Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Occupy Tucson and the Ballot Box

I have to say that I'm rather pleased with the results of today's elections. Elsewhere in the country, the bill that gutted union rights was repealed in Ohio, and a proposition that would have outlawed most birth control was defeated in Mississippi. Up in Phoenix, the arch-Republican behind Arizona's SB 1070 lost his recall election, and in Tucson's Sunnyside school district., the intern who saved Gabby Giffods' life was elected to the school board. Democrat Jonathan Rothschild will be the new mayor of Tucson, and it looks like my Ward Four City Council member, Shirley Scott, has been narrowly reelected.

Meanwhile, in downtown Tucson, members of the Occupy Tucson movement have been living in tents in a city park. One of them got nearly 5% of the vote today as the Green Party candidate for mayor.

The election in Tucson today was kind of weird, though. We've had early voting for quite some time, and ID has been required to vote here for years. But this year the whole process changed, and John and I knew nothing about it until the primary at the end of August. Someone had the bright idea of conducting the whole election by mail, and that's what they did. For 35 years I've been voting in person on Election Day, but this year that was a little harder to do. Instead of dropping in at the neighborhood elementary school, we had to find the ballots that had arrived unnoticed in the mail, mark them, put them in the special envelope, sign the envelope, and, because we didn't mail them back ahead of time (not that I wanted to), drive them over to one of only seven polling places in the entire city and drop them in a box there.

Jan exercises her right to vote.

To be honest, that wasn't terribly onerous for us, once John found the ballots after I failed to do so. John stuck mine in my purse, and I marked it and drove it to the Udall Center a few miles away. I was more concerned about my friend Jan, who rode over with me. Jan, who has voted in every single election since she first became eligible, did not receive a ballot in the mail, as far as we can tell. She's registered at her home, but has been living in a rehab facility with multiple health problems. The ballot apparently did not arrive at the house, and she had not re-registered at what was supposed to be a temporary address. The good news is that she was able to give a sworn statement that she did not receive her ballot, and get a replacement one.

So that was good, but I wonder about the homeless. Where do their ballots get mailed?

Outside the 150 foot limit at Udall Center was a Green Party activist, who was giving out free bumper stickers and chatting people up about the Green Party mayoral candidate, Mary DeCamp. DeCamp conducted her campaign from Occupy Tucson, which I briefly visited last week. I don't agree with absolutely everything said by absolutely everyone down there, but DeCamp sounds pretty cool, and I might have considered voting for her if a) I hadn't also heard good things about the Democrat, Jonathan Rothschild, and b) DeCamp were capable of defeating the Republican this time out.

Unlike in New York, Oakland and elsewhere, the Occupy protesters have not faced any tear gas or police brutality. Both sides have been peaceful, with Occupiers lining up to get citations for occupying a city park after 10:30 PM without a permit. I used to think that Occupy should have gone through channels and gotten the permit, but that turns out to cost a reservation fee of $155 a day and a requirement for liability insurance. That's if the permit was granted at all. I suppose they could pass the hat, but it does seem an unreasonable restriction on the right of assembly. "Your right to expressive activities does not stop at 10:30 p.m.," Occupy Tucson's lawyer said in an interview. They've filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the fines and arrests.

When I stopped by on Friday afternoon, there were lots of tents set up on two small strips of land between Congress St. and Broadway Blvd. downtown, plus an information book, a media tent and a conflict resolution, er, rock.

Although it all looked pretty organized to me, the guy manning the info booth told me that the place was in disarray because the night before, Tucson Police threatened to take people to jail unless they vacated Armory Park, which had been the main Occupy Tucson site. "We finished moving everything at four o'clock this morning," he told me. They not only moved to the other site, peacefully, but cleaned up the park they were leaving on their way out. Now they've filed a lawsuit to step the arrests and fines, and to forestall another incident of the police making them vacate a park or suffer mass arrest. The Thursday night order was purportedly to prepare Armory Park for two scheduled events. Since then the city manager has suggested that they might need to leave& Veinte De Agosto Park to accommodate a veteran's Day parade. However, the parade route doesn't go past that park.

From Occupy Tucson

My favorite shot from my visit is this one, of a woman decorating her Occupy Tucson tent. It quotes Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I'd say the Occupiers are trying very hard to be the change, and we should support them. "It's for all of us, you know. It's for you, it's for me, it's for everyone who doesn't live in the ivory towers," occupier Mike Robbins said in a recent interview. In other words, it's for us, the 99%.


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