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Voters Vote Yes, County Says No 645

Khyber writes in with a story from Montana, where residents of Missoula County voted in a referendum intended to advise county law-enforcement types to treat marijuana offenses as low-profile. The referendum would not have changed any laws, but was advisory only. After voters approved it, county commissioners overturned it by a 2-to-1 vote. They were swayed by the argument of the county attorney, who had a "gut feeling" that Missoula's electorate had misinterpreted the ballot language. The move has resulted in a flood of disaffection among voters, especially young voters. "Is there even a point to voting any more if the will of the people can so easily be subverted by two people?" one voter posted on a comment blog.
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Voters Vote Yes, County Says No

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  • Link? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:08PM (#18474523) Journal
    I think they forgot something...
    • Re:Link? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:10PM (#18474537)
      tis a problem with heavy pot smokers, they tend to forget things ;-)
      • Re:Link? (Score:5, Informative)

        by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:35PM (#18474771) Journal

        tis a problem with heavy pot smokers, they tend to forget things ;-)

        Are you referring to the poster, or the slashdot editors? e12ca09070c26c8713da13 []

        The big problem many people said they have with last night's decision is that it undermines what the voters said they wanted last November.

        During last night's hearing, a number of people protested the amendment saying commissioners don't have the power or the right to change the initiative but they did anyway. County Commissioner Bill Carey was the one dissenter in last night's vote. He said the commissioners do have the power to amend the initiative but he doesn't think they should have. He said it should have been given a chance. "I believe we should have implemented the initiative the voters approved. I suggested we should have given the initiative the voters approved a chance and if after a year or so, there really were problems, we should make amendments then," he said.

        Carey said he hopes voters aren't too discouraged by last night's vote and he urges them not to give up on the democratic process.

        I hear that everyone else was going "like .... bummer, dude!"

        • Re:Link? (Score:4, Funny)

          by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:20PM (#18475043) Homepage Journal

          tis a problem with heavy pot smokers, they tend to forget things ;-)
          Are you referring to the poster, or the slashdot editors?
          You must be new here.
          • Re:Link? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:52PM (#18475193) Journal
            As a Canadian, I have to say... dealing with this sort of thing was the only reasonable justification I ever saw for your stupid gun laws.

            What are you all waiting for? Go shoot the fuckers already.
            • Re:Link? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by jtev ( 133871 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:18PM (#18475343) Journal
              It's not just the justification. It's the entire purpose behind the second amendment. And behind all the new gun laws that try to supersede the second amendment. A little rebellion from time to time is good for the country. Even if it is bad for the belligerents.
              • Re:Link? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:51PM (#18475563)
                It may be the reason for the second ammendment, only thing is the second amendment is now redundant. The very instant anyone attempts to put together a group of people with the aim of affecting Government policies or methods through the 'bearing arms' avenue, they'll be thrown in prison or sent to GTMO.

                Your only choice is to vote for the lest corrupt and most honest politician. While you state that a little rebellion is good, it ain't gonna happen.
                • Re:Link? (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by dbrutus ( 71639 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @04:58AM (#18476983) Homepage
                  The PRC does not have a 2nd amendment. The PRC does, however, have a large agricultural and mining population with ready access to explosives. There are an awful lot of bombings in the PRC. Very often the message sender does it in suicide fashion. That he does not survive the exercise does not mean that the message was not received. There are lots of ways to use guns to send a message. The foremost one is their very presence, framing the relationship between the people and the government in subtle ways that rarely have to be stated and most often aren't even consciously acknowledged.

        • In the words of the immortal Hunter S. Thomson, Bill Carey is obviously a perfect example of a "drunken pig farmer". The thing about democracy is that sometimes you have to live with decisions that you abhor. I just wish we could apply Carey's reasoning to the 2001 presidential elections.

          To the good residents of the county...smoke on....

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BW_Nuprin ( 633386 )

      As a former Missoulian, I can absolutely guarantee the officials that the people of Missoula did NOT misinterpret the language on the ballot :)

      It's not like there is really there much else to do in Montana, anyway.

    • Here's a link (Score:5, Informative)

      by GuyMannDude ( 574364 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:15PM (#18474569) Journal

      I found this story [] doing a Google search. From TFA:

      The tone of the hearing shifted when Van Valkenburg said that he had proposed the amendments because of a "gut feeling" that Missoula voters were not "detail-oriented" enough to understand the complete scope of the initiative.

      I think the only ones who failed the "detail-oriented" test are the slashdot editors who posted a story that references an article and a blog but failed to provide any links.


    • by Eternal Vigilance ( 573501 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:29PM (#18474719)
      That node was flagged by the new /. content analyzer as unreachable and optimized out.

