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What the Devil won't tell you

Register to vote now, to help Make America Boring Again

Just a few clicks as deadline approaches will help end non-voter crisis

The deadline to register to vote in this year's primary election is next Monday, July 30, and that had me thinking about the Plantagenets as I read a new report out of ASU studying the "non-voter crisis."

The Plantagenet family ruled England for about 300 years like some sort of militarized version of a Real Housewives spinoff, with all the drama and a lot more blood.

What makes monarchies so compelling is that the controversies are so human. The "issues" sort of pale to the personal relationships proving equal parts sexual, transactional and toxic. A crazy Henry, a stupid Edward, a badass DeMontfort and some nasty Despensers clashed like Tolkien characters chasing their precious golden rings.

The story of kings and queens is the story of human greatness and frailty. The story of democracy reads like a geology lesson. Popular molten pressures meet get trapped by granite resistance, and we know someday the mountain might blow but who knows when? Perhaps it can be reduced to some sort of equation so long as we remember to carry the four.

When Queen Isabel felt the political heat ready to burn her, she outfoxed her husband, nailed his mortal enemy and took over the whole damn country. Democrats are trying to settle the Bernie-Hillary spat by reforming superdelegates. So which novel do you want to read?

Point is, democracy is relatively boring.

So it's no surprise that the youngest, hippest and coolest among us — younger Arizonans — don't vote at all. Latinos are even worse about it. Low-income earners are bad too. And that, right there, is why government seems not to care so much about those groups.

The Morrison Institute at Arizona State University study calls it a "crisis" that more of us don't vote. I take some issue with that in general because poll after poll of the general public show relatively minor differences from poll after poll of likely voters.

On the other hand, the people who don't vote tend to be younger and have lower incomes than those who do. Voters tend to be less Latino than non-voters. That's why elected officials feel free to ignore all those groups. The officials got ignored by the voters first.

So guess whose ox gets gored around the table when decisions get made? In this world, no one sticks up for the people who never bothered to participate in the act of deciding.

Phoenix-based PR firm Riester conducted a focus group among non-voters, asking them "what gives?" What they found was predictable and I'll get into why those reasons are pony pucks.

PEVL up

Before I go further, time, convenience and confusion are not good enough reasons to fail to vote. Update your voter registration here and make sure you're signed up for the Permanent Early Voter List, and the Pima County Recorder's Office will deliver a ballot to straight to your mailbox. Fill it out over ramen noodles and toss it back in the mailbox and you are done. Civic duty accomplished. The whole thing takes 5-10 minutes.

Not registered at all? Get over to ServiceArizona.com and fix that. Not on the PEVL yet? Download that form, fill it out, and dig up a stamp. We'll wait.

Don't want to do it online? You can mail in your registration form, file it at the MVD, or you can do it in person. Got questions? Call the Recorder's Office at 520-724-4330.

Already registered? Double-check your address and such at the Recorder's Office site. Just do it.

Back to our story.

Quick-fire

Voters have a lot of reasons they say they don't vote and they're all straight-up nonsense.

So let's just set them up and knock em down as we consider what the ASU study cites as justifications:

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Some voters are emotionally disconnected to the responsibility or privilege of voting — it lacks the reward component. What? You want a gift card? How about clean air, workplace safety rules, not being paid in company scrip, law and order more or less prevailing to allow the free exchange of goods among a population educated in public schools?

Lack of sufficient media coverage of and public attention to local elections. It's out there. You gotta Google search it. Read TucsonSentinel.com. Read the Star, while they've still got some reporters. Listen to Bill Buckmaster and the AZPM local crew. Check out the Weekly and some blogs.

The complexity of issues relative to the voter's life and little information on how it affects “me.” Do you have a lease or own a home? You are affected by the law. Do you have a car? You are affected by the law. Do you pay taxes? ("If you take a walk, they'll tax your feet.") You are affected. C'mon. Gotta do better than that.

Lack of time to research candidates and issues. A nation of people comparing their binge-watching habits has the time.

Negativity surrounding election coverage. Here's an option: vote against the most negative campaign.

