Take my bets

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.

Listen, I don't have $10,000 to bet, like Mitt Romney. But here are a couple of friendly wagers for Gainesville city commissioners.

I bet if they put a charter amendment on the ballot to move city elections to the fall in even-numbered years, it would pass.

Because Americans understand that America votes in the fall.

And I bet if they put an amendment on the ballot to have partisan city elections, it would fail.

Because most folks have had it up to here with partisan politics.

Wait a minute, Cunningham (you say, brow furrowed), if people are so fed up, why does partisanship so dominate our politics?

That's easy. Because partisans write the election laws.

Democrats are apoplectic because Republicans have rigged Florida's election laws to suppress voter turnout; mostly, the turnout of voters inclined to support Democrats.

It's a disgrace. I'd say it's unAmerican, except that rigging election laws for partisan advantage is a tradition stretching back to the dawn of the Republic.

But let's be honest about this, Dems.

Gainesville's election laws are rigged to suppress voter turnout, and I've never heard the local Democratic Party murmur a peep of protest about it.

Holding city elections in splendid isolation — in the spring, and each and every year to boot — is a guaranteed voter turnoff. When a 20 percent turnout is deemed a landslide, it's a joke that "the people have spoken."

Oh I know, I can't tell you how many city pols have told me: "We don't discourage anyone from voting. The people who know enough and care enough about city issues will take the trouble to vote no matter when the election is held."

Funny thing. The Republicans in Tallahassee say pretty much the same thing: "We don't discourage anybody from voting. If you care enough you will jump through the hoops and get registered no matter your political leanings."

Same old song, different beat.

But people don't want to jump through hoops. They are too busy living their lives to bother. They want registering and voting to be as convenient as possible.

Because then more people would, you know, vote.

But there's nothing that scares politicians more than the prospect of more people voting.

The dirty little secret in Gainesville politics is that the timing of city elections suits the interests of candidates who know how to eke a majority vote out of a minority of voters.

It's cheaper for them to run in the spring (although it's more expensive for city taxpayers).

Furthermore, if they did have to run in the fall, city candidates would be forced to compete for attention with candidates for other offices.

Even worse, they would have to work harder to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters.

You know, the political mainstream.

I could be wrong. Maybe Gainesville voters like the election game just the way it's rigged.

Take my bets, commissioners. Let's see.

Ron Cunningham is editorial page editor.

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