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Monday, November 01, 2004  

Politics: My ballot and me

I am a late voter. Though I had intended to vote early, I decided to wait, curious to see if there would be an October Surprise. As you may know, everyone in Oregon votes by mail. More than half of the ballots had been returned to the offices of the Director of Elections by Friday. Though I can't imagine an October surprise that would have led me to vote for failed incumbent George W. Bush, there was the possibility of influence in regard to other candidates and issues. We did get surprised at the end of October. Osama bin Laden, the person most responsible for the terrorist attacks of 9/11, appeared by video to remind us he is healthy, wealthy, and, in his own way, wise. The Bush administration was crossing its collective fingers that bin Laden would remain out of sight, out of mind until the election is over. He reminded us who is yanking whose chain. I am curious to see what effect bin Laden's appearance, dismissive of any claim he has been pushed to the sidelines, will have on the electorate. Will the easily frightened rally behind Bush because of his tough rhetoric, despite his failure to capture the tenacious terrorist for three years? Will the fence sitters decide an unproven president is preferable to one we know the weaknesses of all too well?

Our ballot is a simple one. A double-sided thick paper rectangle, about eight inches wide and 15 inches long. One fills in circles next to candidates' names in pencil or pen. Compared to ballots in some other states, it is downright old-fashioned. We complete the ballot, drop it in the mail or in a special election drop box, and we're done. The innovation is in being the only state where much of the controversy and inconvenience of voting is avoided. Perhaps that is why Oregon usually has voter turnout of more than 70 percent.

My choices for national candidates were easily made until I reached the U.S. Representative for the First Congressional District. I believe Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards will capably lead the country. Sen. Ron Wyden has proven himself to be effective. Mitch Greenlick, representative for the Thirty-Third Congressional District, may not be memorable, but has done nothing to merit dismissal.

But, there's David Wu. He is the incumbent representative for the First Congressional District. A Democrat. I've written about him previously.

The episode the Republican candidate may be able to ride into Congress occurred when Wu was a college student, way back in 1976.

That summer, the 21-year-old Wu was brought to the campus police annex after his ex-girlfriend said he tried to force her to have sex, according to Raoul K. Niemeyer, then a patrol commander who questioned him.

Wu had scratches on his face and neck, and his T-shirt was stretched out of shape, Niemeyer said.

Protected by a dean who thought it more significant that he was a good student than that he was also, apparently, a sex offender, Wu was never disciplined or charged with a crime. He refused to discuss the episode until after the Oregonian pulished its investigation last month.

I take abuse of women and children seriously. I also detest sneaky people who do wrong and get it away with for years. I could not vote for Wu.

Neither could I vote for either of the other two candidates. The Republican is Goli Ameri, a wealthy Iranian immigrant with views that would have made Marie-Antoinette blush. Dean Wolf is running on behalf of the Constitution Party, which supports a second secession from the Union by the South and white supremacy.

I left that three inches of ballot space unmarked.

A few of our state measures may interest you. Measure 33 would expand the right to medical marijuana to allow the growth and possession of more of the drug. The current medical marijuana guidelines are lax. About half of all medical marijuana cards have been issued on approval of an elderly physician who never actually meets most patients. There seems to be a nexus between participation in the program and involvement in crime. No. Measure 36 would change the state constitution to make marriage a union between a man and a woman. No. Measure 37 is one of ill-conceived libertarian efforts that make you snicker.

Governments must pay owners, or forgo enforcement, when certain land use restrictions reduce property value.

Translation: It would require the government to either compensate property owners for land-use restrictions that reduce property values or waive regulations. If it were to pass and be enforced, Measure 37 might bankrupt municipalities. Absolutely not.

If you are looking for stories about exciting events as the election approaches, I recommend visiting bloggers in Ohio or Florida. Here, conservative talk show hosts are urging their followers to submit their ballots late so the dastardly Democrats can't intercept them and tamper. But, even the chief of the Republican Party, Kevin Mannix, says that is stupid. He urges Bush supporters to vote as soon as possible, not waiting until Election Day. Matthew Lowe, an overly zealous lawyer who is a Republican, has threatened legal action if new voters are allowed to vote in liberal Multnomah County. He claims they (but, for some reason, not new voters in conservative areas) have not presented adequate identification. Election officials are unmoved. The GOP has disavowed the threat. A state where people vote by mail, and early, is not susceptible to most dirty tricks. The excitement of Oregon voters will be that of the nation -- seeing how this cliffhanger turns out.

What's the art?

A woman turns in her ballot in Portland.

1:30 PM