Sunday, November 4, 2012

Junked Election


It’s not just the buttons that will soon become either cherished memorabilia or landfill, or the bumper stickers that will be obsolete on Wednesday but will stay firmly attached to their cars while the sun fades them to illegibility, or the signs on utility posts that will stay there until the rain finally washes them down. The greatest quantity of election-related garbage is the junk mail.

I live in San Francisco, so I have two pieces of election mail that I actually read and use. One is the Sample Ballot (147 pages), which shows what will be on the ballot, tells me where my polling place is, and has the information on local candidates and ballot propositions. The second is the California General Election booklet (143 pages), put out by the Secretary of State, which has the information on the state propositions. In addition to candidate statements, these booklets contain a summary of each proposition, an analysis by the legislative analyst (background, proposal, fiscal effects), an argument in favor, an argument against, and rebuttals to both arguments. The booklets also contain the text of the applicable laws, with strikeout and italic type showing the proposed changes. I really think that this is plenty of information to enable me to make an informed decision.

But all the campaigns seem to have extra money and an inordinate fondness for the printing industry. In addition to the material I actually read, I also have 41 pieces of mail—most of them on glossy paper—with severely biased instructions on how to vote. The one I just picked up from the top of the pile says in large letters “You Deserve A Reward For Following The Law.” Not only is this contrary to my personal belief that you should follow the law whether you are rewarded for it or not, but when I looked up the proposition in the General Election booklet, it’s about maintaining continuous coverage on auto insurance. San Francisco has excellent public transportation (and gas and parking are expensive), so I am far from the only person in the city who does not own a car.  Does whoever wrote the copy for this piece of junk mail still think I deserve a reward? I do not have auto insurance, but I am certainly following the law.

We still have another two days until the election, plus whatever mail trickles in after that. They may be spending plenty on printing, but they’re not paying for first class postage. That’s a shame, because the post office could really use the money. By the end of next week, I will have put all of this into the recycling bin. Maybe it can be made into something useful.

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