      Fascinating technology, really. Here's a link to how they do it:
  • Short answer: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Durrok ( 912509 ) <calltechsucks@gm a i l .com> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:10PM (#18474533) Homepage Journal
    No and that is why voting among American citizens is extremely low.

  • Follow the money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pyite69 ( 463042 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:16PM (#18474583)
    The government taxes and spends a LOT of money to prosecute the war on drugs. Virtually every department gets a cut.

    It is only logical that a county attorney would want to continue prosecuting these cases, otherwise he might have to cut staff and save the taxpayers a few bucks.
    • Re:Follow the money (Score:4, Informative)

      by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:30PM (#18475101)
      It is only logical that a county attorney would want to continue prosecuting these cases, otherwise he might have to cut staff and save the taxpayers a few bucks.

      I can't say exactly how things work in Montana, but generally a "county attorney" is the guy who advises and represents the county commission on the legal effect of proposed ordinances, their constitutionality (or lack thereof), and sometimes represents the county in civil cases.

      Usually, the person who prosecutes criminal cases--representing the state rather than the county--is called the "district attorney".
  • Some articles (Score:5, Informative)

    by j1m+5n0w ( 749199 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:16PM (#18474589) Homepage Journal

    There was no link in the story, so here's some that seem to be relevant.

    An article []

    relevant Google news search []

    • Democracy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xman6 ( 897911 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:21PM (#18474637)
      It's been said by Jean-Jacque Rousseau in the Social Contract that Democracy stops being Democracy (Democracy in the sense of Voting for Opinion vs the difference between Democracy and Republicanism) when the Government stops being a representative for the people. Once that happens it becomes an oppressive tyranical force something akin to a Dictatorship which is the ultimate end of Democractic rule, hence why its been said that every Democractic society needs to continuously reinvent itself and suffer a civil upheavel or it will become a Dictatorship in rule but a Democracy in name, this is the worst type of Dictatorship since it abuses not only the people it controls but also lies to the truth of its own existance. I would rather live under a Dictatorship which acknowledged it was rather than one who said it wasn't. Hence why I'm glad I live in Canada, although we still face many problems along the same lines but not as bad yet.
  • Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:18PM (#18474605) Homepage /local/news04.txt []

    Man -- and I thought *I* was lazy. But too lazy to Google it? Wow.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:20PM (#18474629) Journal
    People can change things... especially if you start one state at a time.

    Each state has 2% of the Senate vote.

    Montana seems to have 2 Democrat senators... maybe they should start a groundswell by voting in some libertarians [] who wouldn't put up for that stuff.

  • I was there (Score:5, Informative)

    by steampoweredlawngnom ( 996400 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:21PM (#18474635)
    That meeting just reinforced my opinion that voting is pointless. There were 30 or so people who implored the commitee and commissioners not to amend the initiative, and 5 people ask them to amend it, 3 of which were law enforcement, one man was very, very elderly, and one man who actually claimed that "it was much harder for me to get off pot than marijuana."

    The county prosecutor opened the meeting by telling us that we did not understand the initiative, to which many of us, myself included, assured him that we read the initiative in its entirety, and did understand it. When everybody was done speaking, he came back up and told us that he disagreed with us, and that we still did not understand the initiative. In addition, he showed us a map showing how the votes were distributed, and told us that since most of the votes were centered around the "metropolitan" area of Missoula, and not so much in the surrounding areas of the county, that it was not fair to voters to have this initiative.

    I really enjoy living in Missoula for a number of reasons, but the local government is not one of them.

    For the record, I did vote, and will continue to, regardless of my opinion that voting is purely symbolic.

    • Missoula (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gary W. Longsine ( 124661 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:43PM (#18474813) Homepage Journal
      I live in Missoula and discussed this initiative with quite a few people, none of whom are consumers of unregulated or illegal substances. They all voted for this, and they all understood it clearly. "The police should be investigating real crimes" was the most commonly cited reason. There are unsolved robberies every week in this town that receive, as far as anyone can tell, scant police attention. Police can build careers and the county can confiscate property (and generate revenue) "busting people for drugs" but investigating robberies is hard work and not glamorous in any way. The people of Missoula county understand this clearly. The people who overturned this will very likely be voted out of office next chance.
    • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:45PM (#18474823) Journal
      a) You don't vote, "because it doesn't matter."

      b) Elected officials don't do things the way you would.

      Are you on the weed or what?

      Why do you not vote for someone who thinks like you do? Don't tell me it doesn't matter, because you already told me you didn't vote, so we can't really know, now can we?

      Personally, I think the problem is that we have ended up with a binary choice for elected officals; Assholes and Dimwits. The de-facto two party system just doesn't cover the real-world spectrum of opinion, including those who self-select to opt out of the system because, wah, wah, there is noone who exactly represents them exactly.

      change is incremental, but if you don't vote you are stuck with no hope of change. If everyone who didn't vote "because it doesn't matter" voted for someone other than the two big parties it might give those of us who vote holding our nose a hint that other out there care too.

