David’s Handy Little Election Guide

Here’s my arguably handy, definitely idiosyncratic election guide for the 2016 general election. I considered posting it earlier for once, for the benefit (or at least bemusement) of early voters like myself, but Life Beyond the Blog (LBB) got in the way. Again.

I’ll tell you how I voted (or didn’t) in each race on my ballot, and I’ll tell you more or less briefly why. In some local or state matters, I’ll offer some detailed information along with my opinions. To the extent that the names and races on our respective ballots overlap, I hope my thoughts will at least be interesting. Or slightly and intermittently amusing. Or vexing. Or whatever works for you.

In case you’re new to the blog or just wondering if I’ve changed, allow me a moment to describe my own politics, which certainly affect my view of candidates and races.

I don’t claim to be neutral, moderate, or centrist. I am a conservative. I like to say thinking conservative or, if you’ll pardon the name dropping, Tocqueville conservative. I am no longer a Republican, as of a few months ago, but I lean toward the space conservative Republicans used to inhabit in the GOP. I think government generally should err on the side of freedom, but neither I nor the libertarians consider me a libertarian. I believe the federal government should err on the side of leaving most matters to state and local governments, but I’m not (to use an old term) an anti-federalist. No Confederate flags for me.

There’s a prominent sort of religious conservative (especially in Utah) which considers me a socialist, for favoring public transit and public libraries, and for generally failing to support either their “only true conservative” candidates or their codification of sectarian religious principles into law. My socialist friends laugh in wonderment at the suggestion that I might be one of them. And I’m not a populist or a sympathizer with the newly-prominent alt-right, both of which inclinations tend, I believe, to political tyranny and dangerous folly.

With that, let’s proceed.

Sample Ballot

If you live in Utah, you can find a sample ballot here: vote.utah.gov. Once you’re at the site . . .

  1. Go to the “Voter Info / Track Ballot” tab.
  2. Enter your name, birthdate, and address – so you get the right precinct’s ballot.
  3. Click the “Sample Ballot, Profiles, Issues” button.
  4. When you see the ballot, drill down (using the plus signs) to see the candidates and measures which will appear on your ballot.

Your ballot may not be the same as mine —  even for the presidential race, if you’re outside Utah. But I’ll tell you how I voted and why, and I’ll venture some predictions.

President of the United States

There were ten pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates on my ballot when I early-voted last week, but the only five you are likely to care about — naming only the top of the ticket — are Donald Trump (Republican), Hillary Clinton (Democrat), Evan McMullin (no party), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), and Jill Stein (Green).

Before I proceed, I must remind you of the amnesty I have granted to all friends, neighbors, family, readers, and other concerned citizens, for their votes in this year’s presidential race and the reasons (or gut feelings) behind them. There really is a moral case to be made for choosing the lesser of two evils – if you think you know which that is. I myself do not know, despite studying the matter seriously and at length. But there is also a moral case to be made against voting for a repugnant and dangerous candidate — the lesser of two evils — even though the other major candidate might be slightly worse.

I have no idea what you should do. If I got it wrong, I hope you get it right.

By the way, if you’re voting for a candidate you actually like, who you think will make a good president and enact wise policies – whoever that may be – I already thought you should vote that way, so any amnesty from me would be irrelevant.

Onward.

I’ve never voted Libertarian and didn’t do so here. I don’t want to legalize recreational marijuana or prostitution, and I don’t care for their foreign policy — or in this case, their ineptitude in foreign policy. If former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, a moderate Republican, were at the top of the Libertarian ticket instead of the bottom, this would be worth a second look in this dismal season.

I’m not a Green Party leftist.

So let’s talk about the others. If you want more than brief discussion, a longer account of my thoughts is collapsed under this button.

Further thoughts on the presidential race

For additional discussion, you’re welcome to visit (and like!) my Freedom Habit page on Facebook, where I’ve been posting links to well-written and well-reasoned pieces from various sides of the question.

