Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Columns

June 26, 2010

Politics?

Don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand...

Corsicana — Our recent runoff election — which I’ll get to in a bit — set my mind flashing back to a whirlwind of “electoral memories” from my years in various newsrooms across the country the last 30 years.

Today, with the click of mouse, you can get almost any such information you want.

I remember the first election I covered — Needles, California back in the 1970s — pre-computers, pre-ballot machines (at least in that small town) and just about as “down home” as you could get. We all gathered in the city council chambers as the city secretary came in and wrote the latest returns on a chalkboard for all to see, know, and disseminate. I ran down the hall to use a rotary-dial telephone to “call in” the latest results to the radio station.

Then it happened — there was a tie! Yes, indeed, after counting the ballots three times, they came up the same answer — a tie between the two people running for one council position.

How would you imagine they settled that tie?

Was it:

“Revolvers at 20 paces?”

“Swords?”

“A game of chicken with two tractors?” (Memorialized on film by the world famous Kevin Bacon in that great motion picture “Footloose”)

Another election? A runoff?

Nope.

Coin toss.

Yep.

Coin toss. Heads, you win. Tails, the other guy wins.

No campaign signs, no debates, no re-voting.

Toss the coin, win the seat.

Quaint, small-townish, and certainly efficient.

Clearly, the simplicity of that long-ago election in a small, small town for a small, small city council seat is a long, long way from the importance of a race to decide a state senator.

And, certainly, the dynamics of the situation involving State Senate District 22 with the resignation of Kip Averitt, the special election to pick a replacement to finish Averitt’s current term ending January 2011, the runoff that followed, and now the uncertainty of the November ballot, makes this whole thing even today “as clear as mud.”

The situation is (as I think I understand it) with Kip Averitt pulling his name from the November ballot, the Republican and Democratic party chairmen from the 10 counties that make up District 22 will now decide who is going to be on the November ballot — instead of the voters of the district, and in spite of the fact a “successor” to Averitt’s seat was actually elected by the people of the district.

This actually sets both parties up for the “ultimate do-over” in the election process, and its one that I’m not entirely convinced meets one of those four Rotary Club criteria — “Is it fair to all concerned” — no matter which side of the political fence you are on.

To be fair, I must mention that some of the reason for the confusion is the fact that some questions have been raised about whether or not Brian Birdwell — the runoff election victor — was an eligible candidate for the post based on residency requirements. It strikes me odd that he would have been allowed to be on the ballots if he were not an eligible candidate. But then again, there are a lot of oddities in this one.

As I said at the outset — there’s a lot I don’t understand about politics, and I guess I never will.

But, consider this ...

Is it possible — even remotely — that perhaps we could learn something from history? Make the process of solving the District 22 dilemma simpler than it appears its going to be?

“Revolvers at 20 paces?”

“Swords?”

“A game of chicken?”

“Dueling tractors?”

“Coin toss?”

Oh, wait. I’ve got a better one.

Why not let the voters decide it?

I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere before ...

                          —————

Bob Belcher is the Managing Editor of the Corsicana Daily Sun. He may be reached by e-mail at belcher@corsicanadailysun.com. His column appears on Sundays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? E-mail: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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