      I always vote.

      Sometimes "my guy" wins, sometimes he loses. I am almost always disappointed either way, by the policies that the guy in office advocates. Usually it seems like elected officials do something, just to be doing something, which is almost always wrong.

      Hmm, maybe there isn't much difference, other than the fact that I can at least say "I tried".

  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:22PM (#18474649) Journal
    Measure (This is actually short and readable. Maybe you will place it on the ballot in your county?) nit.pdf []
    Article /local/news04.txt []
  • by DrJimbo ( 594231 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:23PM (#18474653)
    The chairman of the Democratic party in my county pulled a trick to prevent a motion to initiate impeachment of President Bush [] from even getting voted on. There was great outrage among local Democrats. We had a county Democratic convention today. It was early Saturday morning but I showed up. It was the first convention I've ever attended but I was pissed off that the will of the people had been subverted.

    A new more progressive chair and vice-chair were voted in unanimously. You can make a difference, especially by starting at the local level and working your way up.

  • by bhalter80 ( 916317 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:29PM (#18474725)
    This is the same behavior exhibited by the Massachusetts legislature in 2000 when the tax payers voted on a binding referendum to lower the state income tax rate from 5.3% to 5.0%. This time period was during a $1B annual surplus but the legislators stated that it was not finacially wise for the state to lower the tax rate and that the resulting decrease would not significantly benefit the tax payers in terms of cold hard cash. As it was a binding referendum the legislators simply passed a bill the next day to raise the tax rate back to 5.3%
  • Why I dont vote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quzak ( 1047922 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:30PM (#18474727)
    This only confirms the reason why I and many others simply do not vote. Votes are simply subverted, and ignorance is usually cited by those in power.

    The voters probably did not understand the wording of the ballot.
    The voters probably did not understand what they are voting on.
    The voters are too stupid to vote so just project the illusion that their votes matter.

    I for one am sick and tired of the government and those in power who think they are above the voters. Government and those who work for the Government exist to serve the public, not the other way around.
    • Re:Why I dont vote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garett_spencley ( 193892 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:02PM (#18474935) Journal
      None of those are reasons not to vote. They're just excuses for being lazy.

      Even if you believe that your vote doesn't matter what do you lose from voting besides time ?

      On the other hand, if you're wrong, and your vote does make a difference then you've had some say in the politics that affect your every day life. If that doesn't matter to you then, by all means, stay home and jerk off while others who actually care go out and try to change things for the better.

      Even if they're just wasting their time at least they're actually doing something.

      The way I see it you have three options:

      1) You vote and try to change things through the system (writing angry letters, protesting etc.)
      2) You don't vote and instead gather a group of supporters and draw arms and try to overthrow your government by force.
      3) You do nothing and justify it by saying how futile doing something would be.
      • Re:Why I dont vote (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RealGrouchy ( 943109 ) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:13AM (#18476685)
        Voting is only the smallest step up from apathy.

        A single vote really is very insignificant, when you compare it to all the other ways that one can involve oneself in the community and in the advancement of social goals.

        - RG>
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mux2000 ( 832684 )

        Even if you believe that your vote doesn't matter what do you lose from voting besides time ?

        Well, by voting you indicate you submit (and subject) your will to the democratic process, meaning you'll abide by whatever result the democratic process achieves. In case you've lost faith in that said process, or generally in the government you are supposed to be selecting, by voting you lose your dignity and/or moral high-ground by submitting it to a form of government you no longer can trust. Voting means you r

    • it's classic psychology: they have trained dogs to learn that they cannot control their surroundings. they teach them that if they get an electric shock from jumping over a barrier, then the dogs just lay down and take the shocks

      it's sad, and it works just as well on humans

      the point is to effect control on your government, that's the beauty of a democracy. but if a democracy is populated by those who think helpessly, like slaves, like, you, then democracy does not work

      when you withhold your vote, you only help those who you complain about. those who you hate are HAPPY that you do not vote. if their actions lead you to not vote, all the more reason to do the actions they do, according to them

      your psychology is that of a slave in a fascist state. and if enough people who think like you populate this country, then that is exactly what it will become. BECAUSE of people like you, not in spite of people like you

      look: there will ALWAYS be assholes who try to manipulate the system. always. but simply because they exist, you will withhold your voice from your government. incredible. you must always fight the assholes who would subvert democracy. but if you simply stop fighting them, and give up your vote, then guess what? they win

      if this country is not democratic in anyway, it is more because of people like you, then the assholes who would subvert it. because evil assholes can be fought. apathy on the other hand, is an obstinate unmoveable useless obstacle

      people who think like you are the biggest reason democracy fails: "i'm helpless, so i will not vote"

      no, you're not helpless, your vote counts. you only think that way because you have been trained like a dog in a cage. you've learned helpelessness, you have no heart, you've ceased caring

  • by essence ( 812715 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:33PM (#18474753) Homepage Journal
    The correct name is Cannabis. Marijuana refers to cannabis sativa strains originating in Mexico. There is also cannabis indica, which is lower in THC (the 'high') and higher in CBD (which is more beneficial in some medical cases, such as cataplexy).

