Column: Strange things, these elections rules

You move to a new place, acclimate, and still there are certain things and the way they are done that strike you as strange. After a while, though, you see the logic.

Most of the time, anyway.

Wrapping your head around election laws and practices in Arizona is one of those strange things that just don't turn normal over time.

Clean Elections, where a candidate signs on and accepts campaign funds and is not allowed to raise funds elsewhere, is one of them.

One argument in its favor is that it's not supported by an additional tax. One of my arguments against it is that it could funnel money to a candidate who has no chance. And candidates having to come before the Clean Elections politburo for more campaign money strikes me as, well, unseemly.

Regardless of where the money comes from, it was used in other ways before Clean Elections glommed onto it, and it might be nice to have that money back now to try to help balance a budget or two.

But this isn't about Clean Elections.

The hurdles candidates have to clear is one of those strange things, at least to me. What is wrong with a candidate who meets all the criteria just walking into the elections office and filing? Here, though, you've got to get "X" number of petition signatures, and every "T" must be crossed and "I" dotted in an alphabet soup of rules.

What's the point?

And if, somewhere along the line, you suggest your candidacy might be less than serious, you can get dragged in front of a judge to explain yourself. What?

Some might argue that ballots would be cluttered with candidates. So what? Do you prefer three candidates for mayor or one? Do you prefer five candidates for three Council seats or 10?

The biggest beef, though, is when municipal elections are held. The Council was on the right track several years ago when it took the first steps toward aligning them with national elections - primaries in September, general elections in November.

Then another Council scuttled that. The argument went something like this: We want our "own" elections.

And that's what we've got, one that generally attracts less than 20 percent of the registered voters. The rest either forget or figure filling out a ballot with just two races and almost no candidates isn't worth their time.

This comfortable, incumbent-protecting format of petitions and winter/spring election dates got a jolt late last year when one of the ex-candidates for mayor - one who couldn't jump through all the hoops - suggested a different kind of campaign, one using social networking Internet sites to fire up the base and remind them to vote.

Just imagine 40 or 50 percent of the eligible voters actually participating in our municipal elections. Voters who get specific instructions via the Internet on where to vote, how to vote early, how to get an absentee ballot.

Who is this candidate's base? Beats me. But the idea of more people actually participating by voting seemed to light a fire under our incumbent mayor, and the end result is he's running unopposed.

I've got no problem with the incumbent. I think John Salem has done a fine job considering the hand he's been dealt. If there were still three candidates on the ballot, I'd vote for him.

And John Salem didn't write the election rules.

Thanks to those rules, though, he doesn't have to answer for anything he did the first two years in office.

And that strikes me as strange.