Lack of candidate options or people are unable to identify with the candidates. The apathetic can't identify with the candidates they don't research, can't find information about and are ignorant of. "I didn't do my homework because I don't know enough about the subject." That doesn't track.

Low level of trust, no faith in the system’s functionality. Ahh, now we're cooking with gas; we're getting at the nub of the issue.

I want to hit you with a truth that will blow your mind. Ready for the red pill? It may not be "politically correct" to say this but welcome to Wonderland, Alice. The system isn't corrupt. Politicians don't lie. I'll let you in on a couple other secrets. Planes aren't built to crash and medications aren't developed to kill you. Elevator cables don't snap. They're not all out to get you. They are just ignoring you because you ignore them.

"Everybody does it" is a sucker's justification. It's because everyone doesn't do it that it is news in the first place when someone does do it.

Lies and corruption are big deals because they are rare. Spin and game playing? Well, welcome to the world.

Spinners, one and all

Politicians spin and are often ignorant of the issues they are seeking to get to work on but that's not the same as lying. I have asked scores of political candidates a gazillion questions and have heard a lot of answers on topics I tend to know as much or more about than they do. Outright lies are so rare, that I remember the few that still stick in my craw.

The biggest lie told to me by a source during my career thus far was an environmental group making a false claim about which side asked for a continuance for a trial. It still pisses me off.

Yeah, every once in a while you run across a personality like perennial Southern Arizona candidate Joe Sweeney. He spent most of his career as a "Republican." I put his party affiliation in quotes because no faction in the local GOP would touch him with tongs if they were wearing safety goggles. Sweeney invented his own reality when it came to illegal immigration like he invented his own college, "the Alexander Hamilton Evening School of Law." I'm not sure being delusional is the same as lying.

Politicians spin, sure and some candidates for office are ignorant. Heck, some even run away when asked questions. It's common for progressive legislative candidates to promise more money for schools paid for by higher taxes on the rich. They never explain how they are going to secure a two-thirds supermajority to raise those taxes. I remember the super colorful state Sen. Al Melvin promising to turn Arizona into the nation's capital of "Atomic Power." It hasn't happened. Nor have we built a nuclear waste dump for fun and profit, as he promsied. That's not Al Melvin lying. That's a failure of Melvin's appreciation for the difficulty involved in making it happen (to put things politely).

Our system of government involves separation of powers, checks and balances and requires individual office holders to convince others an idea is worth pursuing. Then the new partner in crime gets to change the terms of that pursuit. Asking them for detailed solutions to complex problems is one thing. Calling them liars for failing to enact those plans in full is just silly.

What politicians do is spin their side of the story. I almost guarantee you that you do too. Ever been late for an appointment and blamed "traffic" when maybe you left 10 minutes later than you should have? You spin. Ever say, "sorry, I got busy," when you haven't gotten to work on something when you have just been procrastinating? You are trying to put yourself in the best light.

Or how about, "I'm too busy to vote," when you actually spent the entire fall playing World of Warcraft.

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It's fine. Spin is human.

What's not normal is a president of the United States lying 3,521 times in 16 months and 10 days, as tracked by the Washington Post, or 71 times in a single week, as tallied by the Toronto Star.

It's like seeing a chain-smoking platypus reading Chaucer at a Starbucks. It's not an eccentric-but-somewhat-typical representation of the ordinary. It's just wrong.

One person's corruption

The system is heavily influenced by those who participate in it, and some people have more convenient tools to influence it. Writing a check is a damned convenient way to avoid actual work to establish that gravitational pull.

But again, even that money serves the singular purpose of convincing voters to join the side of the check writer. So at the end of the day, the electorate decides.

The system used to be even more corrupt than you imagine. Up until 1989, politicians could spend political donations on themselves but that changed with the Ethics Reform Act.

From Andrew Jacksont through to after the Civil War, money in politics meant something completely different. Filling good government jobs didn't involve culling resumes for the right candidate. It involved political payback. They called it the "Spoils System," and it was remedied by the "Deep State" — er, I mean the Pendleton Act, establishing a professional civil service.

