When Columbia County voters go to the polls this week or next Tuesday, they'll have a short list of candidates and questions to decide. If this week's astonishingly heavy turnout for early voting is any indication, there will be plenty of voters standing in line to take a shot at those choices.
This newspaper Sunday will offer endorsements of candidates in local races. Today, we offer suggestions to readers on the three questions that appear on the ballot: two statewide constitutional amendments, and one local non-binding referendum.
First is the statewide constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. We recommend a yes vote on this issue, though everyone should be disheartened that it's come to this.
The idea of the sacred, God-given institution of marriage being warped with definitions that include same-sex couples and multiple partners is absurd and offensive. But this is where we've come to: As liberal activists seek to ram their anything-goes views down everyone's throat, defenders of traditional family values are forced to fight for legalistic definitions to things that should need no explanation at all.
Indeed, it's sad that what began as a religious institution -- the covenant of marriage -- has become embroiled in a legal dispute focusing less on stable family relationships and more on access to government benefits.
Like many, we'd rather this issue not even be on the radar screen. But it is, and any answer other than "yes" is a victory for societal decay.
The second question constitutional amendment looks like it's strictly a lawyer issue, granting authority to Georgia's Supreme Court to decide issues of state law before appellate or federal courts.
We recommend a yes vote. While it probably sounds complicated to most non-lawyers, the amendment simplies a process that can be entirely too convoluted in court. Disputes over questions of state law in federal court leap-frog Georgia's Supreme Court and have to be addressed by federal appellate courts. This amendment transfers some of that authority to the state Supreme Court, where it should be.
The final question for Columbia County is local. Voters are being asked whether they want to elect the chairman of the school board countywide, rather than allow members of the school board to pick a chairman from within their ranks.
We recommend a yes vote -- and expect voters to agree; every time they've been asked the question, they've favored it.
What's sad, though, is the abject dereliction of duty by a committee that two years ago studied the issue and rejected the idea of a countywide chairman. One of their complaints was that a 2002 vote on the idea came in a Republican primary straw poll. Committee members echoed a claim by some school board members who appointed them, saying that primary vote, inspite of its 85 percent approval, didn't represent the voice of all the county's citizens.
At the time, the committee said they'd welcome a full, general-election vote on the issue, and would use it as an opportunity to educate voters before they went to the polls. Committee members confidently predicted that once they had passed along their collective wisdom, voters surely would reject the idea.
This past spring, the county's legislative delegation put the question on a countywide ballot. Yet in the more than six months since then, we haven't heard a peep of "education" from the committee.
It turns out that the committee's confidence was just so much hot air. Voters like the opportunity to elect their leaders, and understand that getting a countywide elected chairman means having a voice in the election of two members of the five-person board: the representative of their district, and the at-large chairman.
Voters also understand that electing an overall chairman puts in place a leader with broad responsibility to the entire electorate, with the elected mandate to back it up.
After this question passes -- and we're confident it will -- lawmakers next year will start working on the legislation to change the school board, starting with the 2006 general elections. If the committee and like-minded members of the school board intend to have any input on the process, they'd better speak up -- or again get left on the sidelines.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.