One of the things that bolsters faith in elections is that we are, as an electorate, pretty consistent with our decisions. We often vote with our pocketbook, and more frequently in recent years, we vote with our fears. Sometimes, however, we trump those reactions by voting either to pay the price of public services or ignore our fears.
This year, however, it’s fairly easy to spot some inconsistencies in our voting. One of the most glaring examples is right here in Curry County.
In the county, and across the state, we overwhelmingly voted for an initiative petition that requires harsher sentences for certain kinds of repeat sex offenders and third-time convictions for driving under the influence of an intoxicant. Then, on the same ballot, we voted overwhelmingly to cut back on the public safety services in Curry County that would catch and prosecute those offenders.
In fact, much of the pressure on the state budget is the direct result of voters deciding that 1) they want to avoid paying property taxes and 2) they want to lock up more criminals. Don’t blame the elected legislators; the measures creating this budget deadlock were placed on the ballot by initiative petition. We did this to ourselves.
Back to Curry County: Everyone acknowledged that it would be hard to convince voters to approve a property tax levy during what is now officially called the Great Recession. However, there was a decided lack of leadership in staging any kind of a campaign for the issue.
In the wake of the vote, we placed a poll on www.currypilot.com asking what should happen next. So far, the trend is clear: We stand a good chance of becoming the only county in the state where voters are less afraid of crime than they are of a tax bill, and where we want to keep our libraries open while our 911 calls for help are put on hold.