Democracy has been described as the most chaotic form of government because it is difficult to obtain and maintain a majority without some form of manipulation. Nationally we are faced with a concerted effort by Republicans to suppress voting among certain constituencies that traditionally vote the Democratic ticket.
Actions currently undertaken include requiring voters to have a street address on their voter registration form. Our indigenous people, mostly in the western states, may live on lands designated as “reservations.” If you have ever visited a “reservation” such as the several Lakota lands like the Rosebud Reservation, you would have noticed that there are no or few actual, formally named streets designed there. Thus, without a street address many Native Americans are unable to fill out a voter registration form. With a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld that restriction.
Some 27 states now require a state-issued photo ID card, which many poor people cannot obtain due to inability to travel to the county courthouse – or, perhaps they are infirm or even homeless. (Not all homeless people have no jobs. Many do but cannot afford to live anywhere. They are still citizens.) Reducing the number of polling places, reducing the hours they are open are two more means of voter suppression. Then there is purging voter rolls. Between 2000 and 2016, the state of Georgia removed an estimated 2.3 million names – many of people still alive and registered to vote. Of course, they were black citizens. And, guess what? The recently appointed justice to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, supports voter ID laws. His reach could even find some parts of California. Don’t think it could not happen here.
Locally, indifference is a form of voter suppression because it removes citizens from the process of properly examining candidates for representative office — for local City Council seats as an example.
Incumbents love your indifference because it makes their re-election more secure. As noted in Part One in this series of Op-Eds, a pitifully small crowd controls what happens in West Hollywood politics and administration. It sets the tone and the stage, and those who do not participate must go along for the ride.
I well remember walking the streets of West Hollywood to obtain signature for the cityhood petition and finding so many who felt it was the right thing to do and looked forward to participating in the process. Now…? Then, there were no questions like this: How long do we retain a councilperson? On what basis? Is the city really planning for the future or just letting things happen – despite the Long Range Plan – and its several alterations? How can I be heard outside the council meeting’s limited time for public comment?
Back in the early days of cityhood, at Council meetings in the auditorium, members of West Hollywood West Residents Association (WHWRA) sported little white badges attached to their collars. The Council, seated on the stage, could look out and see that at least one group of constituents was there to be seen and heard. We seem to have become much too sophisticated for such shows of force.
Years ago, at several events sponsored by the WHWRA, I was asked to be the moderator for the candidates forum prior to municipal elections. As I look back on those long evenings when there were sometimes ten candidates, I cannot think that we threw anything but softball questions at them. We lacked the toughness to be assertive then. I apologize for that because the candidates should have been seriously grilled on the important issues.
Further, one appearance was not enough. Donors to particular candidates now hold “meet and greet” fundraisers where one can interview – for about 60 seconds – the candidate on display. WeHo TV should be available to the candidates throughout the pre-election period. More public “debates” before we get to the polls. We have a few months to prepare. For now, this midterm general election is mightily important on its own, but can function as a practice for our next municipal election. Change must be managed, as it is inevitable.
Here, by the way, from 2015, is the political party breakdown in West Hollywood from WeHo By the Numbers
Democrat – 61% of the population
Republican – 9.3% of the population
Other parties – 4.4% of the population
Unaffiliated – 24.5% of the population
Not much different from other Westside cities, we are considered a “liberal bastion,” full of concerns for the good of the public.