It's still illegal to vote often. But on Monday, you can vote early.
Thats when balloting officially starts for the March 2 presidential preference primary in Georgia. Under a relatively new state law, voters can go to the Board of Elections office in Evans up until the day before the election and cast an absentee ballot.
The law used to require the voter to swear that he or she would be absent from the proper precinct on election day, thus requiring an absentee ballot. Now, voters no longer have to give a reason for casting an early ballot.
Its a good change. Absentee ballots had already become less a convenience for busy voters, and more of a useful tool for savvy politicians. Candidates maximize the absentee vote by carrying stacks of applications to retirement communities and nursing homes. Such places house a rich pot of voters and a huge potential for fraud.
Early voting doesnt stop abuses, but it does take away excuses from non-voters. Opening the polls Monday means voters have their choice of any one of seven days to cast a ballot - so claims of inconvenience just wont hold water.
So youve headed to the Board of Elections, or waited until election day, March 2: What the heck are you voting for, anyway?
Pundits expect the turnout to be abysmal. George W. Bush is unopposed on the Republican presidential ticket, and Georgia will have little or no impact on the Democratic primary.
Both ballots, however, give voters the opportunity to offer their opinion on which state flag should fly: The one hoisted last year by Gov. Sonny Perdue, or the one hauled up in 2001 by then-Gov. Roy Barnes.
Pro-Confederate flaggers, grumpy that the 1956 Georgia flag isnt on the ballot, have alternately threatened to boycott the ballot, or to vote for Roys Rag out of spite. Coupled with what is expected to be slightly higher Democratic turnout, that flag - voted by a flag organization as the ugliest on the planet - could very well be raised again.
Heres my preference: Voters should pick up a Democratic ballot and cast a spoiler vote on the presidential ticket. Vote for Al Sharpton, say, or Howard EYAAAGH! Dean. Then vote in favor of the current Georgia flag, an attractive banner that looks similar to the flag that flew over the state before 1956.
A matter of "principal
Columbia County Board of Education members also have an important vote coming up this week.
The Evans Middle School community was scandalized just over a month ago when Principal Myrel Seigler, a quiet, publicity-phobic man who had led the school for nearly four years, suddenly resigned after a personal, on-campus confrontation with another school system employee.
Evans Middle teachers, parents and children have since rallied around Vanessa Watkins, the former assistant principal currently serving as interim leader of the school. Her support is as close to unanimous as such things go.
The EMS school council refused to endorse either of the two candidates for the post sent to them by the central office because the list didnt include Watkins. System officials dont consider her a candidate because she lacks three years experience as an assistant. The three-year rule appears only in the posting of the job description; theres no such written school system requirement.
Watkins many supporters, buoyed by School Board member Lee Muns endorsement of Watkins, are hoping shes hired anyway. School system officials, however, are counting on Watkins to spare them the agony of a fight by publicly withdrawing her name from consideration.
Judgment day is Tuesday in Appling. No absentee votes allowed.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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