Among the ballot measures still simmering in the Secretary of State’s “potential” pot is Drey Samuelson’s proposal for automatic voter registration and voting by mail. The proposed initiative would register a voter with no party affiliation any citizen who applies for a driver’s license or state ID. Citizens would be able to choose a party affiliation or opt out of registration. The initiative would also allow county commissions to close physical polling places and instead mail ballots to everyone on the voter roll twenty days before the election. Voters could return completed ballots to the county auditor in person, at ballot dropoff facilities, or by mail, but for their votes to count, ballots would have to be in the auditor’s hands by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
The main finding of this analysis is clear: by a variety of measures, AVR was successful in improving registration and voting in Oregon and is a reform that ought to be pursued in other states. AVR makes state registration systems more accurate, efficient, and cost-effective, and the data here demonstrate that it can increase the level of participation in a state’s elections. It provides more citizens with an opportunity to use their voices in America’s democracy [Rob Griffin et al., “Who Votes with Automatic Voter Reigstration?” Center for American Progress, 2017.06.07].
Attorney General Marty Jackley has at least two more weeks to compose his explanation for the vote-by-mail/automatic-voter-registration measure. If Samuelson decides to pursue it, this initiative could improve voter participation in South Dakota. (Now if Drey and I could just figure out an efficient way to sign and submit initiative petitions by mail….)
In Oregon, which legalized assisted suicide 20 years ago, the over-all suicide rates are 40% higher in the general public than the national average. This is consistent with what’s called suicide contagion [Fred Deutsch, letter to the editor, Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.08.04].
In both cases, it is at least as logical to deduce that greater prevalence of the practice in question may have led to legalization of the practice as it is to contend, as Deutsch does, that legalization of the practice led to its greater prevalence.
Deutsch also notes that South Dakota “already ranks 7th in the nation for suicide deaths.” He gives no source, but the CDC ranked us 17th in 2014, not far behind 11th-place Oregon (rates: 17.1 suicide deaths per 100K population in South Dakota, 18.6 in Oregon, a difference 9%). Only three other states had legalized assisted suicide by 2014: two of them, Montana and Vermont, had higher suicide rates than Oregon; the third, Washington, had a lower suicide rate than South Dakota.
…Now, almost 20 years later, there is little evidence that it has been abused.
Since the passage of the law in 1997, a total of 1545 people have been written prescriptions under the DWD in Oregon, and 991 patients have died from ingesting the lethal medications.
A majority of the patients had cancer, said Charles Blanke, MD, professor of medicine, Knight Cancer Institute, at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland.
“Users are predominantly elderly, white, and well educated,” he added.
“Almost all patients are in hospice, and almost all take the medications at home after telling loved ones of their decision,” said Dr Blanke, who provided an update on Oregon’s experience here at the Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium (PCOS) 2016 [Roxanne Nelson, “Death with Dignity in Oregon: No Evidence of Abuse or Misuse,” Medscape, 2016.09.20].
Republican candidate for District 30 House Richard Mounce is complaining about a “small and vocal group” that sends “outrageous, and anonymous, post cards at election time” to commit “hateful character assassinations.” Evidently someone with different horses in the five-person District 30 GOP primary is trying to drag down Mounce by accusing him of having (gasp!) Oregon values.
It’s funny that Mounce lodges this complaint on Dakota War College, whose commenters make outrageous, anonymous, and hateful attempts at character assassination. It’s funny that Mounce lodges this complaint from within the Republican Party, whose Presidential nominating process is dominated by character assassination and bigoted fear of “the other”.
It’s not funny that Mounce takes the same route as his post card opponents and denigrates “Oregon values”:
One rumor being spread is that Laura and I have “Oregon Values” because we moved to South Dakota from Oregon several years ago. In fact, Laura is a 4thgeneration South Dakotan and absolutely steadfast in her support of my candidacy. We chose to leave Oregon and move to South Dakota, in part, because Christians and Conservatives in Portland are an endangered species.
The Oregon values I learned as a child are love of God, patriotism, service to the community, honesty and the value of hard work. While things may have changed in Oregon, in South Dakota these values are still the bedrock of life and are values Laura and I share and live daily [Richard Mounce, press release, reprinted on Dakota War College, 2016.04.21].
Oregon, like New York, is another state of the Union, filled with patriotic, hard-working Americans. To suggest that the values of another state are inferior to our own is a curious and unhelpful South Dakota brand of intranational xenophobia. It’s bad enough I’m combatting yahoos who think foreigners are bad for South Dakota. Now I’ve got to wrestle with candidates who fall into portraying fellow Americans as threats to public morality. How many people do we have to villainize and scapegoat to feel good about ourselves?
By the way, folks in Oregon have done studies to determine popularly held “Oregon Values.” The most recent decennial surveys, conducted in April and May, 2013, found the following values topping Oregonian sensibilities:
Education comes first (especially K-12): “[Oregonians] also want more parent involvement in children’s education, and graduates who know more about money management and have better learned the lessons of citizenship, work, and family.”
Wellness and personal responsibility are primary healthcare values: “…72% find it desirable that People are held accountable for high risk behaviors like smoking, drugs, and lack of exercise through higher insurance premiums.”
Environmental quality and protection are important: “They also value a good economy, but they want an approach to economic development that recognizes the importance of the state’s natural environment to its quality of life.”
Public transportation instead of new roads: “A majority of Oregonians supportinvestment in public transit and consider such investment more important than investing in roads for cars.“
Natural resource protections: “The third most valued service from a list of twenty public service priorities requiring tax allocations, protection of clean air and water,was judged important by 74%, just below K-12 education services and public safety like fire and police protection.”
The study lists ten other key value findings, including concerns about overuse of prison instead of rehabilitation, wasteful government spending, climate change, child nutrition and healthcare, and excessive government intervention in economic development. One could believe in far worse things.
Mounce calls for collective action (hey, postcarders! Collective, collectivism… that’s code for more evil, outside communism!) to be nicer toward our neighbors:
Together, collectively lets say “NO” to the fear, lies and negativity. Let’s say “YES” to optimism, integrity and improving our state. Saying “Yes” will help our young families build a brighter future here [Mounce, 2016.04.21].
Say no to fear, lies, and negativity—boy, Richard, you really did pick the wrong party, didn’t you?
Mounce is right about optimism and integrity as keys to improving our state. Holding our American values with integrity, believing we can overcome difficulty and difference, inviting all people to share in the wealth and opportunity of South Dakota is the surest way to building a bright future here. But slipping into xenophobia, even against fellow Americans, saying that folks with “Oregon values” or “New York values” are not welcome, is the surest way to make lots of smart, young, talented people—including lots of our own kids in Rapid City, Aberdeen, Yankton—turn their backs on South Dakota and leave us to stagnate in our bigotry.