Monday, July 02, 2007

Penny Democracy vs. Million-Dollar Democracy

The City's election overseers are complaining to the Boston Globe that the Councilor-At-Large race will require a city-wide preliminary election in September -- to narrow the number of candidates from nine to eight. A city-wide preliminary election is currently required when there are nine or more candidates on the Councilor-At-Large ballot vying for the four seats. The cost of a city-wide election is approximately $500,000.
"The law requires us to do it," said Geraldine Cuddyer, Boston's election commissioner. "So we'll just have to do it."
The City's elections are currently being overseen by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin, after the embarrassing November 2006 elections in which many precincts ran out of paper ballots for up to a few hours.

Matthew Geary is a UMass-Boston undergraduate who is on the ballot, yet has only $0.01 in his campaign war chest.
"I've heard of $1, but one penny, that's a new low," Galvin said. "That doesn't strike me as a likely success story. Presumably someone is going to need more than one penny to get a message across. Assuming that person even has a message to get across."
I believe that democracy doesn't require war chests of $1,789,842.67, like Secretary Galvin reported at the end of 2006. Doorbelling costs no money, and I would much rather meet my candidates than have them spending awful amounts of money on attack ads.

Speaking of which: I met one of Matthew Geary's campaigners already and talked to him about Geary's candidacy. That is more than I can say about all of the other eight candidates for Councilor-At-Large, or either of last year's candidates for Secretary of the Commonwealth. Geary is clearly a serious candidate in my estimation, even if he might be very inexperienced. I'll take penny democracy any day over million-dollar democracy.

The Globe also ran a front-page story about At-Large Councilor Felix Arroyo who, it notes, has only $2,728 in his campaign account. I wonder if he's raised enough money that could get his message across and make him a serious candidate? Hmmm... well, he did place 2nd in the 2005 race for Councilor-At-Large... Maybe money-raising ability isn't the key criterion to establish viability of a candidate. Maybe Mitt Romney can get those dollar bills he's raised to vote? Then he can do better than 4th-place Republican candidate nation-wide.

So I say to the Boston Elections Department and its Overseers: go ahead and spend the $500,000 on the city-wide election. Then let's get back to talking with our candidates about the issues we care about.

No comments: