Ashley Mattison’s been agonizing about whether to hold her nose and vote for Al Gore or cast a bracing, if quixotic vote for Ralph Nader. She was aware that Nader won’t be on the North Carolina ballot. But until recently, she did not know that if she casts a write-in vote for Nader, it won’t be counted. She found that out in the Oct. 18 Independent, which plugged the Green Party’s “Count Our Votes” protest the next Saturday in Raleigh. Mattison, who works at UNC-Chapel Hill and lives in Chatham County, still hasn’t decided how she’ll vote. But she thinks ignoring write-ins is “fundamentally wrong,” and she was one of 150 folks who gave up their Saturday afternoon to say so.

As bad as our election laws are for keeping third-party candidates off the ballot, the law on write-ins is worse. Write-in candidates must submit petitions with 500 signatures 90 days before the election–this year, by August 7. The Greens submitted 2,000 signatures back in May to get Nader’s name listed. Not enough. And for write-in purposes, those 2,000 don’t count. It’s a different petition, says Don Wright, the State Board of Election’s lawyer. The Greens should have known that.

Well, shucks, sure they shoulda. Silly Greens, they went to court trying to get the May deadline extended (a federal judge, a Democrat–but surely that wouldn’t matter–said no.) So they blew it. But what about us? Don’t voters have any rights?

Which reminds me of Jim Hightower’s book If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. In North Carolina, Jim, if the gods do give us candidates, our plan is to ignore ’em.

Hightower, the Texas populist, will speak on “the need to build a new politics in this country to rally the workaday stiff” at the Common Sense Foundation’s awards dinner, Sunday, Oct. 29, 6-9 p.m., at the Brownstone Hotel in Raleigh. For tickets, call 821-9270.