The Observer. (La Grande, Or.) 1968-current, March 04, 2021, Page 12, Image 12

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Thursday, March 4, 2021
My Voice
Your vote is the
key to democracy
oting is the beating heart of democracy”
are words attributed to Thomas Paine.
Paine and his fellow founders were intent
in making sure our fl edgling country would never
become the type of European-style monarchy they and
their ancestors had left behind. How best to accom-
plish that? Allow citizens to vote for their leaders and
provide for a peaceful transfer of power. This seems
obvious enough today, although it was a radical propo-
sition at the time.
While the earliest implementation of representative
democracy in the United States was not perfect, it was
still an improvement over the other political systems
in the world then. Over
the decades and cen-
turies, our country has
JON WHITE expanded voting rights
to include non-land
owners, women and
racial minorities. There
is still work to do, notably reforming the Electoral Col-
lege, which has been responsible for electing the loser
of the popular vote twice in the last 22 years.
There are several major problems with the Electoral
College. First, it gives voters in little states more power
than voters in big states. For example, in the Elec-
toral College, each individual vote in Wyoming counts
nearly four times as much in as each individual vote in
Texas (according to The Center for Voting and Democ-
racy). So much for “one person, one vote.”
Also, the winner-take-all nature of the system not
only throws away conservative votes in blue states,
it encourages election fraud in the handful of battle-
ground states where the popular vote count is likely to
be close. If we had a national popular vote, President
Donald Trump would not have made that fateful call
to the Georgia secretary of state, stating, “I only need
11,000 votes” — 11,000 votes is a drop in the bucket
for the national popular vote, but what was really at
stake was all 16 of Georgia’s electoral votes, a signifi -
cant proportion of what Trump needed to reach 270.
In the 2020 election, many states moved to expand
voting access through mail-in voting. Those efforts
resulted in a record 46% of Americans voting by mail
and the highest participation rate of any national elec-
tion since 1900. Anyone reading this column knows
Oregon helped pioneer this concept and has been con-
ducting elections exclusively by mail for more than 20
years. Mail-in voting has proven secure and econom-
ical, as well as convenient for the voter. For those who
believe the 2020 election was somehow stolen due to
mail-in ballots, consider how diffi cult it would be for
you personally to cast even one double vote. Not only
would it be virtually impossible, it would also be a fed-
eral crime punishable by up to fi ve years in prison.
Trump is the only presidential candidate to refuse
to concede defeat after all votes were counted and
legal challenges resolved. His many falsehoods about
mail-in voting, his ineffectual court challenges and
his attempts at illegal interference have stress-tested
our democratic institutions as never before. In the end,
Republican-appointed judges and Republican state
offi cials honored the democratic process and resisted
Trump’s attempts to tamper with the will of the
people. If you believe Trump was robbed, is it really
so surprising that a sitting president with an approval
rating of 40.3% on Election Day could lose a national
Despite the importance of the vote, many Repub-
lican legislators across the country are now more
determined than ever to restrict their citizens’ ability
to cast votes. According to the Brennan Center
for Justice, so far in 2021, lawmakers in 33 states
have created more than 165 bills to restrict voting.
Although their purported goal is improving election
integrity, voter fraud (as opposed to election fraud)
is extremely rare in this country. There are numerous
large studies that prove this. For example, The Wash-
ington Post published the results of an investiga-
tion in 2014 that found 31 credible incidents of voter
fraud out of one billion ballots cast. Restricting voting
access is a corrupt solution in search of a nonexistent
The founders created a constitutional democracy
for good reason. Our continued existence as a demo-
cratic nation depends on free and fair elections, as well
as a peaceful transfer of power. Your vote is helping to
keep democracy alive.
Jon White is a retired technical writer living in La Grande.
Write to us
The Observer welcomes letters to the editor. Letters are limited
to 350 words and must be signed and carry the author’s address
and phone number (for verifi cation purposes only). Email your
letters to or mail them to the
address below.
Other Views
Pelosi wants to ruin 9/11-style
Capitol commission before it begins
t is universally acknowledged the
9/11 Commission is the gold stan-
dard for after-event investigatory
panels, an example of what can be
accomplished when partisan political
considerations are cast aside and the
search for truth is an actual search for
As the debate intensifi es in Con-
gress over creating a commission to
examine the Jan. 6 assault on the U. S.
Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
appears determined to turn the gold
standard into fool’s gold.
Her insistence the proposed
11-member commission be dominated
nearly 2 to 1 by Democratic appointees
would seriously compromise the panel’s
credibility before it begins, and deepen
the divide between those who hold con-
fl icting views of the events of Jan. 6.
