North Idaho Voter Services Serves Whom?
Editorial by Clark Gadson
Both the Bonner County Bee and the Sandpoint Reader printed articles in recent months (2/22/22 and 3/9/22) about North Idaho Voter Services (NIVS), under the pretense that NIVS is providing a necessary service and that the candidate reporting on their new “service” is neutral.
These “articles” are similarly noteworthy in their tone and lack of substance, – an indication that the “content” was likely a regurgitation of a press release provided by NIVS, rather than the result of any significant journalistic effort.
The articles make clear that NIVS intends to position itself as a local “voter service” (a pretense at neutrality) but the problem NIVS purports to solve is “extreme” trends, also labeled “far-right”, “ultra-conservative”, and “fringe.” If NIVS were neutral in presenting candidates, their ideas, and their suitability for county voters, then there would be no need to cast tired labels in any direction. Instead, there would be a desire to share the truth about issues and candidates. I could not find one reference to an issue or a candidate in these articles, not a single fact.
Diana Dawson, the founding director of NIVS is quoted by the Bonner Bee as saying “We are non-partisan in that our work is dedicated to getting beyond extremism.” On the contrary, Ms. Dawson reveals her true partisanship via the use of the same vague and meaningless labelling frequently used by national leftist and “progressive” political interests to describe those who simply believe in the basic principles of our Constitution and the republic which it defines.
Labels are useful for conjuring images and stirring emotions, but they are not useful in supporting an educated populace making informed decisions about who will represent them in local politics.
Here are some facts concerning NIVS:
NIVS sent out a recent email on 3/10/22 encouraging all non-Republicans to change their affiliation to Republican to vote in the upcoming primary. Here is an excerpt from their recent email:
This communication seems to indicate that if conservatives dominate the local electorate, then democrats and libertarians should lie to corrupt the electoral process? It also begs the question as to whether NIVS might also be encouraging candidates to misrepresent their true political stances to the citizens of Bonner County…
NIVS does not list all qualified candidates on their website.
NIVS endorses specific candidates without stating any basis for the selection of those recommendations on their website or in their literature.
Barbara Schriber, another founder of NIVS, expresses frustration in the Bonner Bee article that there is a “lack of representation” from policymakers. She follows this comment by stating that she supports candidates that put the “wellbeing of Bonner County and Boundary County citizens first.” What does she mean by this? She fails to define how she (or NIVS) defines that “wellbeing” or exactly what values and political positions she feels “lack representation.”
The directors of NIVS are Jack Parker, Jim Frank, Dan McLaughlin, Barbara Schriber, Bob Boeh, and Diana Dawson (founder). By February, together they had donated over $3,000 to their recommended candidates and associated PACs. Given that NIVS fails to publish a set of stated values or political positions which would truly inform Bonner County residents, it seems like little more than a shell for crony politics of some sort.
Let’s not pretend NIVS is a non-partisan entity anymore.
If a group has to hide its true affiliation and intention behind name-calling and the appearance of neutrality, then we cannot trust their stated intentions.
The voters in this county care about the future of North Idaho, and connect this future to the ability of its elected representatives to truly represent the values of its residents. Elected officials are meant to serve the interests of their local constituents, not to fulfill a bureaucratic function set out by national (or global) masters. If we want a thoughtful group of representatives who protect the future of the county and its families, then we need to be a thoughtful electorate. We need to ask for the truth that lies beneath and is hidden by re-hashed name-calling and empty tropes.
If voters seek greater transparency in a voting guide for the upcoming May 17 primaries, Idaho True Conservatives (ITC) endorses candidates based on a publicly stated set of values, which are clearly stated on the Bonnervotes.org website. Rather than merely tossing around meaningless labels supplied by national progressive political interests,
Bonner County resident ITC volunteers vet its endorsed candidates based on these publicly stated values, allowing the Bonner County voters to make truly informed decisions.
Edited to add graphic.