S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.1022.voting.htm


Voting booth law needs to change
By Andy Brack
Publisher
SC Statehouse Report

OCT. 22, 2006 -- Here's a dumb law that needs to change: In South Carolina, you are only allowed three minutes to spend in a voting booth to make your choices for candidates and on ballot initiatives.

If you look at November's ballot, it's pretty clear pretty quickly that it takes a lot more than three minutes just to read the five complicated constitutional amendments voters will consider. (It took us 4 minutes and 20 seconds.)

What that means is county election commissions are facing a big problem even before the balloting starts: whether to rush people in voting or to let them take their time.

The State Election Commission will leave it to counties to figure out how to interpret the state voting time restriction, which has been on the book for at least 30 years.

"We have no authority on how county election commissions conduct the election," said Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. "But, of course, we provide guidance. What we would suggest how they handle it is that when three minutes has passed, they give the voter a friendly reminder that they've been in there three minutes."

If that's how it will be dealt with, a lot of precinct workers are going to be giving a lot of reminders. And a rushed voter isn't perhaps the best thing for a good democracy.

If the voter continues to stay for awhile, Whitmire said, "We would recommend that they force them to leave but handle it tactfully." Later, he added that such action should only be taken if they've been in the booth a really long time.

Whitmire said the Commission was taking steps to educate voters about the ballot and amendments before the election. They also will be given copies of the three pages of amendments while they're standing in line so they can read up on them to help speed their voting time.

FEEDBACK POLICY

We encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to something in SC Statehouse Report, please send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed per month. Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint. Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:

feedback@statehousereport.com

But this really isn't good for democracy - - and it's not good for the candidates or amendments under consideration.

A 5-minute time limit on voting originally started around the middle of last century, most likely as a way to subtly discourage voting by scores of new voters of color. When voting machines came on the scene, the limit was shortened to three minutes.

Perhaps a better way to deal with voting is to change the law to add more flexibility - - or just increase the time limit to 10 minutes, which many likely would find reasonable.

The current short limit could put a strain on elderly voters as well as those who are vision-impaired or need help in the booth. Mere time shouldn't be a tool used to disenfranchise people who show up at their precinct to do their American duty. State lawmakers need to take steps to increase voting participation, not keep old laws on the books that curb people's appetite for participating in democracy.

So what do you do this year if you're rushed along?

Our suggestion is to vote first for the candidates of your choice and then vote no on all of the constitutional amendments. If state lawmakers want to change the constitution that much, they can come back to voters later when they give them more time.

It might make sense just to vote no anyway:

Marriage. The so-called "Defense of Marriage" amendment that recognizes marriage is only between a man and woman is redundant. A law already is on the state books. Changing the constitution, as one former Charleston GOP city councilman has pointed out, institutionalizes discrimination against non-married people who may co-habitate.

Statehouse meeting. Amendment Two would allow the House and Senate to meet separately while the other was on break. A lot of folks would say it would be better that they not meet at all.

Retirement accounts. This measure would allow the state to invest in foreign companies. Whatever happened to the "Made in America" craze? Seems we should invest in the same place.

Tax cap. If you want to cap property taxes at 15 percent over five years, vote yes. But if you're not rich or have expensive property, more than likely this will give rich guys a long-term tax break at the expense of the middle class.

Eminent domain. This measure would keep the government from seizing private property for economic development reasons. Not a bad idea, except that such "takings" aren't viable under current state law, according to the South Carolina Law Review.

Send your comments to Andy Brack at brack@statehousereport.com. His book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary


In recent weeks, Statehouse Report has profiled several key races:

Key S.C. races

lighter side
10/22: What ATM really means

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

feedback
10/14: State needs inspector general

To the editor:

I have done a lot of research on this topic and just read your July 31, 2005 commentary, "State needs performance review office."

To date, all proposed legislation for an OIG has been assigned by the Lieutenant Governor to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by [Sen. Glenn] McConnell. I understand that McConnell will never allow OIG legislation to ever see the light of day, regardless who the governor may be.

That takes us to the only other method in which OIGs are established in the various states, namely Executive Orders signed by Governors. Interestingly, Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia did just that on January 13, 2003 (see www.oig.ga.gov).

Naturally an OIG office would require funding by the legislature, and my discussions with the IOGs in Louisiana and Ohio and a former FBI agent and New York State OIG staffer lead me to believe that this can be done in South Carolina for between $1 million and $1.5 million. This is chicken feed compared to our state budget of, what, $5 billion? $6 billion?

Some of the OIG reports published on the Internet covering fraud, waste, abuse and corruption uncovered and people jailed are hilarious but it just goes to show you how dumb and greedy some of these government people -- including elected politicians -- are.

-- Jock Stender, Charleston, S.C.

Recent feedback

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.


How you can subscribe to the full edition of the report

The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.

Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:

  • Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.
  • Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's floor agenda
  • Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on in the General Assembly
  • McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.
  • Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language
  • Blogroll -- a weekly summary of the best of South Carolina political blogs.
  • Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.
  • Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.
  • Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find illuminating.

To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com

credits

South Carolina Statehouse Report

Publisher: Andy Brack
Editor Emeritus: Jerry Ausband
Assistant Editor: Betsy Brack

Phone: 843.670.3996 Fax: 843.722.9887

Subscription or sponsorship Inquiries: info@statehousereport.com

Have an event for the SC Statehouse Report calendar? E-mail details to: news@statehousereport.com or fax to above number.

For additional information, including subscription prices, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.



Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: 3.9
  • KEEPING TRACK: Ahead on cell phone ban idea
  • SCORECARD: Ups and downs of the last week
  • MEGAPHONE: Boo-hooing and picking fights
  • TRIBUTE: Remembering Jerry Ausband

For more information, contact us today about our affordable paid subscriptions for businesses and organizations that need the inside scoop at the Statehouse.

AVAILABLE NOW: Furman University's Don Gordon has great things to say about Andy Brack's new book of commentaries, "Bugging the Palmettos." Click here to learn more and buy the book -- only $15.00!

Visit Statehouse Report

ThinkSouth

A blog on ideas and news that is for Southern policy leaders, analysts and more.

 

  Copyright 2006, Statehouse Report LLC, which is affiliated with The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.
Reproduction is prohibited without express permission of the publisher. For additional information, including subscription prices, go to
http://www.statehousereport.com/.