If churches advocate, let them pay taxes

  • Evan Smith<br>
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:32am

In almost any residential neighborhood, the largest, most valuable parcel of land is a church. Yet churches, like other non-profit organizations, pay no taxes.

In exchange for tax-exempt status, we require only one thing from non-profit organizations – that they stay out of political campaigns.

Yet a few days ago, churches around Washington observed “Referendum Sunday,” on which they asked worshipers to sign petitions for Referendum 65, which would force a November vote on the law passed by the Legislature to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Church groups historically have taken stands on issues like slavery, women’s rights, prohibition and minority rights. But, they should stop at taking positions on particular candidates or ballot measures.

If they want to promote ballot measures, they should give up their tax-exempt status.

No vote-by-mail in King County

A few months ago, Snohomish County decided to convert its voting to mail-only beginning this year. I supported that move.

Now, King County may do the same thing. I oppose that move.

What’s the difference? Snohomish County had to make the move. The touch-screen voting machines at Snohomish County polling places produced no paper record, required under a 2005 state law. Machinery to bring them into compliance would have cost the county millions of dollars.

King County has good reason to make the change, but they’re not as convincing as the reasons for the Snohomish County move.

Most King County voters use mail-in ballots; so the county spends a lot of money for a diminishing number of poll voters.

Still, the county can accommodate the people who value the experience of going to the polls.

I propose a compromise. Assume that most people will vote by mail, but keep a few polling places open. The typical polling place now serves five or six precincts. Under my scheme, each polling place would serve a dozen or more precincts, and each poll worker would handle several precincts.

Elections officials say they can serve people more efficiently and for less money by using only the mail-in system, rather than both the mail and poll systems. They can operate a single system by using the same kind of ballots and counting machines for both mail and poll voters.

Bring back Memorial Day

Many of us will use the three-day Memorial Day weekend for picnics and trips to the beach.

That the holiday, once called “Decoration Day,” is set aside to decorate graves, is lost on everyone but the veterans’ groups that still decorate cemeteries with flags.

It’s time to move the holiday to a fixed date, rather than a Monday. Make it a day of remembrance rather than an excuse for another three-day weekend.

Evan Smith is The Enterprise Forum editor. Send comments to entopinion@heraldnet.com.

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