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Spin Control: Consistency in the eye of the beholder

Sun., Oct. 23, 2011

OLYMPIA – As the news media lurches between ignoring and overexposing the Occupy Wall Street/Spokane/Seattle/ Everywhere movement, is it too much to ask for the pontificators to show a little consistency in their love or disdain for populist rebellions in the 21st century?

Conservative commentators are complaining that the Occupy (fill in the blank) protesters are inexperienced at best and ignorant at worst. Liberal commentators have essentially alibi’d the protesters by saying the movement is young, diverse and still in its nascent stages.

Funny thing is that two years ago when the tea party movement sprang up, the conservatives and liberals were taking the opposite stances. So here’s a thought:

If you criticized tea partyers two years ago for saying they opposed government-run health care when some of them were on Medicare, you can ding Occupy Wherever for complaining about capitalism while wearing Nike logo clothing or using their ATM cards to get cash for a latte at Starbucks. If you ignored the first, you should ignore the second.

If you razzed tea partyers’ bizarre tea-bag festooned hats and Colonial tri-corners, you can toss verbal bricks at the 99 percenters for dressing like they shopped at a Haight-Ashbury Value Village. If you gave one a pass on weird fashions, do the same to the other.

If you suggested that tea partyers didn’t understand health care reform, tax policy or the democratic process, you can suggest that occupiers don’t understand banking regulations, international finance or the democratic process. If you thought the one provided a refreshing new perspective on old tired issues, don’t accuse the other of being foolishly naïve.

And don’t pop out that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that a foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of a small mind. A consistent lack of consistency is the hallmark of an even smaller one.

State overseas voting earns good marks

The state caught some flak last summer when it received a waiver of the federal deadline for getting ballots to the troops overseas. At one point, Fox News commentators even accused the state of trying to take the most precious right of democracy away from the brave men and women fighting and dying to defend that right.

Or something like that.

No matter how hard then-assistant state elections director Katie Blinn tried to explain the state’s system, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly couldn’t seem to wrap her head around the idea that Washington gave the troops more time because it counts ballots for nearly two weeks after “Election Day.”

At one point, the state GOP’s executive and central committees passed a resolution calling for the state to withdraw the waiver request.

A study released last week on how states handled getting ballots to and from deployed troops and other overseas voters gives Washington high marks for the 2010 election.

The state sent out nearly 53,000 ballots overseas, 32,597 of them to military personnel. About 21,000 of them came back, with 13,065 coming from military voters.

The state counted 99 percent of the ballots that came back. Of the 274 rejected ballots, only 17 weren’t counted because they arrived too late. The main reason for rejecting a military or overseas ballot is the same as for regular ballots: the signature didn’t match the one on file.

It is true that the turn-in rate for military and other overseas voters was much lower than for the general population – 40 percent compared to about 71 percent for voters at home. It may be that by the time some ballots caught up to troops in forward bases it was so late they didn’t have time to mark the ballots and mail them back. It’s also possible they had other, more pressing, things going on. Their rate of return was higher than the national average of 32 percent.

The number of ballots Washington sent to deployed troops and other overseas voters was fifth in the nation, behind more populous California, Texas, Florida and New York. The percentage of returned ballots that were counted was fourth. In both cases, that’s far ahead of many states that didn’t get a waiver of the federal law requiring ballots be sent out a minimum of 45 days before the election.

Spin Control, a weekly column by Olympia reporter Jim Camden, also appears online at blogs/spincontrol, where you can find a link to the exchange between Kelly and Blinn.

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