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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Election reform proposals make sense

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Although the military absentee ballots that will not be included in the Fifth District race recount probably would not sway the outcome of the election, they certainly should be counted. In fact, both Rep. Virgil Goode and the presumed winner of the race, Tom Perriello, have asked that they be included in the recount, which should conclude today.

But the three-judge recount panel said they will not be counted because they arrived past the deadline.

It will be too late to remedy the current situation, but state Attorney General Bob McDonnell is proposing some common sense ways to fix that and other election problems.

Mr. McDonnell said Tuesday that the state must ensure that absentee ballots are sent out, especially to military personnel serving overseas, in plenty of time to meet the deadline for their return. Such a move should prevent anyone from being denied the right to vote, and that's basically what the current system is doing.

Another change that Mr. McDonnell supports makes sense as well. Under his proposed election reform measures, voters would be allowed to wear campaign paraphernalia (buttons, pins, etc.) into the polling place when they vote. The ban on displaying these materials surfaced during the recent election and placed poll workers in an awkward position to enforce the ban. Although we know of no incidents during the election, the ban was ill-advised in the first place, and Mr. McDonnell's proposal would, as he said, help bring back a "healthy political environment on Election Day."

Other election reforms include:

"Having a "closing official" at the polls who arrives in time to accurately count ballots and review tapes, screens and documents. This would help prevent human error on the part of exhausted poll workers who have had very long days.

"Increasing criminal penalties for a voter who knowingly votes or assists another to vote in a jurisdiction where the voter is not qualified to vote. This also includes ways to prevent voters to be registered in more than one precinct.

"Lowing the number of registered voters needed to create an additional precinct to help reduce the time voters have to stand in line to vote.

"Allowing first-responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and rescue and emergency personnel, to vote using absentee ballots.

These proposals seem reasonable and appropriate. Mr. McDonnell will present them during the upcoming session of the General Assembly, and we urge legislators to provide support.

 
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