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Monday, November 6, 2006
David's Little Election Guide

Here's a quick look at all the races and propositions on my ballot, plus a few more which might be on yours.

Folks, tomorrow is Election Day. Assuming you can do so legally, you should vote early and often. Uh, let me try that again. "Vote early, vote once" is clearly what I meant. The other is, strictly speaking, a crime. Even in Chicago.

If you have already engaged in "early voting," in the sense of doing it on some day before Election Day, this guide comes too late for you. For the rest of you, please understand that you are not required to vote as I do. Even if you vote differently, you will remain a valued, even treasured reader of my blog, because I will never know. Note that you would remain such even if I had some way of knowing how you vote, because we are all adults here, or at least studying to be such.

We will start at the top, or as near the top as we can find an election.

United States Senate

My Vote: Orrin Hatch, the Republican incumbent. Despite my support, he will win by a large margin, perhaps 20 or 30 percent. I watched enough of one debate to find it hard to take Mr. Ashdown seriously. Then I watched five minutes more, for a total of ten minutes. The interesting race would have been in the Republican primary, had State Representative Steve Urquhart not decided against running this year.

Nationwide Prediction: The Republicans will retain a majority in the Senate, but by a narrower margin. Interesting races to watch include Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Montana, Missouri, Rhode Island, and, just for old times' sake, Connecticut, where Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat's Democrat, will vanquish that other guy, the Radical Democrat's Democrat, Ned Lamont. A good place to watch things develop, or for a pregame briefing, is Real Clear Politics.

United States House of Representatives

My Vote: As I discussed here last week, I will vote for Republican candidate LaVar Christensen, whose losing margin may exceed Senator Hatch's large margin of victory. Jim Matheson will return to the House for another term, and I will hope my party can come up with a competitive candidate next time. Republican Congressmen Bishop and Cannon will easily win re-election in Utah's other districts.

Nationwide Prediction: The Republicans will hold the House, no thanks to Utah's 2nd District, but lose some of their already small margin.

Utah State Senate

I don't get a vote on this one tomorrow, so I haven't been paying attention. You're on your own.

Prediction: The Republicans will retain their majority. Duh. (This prediction is only here to increase my average.)

Utah State Legislature

My Vote: My favorite local politician excepting MFCC, Republican John Dougall, is running almost unopposed. Translation: There's a Democrat in the race. No disparagement of said Democrat is intended, but there's really no chance of an upset here. Dougall is intelligent, personable, hard-working, articulate, and conservative. He will win by a very large margin.

Prediction: A large Republican majority, yawn. It's not completely healthy for Utah politics, but there are worse things than boredom.

Alpine School Board, Bond Issue, and Leeway

It's rather sad, but there's only one contested school board race in the Alpine School District. It happens to be in my part of the district. Incumbent Keith Swain seems to be facing a more serious challenge than I thought from Tim Osborn, who has the endorsement of math warrior Oak Norton, among others. I hadn't seen much campaigning by either candidate until a couple of weeks ago, when Tim Osborn signs began popping up around American Fork. (See LocalCommentary.com's late-breaking virtual interview of both candidates.)

Meanwhile, between the proposed bond issue and the proposed "leeway," whatever that is, the District wants the voters to give them nearly half a billion dollars to build new schools, rebuild or remodel or expand old ones, and so forth. There have been questions about the funding of campaign materials, the illegal use of district buildings and cars to promote the bond and leeway, and so forth. But, except for two groups, which I think are small minorities, I see the fate of the bond, the leeway, and incumbent Keith Swain boiling down to one basic question.

First, those two groups are these. There will be a certain percentage of voters who will vote yes simply because it's for the children -- which, to some (less than complete) extent, it really is. Another group will vote no simply because it's more money, which it certainly is.

The question on which I think the election will turn is many voters' choice as to which of two needs is greater and more urgent. On one hand, given the rapid, continued growth of the entire valley, the need for new schools and expanded existing schools is so obvious that it hardly requires justification. On the other hand, what the School Board publicly calls a small group, though it seems really quite large, seems to think that there is a more urgent need even than new schools: a need for the Alpine School Board to be spanked, over math, arrogance, and other similar offenses.

