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I read in the local newspaper that my county currently averages 1 suicide every 14 days. That's on pace for 26 a year. If that seems high, it's because it is.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Americans kill themselves nationally at a rate of about 14 per 100,000, which implies that Coweta County, Georgia, population 155,000, should expect something near 22 suicides per year. For Coweta, that figure is an aspirational number.

What's so bad about living in Coweta? I can only guess.

Of course, thanks in part to our poor healthcare system and our easy access to guns, Georgians kill themselves more often than average Americans. (That's just the price you pay for freedom!) By Georgia standards, Coweta should see 24 suicides per year. So maybe our higher rate is our friendly way of helping prop up those counties that aren't pulling their weight.

Back when I was in a Coweta County high school, the statewide suicide rate was only 13 per 100k (national average 12/100k), yet I knew several people whose parents had killed themselves, and I knew students who attempted it. If people are finding things more bleak and hopeless now than they were then... as a community, maybe as a whole society, we just must be doing something wrong.

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I received a letter from my local county Voter Registration office this weekend informing me that my registration had been denied because I was a convicted felon. Oh, well. I wasn't really planning on voting anyway. My only problem with this news was that I'm not a convicted felon.

I went to the office and asked them what I could do to prove to them that I'd never even been arrested. It's often said that it's impossible to prove a negative, but the fine people in Coweta County said they'd just take my word for it. It was that easy.

What wasn't so easy was the answer to the question "why did someone report that I had a felony conviction when I don't?" Apparently, the Georgia county Voter Registration offices are required to ask the other Georgia county Superior Courts if any voter registrants are felons. But the chain of communication is — shall we say, one sided, and when it breaks down, tracking down the error is — shall we say difficult?

To validate whether this error might cause me future trouble, the Coweta County Voter Registration had me call a number in Athens that they admitted might be wrong. (The state of Georgia doesn't just not help its county offices communicate, it actively interferes by giving the counties directories with bad information.) The nice lady I reached at the Athens/Clarke County Voter Registration Office told me that the number I had called was wrong by one digit, and gave me the right number for the Athens/Clarke County Sheriff's Office. Then she realized that I really probably wanted to speak to the Clerk of Courts, which was a different telephone number also different from the original number by just one digit. No wonder compiling those state phone directories is so hard!

I finally got a representative of the Clerk of Superior Court in Athens on the phone, and she admitted that her office would have been the one to notify Coweta County whether I had a felony conviction. However, she could find no reference of anyone with my combination of name and birthday in the Athens/Clarke County system. I expected that. (As I said: no felony conviction.) What I did not expect was that she would suggest that I should run a background check on myself just to be sure. Wait, what?

I have to assume that she misunderstood why I called. If Clarke, which was the county that reported to Coweta that I had a felony conviction, didn't have a record of such a conviction, why did I need to run a background check on myself to prove anything to anyone?

Anyway. Problem solved, I think. It looks like I'll finally be registered to vote. Not that I planned to. But it's the principle of the thing that matters.

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To be continued...


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