Marion County's satellite voting debate took an interesting twist yesterday. A twist so big that it turned the Republican's "it costs too much" argument on it's head.
In an unexpected and unprecedented move, Marion County Clerk Beth White announced that the UAW was willing to donate the $50,000 estimated cost of the expanded voting. This announcement immediately invalidates the Republicans cost arguement. The announcement also raises a whole new set of questions about the ethics of a private organization funding part of the election process.
White says she's not concerned about a conflict of interest or ethics violation here. She should be. As fellow blogger Abdul-Hakim Shabazz points out, if the roles were reversed, all hell would break loose. There is no way the Democrats would allow for a typically conservative-leaning group such as Focus on the Family to have any part of funding elections. The UAW has always been a politically liberal organization, and the Republicans have a valid point in saying that the money has no place in the running of elections.
White's proud statement that the UAW will be willing to foot the bill comes tagged with a footnote that the money was unsolicited. I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. Coupled with White's nonchalance about a potentially catastrophic precedent being set by this idea, I find no way to believe this was not a well-played part of a well-planned political move.
Now, the Marion County GOP finds themselves in a unique position. They can admit that the costs of satellite voting were never really the issue (obviously the case, the way the current administration pours through money), and that the real objection was the likely increase in Democratic votes. This is unlikely, though, since it would require the Republicans to admit they were lying.
The next option would be for the GOP maintain their current cost objections, and then to shout from the rooftops that the Marion County Democrats, and especially Beth White, are trying to sell the election process to private organizations. This is their most likely move, as it means they don't have to budge on their position and simultaneously get to put very real and very negative political pressure on the Dems.
There is a third option, though. One I suggest is the best one. Best for voters, best for Democrats wanting satellite voting, and best for Republicans that are now scrambling to not look like, well, greedy Republicans.
The Republicans need to concede on the issue of satellite voting. They need to publicly announce that they fully appreciate the UAW's offer, but decline it in the interest of keeping the election process as clean as possible; free from funding by private organizations. Then, the Republicans should say that, after much consideration, they recognize that satellite voting, although costly, is important to voters seeking a choice, and will agree to it as long as the choice of voting locations is fair.
Finally, the GOP should pounce on the Democrats for this obviously political ploy that could have put our entire election process in jeopardy. Call it a fair trade with the Democrats in exchange for the early voting.