Mistakes happen. Anyone who tries to claim otherwise is so full of it. I wanted to remind everyone of that when it comes to the saga of the Ward II city commission election. Mistakes happen, but when they happen, every measure needs to be taken to make things right.
What has transpired in Ward II is anything but right. To start with, Cheryl Calhoun – who happens to be one of the most delightful human beings on the planet – sought to qualify to challenge John Howard for his Ward I seat. It wasn’t any particular malice towards Howard, but simply a case of her wanting to make a difference. She was told that she lived in Ward II. After arguing the point and being told repeatedly by elections supervisor Ginger Nickerson that she lived in Ward II, Calhoun finally accepted it and qualified for Dorothy Hubbard’s seat.
When it was learned that there was a problem with the election’s office computer system’s accounting, Calhoun was disqualified. While the term “disqualified” may be accurate, it conveys a sense that Calhoun did something wrong. She didn’t. City manager James Taylor returned Calhoun’s qualification fee – and yes, she did actually get it – despite it not being his place to do so. If that was where the drama ended, then life would be great.
The reality was even uglier.
Calhoun remained on the ballot, allegedly due to the cost of changing the ballot. How it can cost that much to change an electronic ballot is beyond me, but so be it. However, it was because she was on the ballot that things get murky.
Reports have been made that at least two precincts didn’t have notification that Calhoun wasn’t a viable candidate posted prominently. After all, a notice on the back of an exit door isn’t prominent. Neither is a crowded bulletin board. After all, “prominent” should be someplace people might actually see it.
Now, we have three people with upheaval in their lives, all because of one mistake that wasn’t made right. Calhoun had received votes prior to her disqualification. Due to improper placement of signs, she apparently received many more. She, a disqualified candidate, pulled in almost 20 percent of the vote.
Ivey Hines argued via WALB that those votes were made in protest over how Calhoun was treated. A tempting theory, but I seriously doubt it. No effort to organize such a protest was made to the best of my knowledge, and a far more likely scenario is that people just didn’t know.
While the Journal did write about it, as did other media outlets in town, some people just missed the news. As they probably had met Calhoun, they clearly wanted to vote for her, so they did.
Now, we have an election in turmoil. What happened to the early votes for Calhoun, made when she was a legitimate candidate? Those votes apparently outnumber the votes which has given Hines the victory. So, who would those people have voted for? Ivey Hines, or Melissa Strother?
Further, we have poor posting of signs, which added further confusion. With all this going on, one initial solution seems to be the most practical at this point. That solution is to throw out the election and call a special election for that seat.
I understand that Ward II has been without representation for some time now, but it also deserves the right representation. That ward deserves the candidate most of them voted for, not one appointed on screwy technicalities amidst turmoil and uncertainty.
While I endorsed Strother via a post at Laws-n-Sausages, that actually plays no part in this. If Ivey Hines is the legitimate choice of Ward II, then so be it. It’s not my place to determine that. It’s also not the place of the election board that started this whole mess either.