Alan Riquelmy: Please, keep the shouting down

The voters would have been well served with a candidate forum involving this judge.

He was one of those magistrates with an acute form of “robe-itis” — an affliction known to torment certain judicial officers.

He’d become used to power. As a DA, he prosecuted some of the toughest cases. As a judge, he continued to prosecute cases, just in a different way.

The voters might have wanted to know about that.

“You have no Fifth Amendment!” he yelled at a woman who, like the rest of us, had no formal education in the law and no clue about court procedures. But she knew fear. We all knew that around this judge.

It’s a bad example, I know. Not all judges are like this, and definitely not all elected officials are this way. I really like to believe that most of the people who run for office do so because of a desire to serve their community.

I like to believe that.

That’s why the candidate forums held locally last month and this week are so important. It’s your chance to see them in person, not on a glossy mailer sent through the post.

There won’t be any judicial candidates in the spotlight. Those two seats are filled by incumbents who face no opposition, so their names won’t even be on the ballot.

There are, however, plenty of races that need our attention.

That’s a tough sell. Some countries require their citizens to vote, which I think is a sloppy way to claim you’re a democracy. You get what are called “donkey votes” — ballots cast with no obvious thought behind them, and only to fulfill the requirement.

As a supporter of universal suffrage, you’re left with a conundrum: do you want completed ballots that no one cared about, or a measly turnout?

I go for the latter. Sure, you get plenty of elections with poor participation, but you can really tell when something’s on the ballot people care about.

Presidents and pot will bring people to the polls, that’s for sure. In California, there’s usually a statewide ballot measure that gets people itching to vote.

But should we rely on something shiny on the ballot to entice us to vote? Teachers from my youth would have had me believe people fought and died for this right. Then women marched and fought their own battles to gain the franchise, followed by a civil rights movement decades later to ensure all citizens could have their voice heard in government.

Now we eat chips and complain about who’s on “The Masked Singer,” but can’t bother to complete a ballot mailed to us.

OK, that’s not exactly fair. Nevada County takes pride in its election turnout. Vote-by-mail ballots should only make those numbers rise.

And watching candidate forums should only fuel the fires of democracy that should always at least be simmering inside every person.

If you can’t watch in person, no problem. You can find recordings on Nevada County Media’s YouTube page. You also can find stories on the forums at

This is where you can see the candidates dig into local issues, facing questions in public and answering them in real time.

Have the candidates clothed themselves with the issues, answering questions deftly and confidently? Or are they dressed in the emperor’s clothes, and can the public tell the difference?

Watch the forums and you’ll be able to tell.

And, if we’re lucky, the shouting will be kept to a minimum.

Alan Riquelmy is the editor-in-chief of the Sierra Sun and the editor of The Union. He can be reached at or 530-477-4249

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