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Don’t get tricked into voting in November

Published: Saturday, July 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Should be enough good races on the Nov. 4 ballot to get you to vote.

But this isn’t a presidential election, so we know most folks won’t bother.

That doesn’t mean political leaders are not going to try to get you to cast a ballot.

Each side wants you to vote – but only if you’re not going to vote for the other side.

That’s the American way.

NEARLY EVERY BIG office except U.S. president is on the Illinois ballot this year.

U.S. Senate. Governor. State Legislature. Congress.

As well as several local offices – those closest to home.

Excited yet?

Probably not.

BIG PART OF THE problem is that too many public offices on the ballot have uncontested candidates or non-competitive races.

Biggest local office on the ballot is sheriff. Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties each have only one candidate. Take your choice.

Races for almost all of the Illinois House and Senate seats on the ballot were decided 3 years ago when Democratic legislators drew new districts to make them as one-sided as possible – mostly on the Democratic side, of course.

You probably don’t know the names of the candidates for state treasurer – let alone county treasurer (although Lee County does have a contest!).

Unless you’re something of a political junkie, the governor’s race might be the only contest you’ve heard about.

And we’re less than 4 months from Election Day.

SURE, WE WILL HEAR a lot of political messages before Nov. 4.

But most of it will be noise, so you will block it out.

You can’t trust a candidate to be completely truthful about himself. And you never can trust a candidate to be honest about an opponent.

So, if the people on the ballot don’t persuade you to vote, what will? Maybe an issue that interests you – or scares you.

Fear is a great motivator.

AT THE FEDERAL level, you will hear about a lot of “show votes” in Congress.

Those involve legislation that doesn’t have a chance of passing, but is designed to stir up a constituency – maybe persuade those people to vote.

Senate Democrats, for example, have offered a bill to reverse last week’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling on contraception coverage.

The measure would stop corporations from refusing federal healthcare coverage mandates on religious grounds. Democrats hope to use the issue to drive women to the polls for the midterm election this fall.

Their majority in the Senate is at risk during this off-year election with a Democrat in the White House, so Democrats want to force Republicans to block or vote against the contraception bill. That will bolster their strategy to paint Republicans as “anti-women.”

And women tend to vote Democratic.

BUT REPUBLICANS control the House, so they have to cook up some “show votes” of their own.

After the 50-or-so meaningless votes to repeal or defund Obamacare, the GOP majority might have already overplayed that hand.

Used to be, just before an election, Republicans would trot out a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. The House even passed it a couple of times before the Senate showed a better understanding of the First Amendment.

But what now? Lacking a legislative initiative, maybe Republicans should try a new approach.

Not a “show vote,” but a sideshow.

They might have to ramp up (again) their ongoing investigations: Benghazi! IRS! Fast and Furious!

Nah. Those matters have started to lose their appeal, even to their own partisans, like that whole birth certificate thing.

How about an effort to impeach the president? No, that blew up in their faces the last time.

Maybe a lawsuit against the president?

Hmmmm ...

ON THE STATE SCENE, politicians on both sides have tried to load up the ballot with referendum questions to stir their voters who otherwise might stay home on Election Day.

Democrats want to woo you with measures designed to stem voter suppression laws, increase the minimum wage, enact a graduated income tax, and ensure contraceptive coverage.

Republicans wanted voters to weigh in on issues of legislative redistricting and term limits, but the courts have told them they took too many shortcuts in the drafting and/or petitioning process.

Those questions, of course, are secondary to the politicians’ real purpose: to get “their” people to the polls.

People who are motivated by a minimum wage increase or contraceptive issues could be expected to vote for Democratic candidates while they’re casting their ballots.

Voters excited about term limits would more likely vote for Republicans once they got to the polls.

And if the referendum is approved, that’s a bonus.

WHILE THE RACE FOR president might bring out more than 70 percent of registered voters, these midterm elections seldom crack 50 percent – and it’s often much lower than that.

Low turnouts favor Republicans – as in 2010 – who vote with more consistency than Democrats.

Will “show votes” and referendum questions make a big difference this year.

Probably not.

But that won’t stop the politicians from trying to trick you into voting.

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