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Let's all vote in a fair election

We live in the reddest of the red counties in one of the most fiercely contested battleground states of this 2008 election. El Paso County voters could determine who will be our nation's next president and vice president, our state's next U.S. senator, and how our state constitution might be altered.

Whatever your party affiliation, nothing could be more important than encouraging voter participation, minimizing human and machine errors and fraud, and ensuring the entire process is as transparent as possible.

This responsibility falls upon the shoulders of Bob Balink, El Paso County clerk and recorder. Yet his actions give cause for concern. As the Independent reported last week, the man Balink hired to oversee our election protection process, John Gardner, repeatedly has stated under oath and on job applications that he has a college degree, when there's no evidence that's true. While a degree might not be required for each position, integrity certainly is. There should not be a whiff of ethical concern toward officials charged with providing us with free and fair elections.

When approached about potential perjury by his election deputy, Balink responded that his office has no legal requirement to fire Gardner, even if he did lie.

Earth to Balink: For our county's and country's sake, those entrusted to monitor elections must have impeccable integrity.

Balink's other recent actions have also been questionable. Such as his "mistakenly" sending out false information last March designed to discourage many college students from voting. (He didn't correct the error until last week.) Or his decision that all county-owned TV monitors in his office's waiting areas show only FOX News. Or his strange, overwrought commentary from the Republican National Convention printed by the Gazette. ("How do you spell change: M-C-C-A-I-N P-A-L-I-N! How do you spell experience and leadership times two: M-C-C-A-I-N P-A-L-I-N!")

An unpersuasive, ill-conceived partisan harangue would be fine, Mr. Balink, if you worked for the Republican Party, or FOX News, but you don't. You work for us all.

Unlike Florida in 2000, or Ohio in 2004, we cannot have our elections disputed.

Common-sense actions to ensure a fair election:

1. County and city elected officials should immediately retain and empower a technically savvy, nonpartisan ombudsman to oversee this election and report to the public.

2. Public hearings should be conducted in the next week, where Balink and Gardner can be questioned. Denver and Boulder counties have similar public meetings. Shouldn't we?

3. Balink has established early voting locations at the Citadel, Chapel Hills Mall and downtown. He should add an early voting station in southeast Colorado Springs, where many minorities and soldiers live.

As we learned in school, the price of liberty is constant vigilance. Here's what you should know:

If you are not registered to vote, do so by the deadline next Monday, Oct. 6.

If you are registered, confirm by Oct. 6 that your current address and identification match what is on record. Call the clerk's office at 575-VOTE (8683) or spend less than one minute to check online at justvotecolorado.org.

If you are registered and choose to vote by mail, apply for a mail-in ballot as soon as possible. The final date to apply is Tuesday, Oct. 28, but it is best to submit paperwork much earlier. Applications are available at the clerk's office and csindy.com.

Registered voters can vote in person between Oct. 20-25 and Oct. 27-31 at an early voting station: Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the Citadel, upper level near JCPenney, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; or Chapel Hills Mall, lower level near food-court escalator, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If voting in person on Nov. 4, bring identification and verify your electronic vote before leaving the polling station. Understand that if you are in line when polls close at 7 p.m., you have the legal right to vote.

Next week's Independent will include our endorsements, as well as Citizens Project's nonpartisan voting guide. And at 5 p.m., Oct. 6, we are hosting a free campaign and ballot measure forum at Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave. Please attend, or watch live via www.kktv.com.

John Weiss, publisher

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