I first did this four years ago, when I lived in a state where the people are permitted to actually exercise democracy instead of republicanism and vote directly on a lot of issues. I also explained in a contemporary post why I didn’t vote for the eventual winner of the Presidential race.
I’m back again, voting for the first time since 2008 (I was moving in 2010 and didn’t get notice of my polling station… and I felt a little resentful about the democratic process given what the person in my life who was its biggest advocate also chose to do with her life), publishing my ballot here with a little more explanation than last time. I’m explaining for two reasons… one, because informed voting is good, and two, because I may be creating the website with the most information about a Highland Park ballot that exists this year. It took me hours of Googling individual names to come up with any sort of information about many of the candidates and I am missing California deeply right now and their comprehensive state-issued booklets with positions and statements from all local, state, and national candidates. California takes democracy and voting much more seriously than New Jersey. I suspect that the powers that be in Jersey prefer word-of-mouth, lawn signs, and straight-party ticket voting to an informed populous.
As to why this is public, (A) my life is public and (B) I truly believe that a public voting system is preferable to private in an era when voter fraud and malfunction are bigger threats than recrimination and retaliation. I don’t really think anyone in 2012 America has to fear the latter. And if your vote is your voice, as everyone tells me, why are you whispering?
Anyway, to the ballot:
Presidential Electors: Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala
I’m a registered member of the Green Party, proud to vote for this ticket that is not openly advocating voting for the Democrat in swing states and is willing to stand up and criticize Obama’s moderate-corporatist agenda. Obama wasn’t half the President I thought he might be when I still declined to vote for him in 2008, and this statement: “Ultimately, I can’t end up supporting someone who has made one of their only concrete policy articulations a description of exactly how many Afghans they want to kill” proved to be fairly prophetic about an administration whose main weekly task is combing a kill list and summarily executing people thereon with flying robots. Meanwhile, Jill Stein has advocated for peace, the poor (not just some vaguely upwardly-mobile middle class), the environment (and would actually help the environment, not try to prioritize “the economy” over it), and sustainability. Not to mention that I just think it’s important to vote for alternative parties in general, since the two parties being bought out by corporations and pretending they have differences is probably the second or third biggest issue I care about, behind war/peace and poverty.
US Senator: Gregory Pason
I wanted to vote Green here, but Ken Wolski seems particularly uninspired to me and also spent a huge portion of his time working in Corrections, which seems bizarre for a Green candidate. Gregory Pason is the Socialist candidate and seems younger, more motivated, and more active. The Socialist agenda is basically identical to the Green one, maybe with a slight prioritization of labor over the environment, which I see as being a tough toss-up to decide. Ultimately, it just feels like Pason would shake things up more and Wolski is kind of going through the motions.
Member of the House of Representatives – 6th Congressional District: Herbert L. Tarbous
Most everyone running against incumbent Frank Pallone, Jr. is a conservative of some sort or another, including someone who ran in the Republican primary. Pallone is exactly the kind of corporatist moderate Clintony Democrat that makes me hate the party. He claims to be most concerned about the environment, but he’s ardently pro-military and seems to be a rubber-stamp for the Obama agenda. I’m not that intrigued by almost any of the alternatives, but Tarbous seems to be the best of a very poor field. I would consider writing someone in, but I do like the third-party protest vote better than that where people are trying to provide an alternative. And ultimately, I do like the Reform Party, with the major exception of their views on immigration, which are nonsensically draconian. Even Reform, though, doesn’t advocate for deportation, and their other stances are ardently dovish and sensible. Tarbous also just seems like he’s not skeezy or a crook, which is more than I can say about the Libertarian candidate. That may be a shallow way of voting, but if Jersey would give me a damn voter guide, we wouldn’t have this problem.
Surrogate: Lynda Woods Cleary
The first major-party person I’m voting for is a Republican. Ack! It actually took me a long time to figure out what a Surrogate does, and it appears to be like a County Clerk who handles records and certificates and such. The incumbent has been in power for over two decades and his entire platform is experience, which a decent number of news articles suggest is corrupt and kick-backy. Can I guarantee the challenger wouldn’t be corrupt and kick-backy in her own way? Of course not. But when it’s a toss-up between a career politician and someone who seems to have the skills for the position and the position isn’t really ideological at all so much as skills-based, I narrowly choose the challenger.
Members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders (2): Abrar “Sam” Khan and Write-In
This is a pretty awful field. We have incumbent Democrats who seem even more likely to be corrupt than the Surrogate and we have Republican challengers who seem to advocate for all the typical Republican garbage. And then a crazy Independent actually going under the banner of “America First”, which I think he must not understand the historical import of since he seems to be a first- or second-generation American. In any event, Sam Khan is running on a platform of increasing diversity, a weird tagline for a Republican, and seems to be clear-eyed about the present corruption in these offices without yammering about lowering taxes and small business stuff like his fellow Republican candidate. The Democrats are clearly party-boss patsies that it’s hard to even make eye-contact with in replica without feeling slimy. I’m not excited about Sam Khan and I literally can’t tolerate any of his opponents, so I’ll write in some co-worker at Rutgers who I respect or something with my second vote. Yay protest.
Members of the Borough Council (2): Susan Welkovits and Write-In
Susan Welkovits seems kind of cool in her website profile and my moderate to liberal friends will be elated that I’m finally voting for a Democrat. She seems like one of these competent, compassionate reasonable people that occasionally get into mid-level politics before corporate donations and party whips take over. I would love to know what the Republican believes, but Herbert Gross has literally zero campaign websites or positions anywhere – his Facebook group is liked by 8 people and only has scarily conservative quotes from people like Goldwater and Churchill on it. Weird. Welkovits’ fellow Democrat is a funeral-home director named Potts (you can’t make life up) who was appointed to replace a resignation and seems to be riding it out without taking stances and seems wholly uninteresting and uninspired. As one of the only Highland Park residents I know, I guess I’m getting a vote for Council.
State Public Question No. 1 – Building Our Future Bond Act: Yes
Probably the only thing I like in the state of New Jersey, aside from a handful of people, is Rutgers. This is literally a giant check to Rutgers and possibly some of the other state universities. “Storey, would you like this state to become a giant cash funnel to your favorite Jersey institution?” Why yes, Jersey, I would. Thanks for asking.
State Public Question No. 2 – Something About Judge Salaries: Yes
From everything I’ve read on this, this measure is to close a loophole whereby judges and judicial employees were permitted to not have to pay more toward their pensions when all other state employees were made to. Apparently judges were protected to the point of this requiring a Constitutional Amendment to change. Which is ridiculous. But I’m all for equality and not thinking judges are more special than other state employees.
School Election – Borough of Highland Park (3): Claire Berkowitz, Adam Sherman, Darcie Cimarusti
There are signs all over HP advocating for voting for everyone but Berkowitz, but I like non-incumbents and she seems eminently reasonable and good. And lawn signs make me kind of suspicious that the person left out just isn’t part of some insider machine, which is good. Sherman is young and a recent Rutgers graduate and fourth-generation Highland Park, which I kind of don’t care about, but someone who grew up in the system and can still remember high school is always good on a School Board. Cimarusti just seems awesome – she’s some sort of education reform crusader who has spoken all over the state and taken on the establishment and is one of maybe three or four people on this entire list that I’m actually genuinely excited to vote for. So the one left out is Catherine Bull, who seems to be another one of these career coasters, who has almost nothing of interest to say in her platform, and is the School Board President to boot. Let’s shake things up a little, I guess.
I don’t really care if you vote today. I can understand you believing the system is sufficiently broken that participating indicates tacit acceptance of the results of a broken system and you may not want to do that. But I do think casting protest votes and upping the percentages for third-party candidates, especially those advocating sanity in a country so in love with its hubris that it thinks targeted robot assassinations are totally acceptable and not even newsworthy, is worthwhile. And some local elections probably have good people trying to get elected too, so maybe go support them. The important thing is to talk about this stuff in a way that isn’t just rah-rah democracy, but to actually be clear-eyed about what’s wrong with the system and be willing to support fixing it.