As a firm believer not only in the right to vote, but also in the duty, I have begun my due diligence for Nashville’s May 3 election.
Initial conclusion: Yikes!
Some 72 people are running for 43 public jobs. To use a dining analogy, this is an all-you-can-eat buffet consisting of six-dozen varieties of squash casserole.
I don’t mean to suggest that all of the candidates possess the same intelligence or qualifications as members of the gourd family – though I suspect some do. Nor is it my intent to disparage squash casseroles in general, some of which I quite like.
Did you know, by the way, that squash is not a vegetable, but a fruit? I just learned that.
What I do mean is that almost all of the 72 people running are indistinguishable to me, and the specific duties of at least some of the jobs are unfamiliar. So there are too many choices with too little information.
What, after all, is a county clerk called upon to do? Or a country trustee?
For that matter, how does the job of a Circuit Court judge, of which there are apparently eight in Davidson, differ from that of a Criminal Court judge, of which there are six? Aren’t there criminal trials in Circuit Court? And what about General Sessions Court judges? There are apparently 11 of those.
By the way, my maternal great-great-grandfather was the county clerk for not one, not two, but three Texas counties. So I’m sure the work is vital, whatever it may be.
One positive for the May election is that a good many of the candidates are running unopposed, eliminating the need for choosing between. But the question remains whether any of those unopposed candidates deserve my endorsement.
I turned to Jeff Roberts, the Davidson County elections administrator, to sort out some of my confusion over the ballot itself.
He was helpful, to the extent that help was possible. For instance, he easily fielded my question about what the heck some Brentwood residents are doing running for Davidson County offices.
“Some Brentwood addresses are part of Davidson County,” he says. OK, my bad. Should have known that.
Otherwise, he adds, this being a primary, voters must first choose between a Democratic or Republican ballot. The Republican version is far simpler, with only five candidates, according to the list on the Metro government website. So, people choosing that ballot will have a much simpler go of it.
However, as regular readers of this column will know, that is not the ballot I will make my selections from. So I’m still left with 67 people for 43 jobs.
Only that is not quite true, either. School board candidates run by district, so voters have only one race to sort.
“Refer to your new voter registration card for your School Board district,” Roberts says. To which I think: What new voter registration card? Was I supposed to do something to get one? More due diligence?
The Tennessean, in its effort to educate the public, came up with a questionnaire for all the candidates, asking things like “Why are you running for this office?” “What makes you qualified to hold this office and better qualified than your opponent(s)?” and “If you are elected (or reelected), what are your top two to three priorities for your new (or next) term in office?”
Those are excellent questions. Unfortunately, I can’t find some of the candidates’ answers in the spreadsheet format presented. User error on my part is a distinct possibility; you may well do better.
Even if not, the questionnaire is helpful in another significant way: Some candidates declined even to respond to the questionnaire.
I thank them for having made my job easier. Because they will certainly not get my vote.
Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at email@example.com