Wondering whether to vote on Tuesday?
Just say nay.
Columbus is better off if fence-sitting, apathetic, reluctant, would-be voters stay home.
Our system works only in the hands of a well-informed electorate that understands the importance of its task and can pry itself from the BarcaLounger or bar stool long enough to vote.
Democracy can't survive voters who must be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the polls.
However, instead of discouraging the indolent and the ignorant, public officials keep trying to make voting easier, which says more about them than about the electorate.
Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio secretary of state, favors legislation allowing any voter to cast an absentee ballot.
It's not saying much, but Blackwell usually is a reasonable politician. The idea, however, is goofy.
An absentee ballot is fine for those who are bedridden, imprisoned or traveling in Kazakhstan. But why encourage voters so unmotivated or uninformed that they can't bother to haul their sorry carcasses down to the polling place?
If I were secretary of state, I'd do all I could to ensure elections were decided by voters who really valued and deserved their franchise.
To weed out pikers, elections would be on Super Bowl Sunday, with marathon sessions of Touched by an Angel and South Park on the other stations.
Residents of homeless shelters and members of country clubs would be disqualified. (Vagrants don't vote much anyway, but something really must be done about golfers.)
Eligible Ohioans would gather at a single polling place on North Bass Island. (Lake Erie usually is frozen by late January, and the hike is just 15 miles across the ice from Port Clinton.)
Voters who made it to shore but agreed to turn back would be offered a choice of free Lotto tickets, lawn-care service or Lilith Fair admission.
Finally, survivors would face a one- way exit labeled Extra Sensory Psychic Voting Booth. Anyone remaining behind would be eligible to vote.
My system might unjustly favor snowmobile owners, but otherwise I see few flaws.
The right not to vote and to ignore politics should be held precious by all Americans. In an ideal world, government would hold so little power that the only voters would be wonk hobbyists dabbling in politics the way some folks dabble in watercolor.
But this isn't an ideal world, and voting is important -- too important to leave to those who don't give a hoot. (And the more of those people who stay home, the more valuable my vote becomes.)
In truth, the next mayor of Columbus could be chosen by a coin toss: Candidates Michael B. Coleman and Dorothy Teater are hard to tell apart. (I think Dorothy's the one in the dress.)
But several Election Day issues address important and complex questions of who robs whom. And even motivated, well-informed voters can't explain tax-increment financing or the difference between high-tech commuter rail and a high-tech money vacuum.
Voters shouldn't really be expected to pass civics tests, much less navigate ice floes. But they should at least be required to get out of bed.
--Nov. 1, 1999