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When casting ballots, ignorance is dangerous

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on July 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
July 29, 2011 5:38 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Here’s the polite way to put it: Voters who’ve done their homework on the candidates and issues deserve a warm glow of civic virtue as they fill out their ballots.

A less polite version: Citizens who don’t have a clue should either educate themselves or leave the job of self-government to the better informed.

Consider the unfortunate fact that Will Baker and Robert Hill are the sole challengers of, respectively, Ryan Mello and Lauren Walker, sitting members of the Tacoma City Council.

Baker and Hill both have criminal records. Hill stalks women, has grave mental health problems and appears fixated on guns. Last December, he was convicted of stalking; in 2008, he was convicted of felony forgery.

Despite the forgery conviction and a string of arrests, Hill ran for Pierce County sheriff that year; he finished far behind Sheriff Paul Pastor but won 52,000 votes and beat out a third candidate.

Repeat: 52,000 people in Pierce County voted for a felon instead of a professional law enforcement executive. Maybe they liked his name.

Baker is another piece of work. He once made a habit of disrupting city and county council meetings and was convicted of disorderly conduct. He nevertheless was able to con Republican leaders into nominating him for state auditor in 2004 and went on to win more than 840,000 votes – a third of the total.

Baker and Hill don’t stand the proverbial snowball’s chance against Mello and Walker. That’s not the point – the point is that they’ve already demonstrated how many citizens will cast their ballots in complete ignorance. It’s scary.

It’s not that hard to get educated. At a minimum, citizens should read the local voters pamphlet that was mailed to their homes (it’s also on the Pierce County auditor’s website). If a candidate hasn’t bothered to submit information, sounds incoherent or grossly misinformed – well, consider voting for the other person.

Even the voters pamphlet is occasionally misleading. This year, for example, Dane Looker is listed as running against Therese Ngo Pasquier and Michael Powell for Position 2 on the Puyallup School District.

One problem: Looker has dropped out of the race, though his name remains on the ballot and his photo and information are in the pamphlet.

If voters don’t know that, the buff-looking former NFL player could edge out one of the genuine candidates and leave the voters with no choice in November. Not a pretty prospect.

Ignorance at the polls is not bliss.

The bizarre election of Dale Washam as Pierce County assessor-treasurer two years ago is proof that disastrously unqualified candidates can actually get elected if enough voters aren’t paying attention.

Now the public is getting the bills: lawsuits from county employees who say Washam illegally harassed and retaliated against them – claims that have been corroborated by multiple outside investigations.

No more Washams, please.

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