[Fwd: Re: The Nader Campaign.]

Michael Hoover hoov at freenet.tlh.fl.us
Tue Aug 22 11:31:44 PDT 2000

> From: Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu> wrote:
> > the typical voter in November will undoubtedly be faced with DOZENS of
> candidates.
> The might include:
> President Senator Congressman Governor Secretary of State State Treasurer
>(etc., etc.) Head of State Public Utility Regulators Members of state public
> utility board State Senator State Representative Chief Justice of State
> Supreme Court State Supreme Court Justices State Appeals Court Judges
> Local court judges Probate Court judges Family court judges
> Traffic court judges Justices of the Peace County Sheriff
> State District Attorney City District Atty. or prosecutor
> Board of education Zoning board
> Head of county government Members of county commission
> City Mayor Members of City Commission
> Texas has a railroad commission that I think is elected, and there are
> many weird and wonderful variations, pensions board, dog catchers,
> library boards, transportation commissions, water authorities... [ends.]
> Are there any actual electoral districts which elect their dog catchers? I'm
> curious because all through the 1988 Pres election campaign my employer, a
> Key West plumber, mocked Bush and Dukakis on the grounds 'he couldn't get
> elected dog catcher'.
> Just curious ...
> Graham B

While US may lag far behind other "democratic" nations in voter turnout, it is far ahead in *opportunities* to vote & *number of votes* cast by any one voter in a given 4yr period. Separation of powers has meant that casting votes for legislative and executive positions at all gov't levels. And multi-tier US federalism - national, state, county, municipal - has resulted in about 87,000 governing jurisdictions (for people who claim to dislike gov't, US folks sure created a bunch of them). Counties, municipalities, towns/townships, special-purpose (i.e., school boards, sewer districts) gov'ts retain features of "long ballot" - with origins in so-called Jacksonian Era - containing many offices to be filled by election, including a lot of local administrative officials not engaged in policymaking.

Among so-called Progressive Era reforms was introduction of "short ballot" in which voters elect offices that set policy. Elected dog catchers (generally called animal control officers today) pretty much went out with SB movement. Chief administrative position is appointed in some areas and part of public employment system in others. Department is independent in some places and part of police/sheriff depts. in others. I think all states require certification & licensing for jobs that actually involve handling of animals.

Short-ballot notwithstanding, Carrol's list could also include public hospitals boards, mosquito control boards, county coroners, county register of deeds, county surveyors, all elected somewhere in the US. Should be pointed out, however, that all these elections are staggered so that some are held one year, others another year, still others a third year. Plus, municipal or country elections may be held in the spring and state elections in the fall (or vice-versa) of one year. And don't forget intiatives & referenda or primaries.

One consequence of morass of elections is low turnout and, as Kenneth Prewitt's study of city council members indicates, elected officials who win by getting vote of small percentage of eligible voters (average is about 6-8% for both ward and at-large elections) do not really worry about getting defeated at the polls. Michael Hoover

ps: yes, Texas does have elected railroad commission, Jim Hightower was one of commissioners back in 1980s...I saw Texas public opinion polls several years ago indicating that majority wanted to return to electing dog catchers...

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list