John Colson: Time to get down to political basics and vote
October 8, 2018
OK, it's done.
We now have a U.S. Supreme Court that is, in its majority membership, fully invested in following the dictates and desires of the corporate power players, the white-male supremacist agenda to keep women and people of color in their historic place of disempowerment and subjugation, and the idiotic, undemocratic and anti-humanist principles (if he has any true principles) of our popular-vote-losing president, Donald J. Trump, to mention just some of the fallout from the recent battles over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the high court.
But enough about that.
For the millions of us who are not happy with what's happening in Washington, D.C., as well as in many states around the country, we have our work cut out for us.
And that work, to put it mildly, is to do what we can to ensure that local and state governments do not sink even further into the mire of greed, self-interest and intolerance toward any sentiments that do not toe the Republican line.
What that means, at its most basic level, is that we've got to use the main tool still left to us, which means we must get out and vote in the upcoming midterm election.
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Naturally, there are impediments, and the main one is a reflection of how we got here in the first place — we need to reverse decades of voter-suppression efforts by the Republican party, aimed at keeping non-whites, students, liberals and progressives from voting in local, county and state elections in states around the country.
And just in case you think such voter-suppression tactics are limited to the southern and deep-red Midwestern states, think again.
A recent story in The Denver Post notes that the Secretary of State has taken the unusual step of investigating the 7th Judicial District, which includes Gunnison County and five others, based on complaints about unjustified legal action by District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller against an undisclosed number of voters in the tiny town of Pitkin (which, humorously enough, is situated in Gunnison County).
Hotsenpiller, according to the news story, was accused of going to "extraordinary lengths in an attempt to prove voters were ineligible to cast ballots," lengths that included sending investigators to take pictures of homes in Pitkin, and encouraging residents to squeal on their neighbors about perceived voting irregularities.
A letter from the state Attorney's Office names four voters (at least) whom the state has concluded were legally eligible to vote despite Hotsenpiller's claims to the contrary, and has subtly castigated Hotsenpiller for not releasing "a single record related to prior challenges and investigations" about the alleged voting problems.
Hotsenpiller has denied his office did anything wrong, saying only that his office prosecuted seven people (out of an estimated population of 66 in Pitkin) on misdemeanor charges related to a 2016 municipal election. Of that group, according to Hotsenpiller's response to the state, six pleaded guilty and received deferred judgments and community service terms, while a seventh person was found guilty in a two-day trial.
Small change in the big picture, I know, but generally speaking, where there is one such case that becomes known to the public, there likely are many others that are not known.
And the unadorned fact is that any effort to limit people's ability to exercise their voting franchise is simply unacceptable, because once such limitations find a foothold in state and local politics, they tend to worsen over time.
There have been other whispers of voting irregularities around the state over the past few decades, including allegations that some Garfield County candidates have taken so-called "dark money" — contributions that are kept secret under federal guidelines — that was used for such political dirty tricks as last-minute brochures making wild, unsupported accusations about a certain progressive candidate who was unable to answer the accusers because of the nearness to election day.
No charges ever were filed in that particular case, but local politicos know who the players were and have long memories, so it is to be hoped that no such tawdry tactics will mar the 2018 midterms.
In any event, we have about 28 days left before election day. And those who would like to see a change of leadership in the makeup of, say, the Garfield Board of County Commissioners should be planning to vote for Democrat Paula Stepp to replace Tom Jankovsky.
Stepp is promising, among other things, to do more to protect public lands and public access to rivers and waterways, as well as to better balance the county's actions with regard to the interests of the oil and gas industry versus those of the citizens whose lives are negatively affected by that industry.
But most importantly, she will provide a foil against the positions of longtime BOCC incumbents John Martin and Mike Samson, who mostly do whatever the oil and gas industry wants and who generally have ignored pleas from residents whose lives and properties have been blighted by industry activities.
And while it is true that she often will be a lone voice of reason on the three-person board, one voice is better than none and may pave the way to changes in future elections. Check out her website at http://www.paulastepp.com to learn more.
Regardless of how you vote, though, the important things is to do it, whether by mail or in person on Election Day.
We cannot afford to continue to let our political process be shanghaied, demeaned and turned against us by self-interest and political tribalism.
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.