    There are also two other main strains, Industrial Hemp being one of them, but also another which i cannot remember the name of.

  • by Centurix ( 249778 ) <> on Saturday March 24, 2007 @08:43PM (#18474815) Homepage
    American democracy is a form of entertainment. A stage show, which certainly does not take requests from the audience.
  • by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:05PM (#18474949) Homepage Journal
    Ballot initiatives don't have much of a direct effect (although the actual news story [] I found says that they're still deprioritizing non-felony possession), but one of the commissioners who voted to change the initiative needs to run for re-election in 2008. If anyone plausible wants her job, it probably wouldn't be hard to defeat her on a platform of not second-guessing the electorate and the pot declaration that voters already went for.
  • Coincidentally... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:10PM (#18474991) Homepage Journal
    You know, it was 75 years ago this month since marijuana was banned by the federal government. Use of this weed has risen every year since then. Could it be that the law just isn't working? Naw...
  • by jctull ( 704600 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @09:51PM (#18475189)

    "Is there even a point to voting any more if the will of the people can so easily be subverted by two people?" one voter posted on a comment blog.
    Uh, this is an argument for voting, not an argument against it. If you believe these two elected officials are subverting the will of the people they represent, you get their asses kicked out the next time around. This is exactly what happened in Kansas when the Kansas school board had a majority of creationists embarassing the majority of Kansans by trying to force creationsism (yeah, they call it "intelligent design" now, but we know better) down students' throats. The voters came to the ballots and put those people out on the street.

    So this is a compelling reason to vote, not a reason to wuss out of the democratic process.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Karellen ( 104380 )
      Um....but these people have just declared that they will ignore the result of a vote if it doesn't go the way they want.

      Say at the next election they *do* get voted out. So what? What's to stop them declaring *again* that the voters didn't understand the issue, or were confused, and that they just declare that the *correct* result is that they've been voted back in.

      If your votes are being thrown away, discarded or ignored, there *is* no point in voting. It's just a meaningless sham, dressed up to look like
  • by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @10:19PM (#18475349)

    "Is there even a point to voting any more if the will of the people can so easily be subverted by two people?"

    Sadly it's just a microcosm of the wider world. The UN General Assembly (i.e. The rest of the world) can vote all it likes but it's resolutions are non-binding. Yet when just a handful of countries vote (the Security Council) their word is law. The 5 permanent members ("permanent" already being an affront to any kind of democracy) also have veto power over everyone else. It's so ridiculously undemocratic, I'm not really sure why anyone bothers turning up. I think the rest of the world should set up their own UN, where countries have an equal say. If you think that countries should have unequal representation, it should be based on population count not wealth since you would not like rich people in your own country to have more votes than you, would you?
  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Saturday March 24, 2007 @11:56PM (#18475853)
    There's a lot of gnashing of teeth out there about the poor quality of our political leadership and the lack of good candidates who will stand up and fix what's wrong. But a timid people will never produce strong, moral leaders. It's axiomatic. If we want things to change in this country, we're just going to have to do it ourselves. We have to be strong if we expect our country to be strong. Corrupt political leaders will never bring themselves to justice--we have to do it. The police will never arrest themselves for violating the law, so we as citizens must arrest them. That's the ultimate guarantor of democracy, folks, us.

    Can't speak for folks in other parts of the country, but Montanans still remember what it means to be free. They will correct this and those who think they can simply overrule a democratic vote.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @12:34AM (#18476055)
    My own thoughts about the futility of the Democratic process aside, one of the most beautiful things about said process is the fact that it's politicians are notoriously spineless.

    If every person posting in indignation where to say, express their thoughts directly to the Missoula County Commissioners' Office, who knows what could happen?

    oops, whats this?

    Missoula County
    Board of County Commissioners
    200 W. Broadway
    Missoula, MT 59802

    Main Office Telephone Number: 406-258-4877

    Contact Person: Jean Curtiss
    Phone: 406-258-4877
    Fax: 406-721-4043
    Email: [mailto] (or)
    Location: Second Floor of Courthouse Annex Room 210

    Contact Person: Bill Carey
    Phone: 406-258-4877
    Fax: 406-721-4043
    Email: [mailto] (or)
    Location: Second Floor of Courthouse Annex Room 210

    Phone: 406-258-4877
    Fax: 406-721-4043
    Email: [mailto] (or)
    Location: Second Floor of Courthouse Annex Room 210

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission