Madison County Opinion...

 December 13, 2000


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
December 13, 2000

Frankly Speaking

We must preserve the Electoral College
Millions of Americans have discovered for the first time the existence of the Electoral College. As the realization dawns that the candidate who received the most popular votes may not win the presidency, they react with confusion, misunderstanding and in some cases, demands that the Electoral College be eliminated. The latest voice to make this demand is that of the carpet bag senator-elect from New York, Hillary Clinton. This would be a bad idea.
Our founding fathers recognized the importance of keeping government power as close to the people as possible. As a way of doing this, they established a system of government that granted internal governance to the states or to the people. (Read the 10th Amendment.) Their intent was to limit the federal government to international affairs, the common defense, and settlement of disputes between the states. By doing so, they recognized that the right to govern is granted by the people, and that the only way the people can keep control of government is to keep the preponderance of government power at the state and local level.
The Electoral College is one of the few remaining institutions that recognize the rights of the States to direct the actions of the Federal Government. As more and more power is siphoned off from the states and shifted to Washington, every remaining component of states rights has to be defended, or the states will become powerless.
The Electoral College was established to make the office of President directly answerable to the states. It works by giving state legislatures the right to name members of the Electoral College or to determine the manner in which they will be chosen. Any state legislature has the right to chose electors without an election, although that has not been done since 1830.
The Electoral College consists of one elector for each congressman and senator. Because each state has at least two senators and one congressman, even the smallest state will have at least three votes in the Electoral College. That prevents the few large states from dominating the process. Without the Electoral College, New York, Illinois, California and a handful of other states would select the President, with the rest of the country having little say in the matter.
Washington already has vastly more power than our founders intended. As each defense against federal power falls, we the people are deprived of more and more freedom. To defend our individual rights, to protect ourselves from an all-powerful federal government, we must preserve the Electoral College.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
December 13, 2000

From the Editor's Desk

Muzzling opponents is not the answer
Chairman Wesley Nash should not have blocked his fellow commissioners' efforts to get on the board's meeting agenda to talk about legal fees related to recall efforts.
Nash's position of denying payments for recall-related legal fees is a valid stance, and arguably the right one, but Monday's tactics fall short of what citizens should expect from their government - a total commitment to fairness and openness.
Essentially, if a person has the better argument, he shouldn't have to put his hand over the mouths of others to win. And that's what the chairman did Monday in denying commissioners the right to discuss a contentious issue.
Nash turned down written requests from commissioners Melvin Drake and Patsy Pierce to include discussion of the legal fee issue.
And he fought the commissioners again Monday when Drake attempted to raise the issue.
Nash contended that the legal fee matter was resolved Nov. 27, when the board voted 3-2 to deny payment of legal fees for commissioners' defense of recall efforts.
The problem with that argument is that other votes by the board have been brought up for reconsideration, particularly on heated issues. For example, there was the time the board voted to slash the county clerk's pay by $13,000. But that vote was changed after Ken Clark lost his seat and the balance of power shifted on the board. Recently, the board reversed a decision to deny a conditional use permit for a cell tower on the property of State House Representative Ralph Hudgens.
So why should the legal fees matter be different? Why can't this be reconsidered too?
Consider that Pierce was not at the Nov. 27 meeting and chairman Nash, who votes only to break ties, cast the deciding vote not to pay legal bills of $4,568 for Pierce and $2,684 for Clark. The vote stipulated that there will be no future consideration of payment either, essentially meaning that Pierce will not be able to fight this in the future, even though she wasn't there to fight it then. The action came after Drake made an unsuccessful attempt to table the matter.
So it's 3-2 to deny payment with Nash voting and 3-2 to pay the bills if Pierce had voted. Basically, it's a numbers game.
But there is clearly another issue looming. Should Pierce be allowed to vote on the legal fees issue since she has over $4,500 at stake?
The discussions should have at least proceeded that far Monday.
Most agree that tax money going to commissioners' attorneys is a sickening proposition any way you cut it.
No one wants to pad the wallets of lawyers with citizens' money when those funds could go instead to the new jail, the recreation department, the library, the old courthouse, etc.
Citizens can feel reassured that the chairman, Bill Taylor and Bruce Scogin are fighting to keep taxpayers from footing lawyers' fees.
But county leaders should also be held to a high bar in how they try to accomplish this. And muzzling opponents is not the way.
It takes character to fight for what you believe in. But it takes more to risk losing what you want in the name of fairness.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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