Between the Court of Appeals, District Court, and District Associate Judges, I am asked to decide if eleven different judges should keep their jobs. Prior to recieving my ballot, I knew nothing about any of them. I started looking for information on each of them, but I didn’t find much. But then I found the Iowa State Bar Association’s reviews of each judge. From a single document, I was able to see what dozens of lawyers thought about every judge in the state. The votes for retention are very high in general, so I set my bar at 90%. If more than 90% of the responding lawyers voted to retain a given judge, I did the same. If less than 90% of lawyers voted to retain, I voted against.

As a result, I voted for retention on Anuradha Vaitheswaran, Van D. Zimmer, John C. Miller, Eliza J. Ovrom, Artis I. Reis, Carol L. Coppola, Carol S. Egly, and Louise M. Jacobs. I voted against retention for Donna L. Paulsen, Gregory D. Brandt, and William A. Price. I expect all of these judges will be retained, but I hope the slightly lower percentages on election day might cause some judge to improve Punctuality for court proceedings or Clarity and quality of written opinions.

 

There are five candidates for the Polk County Agricultural Extension Council. My ballot instructs me to vote for no more than five. I found nothing online suggesting there is anything wrong with any of the candidates. So I voted for them all.

 

There are three candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner: Donald Soutter, Jane Clark, and Shirley Danskin-White. I voted for Jane Clark, the only candidate who had any information I could find online.

 

There are thee candidates for Polk County Public Hospital Trustee. My ballot instructs me to choose two. It’s a refreshing change for such a local office to have actual competition. Unfortunately, the competitors don’t seem to care much about getting votes. Karen Ellis is the only candidate with a website I could find. So I voted for her first. But I couldn’t find any information two help me choose between the other two, Mary B. Fuller and David Harkness. As I said earlier, I think we need more women in government, so I voted for Fuller.

 

John P. Sarcone, running as a Democrat, is the only candidate for Polk County Attorney. He’s a sixteen year incumbent. Everything about him — from his too-much-teeth smile to his "I like puppies" position against methamphetamines — make him seem a little suspicious. But I voted for him.

 

There are three candidates for County Recorder. Tim Brien is the incumbent, but he lost the primary to Julie M. Haggerty. As I mentioned earlier, he intially blamed Michael Mauro, Commissioner of Elections, implying that he rigged the election. But then he dropped his challenge, saying he didn’t believe he could get a fair result.

Apparently he does think he can get a fair result in the general election, even though Michael Mauro is still Commissioner of Elections, because he’s running as an independent. So I don’t trust Tim Brien, and this distrust makes me like Michael Mauro and Julie M. Haggerty more.

The third candidate is Christopher D. Hagenow, running as a Republican. If you follow that link to his website, and the link from there to his blog, you’ notice he doesn’t talk about issues much, and he seems as interested in the Nussle for Governor campaign as his own. As I mentioned in my discussion of the Governor race, I don’t trust Nussle, so by association, I distrust Hagenow.

If it wasn’t already obvious, I voted for Julie M. Haggerty for County Recorder.

 
 

I don’t know what exactly the Board of Supervisors supervises, but this is another interesting race. The two candidates are John F. Mauro, running as a Democrat, and Gene Phillips, on the ballot by petition. This happens to be the fourth time these two candidates have run against each other. In the 1998 Democratic primary, Mauro won by less than three hundred votes. Then Phillips ran as an independent in the general election and won, also by less than three hundred votes. Then in 2002, Mauro ran against Phillips again and won, this time by a substantial margin.

So Mauro is the incumbent and he won last time. But he’s also on the CIETC board, and although he doesn’t have the direct connection to corruption that Abdul-Samad appears to have, it doesn’t really look good for anyone on that board. Mauro’s best response to the attention was Hopefully, they won't hold me responsible for something I didn't have any control over.

Well, I do hold him responsible for the lack of control. And it’s also Phillips’ turn to win. Oh yeah, and Mauro doesn’t live in the district. So I voted for Gene Phillips.

