Friday, November 4, 2016

The other elections

The US Presidential elections are just a few days away - although early-voting has effectively started the process already - and all eyes are on the neck-and-neck competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. However, that race only constitutes the top of the ballot, and every voter will have a veritable laundry list of candidates to select for a variety of positions - including the all-important control of the US Senate that is crucial for any party to implement their agenda.

In Illinois, there are several races and referendums to look forward to. The most publicized of these is the US Senate race between Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) and incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R), in what appears to be one of the weakest races for the Republican Party. The two have been attacking each other for some time, although Kirk's jab at Duckworth's Thai mother seems to have cost him support. Nonetheless, given the huge stakes over the Supreme Court in the next four years, control of the Senate is absolutely crucial for either party, and every elected official will count.

Separately, Illinois also has a rather bizarre constitutional amendment on the ballot, making it mandatory for funds obtained through taxation on transportation are pushed back into the transportation sector and not elsewhere. While this move seems perfectly logical at first sight, it is hugely counter-productive to put it into the state's constitution. Budgets need to be flexible - especially in times of crisis (of which the state has had no shortage). If necessary, funds need to be rerouted for more pressing purposes, even if they should not ordinarily be. Putting it into the constitution will be hugely counterproductive in such a situation - it may be better to just put it into a law of some sort that can be amended under exceptional circumstances without having to wait for a referendum.

Finally, the Champaign schools are holding a referendum (again) for expanding the local public schools through a bond issue and increase in property taxes. Now, ordinarily, I'd be against any raising of taxes, but secular, free public education is one of the most important functions of government, and if it needs funds for that, it should get it. The plans seem to work out, give or take, and I hope this referendum question passes. Quality education is important enough to be taxed for.

I may not be able to vote here, but watching the American democratic process from the front seat has been quite an enriching process. Despite the terrible candidates on the top of the ticket, it is still a vibrant, democratic country that stands as a model for the world. 

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