Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Lemon Laws for Elected Representatives

Georgia and North Carolina held primaries yesterday, including a Senate race in both states.  In North Carolina, Richard Burr won over 80% of the vote in easily defeating his opponents.  He will face Erskine Bowles, who was uncontested, in the general election this fall.  In Georgia, Republican Johnny Isakson avoided a runoff by winning over 50% of the primary vote, while the Democrats still face a runoff between congresswoman Denise Majette and millionaire Cliff Oxford to determine who will stand in the general election.

Both Burr and Isakson raised over $5 million in dominating the primary enough to avoid a run-off, while Majette and Oxford raised less than half that much.  Once again, money plays a huge role in deciding elections.

For the average voter, it was impossible to know exactly how much money these Senate candidates had raised and from whom, because Senate candidates are not required to file their campaign finance reports electronically. 

This doesn't make sense. 

Candidates for the U.S. House and the Presidency both file reports online, letting voters check out whether the candidates are getting their money from in state or out of state, in large chunks from wealthy interests or in small chunks from regular folks, or from special interests or a broad cross-section of voters, all within a day of the filing deadline.  These can all be valuable pieces of information in deciding who to vote for.

And yet, the Senate files manually, requiring a transcribing period often stretching into weeks before the information is readily available to voters.  In the case of the Georgia and North Carolina primaries, that meant voters went to the polls yesterday without all the information they might want.

We all want to kick the tires before we drive a car off the lot.  Voting for our government is at least as important.  The Senate should get with the times and let voters take a look at their finances before the election.  Otherwise, voters in places like Georgia and North Carolina may be driving away from the polling booths with a lemon.

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