 

The Iowa State Representative election is probably the most interesting vote I made. This is the first race involving the CIETC scandal. Apparently a lot of money went into the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, and not a lot of employment and training came out. Ako Abdul-Samad, running as a Democrat, was on the CIETC board, and didn’t convince me that he was innocent of the corruption charges being tossed at him. He lost my vote.

Jack Whitver, running as a Republican, successfully lost my vote by showing up at Abdul-Samad’s house after being told Abdul-Samad was unavailable due to family illness. Even assuming charitably that Abdul-Samad was lying about the family illness, that still makes Whitver a political moron.

Luckily I have two other candidates in this race. Brett Blanchfield, running as a Libertarian, gets points for being the only candidate to bother answering a candidate survey from the Iowa Prosperity Project. And he also gets points for living just a few houses down from me. But he’s campaigning on issues like repealing the mandatory seatbelt law. I can sympathize with the general libertarian desire to streamline government, but if seatbelts are the first (or second, or even twentieth) place a candidate identifies waste in government, he’s lost my vote.

That leaves only Jeff Johannsen. Lucky for me, Johannsen looks like a candidate for whom I can vote without reservation. He wants to help make health insurance more available and affordable to small businesses and neighborhoods [...] to increase availability of assisted living to those with low to moderate incomes [...] to promote the cleanup of neighborhoods and discourages urban sprawl, according to the Des Moines Register. That all sounds good to me, so I voted for Johannsen.

 

State Senator is yet another Iowa race with only one candidate. I was expecting more interesting politics from the host of the first primary in the nation. The candidate is Jack Hatch, running as a Democrat. Aside from his website, the first thing I found about him was a record that he introduced a bill allowing possession of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. That made me a little happier about voting for the only candidate.

 

There is only one candidate for Attorney General in Iowa. Apparently law is less important than agriculature in Iowa. The candidate, Tom Miller, is a Democrat, and looks good enough. He’s apparently cares enough about his stance against predatory lending to issue a statement on the issue. So I voted for Tom Miller.

 

Iowa has two candidates for Secretary of Agriculture. Agriculture is important in Iowa. The Democratic candidate is Denise O’Brien. The Republican candidate is Bill Northey. Browsing their respective websites, you’ll notice Northey talks about “vision” while O’Brien talks about “issues.” O’Brien wins round one. Northey is a board member of Ag Ventures Alliance. O’Brien and her husband Larry Harris have operated a family farm near Atlantic, Iowa since 1976 where they milked cows until 1995. They now raise poultry, apples, and strawberries using organic practices. O’Brien wins round two. No round three. I voted for O’Brien.

 

There’s only one candidate for Treasurer of State in Iowa, and he is Michael Fitzgerald. He’s already Treasurer of State, hasn’t embarrassed himself, and he appears to be responsible for The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, a pretty cool website that allows Iowa residents to search for abandoned property. Not that it matters when no one else is running, but I voted for him.

 

Iowa has two candidates for Secretary of State. Michael Mauro, the Democratic Party candidate, is currently the Polk County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections. In that role, he’s involved in dispute surrounding the primary election for County Recorder, but I’ll get into that later. This election was decided for me by Maruo’s opponent. It turns out Mary Ann Hanusa, the Republican Party candidate, doesn’t actually live in Iowa, according to Daily Kos. In an otherwise uninteresting race, that’s enough to lose my vote. I went with Mauro.

 

Before anyone starts to wonder why I didn’t just color in the party-line vote oval, I wanted to skip ahead to the State Auditor race, in which I voted for the Republican candidate David A. Vaudt. Now it’s true that Vaudt is the only candidate on the ballot in this race, and it’s also true that I searched for other write-in options.

But when I didn’t find any alternatives to Vaudt or skipping the race, I looked in depth at Vaudt’s website, and a few newspaper articles involving Vaudt, and I found no good reason not to vote for him. Like Boswell, Vaudt won my vote by not disqualifying himself. I’m not sure, but Vaudt may be the first Republican I’ve ever voted for.

