Monday, August 23, 2010

To vote or not to vote

There's some merit to the thought that voting just legitimizes a corrupt system. It's better to ignore the whole system and hope it goes away.

I can sympathize with that feeling. On the national level, I'm pretty sure my vote has limited impact. The lesser of two evils is still evil. The two major parties hold so many of the same beliefs and assumptions that it hardly matters which is in power. Real change from outside isn't going to happen under the current system. There's no money in it.

That being said, I vote -not so much for the top of the ticket, but for the little jobs on the bottom. It makes a difference who my local selectman is. They deal with issues that directly affect me -taxes, zoning, trash pickup, road maintenance and all the petty rules and regulations a town can inflict on someone.

It matters who's elected sheriff. That's one law enforcement official I can actually have some influence over. Heck, it even matters who the library trustees are. Will they ever decide to keep the place open enough hours to actually be useful?

On the state level it matters who's in the legislature. New Hampshire has 400 members in the state house. If you aren't friends or related to at least a couple of them, you don't get out enough. They aren't paid anything and there are too many of them to bribe without someone squealing. Not a bad system, if you've got to have one. They have a direct effect on things in my life. It matters what kind of people are in there.

By the time we get up to state senator, my influence is greatly reduced. I know my Senator is corrupt, but nothing is ever done about it. There are much fewer state Senators, and those guys can be controlled. There's money at stake.

The Governor? Might as well pick the guy who looks good on TV. We can change them every two years. The real power is with an institution that doesn't have too many equivalents other places. NH has something called the "Governor's Council." These guys can make or break a Governor. If they don't want something to happen, it isn't going to happen. Governors come and go, those on the Governor's Council can stay for decades.

My district's councilor, Ray Burton, has been there for a long long time. Remarkable for a gay Republican, I'd say. How'd he do it? There's a joke about Ray that whenever two or more voters gather, Ray Burton appears in their midst. He goes to every gathering he's invited to. The guy remembers everyone's name. It's possible to get him on the phone as his home number is public and he answers it himself. He solves problems for the little guys, so word gets out.

So yeah, I'll vote, but with expectations that only the small local stuff will really matter. Still, if it means that my road will keep getting plowed in the winter, it's worth the effort.


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