • By my count 14 states have caucuses which, by their nature, don't require the transport and set up of voting machines, nor the deployment of thousands of paid poll workers.

  • That leaves 36 states (not including Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa and the Northern Marianas - which all get delegates to the national conventions) which have primaries.

  • At $3 million a pop that's $108 million dollars (assuming small states balance out California, Texas and New York) that all taxpayers have to chip in to help one political party chose its nominee.

  • But wait! There's more! Each of the two national conventions - more particularly each of the two host cities - gets a federal grant of $50 million to help pay for the additional security necessary to make sure the guy selling the Nixon Bobble Head Dolls outside the convention facility is safe.

  • Another $100 million for a purely partisan activity.

  • It's not like states are rolling in extra money just looking for things to spend it on. And we are all too aware of the $172 Kajillion federal debt that is rising each and every day.

  • That debt is largely funded by the Chinese government buying U.S. � wait a minute. WAIT A MINUTE.

  • The Chinese are paying for a lot of this?

  • Forget everything I said.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Virginia State Board of Elections page as well as a pretty good Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day which is a study in generational fashion.

    -- END

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