I’ve been voting since 1996 and have rarely missed even the smallest of municipal votes.  It bugs me to watch my generation and the ones coming behind us so lackadaisical about their civic duty.

I’ve always had to stand there at the voting booth and deliberate before, though.  There is usually one race or one issue that leaves me standing there for seconds or minutes longer than it’d normally take to fill it out because I’m not sure how I want to vote on it.  Not this year.

I just downloaded the sample ballot for my precinct to look at and I smiled to myself realizing how easy it’s going to be to vote this year.  But there are a couple of questions on the back that friends have been asking me about so I thought I’d share how I’m voting and why:

1. The summary on question one seems benign:

Summary:  Adopts Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment which creates a dedicated trust fund for the purposes of protecting and enhancing water quality and natural areas in the State including parks, trails, and fish andwildlife habitat, and conserving agricultural soils in this State.

The problem is in the details.  If you read the fine print which should be available in your ballot booth, it says:

“the fund shall be annually credited with an amount equal to the amount generated by a sales tax rate of three-eighths of one percent as may be imposed upon the retail sales price of tangible personal property and the furnishing of enumerated services sold in this State.”

So it’s a tax increase that ties the hands of the Legislature.  Our system of government works best when we don’t artificially appropriate money through the Constitution and let the Legislature do its job: appropriate funds.  If this fund proves to be ineffective, abused, or if the funds absolutely need to be used elsewhere, are we going to have another lengthy constitutional amendment process?  The more one thinks about it, the dumber the whole idea becomes.   Most of my most conservative friends would call me a moderate on environmental issues but this is a very easy NO vote for me.

2.  The following question is on the back of your ballot: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution, and propose amendment or amendments to same?”

My vote will be a resounding YES!  The Legislature has failed to act, I can’t see Republicans (sadly, at this point anyway) having the spinal fortitude to get two Assemblies to vote for a marriage amendment should they win control, and this is a Constitutional remedy we should jump on.

The opposition from the Right and the Left will point out that all kinds of bad things can happen in a convention and then the people might vote on them.  The simple truth is this:  All proposed amendments would be voted on individually.  With that in mind, the opposition always wants the people to vote when the polling shows that the people agree with them and avoid popular votes when the polling tells them they might lose.  Anyone who opposes the Constitutional Convention is either disingenuous, saying that calling a convention is “playing fast and loose with the Constitution” (It’s a CONSTITUTIONAL REMEDY, numbskull!) or they use fear to scare people into making a “risky” convention take place.  They have succumbed to elitism.  We either trust the people with the vote or we don’t.

3. The final question I get a lot on the ballot is the judge retention question.  Local lawyers are used to and enjoy working with most of the Polk County judges.  I get that.  You listen to them and they’ll say, more often then not, “vote how you want on the Supreme Court, but it’d be a shame to lose the Polk County Judges.”  I’ve heard this from three lawyers I highly respect.

The problem is that Judge Hanson, who ruled on the gay marriage issue to begin with, is up.  I can’t vote YES for this guy.  And, frankly, if there was ever a time to send a message to the Judiciary as a whole that we are watching, we are unsatisfied with the legal class, and we need more information about judges before voting YES, now is the time.  I’ll be voting NO on every judge unless I hear something stellar from or about one of them between now and Tuesday.

If you are an Iowan or have something interesting on your ballot in your state, how are you going to vote?

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