GRANGEVILLE Democratic candidates for state and federal offices, Jill Humble and Cristina McNeil, recently made the local rounds as part of their campaigns headed into the Nov. 6 general election.
The Boise residents visited Grangeville late last month during their tour up north. Humble is seeking the secretary of state position (against incumbent Lawerence Denney), and McNeil is after the congressional seat currently held by Rep. Raul Labrador. The pair will be back, this Friday, Sept. 7, 5-7 p.m., for a meet-and-greet at The Gallery in Grangeville.
“Voting rights are a concern of mine,” Humble said, who has set four goals to improve access and security: automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds, expand access to voting by mail, promoting early voting, and protecting people’s voting record information.
“I met with 100 students recently, and they were excited about it,” she said on the auto register proposal. This encourages more participation in the process, and the access would require those individuals showing their IDs at the polls.
Voting by mail is not a new idea, Humble explained: “Small precincts have been doing this, and many people aren’t aware of it.” The data shows, she continued, “it saves money, and it allows for voters to research the candidates. And they had a better turnout – turnout is higher in those vote-by-mail precincts.”
Humble is concerned about protecting voter record information and raises issue with the secretary of state’s office releasing personal data, and then denied it had done so, she said.
The Idaho Statesman last year reported the office – from 2014 to 2017 — had released personal information collected on voter registration forms.
In this day of identity theft and to protect Idaho residents from misuse of their personal data by telemarketers, Humble’s focus is data security, and she would conduct an independent audit of the office to ensure this.
Public education is critical in improving voter participation, especially youth, according to Humble, and to this she sees a need for the office to improve its education outreach. The office should develop ready materials – videos and PowerPoint, training courses, documents to print off, fact sheets – about voting that everybody could use. This includes website improvements to provide a more “human touch,” and make it easier to access information. The public should be a part of this process, she said.
“I want to find out what people like so we can get more people involved in what the office does and offers them, instead of having to dig around,” she said.
“I want to get people registered, I want turnout,” she said, “and I want elected officials who people can be proud of.”
“It’s about finding common ground, on both sides,” McNeil said, as what her focus would be serving in Congress. There are many issues, such as health care and education, where left and right can find common ground for concern, and on the need to find solutions.
“Education is critical,” she said, emphasizing the importance of that early education, pre-K and kindergarten, in those crucial five first years of life to give children the tools they need to succeed. Advancing this post high school, she raised concern with the cost of education, which in some cases discourages individuals from pursuing college and vocational training, and for those who continue it creates crushing student loan debt. As a Realtor, McNeil said this debt impacts individuals in being unable to secure home loans.
“They can have a really good job, excellent credit, but if they have a student loan they can’t get a home loan,” she said.
McNeil experienced health problems that twice put her in a wheelchair, so she has empathy and understanding in health care issues and the need for change to make it more affordable.
“Closing the gap is very important,” McNeil said, and she supports Proposition 2 in the Nov. 6 general election that would expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho. “If Medicaid expansion passes, it is good for the left and the right and the middle; it is good for all of us and that’s its whole purpose.” Addressing problems in health care, she continued, “doesn’t really take that much, but what we have is a lack of will,” due to those in the insurance and health care industries making money out of the current situation. “But what about the rest of us paying taxes, the working poor? We need to be working for you.”
This lack of recognizing the needs of everyday people is an issue with the politicians currently in place, who, she said, have lost touch with their communities and what they deal with on a daily basis.
“When the market crashed, I didn’t’ hear of any politician who said they’d lost their house, their pension, their job. They didn’t have to apply for Medicaid, Medicare or food stamps,” she said. “That didn’t happen to any of the politicians we have in place now.”
Immigration reform is a close issue for McNeil, who grew up in Mexico City and immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. On the need to streamline the existing system, she gives the example of her sister, who lives in Europe, and has had an application to become a resident – the first step in the process – since 2003, “and still waiting,” she said.
“So, you tell me if the farmer or the cattleman or the dairyman can wait that long?” McNeil continued, for delays in the temporary immigrant worker visas to cover their labor needs. “That’s how the economy works in the state of Idaho.” Prior and present congressmen are not advocating for these workers, she said, “and we need to cover this workforce because it is in the best interest of our citizens.”
“It’s a human right to protect our workers, regardless of position, legal status, under any labor conditions,” she said. “That needs to be taken into consideration.”
Among her other concerns include on mass incarceration in the U.S., one of the highest in the world, yet it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. McNeil said a re-evaluation is needed in appropriate sentencings; for what crimes and duration lengths. The issue again goes back to education to improve learning opportunities, and more needs to be spent on prevention efforts rather than default on public monies spent on more prisons.
“This is not what we want our taxes to be about,” she said. “We want to see our taxes spent in other places, such as schools.”
“We can’t have the same representation and expect different results and that things will change,” McNeil said. Speaking for both Humble and herself, “We have so much passion for people, getting to know them and their needs. I think we need a change in so many ways.”