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VOL. 125 | NO. 163 | Monday, August 23, 2010

Any Election Review Should Benefit Voters

The Memphis News

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Memphians haven’t had an off-election year in nearly a decade, so it’s unlikely that any examination of how elections are conducted can take place in a clinical environment.

Yet that is exactly what needs to happen.

The problems voters experienced Aug. 5 were serious, although probably doesn’t change the beating the Democratic slate endured. Voters of all political persuasions appear to have been told they had already voted early when they hadn’t.

So, we propose leaders of both local parties join together in calling for specific steps to overhaul the existing election system. Keep what works and replace what once made sense but no longer applies. And do it in the best interest of every voter regardless of political persuasion. That will prevent the majority of the moment to stack the deck and then cry foul when the other side becomes the majority and uses the same advantages. The advantages must be to the voters alone.

We are asking a lot when we still have two more election years before the hopefully off-election year of 2013. The political and legal reality is that the loser is always going to be the one challenging results when something goes wrong at the polls. No one goes to court claiming the margin of victory should be larger.

So if there is to be a claim filed in Chancery Court, it should be – and we are confident it will be – dealt with quickly and fairly. And the claim should be about specific problems, not a chance for those crafting a national narrative of conspiracy theories to add a Memphis dateline to half-baked ideas that seek to avenge past election losses far away.

We believe the ultimate conclusion is that some deserving Democratic candidates suffered in the Aug. 5 election. But it was because they joined an ill-advised strategy of urging citizens to vote the entire slate when the rest of the Democratic slate consisted of stale candidates with nothing to offer. They stood too close to mediocrity and outright incompetence and they got burned.

The credibility of our elections is at stake when the credibility of some of those who want our votes has already been determined. It is encouraging that so many voters spoke up on Election Day before they even got to the voting machines.

What is discouraging is the lack of training some poll workers continue to demonstrate despite the wide availability of training in election procedures. No one disputes that. This is not a problem stemming from Republican or Democratic control of the election apparatus. There have been long election nights and long counts well into the age of electronic voting machines, computer cartridges and early voting. This is about bureaucracy and who will be the master of it.

We believe it is the voters – regardless of their party affiliation.

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