Vote While You Can, If You Can

Trust in the electoral process in the United States has never been lower -- and with good cause. The U.S. Supreme Court's order to stop counting votes in Florida in 2000 installed a president who

John Arthur

Debating censorship in Cincinnati are (L-R) arts educator William Messer, arts critic Owen Findsen, attorney Louis Sirkin and photographers Thomas Condon and Melissa Wolf.

Trust in the electoral process in the United States has never been lower — and with good cause. The U.S. Supreme Court's order to stop counting votes in Florida in 2000 installed a president whose legitimacy has been suspect ever since.

It's not surprising that Republicans are again taking steps to hijack the election; after all, it worked last time. But the transparency of their machinations is rather unsettling. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell tried to invalidate tens of thousands of voter registrations because they were recorded on paper stock of insufficient weight. Now he's tinkering with enforcement of a federal law entitling voters to provisional ballots. In the same spirit, the GOP plans to post thousands of volunteers at polling places in Ohio to challenge voters' right to cast ballots.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is running full-page newspaper ads urging citizens to be assertive in demanding ballots and to refuse to leave until they receive provisional ballots.

"The secretary of state's posturing during this election season has been irresponsible and has caused much confusion," says Jeff Gamso, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio. "Voters should refuse to leave without casting their vote.

Be persistent and insistent."

The Hamilton County Board of Elections has new rules requiring journalists to register by Thursday or they won't be allowed into the board offices on Election Night. They also have to carry photo identification or they'll be barred at the door. A statement by Joe Mallory, election administrator, says the new rules are intended to "prevent unforeseen problems or incidences that could affect the Nov. 2 presidential election."

Some grassroots groups are arming volunteers with information on how to monitor polling places. Unless public distrust of election procedures is addressed, arms of another sort might someday soon take the place of voting as a way to effect political change.

Growing suspicion about the integrity of elections poses a core crisis for how the United States is governed. The Bush administration's threats of foreign terrorist attacks on Election Day pale in comparison to the threat of widespread public disbelief in how ballots are distributed and counted.

The Meaning of Guilty Pleas and Other Troublesome Phrases
The Community Friends Meeting, also known as Quakers, have unanimously agreed to support the repeal of Article 12, a part of the Cincinnati city charter allowing homosexuals to be discriminated against. Local Quakers rejected the argument that Issue 3 somehow provides special rights to gays and lesbians.

"Issue 3 has nothing to do with special rights," says Kate Anthony, a Cincinnati Quaker. "This is simply an effort to restore fairness and not allow an individual group to be singled out for discrimination."

The Quaker church has approximately 304,000 members worldwide. The American Friends Service Committee, the social service arm of the Quakers, received the Nobel Peace Prize after World War II. For more information about the historically pacifist sect, visit

Cincinnati still deserves the moniker "Censor-naughty," according to panelists at an Oct. 23 seminar at the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (CAC). The Campaign Against Censorship in the Arts sponsored the seminar, in which participants discussed whether the city's legacy of anti-obscenity prosecution has finally moved into the past. The answer is no, according to attorney Louis Sirkin, who represented the CAC in the 1990 Robert Mapplethorpe photography case.

"People here won't tolerate people who are different," Sirkin said. "It's frightening. This city has not grown any. We pay lip service. There is a terrible fear of unfair prosecution."

State Treasurer Joe Deters' mendacity knows no limits. His campaign for Hamilton County Prosecutor has employed a convicted criminal, paying Eric Sagun more than $45,000 in consulting fees, according to the Associated Press. Sagun is one of several Deters associates convicted of crimes in the treasurer's office.

Deters told AP he kept Sagun on the campaign payroll because he hadn't done anything wrong: "I'm not going to punish him because of the feelings of some creeps in Cleveland." The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor filed the criminal cases against Sagun and two others.

Deter's insistence on Sagun's innocence must come as a surprise to Sagun, who pleaded guilty to election law violations. Maybe we'll see a kinder, gentler prosecutor if Deters wins, arguing for leniency for people who plead guilty and are convicted of breaking the law.

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