Elections exist for public’s benefit

Kevin Wilson

I care about items in this year’s elections. And I’d benefit from many of the choices I’d make. Pat Sajak thinks that’s enough to keep some people out of the process.

The game show host, posting at the Ricochet blog, made the argument against government employees voting last week.

“In nearly all private and public endeavors,” Sajak wrote, “there are occasions in which it’s only fair and correct that a person or group be barred from participating because that party could directly and unevenly benefit from decisions made and policies adopted. So should state workers be able to vote in state elections on matters that would benefit them directly?

“Plainly, their interests as direct recipients of the benefits are far greater than the interests of others whose taxes support such benefits.”

Should people be allowed to vote on matters that benefit them? I thought that was the entire point of voting.

Sajak has built an argument that sounds reasonable. Acquaintances can’t be “Wheel of Fortune” contestants, and Elena Kagan recused herself from upcoming Supreme Court cases she dealt with as solicitor general.

Yes, some sore loser would sue if Sajak’s cable guy beat him. And it would be costly for the show’s producers to prove in court that the true culprits were bad luck and/or strategy.

(Yes, strategy matters on the “Wheel.” If the board says, “MI__I__IPPI RI_ER,” and you land on $300, don’t blow the gold mine. Take the single “V” and hope you land on $5,000 next time for the “S” mother lode. You’re welcome.)

But back to the topic. The goal is fairness, and the difference is how these institutions try to achieve it. “Wheel of Fortune” picks contestants who are strangers to Pat and Vanna White. The Supreme Court holds justices with long histories of applying the law, who voluntarily recuse themselves when there’s any question of conflict.

Elections do the exact opposite of what Sajak suggests — let everybody have a say, no matter the benefit or emotions involved.

Sajak later said, “ I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote, but that there are certain cases in which their stake in the matter may be too great.”

Try these hypotheticals, then:

• Homosexual people should be barred from voting on gay marriage ballot initiatives, because they stand to benefit more than heterosexuals who can already get married.

• High school seniors shouldn’t have gotten to vote for president in 2004, because they’d be the most likely to enter into the military and commitment to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dominated election talk.

These are inflated examples, but what happens when the line is thinner? What bureaucrat or agency would get to tell us what’s inflated importance and what’s reasonable conflict?

Sajak conceded the Pandora’s Box effect, but countered it was the Ricochet blog’s entire reason for existence. If Ricochet exists to invent problems without reasonable solutions, congratulations.

Sajak’s got every right to his opinion, but all I see is, “PAT SAJAK IS WR_NG.” I don’t need to buy a vowel to solve that puzzle.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail kwilson@cnjonline.com