FROM THE MARGINS:

My absentee ballot application goes directly into the trash. It doesn’t matter who it’s from, it doesn’t even make it to my kitchen counter.

I like the traditional way of voting. You don’t even get the “I Voted” sticker to show off your responsible nature as a citizen when voting absentee.

That little sticker and the simple walk into the polling booth give me a certain control over our common destiny and instill a feeling of solidarity in me with rest of the voting public.

For now, I like the physical act of voting. I like doing things the old-fashioned way. Having said that, it would be a different story if I lived on a desolate farm in Oregon, or survived to be 101 years old like my great-grandfather.

What’s good for me is not necessarily the best option for my neighbors and friends.

Recently, I watched the City Council debate on the proposed change to the way absentee ballot applications are collected. Absentee ballot applications are currently issued through the City Clerk’s Office to each registered voter. Campaigns are also able to issue their own and have the application sent back to their office within 72 hours.

The proposed ordinance would restrict people or campaign committees from handling absentee ballot applications after distribution.

I won’t go into all the speculated permutations of the motives behind the proposed ordinance. There has been, and will be, a lot said about proposed change. But there seem to be two clearly non-converging viewpoints on this topic.

Some genuinely feel that the handling of the applications by campaign offices can increase the possibility of fraud. And others have stated that the ordinance will suppress voter participation from very specific segments of the community, and thus, claim voter disenfranchisement.

Despite the sharp line separating the two viewpoints, these two scenarios are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Moreover, as it’s the case in many aspects of life, deep-rooted feelings and perceptions are not always based in truth or fact. They can also be a result of lack of open communication and inadequate leadership.

The recent topics discussed in City Council meetings have also included limiting campaign donation amounts, how some candidates are able to rally volunteer help, as well as consistent references to donated services by private cable television shows and banquet halls during campaigns.

It does not take a seasoned political analyst to see that ordinances referring to these issues will have a direct effect on the election campaigns. What will be seen as evening out in the playing field by some will be viewed as gaining an advantage by others.

And exactly because of this, it is disconcerting when council members themselves are so zealous in acting as the driving force behind passing or defeating this ordinance. On such a hotly contested issue, residents should have been involved in discussions of the topic and formulating solutions from day one. What we got instead were a shouting match, accusations, counter-accusations and a symbolic public outreach meeting on this issue. I am still not sure if the session is intended as a give or take session, or both. The public deserved more than this face-saving afterthought.

The battle lines wouldn’t have been drawn so rigidly, either, if there had been a genuine attempt by the City Council to engage the public in a true dialogue on this subject. Keeping voting blocs so polarized is not a new tactic in the world of politics. Regardless of the motivations of the City Council members, the outcome of the voting on absentee ballot applications is perceived to have an effect on the patterns of voting in forthcoming elections.

I am personally not interested in how individual council members see themselves in the mirror in the morning; neither do I find their personal experiences relevant in this case, but the fact that the council members are exercising influence in shaping the next City Council elections through the ordinance is at best bothersome.

Regardless of our viewpoint, the last thing we should want is for our City Council to influence the outcome of future elections and further divide the community in the process. The formulation of issues dealing with elections and voting would be best handled by an independent body consisting of residents from all walks of life.

I see a flaw in the present process.


 PATRICK AZADIAN is a writer and the creative director of a local marketing and graphic design studio living in Glendale. He may be reached at respond@ fromthemargins.net.

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