Pelosi’s every decision is driven by
her ego, an obsession with wielding
power and a lust for political advan-
tage. Her approach to the proposed
study commission is consistent with
that established pattern.
Public acceptance of the 9/11 com-
mission report and the high degree of
confi dence in its fi ndings was achieved
by its bipartisan composition, including
a former Republican governor, Thomas
H. Kean of New Jersey, and a former
Democratic congressman, Lee Ham-
ilton of Ohio, serving as co-chairs.
Pelosi wants to ignore that history
by placing seven Democratic appoin-
tees and four Republican ones on the
commission as a hedge against any
fi ndings that differ from congressional
Democrats’ preferred narrative that the
riot was planned and executed by pro-
Trump groups, egged on by the presi-
dent to block congressional ratifi cation
of the Electoral College result.
As if to underscore the speaker’s
plan for a desired result, Virginia Dem-
ocratic Rep. Gerry Connolly proposed
Republicans be denied commission
membership altogether, alleging their
votes against election certifi cation dis-
qualifi ed them.
The proposed commission would be
armed with a mandate to determine the
origins of the storming of the Capitol,
as well as provide answers for what
seemed to be a remarkably ill-prepared
law enforcement presence, allowing
the building to be breached, property
damaged, offi ces ransacked and mem-
bers of Congress fl eeing the chamber.
Not surprisingly, her partisan
advantage scheme drew a vigorous
negative response from Senate Repub-
lican leader Mitch McConnell, who
saw it as an attempt to guarantee the
commission reaches a pre-determined
A handful of Democrats shared
McConnell’s view, expressing concern
that without equal representation, the
commission’s fi ndings would invite
skepticism and fail to win public con-
fi dence that the truth behind the most
serious civil assault on government in
modern history had been laid bare.
McConnell suggested the proposed
commission expand its purview and
examine the protests that tore through
American cities last summer.
Pelosi rejected it, insisting the focus
remain exclusively on the storming of
the Capitol and not be distracted by
testimony or documentation of the vio-
lence, looting and arson that marked
many of the protests in response to
police misconduct and the deaths
of Black men at the hands of law
Should the creation of the commis-
sion be approved by Congress, Pelo-
si’s demand for a narrower focus will
likely carry the day.
Neither the speaker nor most of the
Democrats in Congress are eager to
open a full-throated debate over the
anti-police protests with which many
of them sympathized. Moreover, they
make a valid point that an insurrection
against the seat of government is a far
more serious matter than civil protests
turned violent.
Should she remain adamant on the
partisan tilt of the commission, though,
Pelosi will be accused of torpedoing
the idea, allowing the current narrative
to stand — an insurrection abetted by
Trump and carried out by a mob of his
In her political calculation, she
emerges victorious either way: The
commission will validate her pre-de-
termined outcome or, if there is no
commission, the blame will be Trump’s
Pelosi’s reputation as a major
leaguer in the sport of political hard-
ball has been well-earned, even when
it fails spectacularly as it did in 2020,
when her party absorbed a serious
beatdown in the congressional elec-
tions, losing 15 House seats despite her
persistent predictions of substantial
Democratic gains.
Whether the horrifi c events of Jan.
6 are scrutinized by an independent
commission is unclear at this point.
In Pelosi’s hands, though, it is certain
political benefi t will take priority over
the gold standard.
Carl Golden is a senior
contributing analyst with the
William J. Hughes Center for Public
Policy at Stockton University in
New Jersey. You can reach him at
address the theme raised by the bril-
liant seventh-grader Miri Koltuv and
eloquently supported by Mary Helen
Garoutte in recent letters to the editor.
Specifi cally, how is the sheriff’s offi ce
addressing the national concerns
raised about implicit bias among police
personnel toward people of color?
For example, in the hiring process
described in The Observer, is multi-
cultural experience a job criterion?
Are job candidates tested and/or scru-
tinized on the extent of their biases?
Will training be provided to current
employees to ensure that people of
color living in Union County or vis-
itors to our community are not sub-
ject to different enforcement practices
than would a white resident or visitor?
I look forward to seeing a future
interview with Sheriff Bowen in The
Observer and/or a direct statement
from him on the opinion page.
Patricia Kennedy
Let’s hear more from new
sheriff on local racial justice
I enjoyed your Feb. 23, 2021,
article about the changes to the Union
County Sheriff’s Offi ce under the
direction of our new sheriff, Cody
Bowen. I was very pleased to hear that
Sheriff Bowen is “eager to fi nd a way
to help people suffering from mental
illness,” which as you noted was one
of the commitments of his campaign.
I would like to see your coverage
of the sheriff’s offi ce expanded to