I suggest that you, as a voter, decide how content you are with things as they are in the District. If you are basically content, or if you feel that providing for growth is more urgent that any quibbles parents may have with the Board or District, vote this way:

  • Yes on the bond.
  • Yes on the leeway.
  • Keith Swain for School Board (if you're in that part of the District).

If you think the Board needs to be spanked, over math or for some other reason, you will probably want to cast at least one of these three votes, depending on how hard you want the spanking to be:

  • No on the bond.
  • No on the leeway.
  • Challenger Tim Osborn for School Board (if you're in that part of the District).

I myself haven't firmly settled on my votes, and for personal reasons will not reveal my vote on the School Board race. I will say this: I'm seriously considering some degree of spanking.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that voter discontent and late campaigning by Tim Osborn will lead to the failure of both measures and Osborn's narrow victory over incumbent Swain tomorrow. But the only thing that would really surprise me is if the bond and leeway both pass by a very large margin -- say, more than 60 to 40 percent.

Utah County Offices

Most Republican candidates are unopposed. Incumbent County Commissioner Steve White, a Republican, faces Democrat Joseph Brierley, but it's not likely to be close. This is still Utah County, and I don't think some pockets of frustration with the incumbents are enough to move the county to a Democrat.

Judicial Retention

We will be asked whether each of several judges should remain in office. A judge would have to work pretty hard for a long time to lose such a vote. Don't hold your breath. I can't even explain why it makes sense to have such votes, though I think I know how the system got arranged that way. (A topic for another day -- a very slow day.)

A Constitutional Amendment

I'll wager that most voters will read, "Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to authorize the Legislature to pass a law creating a property tax exemption for tangible personal property that generates an inconsequential amount of revenue," process mostly the phrase "property tax exemption," and approve the amendment. Business owners will do so enthusiastically. I work for a business owner, like a lot of other folks, and I'm having a hard time seeing a problem with this amendment -- though I don't know the law well enough to understand why it has to be an amendment, not ordinary legislation.

Opinion Question on Transit

Utah County voters will be asked their legally non-binding opinion as to whether the County should impose an additional one-quarter percent sales tax county-wide to fund mass transit and new and expanded highways. That's 25 cents on $100, if you're counting.

County Commissioners have advised city officials in the county that they will follow the voters' lead. So though it is technically non-binding, they intend to treat it as binding.

I will vote for this additional tax. My reasoning is that I envision Utah Valley quite inevitably filled wall-to-wall, so to speak, with people, and this is sound preparation for that. I suppose it will relieve some of the current congestion, too, but I'm more concerned with the necessity to avoid massive gridlock in the future.

I expect it to pass.

American Fork Secondary Water System Bond

This will have considerably more impact on my wallet than the 0.25 percent sales tax mentioned above. I will vote for it, and I expect it to pass. My detailed recent discussion of this issue includes a brief, three-part primer -- except for the brief part. I won't rehash the arguments here.

A Few Final Questions

Do you pay attention to exit polls?

Exit polls are interesting and often accurate, but they failed miserably in the 2004 presidential election. I don't know whether they were cooked, botched, or simply not predictive. There still is only one poll that matters, the actual vote. Don't let an exit poll or any other news keep you from voting.

How good has your record been in the past, at predicting the outcomes of races and referenda?

I don't keep careful track. I have a vague sense that it's a hair over 50 percent, which means you might as well flip a coin as take my predictions seriously.

Why didn't you mention any third-party candidates?

I know there are some, but I'm not aware of any that will really matter tomorrow. It's the nature of third parties to be irrelevant (in the US, not in some other countries).

Where can I go to see a sample ballot?

A general sample ballot (for the whole county; yours may vary) is available at the Utah County web site. You can also study specific samples at your polling place tomorrow.

If the Republicans do hold their majorities in Washington, will the Democrats and the media (a) need lots of therapy, (b) blame it on religious people again, (c) mend their obstructionist ways, or (d) elevate the moderate wing of the party, at the expense of the failed left wing?

A, B, and in the long term possibly D.

What methodology do you use to come to your predictions?

Except for the very obvious ones, I use an unpredictable mix of the following: wild guesses, irrational optimism, a sense that polls before the election tend to run 6 to 10 percent to the left of the actual vote, and a modicum of denial.

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