 

There are three candidates for US Representative from the Third District of Iowa, where I live. Helen Meyers, of the Socialist Workers Party, has no website. I really don’t think a website is too much to ask of a candidate for US Representative. That leaves just two: Leonard L. Boswell, running as a Democrat and Jeff Lamberti, running as a Republican.

I don’t expect it will surprise anyone who read of my inclination to vote for a Green Party candidate for Governor that I voted for Boswell in this race. Both campaign websites include the same stock "I like puppies" kind of political rhetoric, void of specific positions on specific issues. But Lamberti scared me away by calling himself a conservative leader. I take that a euphemism for a willingness to have the government dictate who can and can not get married, and that’s a good way to lose my vote. Boswell won my vote by not disqualifying himself.

 

There are five candidates for Governor of Iowa, with Lieutenant Governor running on the same tickets so I chose them together. The first out of contention is Mary J. Martin, running in the Socialist Workers Party. She’s out because she has no website. There are some less important offices for which I’ll let a candidate get by without a website, but not Governor.

Next out is Kevin Litten, running in the Libertarian Party. His poorly designed website is lacking any information on specific issues, perhaps because he’s already given up, saying I may not win this election. Sorry Kevin, try a little harder next time. And then there were three.

I don’t trust Jim Nussle, the Republican candidate for Governor. Specifically I don’t like his ambiguous position on abortion, which apparently bothers people on the other side of the issue as well. I can understand the desire to ban all abortion. I think it’s mistaken, but an honest mistake. But Jim Nussle seems to be hiding his real position, and that’s why he lost my vote.

The remaining to candidates for Iowa Governor are Chet Culver, on the Democratic Party ticket, and Wendy S. Barth, on the Green Party ticket. Barth looks much better. She has clear positions on important issues, and in general I agree with those positions. Culver, on the other hand, takes vaguely agreeable positions on popular issues. If I was the only one voting in this election, I would have voted for Barth.

But I looked at the polls and saw that Culver and Nussle were in a statistical tie, so I filled in Culver’s oval as a strategic vote against Nussle. Sorry Green Party. The day after I filled in this oval, a new poll came out with Culver ahead by 7%. In retrospect, I should have waited until closer to the election to fill in my ballot at all. But it’s done now, and I voted for Culver for Governor.

 

I have referred to myself as “an independent voter” through many elections now, but this year was the first in which I actually took on the responsibility of idenpendent voting, and it turned out to be surprisingly tedious work. By “independent voter,” I mean that I will give any candidate an opportunity to earn my vote, regardless of party affiliation. This seems like the common sense basis of democracy to me, but I don’t know many people who do this.

In the past, I’ve asked a lot of a candidate wishing to earn my vote. Candidates had to somehow insert themselves into the various media I consume, e.g. radio, billboards, weblogs, showing up at my house, etc. If they failed to make themselves known to me, I voted based on what I knew of their opponent. If all candidates in a given race failed to do so, I voted based on a statistical correlation between party affiliation and my previous voting preferences. That is, I voted for Democrats because I tend to like Democrats.

This last part doesn’t make me feel very independent, especially when this actually happens a lot. Most elections I vote in are minor local and regional offices and I know nothing about the individual candidates. This year I voted absentee (which anyone can do in Iowa and many other states), so I could take my time to research these candidates and avoid resorting to party affiliation guesswork for any of my votes.

After many hours of researching, I’m happy to say I didn’t vote for anyone based on their party affiliation, but I did vote for a few based on something other than the information I was able to find. This is because I wasn’t able to find much information. So I applied my same criteria as before, only this time I was actively seeking out information.

If I couldn’t find anything about a candidate in a Google search, I voted based on what I knew about the opposing candidates. And if I couldn’t find any information about any candidates in a race, I voted based on gender. That’s admittedly not the best way to vote, and maybe I should have just not voted at all in those races, but I’m comfortable taking that gamble in the interest of getting more women in elected offices of government. In any case, I managed to vote without preference to party, which is important to me.

With that as my independent voting strategy, I will go through specifically who I voted for and why in the next few posts.