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Opinion Column
For the week of November 22 through 28, 2000

Balloting confusion, losses imperil another states right

Commentary by Pat Murphy

After 22-year-old Nathan Hall was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of another skier with whom he collided on a slope in Vail, Colo., this quote from a Vail skier symbolizes what’s wrong with the attitude of a few gung-ho, Hell-bent skiers, who can terrorize a ski mountain with their utterly irresponsible behavior.

"This (Hall’s conviction) is really a bummer. Anytime you go on the hill you take a risk, and people get out of control all the time.

"It’s not going to be fun anymore."

Fun? That jock’s idea of "fun" is other skiers’ worst nightmare – a witless skier racing down a slope and through the trails of other skiers totally disregarding the peril he’s creating to others.

These wicks can kill themselves if they wish. But ski resorts need to do a better job of separating the speed freaks with suicidal impulses from skiers who observe limits with caution.

Moves already are afoot in Washington to investigate whether a constitutional amendment is needed to ensure fairer, more efficient elections for president and vice president and their electors under federal supervision.

If this occurs, then the states have only themselves to blame for Washington’s new powers.

It’s not just the spectacle of bumbling Florida election officials that brings this on. Reports are streaming in from other states of lost ballots, rejected ballots, confusing ballots and elected officials who seem uncertain of what to do.

State politicians constantly whine about federal interference in states’ affairs. But the public discovered over the past 50 years that the states do a lousy job in areas with national consequences.

Take the environment. States did precious little to demand air and water quality controls of local industry. So the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created – by public demand.

Workplace safety was sloughed off by the states. Enter the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

States were to slow to recognize the rights of women. Enter a whole new body of law giving women rights to obtain credit without spousal approval, workplace protections against gender discrimination and abuse.

Black Americans were still treated with disdain and indifference by state laws, in some cases even denying the right to vote. Enter federal civil rights laws that pre-empted the states.

Consumer protection? That was a laugh in most states, where local politicos were in the pockets of business. Enter consumer protection laws.

Canned food was brought under federal dominion that required nutrition information on labels, a real plus for the nation’s health. National standards also were applied for auto mileage performance.

And so it went – law after law, agency after agency spawned by the refusal or unwillingness of states to reform their ways and to consider the public interest.

The evidence is clear enough that medieval election systems and counting processes still are de rigueur in most states, and even a presidential election affecting the destiny of an entire country is still in the hands of local politicians whose loyalties seem principally to political parties.

Is this another "states right" that is overdue to fall?


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Copyright 2000 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.