Friday, August 18, 2006

Our Own Florida

In my little burg of Hutchinson, Reno County, Kansas - a town of about 50,000, we have our own Florida happening. And I'm no happier about this one than I was about that one. It's not even that it's "my guy" who's involved - I can't vote for him, he's not in my district. It's that the laws we have are not being followed and therefore the playing field is not fair.

In the 101st district, one term incumbent Mark Treaster is running for re-election. I have mentioned him on this blog before, and shown photos. Even though I don't live in his district, I supported his first campaign and also support this one because we need good legislators and he's one of them. He's a good guy, with reasonable ideas. To top it off, he didn't miss a vote in his first year, telling me he's also devoted to the process. He is a democrat, but I am not a "party line" person - I'm a "who's best for the job" person.

Republicans have decided that the 101st should be their district. So, they recruited a candidate - but not in time for him to get on the ballot. Instead, he waged a write-in campaign, and did a good job - no question about it.

Kansas law says that in order to be on the November ballot, a write in candidate must get at least 10% of the number of total votes cast in that district for the Secretary of State in the previous general election. This seems a bizarre way to determine it to me, but that's the law, and it's something that can be measured, or so you would think.

After recounts, we know that the write in candidate received 598 votes. Fair enough.

The Secretary of State's staff looked at the number of votes cast on Election Day 2002 for Secretary of State and came up with 573 as the number needed, which means the write in candidate would be on the November ballot. However, they did not include advance ballots, which are a big factor in general elections.

The Secretary of State's office, which happens to be headed by Republican Ron Thornburgh, says they didn't include advance ballots because they couldn't verify how many voted for a Secretary of State Candidate.

However, that's not really a true concern when you look at the math involved.

We know the following:
4,171 advance ballots were cast in all of Reno County in 2002
1,149 of those were in the 101st district, the one in question

159 of the 4,171 voters in all of Reno County did not vote for a Secretary of State candidate. Even if all of those happened to be in Mark Treaster's district, that would leave 990 votes cast in the 101st district for Secretary of State. So, the 10% would mean that the write in candidate would need 672 votes to be on the ballot. The write-in candidate did not reach that number.

It's now a committee that gets to decide - our Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. Our governor is a Democrat and the other two are Republicans.

At worst it appears the Secretary of State's office is not following the law, they're interpreting it. That is not the job of the Secretary of State's office, it is the job of the judicial system. At best it looks like the Secretary of State's office made a mathematical error. There's no shame in admitting when you're wrong. On the contrary, it's a true sign of character.

Why does this matter so much? Well, it matters because regardless of your party affiliation or your belief in one candidate or another, the system needs to be fair. Next time the tables could be turned and it's "your candidate" on the other side of the fence. The system should be equal for anyone who wants to enter into it - that's why we have laws to determine such things.

The Secretary of State's office is essentially saying that anyone who casts an advance ballot doesn't count. If that's the case, we need to do away with that system. I'm certain that no one who went to the effort to cast an advance ballot expected that their votes would not be considered.

This is not a situation that requires interpretation. The math is clear. The write in candidate did not receive the necessary 10% of votes cast for Secretary of State in that district in the 2002 general election. Therefore, he is not entitled to be on the November ballot.

The Kansas Secretary of State's website says, "In addition to many legislative duties, we are responsible for overseeing the administration of all national and state elections in Kansas. Elections are the cornerstone of democracy, and we are committed to protecting the sanctity of the democratic process." If they are really committed to the sanctity of the democratic process, Mark Treaster will not have an opponent on the November ballot.

We must not let Kansas become yet another example of election corruption.