If you haven't voted yet, put down this newspaper right now and go do so. Hurry. This column, the rest of the newspaper, supper, your child's homework, and all the bills can wait while you do so.
Looking over the ballot this time, I couldn't help but wonder if we don't need a few fundamental changes in our state's electoral system. I also realized I was one of the only columnists left who hadn't bored his readers to tears with high-flung ideals of how to fix the process, and I couldn't let that happen.
So I hereby offer my modest proposals.
Perhaps it's time for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to run on the same ticket, as do the President and Vice President. There's rarely, if ever, a serious split ticket gubernatorial race involving The Excellencies (an archaic term for governor I happen to love). Candidates in the two races are, by political expediency if not necessity, joined at the hip. Make'em run together.
On the subject of the Governor, let's end Jim Hunt's grand experiment in multiple gubernatorial terms.
Once is enough. The governor's job is supposed to be about improving and advancing North Carolina, not building an empire. If a former governor wants to run again after his replacement's term in office, that's okay. A past record can be more of a hindrance than incumbency, and that will ensure we have honest, hard-working governors.
Elections for the state cabinet should also be eliminated. Let the governor appoint the cabinet, and let them be approved by the legislature. The people shouldn't be asked to vote on folks whose qualifications for a job are judged not by their experience and ability, but whether or not they have screwed up the State Fair, prosecuted someone who screwed up the State Fair, discovered who was taking money from the State Fair, or have never attended the State Fair.
Be honest, now-how many of us can name more than two state cabinet officials unless we're staring at a ballot or watching a TV ad?
Yet the governor will have to work with these people on a daily basis. Imagine how screwed up the State Fair would be if the Agriculture Commissioner and the Governor fought like cats and dogs.
Appoint judgeships, too. I am not going to take the time, frankly, to track down the record of every candidate who wants to be a judge. The move to a non-partisan race is a good first step, but judges should spend time trying cases, not having to run for office.
District Attorneys, on the other hand, should be elected in years opposite sheriffs and other law officers.
Repeal motor-voter registration, where driver's license officers help you register to vote. This has already caused headaches across the nation, depriving some people of their right to vote due to the slowness of the mail, clerical error, or a lack of understanding.
Regrettably, it's also proven to be a handy way for illegal aliens to get another form of identification-as well as allowing them to vote. I have no problem with legal immigrants casting a ballot. When you're legal, you're just as American as I am. But illegals have no business participating in our elections.
While the above might be considered reasonable by some, I'm sure many folks would get upset with the rest of my plan to revamp politics and the electoral process in North Carolina.
For instance, we could take a few thousand dollars from the filing fees collected in each race, and use those dollars to pay retired or off-duty law officers to be the Sign Police.
For every political sign left up for, say, five days after an election, said officer has the right to cite the candidate or his campaign chair with a $100 ticket per sign.
On the subject of revenues-do away with the marathon year-long sessions the legislature seems to enjoy so much. Okay, they aren't taking a year yet, but give them time.
For every day past the legally appointed closing date of the legislative session, fine each solon the amount of his total per diem, and make him pay the salaries for his or her staffers.
We should also outlaw polls, especially exit polls, with the exception of a specially designed poll that would make us the envy of the nation.
Convene panels of small children, dogs, and old people. You can almost always trust the opinion of those three groups. Introduce them to the candidates, and show them television commercials of the candidates.
Announce who they like, and show clips of the meetings instead of televising debates. The meetings would be enlightening, I am sure.
To replace the debates, schedule a series of duels between the candidates. They couldn't be any bloodier than the debates, and there is an element of truth in cold steel, as opposed to most candidate speeches.
If duels are considered too violent, then have a series of debates where the candidates do not get to write the rules, and must provide direct answers to questions from voters. Oh yes, and make the hopefuls answer under oath.
Districting would never again be a problem, since it would all be handled by a non-partisan committee formed of citizens of the highest caliber who use a computer program designed to take every factor except party and incumbency into consideration.
And finally-newspaper columnists would be forbidden, under penalty of being sentenced to the primary school reading primer review beat, from commenting on elections more than once. Any columnist who waxed poetic about how to completely rebuild the political system would be sentenced to life in prison.
I do hope you voted.