Madison County Opinion...

 December 20, 2000


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
December 20, 2000

Frankly Speaking

It's time for election reform
The keyword in the aftermath of the Presidential Election fiasco is "election reform." Our system of selecting our leaders is old, out of date and highly ineffective. It is swamped by a hodge podge of rules and regulations devised by state, local and federal politicians. Nearly all these strange rules were designed by the dominant political parties to keep themselves in power.
The problems are many. They include improperly registered voters, election financing abuses, ballot access, government interference in the election process, incompatible voting systems and more. All these areas must be corrected.
Let's start with voter registration. A number of counties around the nation have more registered voters than voting-age residents. Reporters have uncovered cases of dead people remaining on the rolls (and voting in Chicago). In Florida, a number of convicted felons voted in the last election. In California, illegal aliens have registered and voted. On the other side, many people who thought they had registered though one of the mass programs like "motor voter" found that their applications had never been processed and they were not allowed to vote.
The solution: Every eligible adult should be issued a computerized voter ID card similar to a credit card. To qualify, the voter would have to prove citizenship and age. Each poll would be connected to a database that determines if the voter is properly registered and their current address. Once the voter votes, their number would be marked to prevent any attempt to vote again. Poll workers would be able to determine immediately if the person is legally registered and which district they are to vote in. Eventually, voters would be able to vote from their home computer.
This system would also eliminate voting by illegal voters and multiple voting by any one person.
Establishing a uniform voting system is vital. Again, future voting will be controlled by computers. Now in development are touch screen computers that will actually have pictures of the candidates. Voters can simply touch the face of the candidates of their choice. Upon completion, the computer will ask if the selections are correct, and upon approval, automatically transmit the vote to the counting computer. The computers would be programmed to not reveal the totals until the last poll is closed.
The problem with election financing rules is to determine the relation between spending money and freedom of speech. I support the idea that only those people eligible to vote in any given election should be allowed to speak about that election. This way, only eligible voters would be allowed to donate money to a candidate. That would eliminate all corporations, labor unions, PACs, government agencies or other special interest groups. There should be no limit to the amount a voter can contribute as long as the contributor's voter registration number is included with the check.
Finally, all elections conducted by state or local governments must be non-partisan. No tax money should ever be used to finance political party primaries, as is currently done in Georgia and many other states.
Each jurisdiction should establish minimum requirements for ballot access, then ensure that every person who qualifies is on the ballot.
These measures would go a long way toward taking politics out of politics and allow the will of the nation's legal voters to be clearly expressed.
After all, that is what our founders intended, and is what we deserve.
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 20, 2000

A Moment with Margie

Christmas memories
As I write this I'm sitting here in my living room in front of the fire enjoying our Christmas tree and watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV.
I can't help but think how different the Christmas season now is from the ones I remember growing up. (Surely that doesn't mean I'm growing old.)
When I was little, Santa Claus was this mysterious figure who my daddy told me was watching me to see if I was being good. He found this was an especially useful tool if I was having a tantrum or exhibiting some other naughty behavior around Christmas.
There were no malls and Santa wasn't standing on every street corner. The only time I ever saw the bearded gentleman was at the end of a Christmas parade and I only sat on his lap one time when he visited a grocery store near our house.
Just thinking of Santa actually coming to my house to bring toys gave me delicious chills.
It seems like the increased accessibility of Santa has taken some of the mystery out of him. Today's kids are so much more worldly than I was - sometimes I wonder how they can accept the concept of Santa.
I remember Mama handing me a Sears catalog opened to the toy section one day and asking me to pick out a doll I would like. It took only a few minutes to decide on "Sweetie Pie," a little black-haired, brown-eyed baby doll in a pink velvet outfit, with a bonnet and booties to match.
I remember listening while Mama dialed "the North Pole" to tell the elves to have Santa bring Sweetie Pie to our house on Christmas Eve.
She was always one of my favorite dolls, even after I gave her a haircut, drew on her face and exposed her to other rough treatment.
I can still remember the feel of the soft velvet of her coat and bonnet and how it felt to hold her. She slept with me for many nights.
Santa Claus always visited my house first, right at sundown on Christmas Eve (according to Daddy). After Daddy died when I was 10, Mama informed me that Santa had to arrange his visits so early because Daddy couldn't stand to wait until Christmas morning for me to get my presents.
Mama would usually have the job of escorting Santa into the house while Daddy would sit with me in the den with the door closed to the living room where the Christmas tree was.
Once I heard the front door open despite Daddy's attempts to distract me and listened with my ear to the door to hear packages being rattled around.
I squealed in excitement and it took some doing to keep me from pulling the door open. Daddy had to tell me that Santa would run away, taking my presents with him.
That did it.
I sat in Daddy's lap holding my breath, my hands over my ears to drown out any sound and with my eyes screwed shut in an attempt to contain my excitement. How Daddy must have laughed to himself at the sight I made!
Once while lying in bed just before Christmas, I heard a scraping sound outside the house. I lay in bed, too scared to move.
The next morning, Daddy told me that the sound I heard was Santa's sled on the roof. He had paid a visit just to check to see if I was being good and going to bed on time.
I was very, very good that day.
One Christmas, after I had questioned Daddy about where Santa parked during his visits, he took me outside on Christmas morning to point out sleigh and hoof marks in the front yard.
Getting the Christmas tree was another pleasant adventure. Ax in hand, Daddy and I would set off through the woods around our house, looking for the perfect cedar Christmas tree. I can still remember the pungent smell as we brought our find in the house and strung it with strands of big, multi-colored bulbs. I still have the old tin star that adorned the highest branch.
Those were good days.
May you all have a Merry Christmas and may we all make some wonderful new memories with those we love.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager with the Madison County Journal.


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