Madison County Opinion...

 July 11, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 11, 2001

Frankly Speaking

Suit could change ballot access
A major lawsuit against Georgia's election laws has been filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, an event that has been totally ignored by the state's media. If successful, this suit could make it possible for independent and third party candidates to gain access to the Georgia ballot.
The suit was filed in Atlanta on May 24 by the Libertarian party of Georgia. It challenges the most restrictive ballot access rules in America. It is easier for non-traditional candidates to get on the ballot in Russia than in the state of Georgia. In the past, most Georgia candidates who are not members of either the Democratic or Republican parties had little chance of being on the ballot. Even if they succeed in obtaining the signatures of five percent of registered voters, the effort usually exhausts their campaign finances and leaves them no resources to devote to a campaign.
The Libertarians were left no choice but to turn to the federal courts to win the right to place their candidates on the ballot. Every time an election reform bill is introduced, the Georgia legislature, totally controlled by the two major parties, rejects it out of hand. The major parties rule Georgia, and they will do everything they can to keep it that way.
"This is a dramatic lawsuit," said Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News. "It is the most important ballot access lawsuit filed by any minor party in 30 years."
All third-party and independent candidates will benefit from this effort.
While it is aimed at congressional offices, a victory could lead to ballot reform from top to bottom. Libertarian, Green Party, Reform and Southern party candidates would finally be given an opportunity to have their issues heard by voters.
In my opinion, the lawsuit does not go far enough. I object to the entire election procedure in this state. Current law allows the state to decide which groups are political parties and which are not. It allows the state to make the rules under which parties may select their candidates. It even requires the state to conduct and finance primary elections to select party candidates.
A political party is a private organization dedicated to achieving specific political goals. The state government has no business being involved in these private organizations. The entire Georgia election code needs to be thrown out and replaced by simple rules requiring the state to conduct one general election and any needed run-offs. Every candidate must be given equal access to the ballot. Qualifying rules must apply equally to major and third party candidates as well as independents.
Each political party, without regard to size, should use whatever system they wish to select candidates. If the Democrats want to hold a primary, let them conduct it and pay for it. If the Southern Party wants to hold nominating conventions, they should be free to do so. In either case, party endorsement should not guarantee a place on the ballot. Each candidate would have to meet the same requirements of qualifying fees or petitions.
We the people will have the chance to select our own representatives when every candidate, regardless of party affiliation or lack of one, has equal access to the ballot. If the current slate of partisan party legislators will not give us that right, perhaps the U.S. Courts will.
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 Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
July 11, 2001

A Moment with Margie

Those barefoot summers
This summer reminds me so much of the summers of my childhood - not extremely hot (so far at least) but muggy, almost tropical.
During those summers I was always barefoot, unless I was dressed for church.
By the end of summer vacation my feet were so brown and tough I think I could have walked unfazed across a bed of nails.
I can remember playing outside on muggy afternoons and quickly gathering up my toys to get inside before an afternoon thunderstorm came rolling in.
Once inside I would stand beside our open screen door (we didn't have air conditioning) and breathe in the smell of rain while the wind blew my curls into tangles all around my face.
If it wasn't thundering, I would sometimes sneak outside to play in the rain, holding my face up to the sky. It was a delicious feeling (until Daddy caught me, anyway).
I loved how it felt after the storm went by - so clean and new. I can remember how good it felt to squish my toes in the wet sand of our back yard and run around, leaving mushy distorted footprints.
We lived in an old house that was built using the foundation of a former one-room school house. The house set up on old bricks that usually had moss growing between them. I would often crawl under our high front porch to play and I still remember the damp earthy smell of that place.
Sometimes I would make a sandwich, tie it up in a handkerchief on the end of stick (like I saw in the movies) and wander off into the woods next to our house for a picnic lunch, a trail of dogs and cats behind me, or down to the lake across the road (I was strictly forbidden from going too close to the edge).
I frequently played alone, but I don't remember feeling that lonely. My play world was peopled with all kinds of folks supplied by a child's vivid imagination.
I think summer and spring have always been my favorite seasons - and it is the smells, and the sounds, as much or more than the temperature, that appeals to me.
My bedroom had two windows that opened onto our front porch and I went to sleep each summer night to the lullaby of crickets in the woods and frogs down on the lake.
And I remember the feeling of anticipating the day's outdoor adventures when I woke to the sound of birds chattering through the open windows.
I still love those sounds. In the winter it is just too quiet. There is no night time lullaby and no good morning serenade.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.

 

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