Chapter 6: County Elections


It was late September. Parker was back home with his parents. 
Sophie was in a new school, ADM, and seemed to be making friends and fitting in.

Her dad was in his chair one evening, looking over the ads and interviews for various candidates. Being new to the county, they missed the primary elections in early June. Do you realize that all the people elected to Dallas County government during the first 20 years of its settlement, were not born in Dallas County? They immigrated and settled here from other places?  

History books also tell us that Dallas County lost a few office-holders to gold-rush fever.

Sophie was looking over his shoulder. “Why do people run for office dad; what is that all about?” 

“Well Sweetie, we have a government that looks after certain parts of our lives to keep things fair and to keep us safe. 
We elect people to offices in the federal government like presidents and congressional positions. 
The US Constitution requires state governments to do certain things, and States tells county governments what to do. 
So, we elect people to hold local offices to enforce federal and state laws and processes.” 

Dad turned on the computer and pulled-up 'ISAC Iowa Mandates'. 
The website came up, about 100 pages, nearly 1,300 rules that the State of Iowa requires counties to do. 

“Wow” Sophie said. “That’s a lot of reading.” 

“Indeed, it is.” agreed her dad. “Let’s read a few of them that apply to young people. 
You will see that each duty is given to a county office, which is overseen by a locally-elected official:

‘The sheriff shall cooperate with the division of labor services of the department of workforce development 
in the enforcement of child labor laws as provided in section 92.22.331.653(10)’ 

“Is he the one I complain to if I don’t want to clean my room?” 

“I think you and the State of Iowa have differing definitions of child labor, my Dear Daughter. 
Here are some anothers, ‘The Board of Supervisors shall levy school taxes certified to it. 298.8.’ 
‘The County Attorney shall enforce the provisions of chapter 155A regarding the licensing of pharmacists 155A.26’ 

“Dad? What does that have to do with me?”
 
“This helps make sure the medicine we buy for you is pure and will do what it is advertised to do. 
Here’s another one, Sophie:” ‘The Board of Supervisors shall create a joint 911 service board.’ 
The county board oversees the 911 system that we call if there is an emergency. 

"That’s a small sample of what county government does for kids. You can look through the website as you please. 
That might make a good book report sometime.” 

“Dad, why doesn’t the government just hire people to do those jobs, then we wouldn’t have to elect people. 
SO many grownups seem to hate elections.” 

Dad chuckled. “I know adults get frustrated about the process, but it is wise to let citizens elect the people who will enforce laws locally. 
It gives them the feeling that they have some control of the process, which they do, if election fraud isn't committed. 
Citizens elect lawmakers at all levels of government. Besides, local governments have the option of providing services to citizens that people in another part of the state may not need. "

"For example, a county with a huge lake might need water safety patrols, where as we, with the Raccoon River, don’t need that. Also, two less-populated counties might join together to contract certain services and reduce expenses. 
Local control allows decisions like that.” 

“Dallas County, Iowa was opened up to white-people settlement in 1843. 
A lot of the people who moved here were very poor people from back East, looking to make a better life. 
Back then, many poor people couldn’t read or write. It would have been easy for crooks to wait for these settlers to settle a land claim, and then cheat them out of it once it was cleared of the timber and producing crops. 
The County Recorder’s Office looks after land sales, so the rightful owner can’t be cheated out of it.” 

“Ok, then what about the Sheriff?” 

“Well, you know how you love rules when we play chess, but don’t like rules when we play checkers?” 

“Yesss?” stammered Sophie with a bit of a blush. (she wishes she could jump sideways). 

“It’s a lot easier for people to obey laws enforced by a Sheriff they elected. 
Federalism is a form of colonialism, but locally-elected overseers help lessen the sting.” 

“Huh?” asked Sophie. 

“Never mind.” said mom who was passing through the living room. 
“Your dad is going off on a theoretical tangent with words too big for you to understand.” 

“And what is a theoretical tangent?” asked a frustrated Sophie. 

“Touché.” said mom. “Forget I said that, because I can’t explain it.” 

Mom was on a tangent of her own. Yesterday was her birthday and they drove to Dexter and had burgers, and then bought homemade chocolates from a local chocolaterie. She was still eating chocolate. Dad said she acted like a kid in a candy store. (get it?) 

“OK Dad, So what county offices are elected?” 

“Hmm. There is the Sheriff, and we know what he does. 
Then the Recorder, and we talked about that office. 
There is also the Auditor, whose job is to track county business like elections. They also keeping track of County Supervisor meetings, and reviewing financial statements made by county offices. 
There is the Treasurer, who collects money from taxpayers for many different departments. The money for new school buildings comes via the county treasurer collecting property taxes. 
Since 1882, an elected County Attorney oversees the county's legal matters, contracts, and prosecutes crime for the county, including crimes against children. 
And, the County Supervisors take responsibility for setting tax rates, entering contracts for the count and making sure certain services are provided for citizens.  Each elected official has duties, as outlined by Iowa Code. 

Mom passed through again and looked puzzled. “When new candidates are elected, how do they know what to do?” 

“Good question,” noted dad. “Government offices have regular employees, called bureaucrats, that know the day-to-day business of the office and help train the newly-elected office–holder in the duties of that office. 
Several offices have state-produced procedure manuals for newly-elected county officials. 

Mom ventured another question, “What if the bureaucrats don’t teach the new office-holders everything they need to know, or manipulate the information to their own advantage?” 

“Well, then we hope that there are checks and balances or whistle-blowers that will make the deceit known.” 

“What’s a whistle-blower, Dad?” 

“That is someone who tells others about those who do wrong, Sweetie.” 

“Do you mean a tattletale or a parent?” 

“Well, people who are doing wrong need to be exposed.” 

“Well then, isn’t every candidate a whistle-blower, because they’re always pointing out what other people are doing wrong?” Sophie offered.

“HA! I never thought of it that way. But technically, whistleblowing usually involves someone INSIDE an organization bringing to light things that people are doing illegally or against best practices. 
A lot of political candidates disagree on priorities.
Sometimes this means trying to make legal what has always been illegal, 
or trying to make illegal what has before been legal."

"So I guess most politics is whistle-blowing of some kind. 
Young lady, YOU get an extra late bedtime this weekend for thinking that through so well.” 

“Yesss!” Sophie said. "One more question, Dad, I hear people talking about secret societies and what they do against us. And then I hear people say that secret societies aren't real, and conspiracy theories are just scary gossip. 
What is the truth?"

"Sophie, Iowa has 'open meeting laws' which means that whenever certain county government officials meet, they have to keep notes and publish the notes, so citizens will know what is being done when the citizens can't be there. These laws were put in place because secret meetings mean a secret society exists. Anytime two people meet to control others without their knowledge, that is a secret society, simply because the public isn't told what is being planned." 

"Your mother and I are a secret society, because we don't always tell you what were going to do, even when it involves you. And yes, throughout history, there have been secret societies wanting to control others. Many dictatorships began as secret societies."

'Read 'Julius Caesar' by Shakespeare. Those that killed Casesar were a Secret Society until they gained power. 
And then, those that killed Caesar feared that another secret society might plot against them in return.
Secret Societies are common. Shakespeare's 38 plays contained some 74 murders, and every murder instigated by more than one person, requires a conspiracy and a secret society behind the conspiracy.

So, a real consiracy isn't just a theory."

"I'll bet that even you and Parker are a secret society at times, when you don't tell us what you are planning to do, 
because you don't want to be told no, eh? "

Sophie slunk to her bedroom, not as excited about her late bedtime as she first was.

Eric J. Rose
middlegrademysteries.com
photo: politico.com
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