Sunday, Oct. 29, 2006
at job before deciding how it should be filled
SC Statehouse Report
29, 2007 - - Tucked away in the charges and countercharges,
the venom and the hyperbole of the current campaign season
is the whole notion of restructuring government.
Gov. Mark Sanford says restructuring, which he's been talking
about for the last four years, is one of the foundations of
his soon-to-come-true second election to the state's highest
job. But Democratic challenger Tommy Moore made a valid point
during a recent debate:
Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse Report, will
provide analysis and commentary of the 2006 elections
on election night.
"Every time you start talking about restructuring, it's
always, 'Well, give me more power and I can get things done,'"
Moore said. "The question really is, over the last four
years what have you done with the power that you already have
to improve the lives of South Carolinians?"
A key notion of Sanford's restructuring plan is to change
the way several constitutional officers are filled. Sanford
and his supporters want everything from adjutant general to
state superintendent of education to be appointed by the governor,
instead of elected by the people.
Lost in the discussion so far is the logic for doing so.
Instead, people talk about how the positions should be selected
as if they were choosing between two similar alternatives
- - whether they wanted regular pancakes or ones with blueberries
GOP state superintendent of education candidate Karen Floyd,
a Sanford crony, believes the job she is seeking should be
appointed by the governor because it would make him more accountable
for education. Democratic opponent Jim Rex says the position
should continue to be elected because having the people choose
directly provides the most accountability. He adds it might
be better for the election to be non-partisan instead so education
didn't fall prey to politics.
Who's to say which method is right, based on a personal preference?
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Across the country, state superintendents are appointed by
state boards of education in 22 states, appointed by a governor
in 13 states, elected in partisan elections in eight states
(including South Carolina) and elected in nonpartisan elections
in six states. In New York, a Board of Regents appoints the
Take a look at how other constitutional officers are picked:
Secretary of state: 40 are elected; 10 are appointed.
State treasurer: 38 are elected; eight are appointed
by a governor; four are elected by a legislature.
Adjutant general: 49 are appointed; one (South Carolina)
Attorney general: 43 are elected; five are appointed;
Maine's legislature appoints; Tennessee's state Supreme Court
Agriculture commissioner: The position is elected
in South Carolina, but all states don't appear to have commissioners
of agriculture. Neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, for
example, elect theirs.
Comptroller general: The office has various names
- - such as state auditor or state comptroller - - in different
states which makes comparison difficult. Some are elected;
Based on this information, a logic on constitutional officers
starts to emerge: Offices that affect a state's whole population
tend to be elected, while those that are more narrowly focused
And based on this logic, it makes sense for two South Carolina
offices - - agriculture commissioner and adjutant general
- - to become appointed positions. Unlike the days of yore,
the business of agriculture doesn't have a direct impact on
most South Carolinians' daily lives. Yes, we all eat, but
modern-farming techniques allowed most people to move away
from the farm. Similarly since the elimination of the draft,
most people aren't affected daily by a state militia or guard.
But several jobs have wide, statewide daily impact on people's
lives. The law impacts people every hour, which suggests an
attorney general should remain elected so the people can decide
what kind of person they want as the chief law enforcement
officer. State treasurers and comptroller generals are, respectively,
the state's investment officers and watchdogs of tax dollars
everyone pays. Secretaries of state organize corporate filings
and in many states (but not S.C.) are chief election officers.
Which leaves state superintendent. You can argue either way
on this job. But because education affects everyone - - even
if they don't have kids in school - it probably makes most
sense for this to remain elected so it will have direct accountability
to the people instead of indirect accountability to a governor.
Send your comments to Andy Brack at email@example.com.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
10/25: Bone up on
elections before you go in the booth
To the editor:
In response to your editorial [Commentary,
10/22] suggesting that the three minute limit in the
voting booth should be changed, I offer the following observations.
I've worked as a poll manager for seven years, sometimes
with long ballots and sometimes with short. We have never
been told in our poll manager training that the three minute
limit should be strictly enforced. Rather, it has been regarded
as a discretionary rule to be applied only when there are
long lines of people waiting to vote. In fact, this year at
our training session we were told point blank that voters
should not expect to be able to read the entire ballot while
they are in the voting booth. The time to decide is before
you get in the booth-- all you have time to do when you get
there is to record your decision. If it disturbs you that
the voter who is told to hurry is being disenfranchised, think
of all the voters who can't afford to wait in line and would
thus effectively be disenfranchised if the limit were extended
to 10 minutes.
I do not think of voting as a "civic duty." If
I wish to register my dissatisfaction with a slate of candidates
by not voting at all, I don't see how I've failed to live
up to some duty. Rather, voting is a privilege, and with that
privilege comes responsibility. A voter who makes others wait
in line as he casually ponders the ballot is abusing that
privilege. On the other hand, you would be hard pressed to
find instances where any voter has been kept from voting because
of the three minute time limit. That's not to say that we
don't make honest mistakes, but in my experience, every poll
manager I've ever known has been completely dedicated to seeing
that each voter's ballot is fairly and accurately counted.
-- John Kozma, Charleston, S.C.
Publisher's note: The law is the law. In
S.C., the law says you have three minutes to vote. It's
a dumb law and needs to change. We disagree that voting
is just a privilege. It's one of the most fundamental duties
of being an American. We're sorry Mr Kozma doesn't share
this core American tenet.
Tendency to vote no
To the editor:
I read you column this week. [Commentary,
10/22] I have long believed that when voters lack
information or are unsure about a constitutional amendment
question, their predisposition is to vote no. There is a lack
of major initiatives supporting these questions and the questions
themselves seem to require that proponents step up and promote
passage. It will be interesting to see just how many of these
questions actually are approved by the voters.
-- Michael E. Dey, Columbia, S.C.
Good idea on amendments
To the editor:
Good advice to vote no on all amendments. [Commentary,
10/22] However- also one suggestion might be to vote
by absentee ballot-- then you have all the time you wish and
... you vote. Even if something comes up on Tuesday, Nov 7
(your kids get sick, you need to travel for business, your
boss schedules an all day workshop...) you vote!
-- Janet Segal, Charleston, S.C.
needs inspector general, Jock Stender, Charleston,
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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