Primary process steals many voters' chance to choose

Regarding Rob Richie and Steven Hill's Feb. 18 Opinion piece "Reform primaries - include more voters": I'm a two-time loser. I was a dedicated campaign volunteer for Sen. John McCain in 2000 and for Wesley Clark in 2004. As this commentary pointed out, the political process is structured in such a way that - on both occasions - the race was over before I, and millions like me, had any chance to make our views known.

Buckets of ink are being spilled over the potential for fraud with electronic voting machines. But little has been said of the fact that my vote has been stolen - not by a machine, but by a process that reserves the decisionmaking power for the big campaign contributors, a few high-level party and political operatives, and a couple hundred thousand Iowa and New Hampshire voters.

What's the bigger priority here: To select the best-qualified person to be president and to allow Americans to make an informed decision? Or to minimize the amount of money spent on primary campaigns so that it can be saved for the general election?

The end does not justify the means for the current electoral system. Reforms are essential. Among the top on my list, we should regulate the timing of primaries. No one is served by front-loading the process. We don't need to be selecting a candidate in January for a November election.

Prohibit the publication of public-opinion polls for 10 days before an election. Just as electioneering near the polls and negative advertising close to an election corrupt the process, the publication of daily tracking polls is equally harmful.

With increasing numbers of voters (myself included) refusing to identify with any political party, the primary process must no longer be controlled by the party powerful. We need reforms now to protect the voting rights of every American.
Sharon Lawrence
Austin, Texas

America's short-term memory

Your Feb. 18 editorial "Russia's Mountain of WMD" brought to mind the multiple US initiatives established under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to assist the former Soviet Union's economic and military sociopolitical transition. The idea was that our collective responsibility, as victors of a drawn-out war, was to patch things up.

With its limited attention span and depth, the US public does not want to track the progress of such efforts against their charters, and when tax cuts come, there is a collective forgetting on the part of lawmakers and presidents to sustain the original goals of such initiatives.

In my opinion, current and recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan illustrate the long-term impact of this forgetfulness, which is a cornerstone of American politics.
Adam C. Liebi
Agoura Hills, Calif.

Varying degrees of corruption

Regarding David L. Phillips's Feb. 5 Opinion piece "Corruption next in Georgian cleanup": One aspect Mr. Phillips failed to mention, which I think is important in understanding Georgia, is that corruption there is older than the 10 years since perestroika. Georgians, existing at one of the hinges of civilization, have been overrun by Turks, Persians, and Russians.

Given this history, the line between corruption and legitimate resistance to unwanted and uncaring authority is blurred. We should try to understand this as we seek to help.

Not all cultures have the tradition of law and democracy we have and even here it didn't happen overnight. We need to know that different peoples can have different concepts of corruption.
Virginia Davis Nordin
Lexington, Ky.

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