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"Dimpled" ballots deserve recognition

To the Editor:

For those who wonder at the credibility of "dimpled" ballots and "butterflies" -- ask any election judge who has served at elections in any nursing homes, hospitals or hospices.

My first experience several years ago, and more recently, in having post-stroke, palsied, disabled and blind patients exercise their determination to do the ballot "on their own" with makeshift paper clips and small punches on cardboard ballots was trying for the voters and for the judges. We were not always free to help and oversee the struggles to find the right hole and the right line to exert pressure, to punch without leaving a chad and more than a "dimple."

Considering the number of retirees in Florida, part-time and residents, I don't wonder that the reigning punch system is flawed and that ballots were left with thousands of dimples. Thanks to our new electronic and simplified marking system in El Paso County, there should be fewer errors and less effort for those who are disabled, voting absentee. But the long ballot we experienced here in Colorado was tiring and discouraging enough that many likely left blanks on their ballot if they did not receive help from friends.

My respects to the thousands and millions of loyal and struggling voters who can only "dimple" and not punch, and for those who are trying to determine honestly the intent of the voters.

-- Flora Holmes
Colorado Springs

Out, out, traffic light

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to Rick Laurenzi's in the Nov. 30 Independent, regarding our miserable traffic light system. I was in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area for my daughter's wedding recently, and was amazed by the shorter wait at their traffic lights and their coordination despite the heavy volume of traffic.

I've had the fantasy of posting a billboard here: BY THE TIME A COLORADO SPRINGS NATIVE HAS MET HER MAJORITY, SHE WILL HAVE SPENT 2.1 YEARS WAITING FOR TRAFFIC LIGHTS. An exaggeration to be sure that nevertheless makes the point. I've shared this fantasy with many friends, acquaintances and strangers that all chuckle knowingly.

I would like to add to Mr. Laurenzi's excellent letter, the hazard created by long lights. I think many drivers accelerate on a caution light to avoid the long wait. While I don't condone this practice, I see it as risky behavior.

I'm sure there are many out there besides myself and Mr. Laurenzi that could give our city officials feedback, and encourage them to install a sensor system. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for a light and feeling smug that I brought my lunch.

-- Jim Sears
Colorado Springs

The real "tyranny of the majority"

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Ms. Sondra Healy's letter in the Dec. 7 Independent ("A uniquely American concept"). Although I did not read the original letter by Mr. Riley that so incensed her ("The B-President," Nov. 22), I must take issue with several of her arguments.

I think by now most Americans are painfully aware of the difference between a "democracy" and a "republic" -- this newfound knowledge perhaps being one of the more valuable side effects of this year's election debacle.

Ignorance of the flaws inherent within the Electoral College system is what has allowed it to continue in relative obscurity for so long. The Electoral College was designed before an age of mass communication, as our founding fathers were concerned that voters would only know of, and hence vote for, their local "favorite sons" -- this preventing a majority winner overall.

That age has long since passed, as even the most rural of counties receive election information via both print and electronic media. Now, our problem is not too little information, but too much. The "chilling effect" that media polls and predictions have on voter turnout is perhaps immeasurable, especially given the "tyranny of the majority" (so decried by Ms. Healy) that exists on a state-by-state basis due to the Electoral College system. As a minority Democrat in a majority Republican state, I could vote for Mickey Mouse for all the effect that my vote will have in the overall presidential election. Colorado was predicted for Bush so far in advance of the election that it was only out of a sense of civic duty that I cast my ballot, knowing full well that, contrary to optimistic assertions that "this election surely proved that every vote does count," my vote would not count -- not one whit.

Neither did the votes of the 337,576 more people in this country who voted for Gore than voted for Bush.

The Electoral College system also discourages voter turnout in a more general way. What motivation do states have to "get out the vote" when they know they'll receive the same number of electoral votes whether 17 people vote within the state -- or 17 million?

Ms. Healy asserts that the Electoral College protects "the smallest of voices." Well, Ms. Healy, I am the smallest of voices. You can't get any smaller than me. I am an individual person who is neither wealthy nor well-connected, and who holds a minority political opinion within my state.

The power that I possess is my vote. I do not see how the Electoral College protects my individual voice in any way, if I happen to live in a state where there exists even a 51 percent majority of those with different views from myself.

I also must question Ms. Healy's assertion that the Electoral College system protects us from "powerful people and governments [that] have a tendency to run roughshod over those with less power." What could level the balance of power more strongly and fairly than a "one-person, one-vote" system that was blind to geography, among other factors, so that we could all -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- be assured that living in a "battleground state" was not the only situation in which we could hope that our vote might actually make a difference?

As for the issue of "geography," last I looked, neither democracies nor republics counted election results in terms of "square mileage" or "number of counties." The latter argument is particularly odious because it is so misleading. If counties across the country were of even roughly uniform size and population, Ms. Healy's point would be moot, as Bush would have overwhelmingly won the election according to her own statistics. But, as my statistics professor in college used to say, "statistics lie." Counties vary wildly in size -- some small states have many, some large states have relatively few.

As for the "square mileage" argument -- perhaps we should, according to Ms. Healy's logic, include farm animals along with people in assessing the strength of a newly elected President's "mandate?"

It all boils down to this: Our system is set up to allow a situation in which the voices of hundreds of thousands of people spread throughout this country are not heard, in favor of a few hundred people in a small section of a "battleground state." If you happen to live in a state that is closely divided politically, your vote may mean something. If, however, you're in the minority political party within your state, be assured that when it comes to electing the nation's president, you don't count.

-- Linda Tuttle-Shaw
Woodland Park

Heal thyself

To the Editor:

Regarding Health and Happiness and The Body Scan biofeedback mechanism (Small Talk, Dec. 7), we agree with Billy Carter regarding stress in our lives these days and it's ultimate impact on our health -- "pain ... headaches" and other "dis-ease." We have no argument with biofeedback, nor with The Body Scan. However, we feel that this approach fails to recognize that we all carry within us the capacity to be still and listen to the ultimate body-scan, i.e. our own body speaking, both in the form of symptoms and insights. We all have the capacity to develop more mindfulness and, in turn therefore, gain important insight into our own involvement in both the development and the healing from the "dis-eases" life brings us.

Our experience over the past four years teaching stress reduction through the development of mindfulness (modeled on a successful program of 20 years at The University of Massachusetts Medical Center) has validated the process of looking within for guidance in overcoming the effects of stress. When people use insight from their own inner guidance, healing power is unleashed.

We are prone as humans to look outside ourselves to some "authority" and then, when it fails, we look for another, and so on. We run from practitioner to practitioner and machine to machine seeking relief from our head and body and heart aches. We leap from the symptoms of stress to outside authority for confirmation and guidance as to how to relieve those symptoms.

Perhaps it is time we learn to sit still and listen to our own bodies and hearts -- and honor their needs. Doing that, then instruments of technology could actually serve us, rather than distracting us from that which really matters, ownership of the authority for our own health. Imagine what this could do for a health-care system that is overtaxed and stressed out itself!

-- Ron and Cyndy Noel
Colorado Springs

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