voice for democracy

The Editorial Board: Lesson in democracy – an elections worker commits an error and no one blows it out of proportion – Buffalo News

A poll worker prestamped Byron W. Brown’s name on this ballot that she handed to a voter on Election Day. Candidates and public officials handled the problem professionally and helped to preserve confidence in elections.
There was good news out of last week’s mayoral election in Buffalo, though it began with the kind of problem that can cause serious trouble. In the end, though, the event speaks well of the way Erie County conducts its elections and serves as a lesson for other parts of the country.
The problem: An elections worker on the city’s West Side apparently prestamped a ballot with Mayor Byron Brown’s name, though not in the place where it would qualify as a legal write-in vote. That would be a violation of procedures.
The response: The voter who received the ballot reported it. Officials from the Erie County Board of Elections quickly dismissed the inspector in question and replaced all four inspectors with personnel from their office. Those officials conducted the remainder of the election and turned the matter over to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating.
It was all professional. No one yelled fraud. No one screamed about a rigged election. No one questioned the security of voting machines or pulled out a magnifying glass to hunt for bits of bamboo. Instead, everyone connected to the event, including the candidates, simply gave it the attention it deserved.
The lesson: Graciousness in victory and especially in defeat preserves confidence in elections, which are the bones of any functioning democracy. Weaken the bones, weaken the democracy.
We see that happening elsewhere, most infamously in last year’s presidential election. Then-President Trump had made clear that he would claim fraud if he lost the election, then did it – and continues to do it, even though not a shred of evidence supports the lie.
State Republican officials professionally and bravely defended the election results. They knew who won and who lost in their states. Even a preposterous “audit” in Arizona confirmed that Joe Biden won the state, to the point of expanding his margin of victory.
Yet, Trump still shouts the lie, which has become an article of faith among many Republicans. His reckless slanders and incessant self-regard are shaking the confidence of many Americans in the fairness not just of that election, but any election.
It’s happening again in New Jersey. There, the Republican loser of a close gubernatorial election not only refused to concede, but implied – without evidence, of course – that fraud may have occurred.
“You can report any perceived or real irregularity to the voter integrity hotline set up by the NJGOP,” Jack Ciattarelli said in a desperate video appeal. Preliminary results show that Ciattarelli won 48.5% of the vote to the 50.8% won by incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy.
The performance was pathetic.
Contrast that to the events that occurred in Virginia. There, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe lost the gubernatorial election by a similar margin – 48.4% to 50.9%. But instead of suggesting foul play, he graciously conceded. “Congratulations to Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin on his victory,” he said in a statement. “I hope Virginians will join me in wishing the best to him and his family.”
That one was classy.
Or look at what happened in Buffalo. After the inappropriately stamped ballot was discovered, both the Brown and India Walton campaigns said there was no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities. Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr said the same. Even the voter in question – a Walton supporter – said it appeared that the elections worker simply made a mistake.
“It didn’t strike me as anything covert or malicious,” she said. “She was very open about it. I got the sense that she did what she thought she was supposed to do.”
It’s appropriate that the DA’s Office is investigating. Voters need to have confidence that this was simply an error and, more important, to know that public officials take elections seriously.
Candidates like Trump and Ciattarelli are the bad examples that prove the truth: Democracy needs not just good winners in order to thrive, but good losers, too.
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“On Election Day and these two days after, we haven’t heard of any other instance in which an irregularity like this occurred,” Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr said.
A poll worker prestamped Byron W. Brown’s name on this ballot that she handed to a voter on Election Day. Candidates and public officials handled the problem professionally and helped to preserve confidence in elections.
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