Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006
booth law needs to change
SC Statehouse Report
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
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
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.
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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
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 email@example.com.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
In recent weeks, Statehouse Report has profiled several key
10/22: What ATM
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
10/14: State needs
To the editor:
I have done a lot of research on this topic and just read
July 31, 2005 commentary, "State needs performance
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
-- Jock Stender, Charleston, S.C.
needs to pay attention to state boards, Patti Bucher,
criticism is unfair, Jon Heckerman, Garden City Beach,
surprised by Sanford's remark, Lynn Bailey, Columbia,
on Brack trying to control thought, Lew Richards,
Manning , S.C.
aback by Sanford's remark, Jimmy Mackey, Beaufort,
handheld cell use while driving, Bob Logan, Little
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