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The Buzz: A call to take ballots back to basics

Last Updated 12:16 am PDT Monday, October 1, 2007
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A3

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When it comes to elections, Susan Marie Weber is an old-fashioned voter. Weber is a Riverside County accountant and sometime Libertarian political candidate who in 2002 unsuccessfully sued to block the use of "touch-screen" voting machines. She's also California's representative in a looming lawsuit aimed at blocking states from using electronic voting machines. So far, voters in 10 states have signed up as plaintiffs in the suit, filed in a federal district court in New York.

The suit alleges that electronic machines jeopardize voters' rights to have their ballots counted because reliance "on machines and computers for vote counting ... means the possibility for error and human fraud will be unnecessarily and unreasonably heightened."

The plaintiffs want election officials to follow a highly detailed 11-point procedure that includes the use of paper ballots, "cafeteria-style tables," transparent ballot boxes, counting the ballots by hand and reading the results from each polling place aloud.

Of course, that might take awhile. Good thing we've only got three statewide elections next year.

You just can't embarrass a deadbeat ...

When legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a bill last year authorizing California's tax collection agencies to publish the names of the 250 biggest delinquent taxpayers, the idea was that some of the scofflaws might be embarrassed into paying up and helping to close what's estimated as a $6.5 billion gap between all the taxes people and businesses owe the state, and what they actually fork over.

So far, so bad. Seven late-payers did come forward and worked out deals before the Board of Equalization list was published.

But since the BOE posted its first list online of folks behind on their sales tax payments last April 20, only one tax delinquent has had his name removed by paying off his entire debt of $623,442. Another guy arranged to make payments on his debt of $425,000. The really big fish -- two individuals and a corporation, all in Southern California -- each owe more than $17 million.

The Franchise Tax Board is scheduled in mid-October to post the top -- or bottom -- 250 deadbeats when it comes to personal income and business taxes. They owe a total of more than $263 million. It'll be a shame if they're not ashamed.

So, what's news, John?

Congo John Doolittle's office put out a press release Thursday with the following headline: "Doolittle works to protect separation of powers and to ensure equal branches of government." So, was he announcing an effort to force the White House to comply with requests for information from Congress? Maybe protect the judiciary from political meddling?

Nope. The embattled Roseville Reep rep was announcing he and several aides had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in the ongoing probe into the dealings of convicted lobbyist and Doolittle pal Jack Abramoff. The release quotes Doolittle's lawyer, David Barger, as saying the subpoenas raise constitutional questions about the separation of powers.

Hmmm. If that re-election thing doesn't work out, Doolittle may have a future as a spin doctor. ...

About the writer:

  • The Buzz is compiled by The Bee's Capitol Bureau and written by Bee columnist Steve Wiegand. Reach him at (916)321-1076 or swiegand@sacbee.com.

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