. . . in committee. Once such a bill reaches the floor and isrnpassed by both houses of a legislature and signed by the governor,rnno one would argue that, because it should not havernreached the floor of one of the legislative chambers, it was invalid.rnA legislative committee, like an initiative petition, is arnscreening procedure, and if the “committee of the whole”rn(i.e., the legislative body as a whole, or the whole body of voters)rnapproves an idea, details about the screening process are nornlonger relevant. But courts can get away with invalidating initiativesrnin this manner because they really do not believe in therninitiative procedure.rnA final indication that voters are losing clout is that they recentlyrnlost the right to cast a write-in vote. On June 8,1992, thernU.S. Supreme Court in Burdick v. Takushi ruled that the staternmay prevent a voter from voting for someone who meets thernconstitutional qualifications to hold the office yet whose namernis not on the ballot. Never before had the Court upheld a restrictionrnon the voter’s freedom of choice. The case was fromrnHawaii, one of five states that bans all write-in space on ballots.rnThere is no good reason to ban write-in votes. If the votersrnelect someone by write-in vote who does not meet the constitutionalrnrequirements to hold a particular office, such a personrnwill not be sworn in to that position. However, in practice, votersrnnever elect anyone by write-in vote who is ineligible tornhold the office. But voters do frequently elect write-in candidates.rnWrite-in candidates were elected to Congress in 1930,rn1954, 1958, 1980, and 1982; and hundreds of write-in candidatesrnhave been elected to state legislatures, most recently inrnNebraska (1988), Virginia (1989), and Rhode Island (1990). Arnwrite-in candidate was almost elected to the Colorado legislaturernin 1992. Write-ins are useful when the voters learn somethingrnunsavory about the candidates on the ballot and it is toornlate for anyone else to qualify for the election. Write-ins arernespecially important in state legislative elections, because sornmany (over 25 percent) of them inevitably have only onerncandidate listed on the ballot.rnBack in the period 1890-1940, almost half the state supremerncourts ruled, or stated in dicta, that write-ins had to be permittedrnor the election would not be free. Only two staternsupreme courts said the opposite. Until the Burdick case, nornfederal court had ever ruled that write-ins could be banned.rnBut when the U.S. Supreme Court said that it is constitutionalrnto ban write-in votes, the decision received so little noticernthat the New York Times did not even run a separate articlernabout the decision. Instead, it mentioned it at the end of an articlernthat was mainly describing another of the day’s SupremernCourt opinions.rnThere are groups working to protect and expand the initiativernand to relax ballot access restrictions. Barbara Vincentrn(P.O. Box 11351, Memphis, TN 38111,901 -327-6824) headsrnup a national campaign to increase the number of states withrninitiative provisions, and the Coalition for Free & Open Electionsrn(P.O. Box 20263, New York, NY 10011) works on the ballotrnaccess problem. The erosion of the electorate’s power canrnbe reversed, if enough people become aware of the problem.rnThe Widowerrnb} Bradley OmansonrnIt may have been only the consequencernof age or grief (or of something worse,rnsomething he’d never admit to himself)rnthat he heard her again, heard the scrabblernof mice on loosely piled-up platesrnas the clatter of dishes being stackedrnon a cupboard shelf. Later that night,rnforgetting he’d put on the kettle himself,rnhe waited for its insistent shrillrnto summon her from her sewing, and whenrnit persisted, shrugged it off as onlyrnwind in the wires alongside the house.rnHe sat in his chair in the upstairs roomrnand listened to hear her foot on the step,rnthen he pulled a blanket up to his chinrnand slumbered by fits and starts. In the kitchen,rnthe curtains, saturated with steam,rnadhered to the window and slowly froze.rnNOVEMBER 1994/29rnrnrn