The High Cost of Partisan Politics

Rich Galen

3/2/2012 11:55:00 AM - Rich Galen

Super Tuesday. Ten states this year (21 on the GOP side four years ago). In most cases only registered Republicans can actually vote, but Democrats and Independents, citizens and non-citizens, likely voters and people who have never darkened the door of a precinct polling place all get to participate.

How?

Public tax money is used to fund this most partisan of activities so everyone who pays taxes gets to help Republicans choose their nominee.

I have a friend, Maxene Fernstrom, who used to say that in Washington no one is more than three phone calls away from anyone else.

To test that theory I called my friend Alex Vogel and asked him if he would ask his wife, State Senator Jill Vogel (R-27th) if she could find out how much the primary election was going to cost the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

He did, and she did.

You may remember that neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum could get their collective acts together enough to qualify for the ballot in Virginia. It's not that complicated.

The law in Virginia states, that minimum number of signatures of qualified voters required for candidates for statewide office (including running in the Presidential primary):

For a candidate for the United States Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, 10,000 signatures, including the signatures of at least 400 qualified voters from each congressional district in the Commonwealth

I am offering that official language to help you understand that the signature requirements in Virginia are neither onerous nor, as I once wrote, arcane. Thirty two words.

I have lived in Virginia off and on since 1977 and I do not remember a time when an election for a statewide office could not be held because the potential candidates couldn't figure out how to get on the ballot.

Santorum and Gingrich could not.

A difference between running for Attorney General and President is this: No write-ins are permitted for candidates for President. Not sure why, but there it is.

I went into vote early last week on the theory that I would be out of town - likely in the District of Columbia - and if I am asked to be a pundit, I didn't want to risk not getting back to Alexandria, VA in time to vote.

It was very eerie to see only two names on the ballot: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.

No constitutional amendments, no candidates for city council, nor for soil and water conservation district director.

Nothin'

Which, of course, got me thinking about how much this whole thing was costing.

St. Sen. Vogel had a member of her staff contact the State Board of Elections and the answer to my question was:

The cost of the GOP Primary is over 3 million dollars.

Whoa! Check please!

By my count 14 states have caucuses which, by their nature, don't require the transport and set up of voting machines, nor the deployment of thousands of paid poll workers.

That leaves 36 states (not including Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa and the Northern Marianas - which all get delegates to the national conventions) which have primaries.

At $3 million a pop that's $108 million dollars (assuming small states balance out California, Texas and New York) that all taxpayers have to chip in to help one political party chose its nominee.

But wait! There's more! Each of the two national conventions - more particularly each of the two host cities - gets a federal grant of $50 million to help pay for the additional security necessary to make sure the guy selling the Nixon Bobble Head Dolls outside the convention facility is safe.

Another $100 million for a purely partisan activity.

It's not like states are rolling in extra money just looking for things to spend it on. And we are all too aware of the $172 Kajillion federal debt that is rising each and every day.

That debt is largely funded by the Chinese government buying U.S. … wait a minute. WAIT A MINUTE.

The Chinese are paying for a lot of this?

Forget everything I said.