S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Oct. 29, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.1029.jobs.htm


Look at job before deciding how it should be filled
By Andy Brack
Publisher
SC Statehouse Report

OCT. 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:

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Andy Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse Report, will provide analysis and commentary of the 2006 elections on SCETV 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 in them.

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 state superintendent.

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) is elected.

Attorney general: 43 are elected; five are appointed; Maine's legislature appoints; Tennessee's state Supreme Court selects.

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; others appointed.

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 are appointed.

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 brack@statehousereport.com. His book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary

lighter side
10/29: Modern Halloween

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

feedback
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.

10/22: 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.

10/22: 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.

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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:

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