The 2000 fiasco in Florida showed that we need to take every precaution to make sure elections in America are as fair and accurate as possible. However, many states are planning to used flawed computerized voting machines in the next election.

The solution is simple. Election officials must have access to the machines for monitoring, and each machine should produce a voter-verifiable paper record of each ballot, which can be used in case of a recount.

The Republican Congressional leadership in Washington has refused to even grant a hearing on bills to guarantee our vote is counted accurately. We must rely on state election officials to protect our citizens from these machines. If you live in Iowa, write Secretary of State Chet Culver. Ask him to join officials in other states, such as California and Nevada, who have mandated a paper trail for all voting machines. Democracy cannot survive without the confidence of its citizens in the vote-counting process.

Melita A. Tunnicliff
Bettendorf

It's Time for Iowa to Allow for Covenant Marriages


A stable marriage between a husband and wife is the best thing that can ever happen to a child. It's time that government gets out of the way of couples who want to form lifelong, happy marriages and families. It is time for Iowa to allow for covenant marriages.

A covenant marriage is a provision in state law that allows an option for couples looking for a deeper relationship, based on what the spouses have to give to the relationship, not on what the spouses get. In essence, a couple that agrees to a covenant marriage agrees to extensive premarital counseling, and certain limitations if divorce becomes a consideration. For the Iowa Code not to recognize such honorable commitments is just bad policy.

Five years ago, the Louisiana legislature passed a covenant-marriage bill, and for the past five years, Professor Steve Nock of the University of Virginia has been independently studying the results. He has found that those who chose covenant marriages are healthier and happier.

Another reason the covenant-marriage option is good policy is that it's good for kids. A well-recognized study, "The Case for Marriage," clearly shows that stable marriages lead to happier, more productive children. One of the best things that we can do to better our education system is to encourage stable marriages. At the very least we should not stand in the way of those that seek to independently establish strong families through a covenant marriage. The Institute for American Values agrees with "The Case for Marriage" in its well-researched piece, "21 Reasons Why Marriage Matters." Marriage has a profoundly positive effect on individuals, children, and a community.

The government has a very real and compelling interest in strong, healthy marriages. The reason is simple: The government often must pick up the pieces following a family breakup. A review of the time and effort consumed by our child-support efforts, resources consumed by families on the verge of poverty, and investigation of child neglect and abuse shows the vast amount of resources that could be saved if we had stable families. This speaks nothing of the effects of strong families on lowering crime rates. We don't hesitate to ask the government to do the things that mothers and fathers typically do for their children after the breakup of the family, and yet we are reluctant to pursue any form of prevention. This must change.

Marriage is a fundamental institution in society. It is the adhesive that provides for the stability and strength that becomes the foundation for significant peace and prosperity. The confidence that a young person brings to their adult years depends in great measure upon the stability and well-being found at home.

There is no more important step that we can take as a state than to encourage, promote, and even expect strong, resilient, and fulfilling marriages between men and women. For us to stand in the way of those that want to enter into a covenant marriage is wrong. We need to clear the hurdles for those that want to enter into a lifelong commitment that carries the full weight of the law. It is not too late. We cannot fail future generations and the time is now. Iowa should provide for a covenant-marriage option.

Danny Carroll, State Representative
Grinnell, Iowa

Federal Marriage Amendment the Wrong Path


In response to reports that President Bush is readying himself to endorse Colorado Representative Marilyn Musgrave's Federal Marriage Amendment - a divisive and discriminatory amendment to the Constitution that would ban marriage rights for same-sex couples and could forever invalidate civil unions or other legal protections for same-sex couples and their children, Quad Citians Affirming Diversity issued the following statement:

"It is our belief and hope in the American public that people will realize this is the wrong path for our country to be traveling. Allowing same-sex couples to enter into the contractual agreement of marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships is not a religious issue or a gay issue, but rather an equal-rights issue. Same-sex couples want to be able to benefit from all the inherent advantages that such arrangements allow and also for their life partnership to be validated by society. Allowing such will strengthen the family unit and restore hope to the sanctity of marriage."

Scott J. VanDeWoestyne, Director
Quad Citians Affirming Diversity
Rock Island

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