CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Years ago I concluded that the Soviet Union was a bunch of Lincoln Counties, back to back. Although I now live in Kanawha County, and vote here, I have a funny feeling that I may still be voting in my old precinct in Lincoln County. I was once told that there were 160 votes for sale in my Griffithsville precinct. The last time I knew of illegal tender for votes, marijuana had been added to whiskey and cash. Absentee ballots appear to be the latest twist.
A school administrator, active in Lincoln County politics, told me in 1979 that every school bond issue election that passed was, as he put it, "stolen." In a fit of deformed social responsibility, he described how he and the other party's leaders decided that for the good of the school system the bond issues should pass, so they stuffed the ballot boxes.
Another school administrator told me that he bought votes for one of the political factions. Like a john condemning prostitution, he said he felt disgust for people who sell their votes. I asked him why he was telling me. Wasn't he afraid I would report him? He said he wasn't afraid because the statute of limitations had run out.
Once I almost wasn't re-hired as a teacher. I called the superintendent to ask why. He said it was because I was not loyal. I think he meant loyal to him and his political faction. But I guess they couldn't find a relative or political supporter who was loyal, so I was re-hired.
It is risky for a poor person to reject any offer they get to sell their vote. When I lived in Lincoln County, one Democratic faction controlled the board of education, the county commission and the welfare office, thus deciding almost all county jobs. A poor person or one of their relatives could easily get hurt economically for not cooperating with that kind of power.
A neighbor offered to drive me to the polls to vote, with the understanding that I would be paid. When I told him that I wouldn't sell my vote, he pointed to the new gravel in his driveway and asked, "I got a load of gravel for my vote; what will you get for yours?"
A beer joint owner found out real fast what it means to get on the wrong side of Lincoln County's ruling families. Cops waited down the road from his tavern at closing time and arrested drunk drivers.
It was a hoot to read in the Gazette a couple of years ago about Jerry Weaver, the disgraced Lincoln assessor, regarding how he fixed traffic violations based on friendship and not votes. He was bragging about being a prince of a guy and unwittingly revealed his lack of a moral compass.
Weaver, who must have no shame, is running for sheriff of Lincoln County. It may be possible for a convicted felon to replace a convicted felon as the chief law enforcement officer.
Corruption is neither a Southern West Virginia nor Democratic Party phenomenon. Arch Moore, a convicted felon and former Republican governor, is from the Northern Panhandle, and Wally Barron, a Democratic governor, lived in Elkins.
Arch was creative in handing cash for votes, as he lay hidden in the back seat of a car. But Wally was even more creative -- in a trial in which he was being tried for bribery, he bribed the head juror.
Martin, of Charleston, is a retired teacher.