My Vote Makes Me Feel Like a 'Frog Out of Water'
November 5, 2018

In getting ready to vote in tomorrow's election, I am reminded of a scene from the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit. This probably doesn't apply to most of you, but I am stuck in a little bit of a conundrum. In the scene, Bandit (Burt Reynolds) explains to Sally Field's character that how dumb you are depends on what part of the country you are standing in.

This was 1977 and had nothing to do with Donald Trump. In fact, it had nothing to do with politics. Field's character, whom Bandit called 'Frog', was a wannabe singer and dancer from New York. Bandit didn't know anything about Stephen Sondheim or the New York stage, but Frog was stuck in the South, and didn't know anything about singer/dancer Brenda Lee or race car driver Richard Petty. I know, you're thinking, what the heck does that have to do with the midterm election?

I live in a different county from where I work. My commute time is only about 40 minutes, and the two counties border each other. Politically, they are very different.

I am a news reporter in Nevada County, so it is my job to know what's going on there. Voters will be electing a new Sheriff, there are three candidates for two seats on the Grass Valley City Council, there's a measure that would tax marijuana which even the growers support, and there's a chance that a Democrat could unseat a Republican in a traditionally red Congressional district—the only, or at least one of just a few, in California that could turn blue. There's a lot at stake here, but I'm just a spectator. That's fine, except I am 'in the know' when it comes to Nevada County politics.

The thing is, I live in Yuba County. I sleep here, I shop here, but I don't work here. I used to know a lot of the political players. I think I still know the name of the Marysville mayor, but I can't tell you who my county supervisor is. This is a predominantly Republican area that got gerrymandered into Sacramento's Congressional district in 2010, which means being represented by a Democrat. Our state senator is different from the one in Nevada County, and so is our Assemblyman. I know very little about these people. How am I supposed to know how to vote?

Nevada County has Measure G—a tax on cannabis (it's becoming more politically incorrect to say 'marijuana' but I still use the two interchangeably). Yuba County has Measure K, which according to a couple of billboards around town, would keep us 'fire safe'. It turns out its a one-cent sales tax increase with money supposedly to go to emergency services, and even says on the ballot “to protect essential services such as 9-1-1”. Really? 9-1-1 could go away if Measure K fails? Who would vote against that? Yuba County also has a history of squandering money, and nothing about oversight is mentioned. If this were in Nevada County (even though I don't live there), I would be all over this. I don't have a clue.

Yuba County also has a school bond measure. Don't know much about it, but the schools here are old. Guess I'll vote for it. Nevada County had one approved two years ago, and improvements are being made. Then, on every ballot, there's the judges and other boards and districts you didn't even know existed. I have to admit I know far too much about Nevada County's water district, but I don't know anything (and honestly don't really care to) about the smaller boards in Yuba County. It's kind of a shame, really, that they are elected offices, when no one really knows who they are voting for.

It should also be said, though, that while I live in one county and work in another, I'm still in California. That means I should know all the propositions, right? So, I pay rent, which means I should know all about Proposition 10, but I don't. I don't know if it would help me or hurt me. I have opinions on most of the others, but not the one that could possibly affect me the most. Chickens shouldn't be caged, more children's hospitals should be built, and I don't think it's unreasonable to ask an EMT on break to put down a sandwich and answer a medical call. These are all things we are voting on in California.

At least the Yuba County portion of my ballot is small. There's no way in hell 9-1-1 service is going away, but I guess I'll vote for Measure K. A lot of the county offices were decided in June, and I didn't know who they were then, either. I know it's more than a stretch to compare my local ignorance to a New York dancer stuck in a Trans-Am with Burt Reynolds, but voting in Yuba County makes me feel dumb. I'm a lot smarter in Nevada County.

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