Cruising for a bruising that could leave the new government in limbo

September 6, 2013 

We hate to sound like a broken record, but this election is hopelessly broken. In last Sunday’s editorial we called on the Bibb County Board of Elections to halt early voting and to make sure people were voting for the right candidates before resuming. At that time, 788 District 3 voters had been identified as being wrongly placed in District 2. Seven had already voted early. We asked the question: How could we be sure the snafu discovered between Districts 2 and 3 had not infected the other seven districts? We now know the answer.

That 788 number has grown to 1,274 as of Wednesday, and as expected, the problem has spread like a virus. District 6 has the problem as well as Districts 4, 7 and 9. It would be safer to assume there are similar problems with all the districts. While only 36 of the 1,274 voters have actually cast an early ballot, that is 36 too many. Those voters, having already voted, cannot re-vote, even though they cast ballots, unbeknownst to them, for the wrong candidates.

Why is stopping early voting so essential? First, the door is wide open -- big enough to drive a Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier through -- for a challenge. If the election is not halted, any citizen, particularly losing candidates, will have an avenue of redress -- the courts. The county will then be caught in a legal jungle. How can it prove that all 90,830 potential voters received the right ballot? Will the count come down to a handful of votes that could have made the difference for any of the losing candidates’ races?

Having to check and double-check each and every touch screen against a voter’s address to assure voters they are receiving the right ballot on Election Day will stress a poll worker force that may not be adequately trained to deal with such a circumstance. How do you handle voters who are sure they should be voting in another district? All of that will play out in real time on Sept. 17.

But the real looming danger is what happens if there is a legal challenge that is not fully addressed before Jan. 14, the day the new government representatives take office? Could a judge stop the entire process until it’s sorted out? What would that mean? We can’t answer those questions and we don’t want to find out, but one thing will surely happen if that sorry scenario plays out. Everyone in the country will be alerted that Bibb County doesn’t have its voting act together. And the shame of it all is that most of the issues will have been created by forces outside the control of the county.

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