For years the Rome News-Tribune — and thus the public — would get election results, even down to precinct-by-precinct totals, within hours of the closing of polls.
When that wasn’t the case in the June primary, we wrote it up to the general chaos that the coronavirus has wreaked on nearly everything. Going into that election night, we knew there were going to be some issues but hoped they’d get fixed rapidly and efficiently.
Looking at how the Republican primary went this past Tuesday, that hasn’t happened.
The local NAACP and City Commissioner Wendy Davis brought these very same issues to the elections board during the June primary. Elections chief Robert Brady dismissed them out of hand. Several of those issues rang true again this past Tuesday during the Republican primary runoff.
Here are some of the issues and direct responses in an interview with Mr. Brady concerning the June primary, published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Rome News-Tribune:
♦ Late poll openings
“It is entirely possible that there were polling places that did not open exactly at 7 o’clock,” Brady said. “I was not made aware of anybody that had any major problems that lasted much later than 7 o’clock. We did have a few that were a little slow to get opened up in the morning.”
♦ Inaccessibility of support for poll managers/lack of training
“Is there such a thing as enough training? As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as enough training,” Brady said. “This was day one with the new system. We had 18 years of training with the old system.”
♦ Inconsistent absentee ballot protocols
“I am uncertain exactly what that means,” Brady said.
♦ Equipment failure
Brady said they had one voting machine fail that day and it was replaced in compliance with all rules and regulations. The problem with that particular machine has since been diagnosed.
Here’s the problem. We had those same problems in a much smaller election on Tuesday. There were only two races in this runoff and it took two days to get those precinct-by-precinct totals we used to get within hours.
Several polls opened hours late because of “software issues” and the elections board had to petition the courts to keep polls open until 9 p.m. Because the machines weren’t working, people were given paper ballots, some of which did not have the sheriff’s race on them.
This is not meant as a personal attack against Brady. We’ve dealt with him regularly and he’s attempted to be helpful through all this. But the problem needs to be diagnosed and corrected before November, and the earlier the better.
These avoidable issues are breeding grounds for lawsuits and doubt in the validity of the electoral process.
If we think our elections are run badly, or are rigged, then why should we accept their outcomes?
The gist of that rhetorical question isn’t a new one and was posed in Greece around 2,400 years ago. The full quote from Thucydides in his book “History of the Peloponnesian War” translates to this:
“In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.”
We’re not at that point yet. Despite the inconsistencies and inefficiencies, we still accept the validity of our national and local election results. But a scary prospect is this: What happens when people quit accepting the results of elections? Lets try to nip this in the bud so we never have to face that possibility.
Thanks for reading.