Last week, the Journal ran a report about allegations of voter fraud. Needless to say, that report ruffled a few feathers. I received a phone call from Dougherty County Elections Board chairman Walter Blankenship. Chairman Blankenship took issue with several points regarding our report, and I wanted to address them here. That is the reason there are two pieces written by me in this week’s Outlook, something I have no intention of making a habit doing.
First was our choice to use an anonymous source. Mr. Blankenship went so far as to suggest the possibility that the source was anonymous even to myself. I assured him that I do indeed know the identity of the source. It is this paper’s policy that anonymous sources’ identities must be known. Prior to the election, I received a phone call from a person who told me that voter fraud was going to occur and even outlined the exact same scenario that my anonymous source claims happened. Why didn’t I run that story then? Simple. I didn’t know the identity and had no other corroborating information.
In this case, not only did I know the person in question, but there was also other information to be taken into account. Mr. Blankenship has apparently not followed the Journal’s reports about the irregularities in the Ward 2 election. If he had, he is far more likely to understand that the source’s allegations went pretty far in explaining how such irregularities could occur.
Make no mistake, the decision to use an anonymous source was much deliberated upon. It shouldn’t be an easy decision, because there are a host of potential problems with using them. However, we felt that this story was of vital importance to the community and needed to be heard.
Another point that Mr. Blankenship took issue with was our decision to not give this information to the Election Board so they could look into it prior to our report. This is a fair question, and I will address it as well.
First, let’s take a look at internal investigations in general. They are often perceived as being nothing more than a white wash. Rarely do we see real results from them that are unquestionable. Take the CRCT internal investigation. In no time at all, the Dougherty County School System said that they had investigated and found that no teacher or administrator had done anything wrong. However, once the state’s investigators got here, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case.
Now, I’m not accusing the board of not wanting the truth. I don’t personally know any of them well enough to make such an accusation. What I am saying though is that should an internal investigation come back as there being nothing the board or elections office had done wrong, then the citizens of Albany would quite possibly doubt those results.
Instead, I turned my information – which I was under no obligation to do – over to the Secretary of State’s investigator. It is my belief that an investigation is essential, and I believe that the Secretary of State’s office is the best equipped to deal with these allegations.
Mr. Blankenship has invited me to attend the next Election Board meeting, and I have agreed. It was originally slated to be Wednesday, December 7 at 4:00, which though that date has since changed as they would be unable to actually have that meeting. He has expressed interest to me that I be available to assist them as they look into these allegations, and I assume to look at measures to ensure nothing like this will ever be alleged to have happened again. Whenever the meeting actually takes place, it’s my intention to be there.
My obligation as a newspaper publisher is to publish the truth, which I have fulfilled to the best of my abilities. However, it is my obligation as a citizen of Albany that dictates that I be there Wednesday so that I can help make our community better. It’s easy to complain. I’ve done it for years. When someone asks you to help make it so that you have less to complain about, you need to step up or forever forfeit your right to complain without looking like part of the problem.