Madison County Opinion...

 December 6, 2000


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
December 6, 2000

Frankly Speaking

Voting 'none of the above'
Most of the people arguing over votes in Florida are ignoring one basic fact. Many people decided to vote for "none of the above" in the presidential election. Because few ballots give the voter the option of voting for "none of the above," voters often chose to not vote in certain races.
In Madison County, 290 people chose not to vote for president. That is 3.5 percent of the total votes cast. With our voting machines, there are no mistakes. Voters must make a deliberate decision not to flip a lever for a presidential candidate.
Nationwide, nearly two million people did not vote in the presidential race. In comparison, the 14,000 blank ballots in three Florida counties are typical. One Miami voter described his experience. He went into the booth without deciding which presidential candidate he would support. He voted in all other races then returned to the presidential column. He placed his stylus in the hole for Al Gore, then decided not to vote. He removed the stylus without pushing it through.
In Madison County, 290 voters chose not to vote for president. That is 3.5 percent of the total votes cast. With our voting machines, there are no indented, scratched or defaced ballots. Either you flip the lever or you don't. The failure of these voters to vote in the presidential race was clearly deliberate.
The action of the Florida voter probably created one of those dimpled ballots that have caused such an uproar. It would be impossible for anyone looking at that ballot to judge his intent. If he had been given the choice of voting for "none of the above," he would have been able to make his intent clear.
A "none of the above" choice is especially needed when a candidate is running without opposition. When there is only one name on the ballot, voters have no real choice. They must either vote for the one candidate, or not vote at all. On the record, that candidate has received 100 percent of the votes cast.
If voters could choose "none of the above," they would be able to express their disapproval of the one candidate. If "none of the above" won, the office would be vacant until a new special election could be held. For example, in Madison County, Congressman John Linder ran unopposed. He received 4,164 votes - 4,090 people did not vote for him. If they had voted "none of the above," Linder would have won by only 74 votes.
County surveyor J. R. Smith received 4,076 votes in the general election, to 4,178 who did not vote. With a "none of the above" option, he would have lost. District Attorney Bob Lavender received only 3,626 votes in Madison County, or 44 percent of the votes cast. Lavender was soundly rejected by Madison County voters, but the tally sheets will show him receiving 100 percent of the vote.
If we give our voters the option of voting for "none of the above," they will have a chance to express the full range of their opinions. If they find all candidates to be objectionable, they would be able to say so.
If a candidate running without opposition is not acceptable to the voters, he or she would not be elected.
The 2000 elections revealed many problems with our election system.
Voting reform is necessary, and many changes can be expected. I urge our state legislature to strongly consider adding a "none of the above" category to every election in Georgia so that voters can make their true feelings clearly known.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address is frankg@mcga.net.

Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
December 6, 2000

From the Editor's Desk

On getting it right
Last week's court story in The Madison County Journal was a mess. A number of cases were incorrectly listed.
And this was entirely my fault.
In grouping cases together under headings, such as "cases dismissed" and "pled not guilty," I incorrectly used the cut and paste tool on the computer, placing names into the wrong categories. This meant that a lot of cases appeared to be dismissed, when in fact, the accused had entered not guilty pleas. (Please see this eek's Madison County Journal for the correct listings.)
It is never my intent, nor the aim of anyone at this paper, to mislead anyone. And to all of those who saw their name in the paper with incorrect information, as well as anyone who has an interest in any of these cases, I sincerely apologize.
While we cannot promise perfection, we can tell you that our goal is to provide 20 to 30 pages of truth per week to you. It's a challenging task, but we feel we do a solid job. When we fall short of that, we are sickened, too. But we will not hide our mistakes. If we are made aware of an error, we'll make every effort to present the right information in a prominent place in the paper.
Court news is important to anyone who is interested in seeing how justice is served in this community. It is our goal to provide a thorough and accurate account of what happens in the Madison County judicial system.
In doing so, we should answer for any mistakes we make. If you have any questions about court listings or any other news item in the paper, please call me at 795-2567 or 367-2489. My e-mail address is madisonjrl@aol.com. The best time to meet with me in person at the Madison County Journal office on Hwy. 29 in Danielsville is Monday.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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