Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jailbird makes us look silly

The backbone of the U.S. democratic process is the system for electing citizen representatives, from the smallest city hall to the halls of Congress and the White House.

Yet, the system has become a national embarrassment: Paper ballots improperly counted. Unreliable and inaccurate voting machines. Shoddy voter registration records. Suspicious election results.

But leave it to Idaho to be singularly oddball this election year.

It's goofy enough that state law requires Democratic presidential candidates to be on the ballot at all, given that party delegates have already been chosen in a caucus. But how utterly embarrassing that Idaho's list of Democratic presidential candidates for the May 27 primary includes Keith Russell Judd, a convicted federal felon serving a sentence until 2013 in Texas' Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution, alongside the names of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Judd, 49, is on the ballot because he paid his $1,000 registration fee from a prisoner's account and thus qualified for the primary.

How can that be? It's because Idaho law allows anyone—including felons in prison, as it turns out—to pay his or her money and find temporary fame as a presidential contender on the Idaho ballot.

Need it be said that Idaho must tighten its election code to include requirements that would prevent a repeat of this episode? If felons can't vote in Idaho, why should a felon be allowed to become a presidential candidate?

No doubt this gap in the state election code is the product of well-meaning, but short-sighted, libertarianism to remove obstacles to the presidency.

Surely Secretary of State Ben Ysursa will ask state legislators for changes in the state code to prevent the future mockery of the democratic process.

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