Friday, October 22, 2010

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

One of the strangest articles to appear recently in a local newspaper was an attack on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Curious as to what the fuss was about, I looked it up here.

The convention was negotiated with full participation by the United States during the Reagan administration. It was opened for signature in November, 1989 and became effective when enough nations adhered to it in September, 1990.

Every member of the United Nations has acceded to the convention except for two: the United States of America and Somalia.

Is this really the company we want to keep?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coffee: Part I

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I Corinthians, 13:11 (King James Version)

I was about six years old when my grandmother gave me half a cup of milk, added some coffee and sweetening and let me drink the grown-up drink. The sweetening was saccharine - sugar was rationed and too precious to use in coffee or tea.

When I went off to sea a decade and a half later, the only thing I had to drink was coffee. It kept me awake on the bridge during the mid watch. I drank it any time of day or night. I would have a cup before going to bed and sleep like a log.

I had long since stopped putting milk in it, but I kept using sugar. I drank so much coffee, I got coffee nerves. A shipmate suggested I stop using sugar. I did. The coffee nerves went away.

I had finally put away childish things - at least concerning coffee.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vote in Remembrance

Never forget: Brave Americans gave their lives so you can vote.

Honor their memory. Go to the polls.

124 voters voted at Bayboro Friday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vote Early

The polls opened at the Bayboro courthouse yesterday morning for one-stop voting.

Why is it called one-stop? Because you can register, make any changes to your voter registration, and vote all at the same place. In fact, only during one-stop you can register to vote and go ahead and cast your ballot.

NC is one of only ten states to offer some form of same day registration and voting.

Yesterday's turnout was pretty good: 116 voters cast their ballots.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cutting the Apron Strings

Today's New York Times has an interesting article examining the difficulty today's college students have breaking away from their parents. Have College Freshmen Changed? Cutting the Apron Strings examines the phenomenon.

But it starts well before college.

Children seldom get to play on their own. Their sports are organized and supervised by adults. They have no free time - it is all programmed.

Sixty years ago, mothers would shoo us out of the house. "Go out and play. Be back for supper."

We would ride our bikes for miles. For sports, we found a vacant lot and chose up sides. The baseball might be wrapped in tape in lieu of the original leather cover, the cracked bat repaired with electrical tape or even a nail. A few of us had gloves. There was no catcher's equipment, batting helmet or any of that. Any scrap of wood could serve as home plate. Other scraps or a mark in the dust would outline a base. We called our own balls and strikes and outs.

Not an adult in sight.

If there weren't enough kids to have two teams, we played workup. (Also called "scrub" some places).

During football season, we played tackle without helmets or pads. The only shoes were tennis shoes.

In the winter we played basketball on a dirt court, shooting at a hoop attached to a square piece of plywood nailed to a tree. My basketball had laces like a football.

We had to solve our own squabbles.

It wasn't a bad way to grow up.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Right to Vote

I'm reading an interesting book, published about ten years ago: The Right to Vote, The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.

Suffrage has been a contentious issue in our history, as I have mentioned in some earlier posts. In fact, of all the members of the Pamlico County Board of Elections, I am the only one who would have been allowed to vote at the beginning of our nation's history. That is, unless I had lived in Massachusetts, where I would have had to belong to the Congregational Church, or unless I did not own enough property.

In many of the former colonies, the vote was granted only to those who owned real estate. Some states, though, allowed the ownership of personal property of a certain value to qualify.

Benjamin Franklin once had a humorous observation about this qualification:

Today a man owns a jackass worth fifty dollars and he is entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies. The man in the meantime has become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, and his acquaintance with mankind, are more extensive, and he is therefore better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers – but the jackass is dead and the man cannot vote. Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the jackass?

I think Dr. Franklin would be surprised, pleased and gratified to learn that 220 years after his death, any American citizen older than eighteen years now has the right of suffrage. A big change, though it took two centuries to accomplish.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Instant Runoff Voting

One-stop voting in North Carolina starts next Thursday, October 14. In Pamlico County, our only one-stop voting location is at County Board of Elections headquarters at the courthouse in Bayboro.

A good reason to vote at one-stop is that you can take your time, study the information on the candidates, and cast an informed vote at your own convenience.

This may be especially important for the instant runoff vote for a vacancy on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. This will be a historic first. There has not been an instant runoff vote in the United States for a statewide office since the 1930's.

Instant runoff means you won't have to come back for a second round of voting for that office. Here's the way it works:

1. You cast your vote on the same iVotronics touch-screen machine as for the other offices, unless you use a paper ballot (absentee by mail, curbside or provisional vote).

2. When you get to the choice for Court of Appeals, choose the candidate you prefer for the office in the "first choice" column.

3. If you have a second choice candidate (in case your first choice doesn't win in the first round of counting or make it to the second round of counting), mark the second choice in that column.

4. If you have a third choice, mark that choice in the third column.

5. Be sure to pick a different candidate for each choice.

At this point, your job is done. Cast your ballot as you always do.

No need to read further unless you are unusually curious about the process.

For election officials, the job has just begun.

On election night the first place votes will be counted. If any one of the thirteen candidates wins more than 50% of the votes cast for that office, that candidate wins. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the votes cast, then the top two candidates move into the second round of vote counting.

Now it gets complicated. The second round of counting will take place after the official canvass of the November 2nd vote. (Ranking of the top two candidates won't be official until then).

The second round will be a hand count. Vote counters will have to count using the following rules:

1. Examine each ballot. If the voter's first choice is in the runoff, do not count the second or third choice.

2. If the voter's first choice is not in the runoff and the second choice is in the runoff, count the second choice votes. Add the second choice votes to the first choice votes (remember, there are only two candidates remaining at this point).

3. If neither the voter's first choice nor second choice is in the runoff but the third choice is in the runoff, count the third choice votes. Add the third choice votes to the first and second choice votes for the two runoff candidates.

4. The candidate with the most votes wins.