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Opinion

March 29, 2006

Pete Chalos: Your vote counts in numerous and hidden ways

Where does real power reside in American politics? In concept, it resides in the hands of the people. The voters decide who gets elected and who gets the boot.

Often, the opportunity to boot someone out of office doesn’t come along soon enough to prevent one officeholder from making decisions that will negatively influence our city, state or nation for years to come. Thankfully, the way our government is split into three branches provides us with the recourse of electing another party into the legislature when the executive branch is running amok. The legislative branch can act as a check to the executive branch or vice versa. This system of checks and balances assures voters that we will have an opportunity to enact a change within a relatively short time span.

Representatives come up for election every two years, while state senators come up for election every four years. Governors come up for election every four years and U.S. senators come up for election every six years. This staggered system works well most of the time. Once in awhile, a party with an agenda gets ahold of two or three branches and forces their will upon the people for a period of time but the political pendulum inevitably swings back.

Unfortunately, checks, balances and term limits don’t apply to every facet of our government. Of the three branches of government, the judicial branch is often touted as the only branch with lifetime appointments. Once someone is appointed to the Supreme Court, they can stay in for life. However, this system of lifetime appointment isn’t limited to the Supreme Court or the judicial branch. It also takes place at the federal, state and local levels more than the average citizen may be aware.

There are a great number of boards and regulatory commissions throughout federal, state and city governments to which members are appointed by mayors, governors and presidents. Some of these appointments are lifetime positions. Some of them carry a great deal of authority. Those appointed to these boards and commissions effect policy for years and years without ever answering to the people because they don’t come up for election.

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