But it’s a good idea to read the sample ballot to become familiar with the state and local races and questions. Some of the issues are quite serious and some of the personalities would make great fodder for guys like Stewart, Letterman and Leno. Since I am determined to do my early voting on Monday — mostly because Election Day is one of the busiest working days of a journalist’s life — why don’t you sit down with me and go through my sample ballot. Grab your coffee cup or syringe and come along with me.
First on the list is president. Since I am one of the Democrats who has moved here from liberal Cah-lee-fornya and is putting the fear of intelligent voting into Washoe’s once-Republican majority, I will check the box for Sen. Barack Obama.
Next we come to the candidates for District 2 in Congress. Again going with party affiliation I am inclined to vote for Jill Derby. I see some rationale for voting for incumbent Republican Dean Heller because I am fiscally conservative and generally believe Republicans will be more likely to cut back when it comes to spending. However, the Democrats’ more liberal stance on social issues will most likely win me over.
There are two races for statewide partisan office: State Senate District 3 and State Assembly District 32. The former features incumbent Republican Bill Raggio, Democrat Jade Zahreddine and Independent American Gary Ferro. Besides the fact that he’s Republican, Raggio already has buildings named after him so I’m thinking he’s made his mark and it’s time for some fresh blood. Plus, he really needs to spend time working on his hair. I’m not sure if it’s dyed or what but it needs some help. From what little I know of him he’s done some good work, so I will research his opponents online to see if anything appeals to me. If not, I might let the old guy keep his seat.
Ditto on the State Assembly candidates. I have heard the name of Democratic candidate Marc Deal but don’t know anything about him or his opponents, Republican Don Gustavson or Independent American James Kroshus. We will have to ask Google for help.
Next we come to what I like to call “Incumbents Row.” That consists of a series of votes on judges both local and statewide. Unless I’m feeling particularly masochistic and want to look them all up, I’ll just find out who held the position before and vote for them. I know Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave as I say this, but he should just be glad I’m voting at all, what with the Internet and cable TV to distract me.
One last stop on Incumbents Row is the seat for State Board of Education. With this and the judges I’m assuming there is an incumbent in each race. If not, my vote will go to the candidate whose picture bothers me the least.
Two races for educational posts come next, one for University of Nevada Regent and one for Washoe County School District Board of Trustees. In the former, I’m going to vote for my buddy Rajan Zed. This local Hindu community organizer (maybe I should write him in for president) sends me press releases every time he blows his nose. This man knows how to get his name out there, the mark of any good politician. Secretly, I just hope that if he’s elected he will be too busy with real work to send me any more e-mails. Once again, I’ll probably go with the incumbent for the local school representative. I’ve been to a few meetings and they all seem like good folks.
Spending all my time watching the Sparks City Council for my job means I haven’t really gotten to know the Reno City Council folks. A few weeks ago, I went to a forum for the local candidates and got to see candidates for the Reno seats answer questions and give little speeches. I’m not sure if SNCAT has any more replays of this event scheduled, but it’s worth a look at www.sncat.org (I looked but didn’t find any listings for it). You may not need caffeine or another substance because these folks are interesting. Ward 1 candidates Dan Gustin and Tom Herndon weren’t at the forum so I don’t know anything about them; once again, Google to the rescue. In Ward 3, Chad Dehne is running against incumbent Jessica Sferrazza. Dehne couldn’t make it to the forum, which is probably better for him unless he looks like Brad Pitt. Sferrazza is probably the prettiest woman to hit politics since that lady from Alaska. I’ve met Sferrazza once and heard her on several occasions. She seems smart and her family is very involved in local affairs, so her looks aren’t what will win my vote but they won’t hurt her cause with some voters.
For Ward 5 in Reno, my vote has to go for sitting councilman Dave Aiazzi. In my few meetings he seems like a good guy, but mostly I’m voting against his opponent, Wayne Melton. Besides reminding me of Wayne Newton, at the forum he was more nervous and stiff than a 12-year-old giving a class presentation. His answer to every question involved Aiazzi’s ties to “Wall Street fat cats.” I stopped counting the number of times he used the term because my hand started to hurt. And his every sentence started with, “My name is Wayne Melton and I’m running for Reno City Council Ward 5.” By the 900th time he said it, I wanted to jab my pen into my own eyeball.
Finally, there’s the race for Reno City Councilman At Large: incumbent Pierre Hascheff against David Ward. At the forum, both seemed like intelligent guys. Ward is a first-time candidate and Hascheff has a cool first name, so I’ll have to do some serious thinking about this one.
The only candidate for Reno Municipal Court Judge Department 1 is Jay Dilworth, so I think I’ll vote for Bugs Bunny.
The second half of the ballot is county measures and constitutional amendments. The first asks if we should change the state constitution to eliminate the requirement that a person live in Nevada for six months before being eligible to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court already ruled against this requirement, and the argument against it says that someday the country’s high court might reverse itself and that new residents should have time to get to know the issues. I’m a new resident (one year and a few months) and you can see how well (wink wink) I know the issues. If we excluded voters for not knowing the issues, 90 percent of the electorate would sit at home on Election Day, including the informed ones, so I’ll vote for this one.
The second question is whether we should amend the state constitution to make it so local governments can’t use eminent domain to take property from one private owner and give it to another private owner in the name of “public use.” Also, if land is taken by the government, the owner must receive the “highest price the property would bring on the open market.” Seems fair, but the opponents say this would drive up taxpayer costs for much-needed projects and make it harder for government to get projects done by putting a time limit on using property acquired through eminent domain. The way I see it, government wastes enough time and money as it is and maybe this will help discourage governments from taking property and giving it to big developers in the name of the public good (read: increasing tax revenue). I know trimming the fat from government can lead to people losing their jobs and I’m sorry about that, but I’m voting for this one in the hopes that some fat will get trimmed.
The rest of the questions involve money. Question No. 3 about the state constitution asks if exemptions from property or sales and use tax must have definite benefits to the people as a whole and have an expiration date. Sounds good, but opponents say the wording is too vague. Representatives need to either have rules to follow or be allowed to use their judgement. If they’re not already giving exemptions using ethical standards, I can vote them out of office, so I’ll vote no on this one. Question No. 5 is about ... well, I’m not sure except that a yes vote authorizes the state Legislature to repeal provisions of the state Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955 without a direct vote of the people if necessary to follow a federal law or regulation and to repeal an exemption on certain aircraft parts. Um, OK, sure, sounds good.
The rest of the ballot consists of questions to give more money for education and transportation through some tax increases and a few other methods. And there’s one question about only allowing growth to happen if water sources within the county can sustain it. On money for schools and roads, I usually vote yes on half and no on half, again with the hope that if I give a little the agencies will make some cuts that should be made anyway. And realistically no modern area can grow without some water importation. I’ll let the water experts handle that and not tie their hands, so no on WC No. 3.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go feed a stray Wall Street fat cat.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.