Tuesday, December 13, 2005
November 5, 2005
Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury paid a visit to Keith Bassham’s advanced placement U.S. History class Thursday morning to give the students a lesson on the importance of voting.
One of Bradbury’s jobs is to oversee elections in the state, and he has noticed a “disturbing trend” in who’s voting and who’s not.
“We are increasingly seeing younger voters not participating,” Bradbury said.
He said that when the Constitution was amended in 1972 to allow 18-year-olds to vote, that year had the biggest voter turnout ever; but every year since has seen a decline in numbers.
To illustrate the current voting situation, Bradbury suggested the class, numbering about 30, could represent voters in Oregon. They would participate in a mock election and vote on three different ballot measures.
“First we need to determine who the voters are,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of Oregonians are under the age of 18, and too young to vote – so eight of you are too young.”
Eight students were counted off and wouldn’t be voting.
“The first thing you have to do in order to vote is register,” he continued. “Only 72 percent of Oregonians 18 and older are registered. So six of you are old enough but didn’t register.”
So, six more members of the class wouldn’t be voting.
“Last year in the primary election, 47 percent of registered voters actually voted,” Bradbury said. Eight more students were counted off to represent registered non-voters. That left 8 “voters” out of the class of 30.
“Now, I’ve got to assume that all of you trust these eight kids to make your decisions for you,” he said. “I’m not making these numbers up – that’s what’s going on in the state of Oregon.”
Since the median age of voters in a low-turnout election is 60, Bradbury asked the four students in the front row to vote as they thought their grandparents would vote, effectively raising the median age of the eight voters.
The three ballot measures were ones that would affect the lives of 18-year-olds.
One asked whether Oregon workers aged 14-18 should receive a “sub-minimum wage” of $1 less per hour than the state-approved minimum wage.
Another asked whether there should be mandatory drug testing for middle and high school students who participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities.
The third ballot asked whether, due to the continued high accident rate for teen drivers, the age to qualify for an instruction permit should be raised from 15 to 17, and the age to qualify for a driver’s license should be raised from 16 to 18.
Before each vote, the whole class participated in lively discussion and debate.
Points were brought up on both sides of each issue.
But when it was time to vote, only the eight voters were allowed to vote.
The results: The sub-minimum wage measure failed, 7-1; mandatory drug testing in middle and high schools also failed, 6-2.
But the measure to raise the ages at which driver’s permits and licenses could be issued passed, 5-3.
“How does it feel to have other people actually make these decisions for you?” Bradbury asked.
“Not good” and “frustrating.” were among the answers being murmured.
“Why do you think, particularly, younger people don’t vote?” he asked.
Some thought kids don’t care, some suggested they don’t feel they know enough about the issues, or that they feel their votes don’t count anyway or have lost faith in the fairness of the system.
Bradbury admitted that voters’ pamphlets can be a little overwhelming, with all the published arguments that are submitted, pro and con.
He suggested that voters go straight to the explanatory statement and fiscal impact statement for each measure.
Those statements are drafted by two supporters and two opponents, and one independent party that they both agree on, so those are the most balanced source of information.
“The most important thing is to really understand the measure,” he said.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge