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STAR-STUDDED BALLOTS WOULD PACK THE POLLS.

Byline: MARIEL GARZA

For the sake of the integrity of the American political system, Martha Stewart must run for public office. Once she finishes whatever sentence she receives for the ImClone conviction, of course.

I'm not advocating anyone cast a vote for her. But imagine how that infamous name on the ballot could rivet attention in the race for, say, town council of Westport, Connecticut? With the homemaking maven-gone-bad on the ticket, the national press would not be able to stay away.

Everyone from one end of the country to the other would become a quick expert on the challenges facing this small Constitution State burg. Even the trust-fund hipsters hanging around the Peet's Coffee in Studio City would be able to dredge out a thoughtful debate on the merits of the Westport Police Department's dilemma to go digital, though perhaps they might not be able to point the way to their own City Hall.

It's so crazy it just might work. Wait! It did. Just look at what Arnold has done for Sacramento's public profile. (Don't even try the ``Arnold who?'' thing. I know you know who.) A few months ago I was having dinner with a Washington, D.C., wonky type who knew more about California's debt than most of the state's Assembly members, thanks to the national press coverage of our world-famous governor.

I'll grant that cross-pollinating celebrity with politics might not be the best way to reinvigorate the democratic spirit in Americans. In fact, it raises some downright troubling concerns about priorities, not to mention it means more teasing from Europe. But it may be the only way to stoke the constitutional fire in the belly that built this nation and get people back to the polls doing their patriotic duty, gosh darn it!

Americans in ever-increasing numbers don't give a hoot whether to dump blue-suited Politician Y for gray-suited Politician X. They all look and sound the same. Snooze. Wake me if we go to war. But throw a Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp into the mix, and, honey, you got some serious scrutiny of ``the issues,'' if you know what I mean, and I think you do. So what if they don't know anything about Middle East policy or economics. That's what the administration is for.

It's at least an option for California, where one of the biggest businesses is Hollywood, and therefore a legitimate contributor to the political pool. It's also where fewer people each year are choosing to exercise the right that many, many people died to secure.

Even as the population in California continues its upward march, voter registration has continued a steady downward decline, according to Secretary of State records. Between September 2003 and February 2004, voter registration in California dropped to slightly more than 15 million, meaning about 11 million California adults didn't even bother to pretend they might vote.

Worse still, fewer than 40 percent of those registered - or about 6 million - did so on March 2, despite it being a presidential primary and an important election for the future of the state.

The convergence of Hollywood and politics is already happening on its own, and Arnold isn't the first evidence of this. Remember Ronald Reagan? Jesse Ventura? Heck, there's probably a fair amount of people out there who think Martin Sheen is president, or wouldn't mind if he was.

And it's not surprising. Americans are obsessed with celebrities - and disinterested in how they're getting screwed by the government - in a way that's somewhat alarming. But if we can turn this to an advantage, I'd support it. That's why I'm suggesting Julia Roberts for vice president.

Either President Bush or John Kerry would do well to consider this Oscar- winning actress for the job as the presidential sidekick. It's time that a woman was in the White House as something more than wife or staffer. As America's No. 1 Sweetheart, Roberts would be sure to be the picture of poise and aplomb in this dramatic role.

I would suggest Halle Berry for the spot, but I'm holding out for her on the Berry-Sheen ticket in 2012.

If this all sounds scary to you, I have a simple suggestion: Vote. Otherwise, you have no one to blame but yourself when Pee-wee Herman is running the world.
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 14, 2004
Words:717
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