Stop, get it right before continuing early voting

September 1, 2013 

Could this election for the consolidated government’s representatives get more weird? We’ve already had shifting dates -- from Nov. 5 to July 16, now Sept. 17 -- two qualifying periods, a dispute in the local Democratic Party ranks about who sits on the Board of Elections, a lawsuit filed by one of the candidates to keep the July date and a challenge to another candidate’s residency. Now, it has been discovered that 788 voters living well inside District 3 were showing up on the rolls of District 2. We are 17 days from the election and early voting started Aug. 26.

This mix-up happened at a most inopportune time. New districts mean unfamiliar names. Voters are just trying to figure out in what district they reside and who is running for their district office. We know some of the more than 1,800 early voters last week cast ballots for candidates outside their districts -- and those votes can’t be changed, deleted or erased by the Board of Elections. The confusion continues.

While 788 misplaced voters may not seem like a lot, in District 2 in the 2010 race for governor, 788 voters would have comprised 22 percent of the vote; in District 3, 16 percent.

No one wants this election to be delayed. However, it will be up to the Board of Elections to provide assurances that the problem between District 2 and District 3 have been eliminated, but the board needs to go deeper than that. They must double check all of the districts for accuracy. The least the board can do is stop digging. We agree with Councilwoman Nancy White, who said early voting should have been halted once the problem was discovered.

We don’t understand the process of such an examination to ensure accuracy. The board is dealing with new software and, as of last week, no one had a definitive answer for what caused the snafu. We don’t know how long it would take to process all the voter information and how that might impact the Sept. 17 voting date. If it postpones the Sept. 17 election, so be it. We must get it right.

And there is another looming reason to stop and make sure the data is correct before continuing. This situation is a ready-made, target-rich environment for legal action. Any candidate -- for that matter, any citizen -- has all the ammunition needed to seek an injunction to either postpone the election or challenge its results.

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