Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
“Ghost voting”? Sounds more like fraud to me. Another example of our representatives not doing their jobs.
–Ghost voting must be stopped

Dear Phantom disenfranchiser,

Of all the asinine pastimes the kids are into these days—falling-down pants wearing, Hannah Wyoming, sniffing each other like virtual dogs on Facebook—this one takes the cake, plays Scrabble against it and loses. You have a perfectly good car, and what do you do? Leave it rolling and strut down the street next to it to impress girls? Yeah, they’ll be real impressed when your car introduces itself to someone else’s fender—or when someone introduces themselves to your driver’s seat and zooms off while you’re dancing with the pedestrians.  

In my youth, eyelashes would flutter for anything on four wheels, even some broken-down pile of junk. Heck, I shared my first jalopy with three other fellows. If any of us had ever seen one of the others dancing around like a damn fool while the car rolled down the street next to him, he’d have lost driving privileges—and counted himself lucky we didn’t push him under the wheels.

You did say ghost riding, right? Ghost voting? Oh sure, I was really into the idea when I first died. But now that I’ve hung around the afterlife for the amount of time that it takes to ripen a coed, I’ve noticed there are some real throwbacks around here. If they let some of these knuckledraggers vote, it goes without saying that neither Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would have stood a chance. That, and they’d probably put Don Imus on the $20 bill for real.

Say who? You’re referring to when Kevin De Leon pushed Mary Hayashi’s voting button in the Assembly chambers. My mistake. You see, we had a different name for that sort of thing back in my day. We called it “business as usual.”

Don’t act so shocked. In the taverns where I used to park my butt, both your beer and your broad were fair game if you left ‘em feelin’ lonely for half a minute. In my butt’s other parking space, the legislature, you could only call dibs on your nubile young new secretary for a week, an endorsement wasn’t official until election day (hats off to Lloyd Levine for keeping that tradition alive), and you guarded your voting button like the shotgun-wielding father of a beauty queen.

Nowadays, members’ buttons are about as well-guarded as the Arizona border. Back then, we knew the value of things. It helped that we had a lot fewer things to know the value of. Everything you got, you fought for and protected. I don’t mean this as a knock of Hayashi, but if she’d grown up in the kind of poverty I did, Mr. De Leon’s hand would have come away from her desk with a bear trap clamped around it.  

Not that everyone in the Leg operated that way. There were those who treated their public service as a kind of social hour, or an excuse to travel the state acting important. And my oh my how I loved those legislators. More than once an Assemblyman cast a key vote for one of my bills while he was judging pies at some backwater county fair. Hell, part of the reason I ruled the chamber with an iron finger was to keep control over all those neglected levers.

So now Karen Bass has pledged to clean things up and ban the practice. I suppose her hand was forced by this latest bit of outrage as the public saw the sausage being made. How much do you want to bet that missed votes become a big campaign issue next time out?

Not that it has to be this way. One option is to make the buddy/seatmate system official, or to empower chiefs of staff to vote in the boss’ absence (they already do everything anyway, down to wiping the member’s nose). Though that would be forgetting that we live in the information age—and rule that state that made it happen. If staffers can chatter away on Blackberries until their thumbs fall off, would it be so hard to equip members with an electronic device that let’s them vote from wherever they are? Not just while judging cow spots for the Podunkville High School 4H Club, but while hang-gliding or, say, sipping some fine French wine.
We’d have to ban voting-while-driving (going to leave many obvious jokes on the table here), but otherwise, the world could be your Chamber. I suppose there’s a danger that a member might vote in a back room with some lobbyist looking over their shoulder. But ask yourself, would that really make any difference?

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