Monday, October 15, 2007

Michigan's primary question

Things are not what they seem. After last week's snub by Democratic presidential candidates, the GOP appears to care more about Michigan than the Dems. They don't even have to, really. It is enough to appear as though they do at this point. Success is 80 percent showing up.

Elections are like dodge ball, a team sport where choosing sides determines outcomes. The Dems didn't even pick Michigan -- last. It isn't that they think we are feeble at dodge ball. They just want to enforce party rules. That's fair, but unfortunate for Dems in Michigan, who now face a public relations, administrative, and electoral nightmare.

According to Bill Nowling, spokesperson for the Michigan GOP, a party cannot unilaterally withdraw from the January primary. So, unless the GOP and the Dems agree to cancel, the show will go on. With a gutted ballot, there isn't much incentive for Dems to vote. What's the point? You can't vote for Edwards, Obama, Richardson or Biden. You can vote for the others, but the Democratic National Committee will not seat the delegates at the nominating convention.

There is some talk of having separate caucuses for Democrats in early February. This would be acceptable to the Democratic National Committee. But there is confusion as to whether the party can do a primary and caucuses. There may well be other issues on the ballot in January, like an income tax measure. So, you'd be compelled to vote even if you didn't care to choose a presidential candidate.

Additional caucuses would mean Democratic sympathizers would have to show up twice. Some voters experience caucuses as closed events. This makes the GOP primary appear to support transparency in electoral procedures. But things are not what they seem.

It is common wisdom among GOP elders that low voter turnout favors their party. Over the last two presidential elections, interesting strategies were employed to reach that end. The 2000 election had Florida. The 2004 election had Ohio. Will Michigan be the Ohio of 2008?

In order to win, you just have to get a little more than the other candidate. Just a little. A little here, a little there.

Michigan Election Reform Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan group working to assure fair, honest elections in Michigan. What? You assumed everything was fine?

This group contends that there are efforts afoot to purge voters in Michigan just before the November presidential election. It is complicated and brilliant. They claim the initiative originates at the Secretary of State's Office. It involves post cards mailed to every voter in Michigan setting in motion a process of gathering undeliverables...the stuff of caging. But it isn't really caging since every voter received the card. The original mailing was sent in July 2006, and if voters whose postcard was undeliverable do not vote by the August 2008 election, they will be purged just in time for November of 2008 -- show time -- and they will not know it until they arrive to vote. The voters most likely to be affected are those who only vote in presidential elections. You know, the bulk of the popular vote.

Remember, Michigan is completely and totally in play for 2008. We have 17 electors up for grabs. At this moment, the GOP ground game and PR strategy appear superior. The Dems appear in disarray. For the sake of the spectators seeking an interesting contest, let's hope the Dems can get their game on before Halloween.