GULLIXSON: It all begins this week; let's get it right

Those who vote absentee in Sonoma County will see their ballots arrive in the mail this week. If patterns reflect what happened in 2008, about 5,000 of those ballots — a little less than 4 percent — will be filled out and popped in the mail within the first week. About half will be sent within the first three weeks, according to numbers crunched by Ted Appel, one of our editors.

Still, nearly a quarter of them won't come in until the final three days of the election.

To help locals make their decisions — whenever they chose to make them — those of us on The Press Democrat Editorial Board have spent a good deal of time over the past month meeting with proponents and opponents of the 11 state propositions and 17 local measures on the ballot. As we indicated in a Sept. 2 editorial ("A change in PD policy in elections") our company, Halifax Media Group, has made the decision that we will no longer endorse candidates. But we continue to make recommendations on ballot measures and plan to issue our first list of endorsements on Wednesday.

But while we invest a lot of ink this time of year writing about what's on the ballot, the fact is this election has already been decided — not by what is inside the voter pamphlet but by what's inside voters.

I thought about this last Saturday night, as my wife Tamara and I sat at the Schools Plus "A Night under the Stars" fundraiser, listening to the Elsie Allen High School drum line, clad in stately green and white uniforms, shake the walls of Santa Rosa's Friedman Center.

For those who aren't familiar, this is an annual dinner benefit, similar to ones being held for schools around the state, to raise money for arts, music and sports programs in schools. Why? Because the money no longer exists in school budgets to pay for things as basic as uniforms, instruments and paint.

As the crowd cheered these stalwart young musicians, as well as the many students whose talents were showcased that night, I thought of perspectives — and how I wish more voters could share this one.

Watching a bunch of young people make the best of what life has handed them — what schools have handed them — and being proud of what they had to offer is a stirring sight. But it's clear many voters won't see things that way when they open their ballots and ballot statements this week for the first time.

Beaten down by five difficult economic years, income losses and housing troubles, many will come hard-wired to distrust and to say no. <NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><CF101>I get it.

But in the background, I would suggest there's the sound of a different drum. And it's coming from kids who are getting caught in a massive custody battle over funding.

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