If I thought one major candidate posed a significantly greater and more immediate existential threat to the republic (or to our freedom), I think I’d have to vote for the other. A lot of my friends are voting one way or the other on this basis. (Remember that amnesty I mentioned.) I do think we’re in some trouble either way. And it’s virtually certain that the winner will be seriously distracted by ongoing scandals. But the sun will come up on November 9, as Peggy Noonan put it, and it will come up on January 21 too. And both parties will have a year or two to figure out what went wrong and to try to find some decent candidates for next time. Or we’ll figure out how to find them ourselves — because the clear existential threat here is to the GOP.

My original plan was not to vote in the presidential race. I modified it slightly, because Evan McMullin seems intelligent, sensibly conservative, and refreshingly non-repulsive. (You may wish to read his intelligent piece on Syria in Foreign Policy.)

I’d also like some folks in my former party — and maybe the other one — to appreciate that a lot of us are willing to consider alternatives. This includes a large part of what (before Trump) was the Republican base. I can’t think of a better way to send that message than for Utah’s electoral votes to go to someone who is not a major party candidate.

So I voted for Evan McMullin, after listening to him enough to convince myself that this was a reasonable alternative to voting for no one. You’re welcome to tell me in your comments how wrong that is and all the reasons why. I’ll be happy to read your thoughts. But I’ve already listened to a lot of people who’ve come at this question from many angles, and I’m happy with my vote.

Prediction: In Utah, Trump will probably win, but McMullin has a shot. Nationwide . . . get used to saying “President Trump.”

Eww. But maybe that won’t be altogether bad.

Or if I’m wrong — and I might well be; I often am — we might be saying “President Clinton” again.

Eww. But perhaps that will be better than the alternative. I really have no idea. The key thing is, who turns out and who doesn’t.

United States Senate

Mike Lee (R) has become my favorite elected official in Washington, for not-exactly-Tea-Party reasons. I like his deep theoretical and functional knowledge of law and government, especially the US Constitution; words have meanings. As he’s gained experience, I’ve increasingly liked how he has operated in the Senate, crossing party lines where there is support for specific approaches to certain issues, crafting sensible legislation, and opposing popular but ill-conceived measures. He has become a major advocate for an intelligent conservatism that is more thoughtful, more practical, and more generally appealing than that of the Tea Party, which supported his election six years ago. In my view he is the thinking conservative in the US Senate. I campaigned for him six years ago, and I’m happy to vote for him this year.

Prediction: Mike Lee by a landslide. Misty Snow, the Democratic candidate, will get some votes. Two other candidates will barely twitch the needle.

US House of Representatives (District 3)

Please don’t take my attitude about this year’s presidential candidates as a sign that I expect perfection in my candidates, or that I won’t vote for a candidate I don’t like, but who is superior to the alternative. I voted for incumbent Jason Chaffetz (R).

I didn’t enjoy it. I’d actually like him to lose — but in a primary, not a general election. He knows which conservative buttons to push, and he probably is a real conservative, but he has always been more of a show horse than a workhorse. He’s become a more prominent show horse lately, chairing a the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and pursuing all manner of high-profile miscreants in the current administration. But that still doesn’t make him a workhorse.

Prediction: Chaffetz will win easily. Democrat Stephen Tryon will finish with a lower percentage of the vote than Misty Snow will get in the Senate race.

Utah Governor

I voted for Gary Herbert, on the strength of his standing up from time to time against the excesses of the wing nut majority in the Utah Legislature. I take this to mean that he that understands himself to be governor of the whole state, not just the right wing.

I haven’t been seriously put off by him in general. And I like his running mate, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. Cox is conservative and articulate without being hostile and nutty about it. And Utah, at least, has a robust economy.

There’s a Libertarian running, Brian Kamerath. And there’s a Democrat, Mike Weinholtz. Yawn. It won’t be close. I only mentioned them to be fair, because I’m about to mention their least august rival.

We have an opportunity we haven’t had for an election or two. Superdell Schanze is running for governor on the Independent American ticket. If you think Donald Trump is crazy, and that’s what you like most about him, you’ll just adore Superdell. And judging by past shenanigans, I’d have to say he’s far more likely than either major presidential candidate to end up indicted. Again. So give him a look, if you’re into lowbrow political farce.

Prediction: As noted, Gary Herbert. It won’t be close.

Utah Attorney General

As a state Republican delegate four years ago, I studied Sean Reyes [“RAY-us”] carefully, hoping to find a credible alternative to John Swallow, whose corruption was a poorly-kept secret for years among Republican insiders. I liked Reyes then, but he lost. I was delighted at his appointment after John Swallow resigned.

Prediction: Reyes will win, and it won’t be close. Democrat Jon Harper will finish second. A pair of third-party candidates . . . won’t.

Utah State Auditor

As a legislator, Republican John Dougall was more conservative than I am, but I liked him a lot. He’s conscientious, intelligent, hard working, and fun. As State Auditor he’s practically a superhero, cleaning up the sort of casual abuses which accumulate in a one-party state, and – if I’m not mistaken – cracking the foundation of the old boy network.

Plus I just like talking with the guy.

Prediction: Dougall will win, and it really won’t be close. Democrat Mike Mitchell‘s vote count will be a useful benchmark for future campaigns, when strategists wonder how many people in Utah will vote for a Democrat no matter who’s in the race. (I’m not kidding. That’s a useful metric.)

Utah State Senate, District 14

Dan Hemmert, the Republican, got my vote, but I can’t say it was out of any personal enthusiasm I feel for his platform. I’d rather have been voting for Holly Richardson, one of his numerous primary opponents. But we’ll see how he does.

Prediction: Hemmert will win in a walk. There’s no Democrat on the ballot to take up a dozen or two percentage points, just a couple of third-party candidates.

Utah State Legislature, District 56

Republican Kay Christofferson is an incumbent running completely unopposed, which is unfortunate. Maybe I’m just spoiled by memories of voting for John Dougall, when he ran in the old District 27. But Mr. Christofferson has done nothing to set himself apart from the rest of the Republican legislative majority, so I didn’t feel moved to vote for him.

Prediction: Christofferson — and I’m going to get this one right, at least. No one else is in the race.

Utah County Commission, Seat C

The Republican candidate, Nathan Ivie, doesn’t thrill me. Apart from general competence, which I cannot judge on the data I have – unless I’m to judge it harshly by his campaign website — he has failed to impress me on the two issues I value most at the county level.

I want the county commission expanded from three to at least five or maybe seven commissioners, and I want those elected from districts, not at large. If he doesn’t care enough about that to find it worth mentioning at his site, I am not swayed either way, for or against him.

I also want county commissioners who are committed to public transit, which he clearly is not. He opposed BRT in Provo and Orem but is now resigned to it. This sways me against him.

I also checked to see who the Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon group likes, if anyone, and it’s apparently Ivie. That almost moved me to vote for him, but not quite.

The Democratic candidate, Jeanne Bowen, says fluffy things about being people-centered, but the material I was able to find from her said practically nothing about issues. I was unimpressed.

By the way, an obsession with never raising taxes, no matter what — as we often hear ad nauseam in our county commission races — is a disqualifying attribute in my book, for reasons I won’t belabor here. I haven’t heard either candidate saying that this year, but I might have missed it.

As a newly-unaffiliated voter, I decided that henceforth, candidates need to give me compelling reasons to vote for or against them, and if none does, none gets my vote. I decided this after voting for state senate, or I might not have voted then.

I didn’t vote in this race.

Prediction: Nathan Ivie will walk away with it anyway. That’s what it usually means to be a Republican in Utah County.

Judicial Retention

Having been given no compelling arguments for opposing the retention of any of the sitting judges on my ballot, and having no personal knowledge of their work, and having seen the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission’s unanimous endorsements (Utah Voter Information pamphlet), I voted to retain all of them.

Note that some of them appear on the ballot twice, because they serve in two jurisdictions, and retention for each jurisdiction is separate.

My prediction? Yawn.

Utah Constitutional Amendment A

According to the Utah Voter Information pamphlet, where information about proposed amendments begins on page 35, here’s what this proposed amendment is about:

The current Utah Constitution requires elected or appointed officers to take an oath of office. The wording of the oath is specified in the Utah Constitution. The oath requires officers to swear to support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States and “the Constitution of this State.” Constitutional Amendment A makes a technical change to the wording of the oath of office. The Amendment changes the wording from “the Constitution of this State” to “the Constitution of the State of Utah.” The Amendment is technical in nature and does not change the meaning of the oath of office or of the Utah Constitution. (emphasis added)

My view: Yeah, whatever. I voted yes.

It will pass.

Utah Constitutional Amendment B

This proposed amendment relates to the use of the State School Fund to fund public schools in Utah. The following changes are included in this ballot measure:

  • Change the description of the funds that can be used from “interest and dividends” to “earnings,” to include types of earnings which are not, technically, interest or dividends, such as the return from selling stock that has increased in value. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
  • Create a cap on the percentage of fund value that can be spent in a given year, and fix it at four percent. Only “interest and dividends” — or after this amendment, “earnings” — can be spent, not the fund balance, but the idea here is that they can’t be spent in excess of four percent of the fund balance anyway. I have no objection to this limit. The fund is a long-term play, not for short-term convenience.
  • Change the manner in which funds are required to be invested from “safely” to “prudently,” the latter being a common term used to describe responsible investment of funds. When I read this language, before any explanations, I thought “safely” was fanciful; there’s no such thing as investment without risk. I support the change.

I voted yes.

Prediction: The education lobby is saying that this change will bring more funding to the schools. If it wasn’t going to pass without that — it likely would have — it will certainly pass now.

Utah Constitutional Amendment C

The language on the ballot is:

Shall the Utah Constitution be amended to allow a property tax exemption for tangible personal property that is leased by the state or by a county, city, town, school district, or other political subdivision of the state?

You can read the arguments for and against in the pamphlet; treatment of this proposal begins on page 43. In my view, there’s a weak argument against the measure, because it will very slightly narrow the tax base, and the opposition adds a shallow insistence that taxing a business may or may not increase costs to customers. The best argument for the measure, in my view, is that it doesn’t make sense for one taxing entity to be collecting taxes from another.

I voted yes.

Prediction: there’s an outside chance this won’t pass, because it offers some entities a property tax exemption, but it’s technical enough that voters will probably just approve it.

Alpine School District Proposition 1

Conventional wisdom says you don’t float a bond issue when voter turnout is expected to be high, especially in a presidential election year. But Alpine School District’s umpteen-million dollar bond issue will pass easily nonetheless. It will fund several new schools, rebuild a few others, and also pay for security upgrades and some other changes around the district.

What’s that? You want to know the actual number? Good luck finding it in the district’s online information about the proposal. It’s there, but it’s hidden. Personally, I think we voters deserve more transparency than that.

It’s $387 million. A big number, but it’s a big district.

I think enough voters understand that the student demographics in Utah are simply brutal. It’s a minor miracle that this bond issue does not require a tax rate increase. And despite some philosophical differences with ASD, I share the general sense that the district is well managed.

Astute voters will also appreciate that, given very low interest rates, this is an excellent time to bond.

It’s worth noting that there is a sense in which this bond issue does require a tax increase. Because it will be paid for by funds which have previously been used to pay off other debts (which debts are now fully discharged), our taxes could have decreased instead. This argument ought to be made in all such situations — but in this one, the actual needs outweigh the rhetoric. The expenditures are necessary; it makes more sense to bond for them than to tax for them outright.

There will be opposition in American Fork, based on verbal promises to some people that the next bond issue would include a new auditorium for American Fork High School — which this one doesn’t. These promises were made a few years ago to encourage support for the previous bond issue. I wish they had been made in writing, but apparently — perhaps intentionally — they weren’t.

My response to friends and neighbors who have approached me on this issue is this:

This proposed bond issue is primarily for new schools, and to rebuild aging ones. The need is unmistakable. It’s not funding expanded or upgraded athletic facilities anywhere, as far as I can tell. So support this bond issue.

But next time there’s a bond issue proposal which includes improvements to athletic facilities, be sure it also includes a new AFHS auditorium. Start early, and be heard. Even if the administration leans heavily toward former coaches, not former fine arts teachers, there’s still some support for the arts there, and they’re political creatures too.

And next time get it in writing.

I voted yes.

Prediction: it will pass with at least 70% of the vote.

The Long-Awaited Conclusion

So vote how you think best. I hope some of this has been helpful.

Thanks for reading.

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