EdgeWise 5.2.2004


Fixing Elections: Help IRV and Voting Issues

On Monday Alma Wheeler Smith and Craig Harvey (M-FORE) will be speaking about IRV and other voting issues at St. Mary's student parish. A few reporters are going to be there, and a big turn out would boost the prominence of the articles.

Unfortunately, 3-4 extremists from Ave Maria are incensed that a prominent pro-choice catholic will be speaking at all about anything, and are planning on disrupting at least the Q&A session that follows the talk if we can't negotiate them just sending a nasty letter. We've invited Michigan peace teams to help keep a lid on tensions, but I really hope we get a good turn out of normal people to insure the extremists feel marginalized, and aren't tempted to say anything really nasty.

There is a 2004 City Ballot initiative to restore Instant Runoff Voting (aka Preference voting) to Ann Arbor Elections. In addition, recent scandals regarding electronic touchscreen voting machines have not been widely publicized. Voter participation is terribly low, and some existing barriers to participation contribute directly to that. These are the issues need to be explored in our community, and that people need to make their own decisions on. That's all the talk is about.

This forum isn't about abortion, but it is about our Democracy's right to a life. It is about a free choice in the ballot box.

Ann Arbor (MI) elected its first black mayor, Al Wheeler, using IRV in 1975. The system was repealed in a low-turnout, spring election. The repeal effort was sponsored by backers of the mayor candidate who had the most first choice votes but failed to win a majority when 2nd choice votes of eliminated candidates were counted. The challenge of hand counting IRV ballots, which took one week and did not go smoothly in this case, played a role in the campaign to repeal the system. Most modern voting equipment, including electronic Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) and optical scanners, is compatible with instant runoff voting. More information on IRV is available at the Center for Voting and Democracy.

Alma Wheeler Smith, given her father Al Wheeler's experience, is uniquely qualified to speak on the issue of IRV. Her political career has made her an expert on voting issues. There is nothing in the topic of this talk which contradicts Catholic teaching. To not have this talk would be an abrogation of a responsibility to educate the public on an issue that will be vital to the parish and the public this year. The St. Mary's Student Parish Peace and Justice Ministry educates and advocates for Peace and Social Justice as scrupulously conforms to Catholic principles and as is informed by Catholic Social Teaching. The talk is going forward, but only after weathering a firestorm of opposition. We need to support this talk. Even when the group invited Bishop Gumbleton it was controversial because of his liberal views on social justice, when he's a Bishop!

Here's the info:

St. Mary Student Parish Peace & Justice Ministry Presents:
Fixing Elections
  • Get Out The Vote Efforts
  • Voting Machine Scandals
  • Instant Runoff Voting
Alma Wheeler Smith
Former Michigan State Senator
Craig Harvey
Michigan Focus on Reforming Elections
Monday, February 9, 2004
7:30 PM
St. Mary Student Parish
331 Thompson Street
Ann Arbor, MI

"Hence the best government is ... of the power of the people, inasmuch as the rulers can be chosen from the people, and the election of the rulers belongs to the people." -St. Thomas Aquinas

"Every believer is called to faithful citizenship, to become an informed, active, and responsible participant in the political process." - U.S. Bishops' 1999 statement on Faithful Citizenship
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