It’s still far too early to know which candidates will appear on the ballots for Columbia County elections this year. But thanks to Columbia County commissioners, we can be pretty sure voters will have an opportunity to sound off on a couple of important issues.
First, voters will be able to decide July 31, during the party primaries, whether to allow Sunday package sales of alcohol in Columbia County.
As with most communities where the question has been considered, including Grovetown, the issue is likely to pass. After all, it merely corrects a senseless quirk in the law that encourages people to drive to restaurants on Sundays, consume alcohol and head back home, but prohibits them from driving to a store, buying a six-pack and taking it back home to consume.
If approved, it will go into effect Sept. 1, just in time for Labor Day weekend.
Meanwhile, local lawmakers are being asked to set up a referendum that would impose term limits on county commissioners. It wouldn’t apply to school board members unless they also ask to be included. If lawmakers agree, voters would decide whether to limit to two, four-year terms the members of the county commission, including the chairman.
We’re not a big fan of statutory term limits. Though the concept does a good job of expressing citizens’ frustration with government, at their core term limits are anti-democratic.
Term limits already exist with the ability of voters in any election to decide to keep or cast out their incumbent. Statutory term limits, in contrast, take that decision away from voters. In that regard, it allows losing voters to prevail by casting out someone they don’t like, even if a majority of voters prefer keeping him or her.
Let’s face it: Most voters are happy with their own member of Congress, for example; it’s the other bums they don’t like. But since when did we get to decide who someone else can vote for? That’s only possible with term limits, which also traditionally has been restricted to executive positions.
Undoubtedly, citizen frustration has boiled over with all levels of government, but much of the blame rests on the apathy of those citizens themselves. They would be rewarded for their lack of involvement in the electoral process if turnover of representatives is required every few years despite citizen input, or lack thereof.
Still, a referendum to allow term limits likely will pass, mostly as an expression of that frustration – even if it does, in fact, impose even stronger limits on the democratic process than it does on the politicians who step up to participate in it.
In any event, Columbia County voters will have an unprecedented opportunity this year to make direct changes in local laws. Whatever their decision, they would be doing a disservice to themselves and the community not to participate.