I can flat-out vouch that helping on the political side here in Southern Arizona doesn't lead to a cushy gig at the taxpayers' dime. Politicos in this town treat political allies seeking a full-time post like a Jehovah's Witness at the front door during a Wildcat basketball game. "Yeah, thanks, gotta go."

And you know what? That's a good thing. It means yours truly doesn't get to run the airport after helping elect local leaders, even though I don't know a damn thing about running an airport.

In 2006, former U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi got himself convicted of money laundering and corruption — but even before that, as soon as he laid out his case to House leadership they stripped him of his committee assignments, all but abandoning him. Two years ago, Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos got booted by voters (a Democrat in a Democratic county) because some of his folks played fast and loose with some anti-racketeering funds.

So long as voters are able to and ready to punish offenders at the polls for getting too close to corruption, the system will tend to police itself.

We just have to be careful we're not over-defining the term "corruption."

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That way we notice with alarm when a president holding onto his business interests while in office and appears to be making money off his presidency is something wholly new. Now the platypus is chain smoking, sipping a frapuchino and translating the Canterbury Tales into Latin — the opposite of normal.

'My vote won’t matter anyway'

Well, that's harder to dismiss most of the time, but not during this year's midterms.

The election results could be very, very close. Projections have the Democrats leading by just enough to overcome gerrymandering to give them the seats required to take over the House of Representatives. If things break right, they could take the U.S. Senate. The decisive Senate seats could be decided right here in Arizona where U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema gives Dems their best chance in decades to represent the state. Here in the Tucson area, voters will decide on a bonafide swing district as U.S. Rep. Martha McSally walks away from it as she seeks a seat in the upper chamber.

Heading into the elections and not knowing the result, there is every reason to believe Southern Arizona voters can decide who runs Washington. If you are a progressive you can approach this election like it's yours to win, and conservatives can block the Democrats' advance right here. Screw Ohio.

But why does your vote matter?

It didn't matter, for instance, that the individual soldier hit the beach on D-Day. If all the soldiers thought that way, the Allies would have had a problem.

When you vote and tell people that you vote, it spreads the gospel and creates a space where people like you vote. The more people like you vote, the more the system will pay attention to you and start getting you to vote your way. More information will flow your way (to an annoying degree, perhaps) and then you start to represent people who are known to vote and do the hiring and firing.

That's when you have power to check the whole of the system. You can tell them to get back to work and not tweet so much. Stop making the trains crash into each other. Start getting them to run on time.

Dull edge

Some things in life need to be boring.

When you bite into a steak, you don't want your next thought to be, "Well now, that doesn't happen every day."

Nobody wants to turn a faucet and what happens next makes you shout, "Holy crap!"

When you are traveling by plane, who wants to hear the pilot say, "Ladies and gentleman, we're on our final approach to Tucson and things are about to get wild"?

Government should be boring. When it gets dramatic, we've got problems. There was a reason Isabel was able to raise an army to oust her husband from power. 14th century England was coming apart at the seems.

Remember to vote and make America boring again.

First, go make damn sure you're registered.

Blake Morlock is a journalist who spent 17 years covering government in Arizona and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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Primary voter registration deadline

The deadline to register to vote, or update your registration, for the August primary election in Arizona is July 30.

You must register for the first time in the state — or update your address or party preference, if applicable— by midnight that Monday in order to cast a ballot in the Aug. 28, 2018 primary.

You can register online or check your current registration at ServiceArizona.com. For Pima County voters, check your address at the Pima County Recorder's website, which will display your full address, unlike the partial one shown by the state website.

If you've moved, changed your name, or want to change political parties, you must complete a new voter registration form.

And remember, Arizona has semi-open primaries. Registered party members must stick with their own faction, but non-party voters can pick a ballot to cast in August. It's only the presidential preference election that picks party convention delegates that is closed.

You can register online in English and Spanish, or fill out a registration form and mail it to the Recorder's Office, postmarked no later than midnight, July 30. To register, you must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of Arizona and at least 18 years old at the time of the election.

If you have an Arizona drivers license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, that serves as proof of citizenship under state requirements.

Call the office of Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez at 724-4330 if you have questions.