Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Rockford Newspaper Tells Illinois Voters To Stay Home

While it is custom for a newspaper to editorialize about the importance of exercising one's voting franchise by participating in all elections, it is not often you find a newspaper urging voters to stay home. That's exactly what the Rockford Register told Illinois voters to do in today's statewide primary election if they haven't bothered to educate themselves about the candidates and issues. The newspaper's editors write:

By all means, do not go to the polls today if you can’t identify at least one significant difference between your favorite Republican candidate and the four others who are running in the gubernatorial primary.

Likewise, if you haven’t paid enough attention during Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration to spell and pronounce his name, take a pass.

And please, stay home if you don’t know the reason behind the referendum that would increase the sales tax in Rockford by 1 cent. If you insist on voting, you should know that the 1-cent tax would fund street repairs, end the need for vehicle stickers and reduce future property taxes. The sales tax also would put some of the burden for street repairs on people who use the roads but don’t pay city property taxes or buy vehicle stickers. You may be for or against the proposed sales tax, but please, don’t vote unless you know why.

One commenter at a blog site in Illinois suggested that the lowly regarded newspaper may have been adopting a new tact since so few of its readers ever follows its advice and vote for the candidates it endorses in Illinois elections. Then again, the newspaper may have had something else in mind.

The editorial reminded AI Editor Gary R. Welsh of Illinois' notorious 1986 Democratic primary election. Democrats had slated Adlai Stevenson III to run for the second time against Gov. James R. Thompson (R). He had lost by just a few hundred votes to Thompson in 1982 after a rancorous recount of the election results. The Democrats also slated several other candidates to run on a statewide ticket with Stevenson, who provided ethnic diversity. The voters selected two complete unknowns with Anglo-Saxon sounding names in the Democratic primary in the races for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State, who so happened to be followers of Lyndon LaRouche.

Stunning Illinois Democrats, Mark Fairchild defeated George Sangmeister for Lt. Governor, and Janice Hart defeated Aurelia Pucinski for Secretary of State. Stevenson was compelled to leave the Democratic ticket and run as a third party candidate, along with his fellow slated candidates to disassociate himself from the two extremists. The damage had already been done. Stevenson lost his rematch against Thompson by a much bigger margin, even though Thompson's popularity had eroded considerably.

Thinking back on 1986, the Rockford Register's suggestion to uneducated voters to stay home may not be such a bad idea sometimes. Much is at stake in this election. The unpopular incumbent Governor Rod Blagoyevich (D) is facing off against a liberal Chicago reformer, Ed Eisendrath (D). Four Republicans are vying to take on the winner of that race in the fall. There are also several hotly contested congressional races in the Chicago area which are getting a lot of national attention, along with other statewide and local races. With today's bad weather in Illinois, voter turnout will be considerably suppressed based on early reports. We can assume that only the more educated voters will brave the weather and exercise their voting right.

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