With the election just a few weeks away, the charges and countercharges among candidates are flying. It appears that Republican sheriff candidate Tom Schneider used city employees to distribute campaign signs, which may not have been illegal but certainly looks funny. Instead of taking responsibility, the county Republicans immediately accused Democrat Frank Anderson of doing the same thing. In the 7th District congressional race, Julia Carson is being portrayed in TV ads as being an ineffective, almost fraudulent representative. This is politics as usual. When someone"s hand is caught in the cookie jar, the defense is that others have taken cookies as well. Instead of attacking a candidate"s record on the issues, the preferred course is to demonize the opponent. No wonder that the majority of people could care less about politics. Most of them will stay home on election day, cursing the state because they can"t buy alcohol until 6 p.m. (A brief rant on the latter point: Why does the state see the need to outlaw liquor sales until the polls close? Do they think that people will get drunk and accidentally vote for Communists? Do they think that hardcore drinkers won"t stock up on booze the night before? In a state full of strange laws, that"s one of the strangest.) The conspiracy theorist in me believes that politicians prefer the smallest turnout possible. By disaffecting the majority of potential voters, they make sure that only an elite group of people actually make it to the polls. So when only a select few actually bother to vote, it makes the outcome easier to predict and control. It"s easy to assume that your vote doesn"t count for much. Look at what happened two years ago. The presidential candidate who received the most votes didn"t win. To keep that candidate from taking office, the Supreme Court had to step in and choose the winner. More than half a million more people chose Gore over Bush. But since corrupt election officials in Florida and an outlaw Supreme Court preferred Bush, it"s G.W. sitting in the Oval Office instead of the people"s choice. And it seems we"ve learned very little from that tragedy. There"s been no substantial reform of the voting or recount process. Laws haven"t been changed to make it easier to vote. If anything, it"s more complicated now. But that unhappy experience shouldn"t keep people from voting. In fact, it should instruct people to make sure they vote. The only way we can punish alleged lawbreaking candidates is to vote and tell them criminal behavior on their part is not acceptable. The only way we can tell the hardcore reactionaries that we don"t believe in their policies is to cast our ballots against them. Because once they get in office, they could care less what you think, unless you"re a large contributor or powerful businessman. Case in point: The mail sent to our two senators regarding the war resolution was overwhelmingly against giving war authority to the president. Yet they both voted in favor of war. You can lick stamps until your tongue falls off and it won"t make any difference. Face it. This isn"t the America envisioned by the Founding Fathers. This isn"t the America which Martin King dreamed about. It isn"t even the America of just a few years ago. You have no power whatsoever. The government can do what it wants to you or anyone else. It"s called the "If they want you, they"ve got you" rule and you"re susceptible to it being implemented on you at any time. But one of the few lawful avenues of protest still open to you is the ballot box. It"s one of the only ways you can tell politicians to go to hell and not be punished for it. Occasionally, real change happens through the ballot box. And there"s an opportunity for that to happen this year. The Democrats have the slimmest majority in the U.S. Senate and a substantial deficit in the House. There"s a chance that people can change this in November. The hardcore conservatives will get out and vote; it"s up to everyone else to do the same. This may be the most important midterm election in 40 years. The difference between protracted war and lasting peace may hinge on the outcome of the November ballots. It"s hard to overstate the importance of this vote. Whether you agree or disagree with my personal politics, it"s important to make sure you cast your ballot. You lose the right to complain unless you vote. A brief note on Halloween Halloween is coming up and the stores are packed with merchandise for the celebration. Besides masks and costumes, there are Halloween lights, greeting cards and all the accessories for the perfect party, including fake blood, realistic skeletons and, occasionally, candy. Excuse me, though, if I don"t partake. While I don"t object to anyone having a good time, something about Halloween gives me the creeps. When you"re a kid, Halloween is fun and games. It"s going around the neighborhood and collecting as much candy as possible. It"s eating said candy to the point of regurgitation. But Halloween seems to be as much for adults as it is for kids. And that"s what worries me a little. It"s understandable that kids don"t know the meaning of Halloween besides pumpkins, candy and costumes. But any adult who looks into it should know better than celebrate the holiday unless, that is, you don"t mind celebrating demons, death and Satanic worship. A few years ago, I wrote a column entitled "Halloween Is Satan"s Christmas." I received all sorts of criticism from people telling me I was taking it too seriously, that there"s nothing wrong with Halloween and that I needed to investigate it more. Well, I have, and I stand by my original assertion. If you"re a Christian, you need to stay as far away from Halloween as possible. If you"re not, well, then, by all means go ahead and enjoy yourself. Just don"t have your kids knock on my door.