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How endorsements enlighten voters

February 16, 2011|By Al C. Restivo

In America the Constitution guarantees every citizen free speech. That includes Valley Sun columnist Anita Brenner’s “Folks, It‘s a Non-Partisan Election” column published Feb. 3, regarding her apparent frustration that the local Republicans endorsed three candidates for City Council.

The same freedom of speech that allows Ms. Brenner to criticize us restricts a government from interfering with our endorsing as we choose. Free speech in the form of a candidate endorsement is protected. While California’s Constitution was amended in 1986 requiring “non-partisan” local elections, the California Supreme Court objected, striking the endorsement ban in 1996, according to Eric McGhee, a research fellow and political analyst for the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California. Not allowing the parties and central committees to endorse was “a violation of freedom of speech,” McGhee said.

“Non-partisan” does not mean that candidates have neither personal nor governmental principles that will guide decisions if elected. Every candidate has principles, whether sound or unsound, informed or uninformed, moral or immoral, realistic or bizarre. Each voter has the obligation to develop background knowledge of candidates prior to casting a vote. And, yes, party affiliation can provide indication of a candidate’s probable behavior in office. Would the voters be better served voting in ignorance (perhaps for the ignorant)? Does information conveyed to a voter by a political party somehow taint factual, verifiable information?

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At our dinner forum, assembled members of the local organization voted to endorse two Republicans, Michael Davitt and James Hill, and one registered “Decline to State,” Don Voss. The endorsements arose from their respective statements of principles and positions. Mayor Voss has the added benefit of a record of votes. Two Republicans and a Decline to State — our endorsements fall in a “non-partisan” category all by themselves, no?

Under the category of nit-picking observations:

Ms. Brenner repeatedly states that 24 members of the Committee cast votes. That was news to us. For the record, 49 members attended and voted the endorsements.

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