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To hear Arkansas' secretary of state tell it, all went well at the polls in this month's primaries: The number of Arkansans voting was up over the tally recorded in 2014, which was the last time this state held an off-year election in similar, highly partisan political circumstances.

Brandon Newell works in the secretary of state's office flinging vote totals and bureaucratic jargon around with equal deftness, and he assures us all that things went surpassingly well in this month's elections. He adds that the turnout was impressive considering that there was no presidential candidate at the top of either ballot. Who could ask for anything more in the way of good citizenship and enthusiastic but orderly participation in the democratic process watched over by well-trained and efficient poll watchers?

I could. For example, state law is supposed to guarantee the secrecy and privacy of the ballot, yet at my polling place, a poll worker managed to jam the machine that was supposed to hold and record all the ballots cast. So what she did was open the box that contained all the ballots cast at that location and begin pulling them out, even though they weren't supposed to be exposed except when a recount was necessary after the election was over.

"We have not really had any questions or complaints regarding voter ID," Mr. Powell stated at one point, sidestepping any doubts about whether the confidentiality of the ballot might have been compromised in the chummy atmosphere fostered at my polling place. Friends and neighbors we all were in this all-volunteer atmosphere, but on balance this voter might have preferred more formality and professionalism. Spoilsport that I am, I'd prefer having elections conducted by officials I didn't know at all to ones presided over by people I know and who know me, perhaps all too well.

Only two of the state's 75 counties--Union and Ouachita--use voting machines that don't provide both the voter and officials at his polling station copies of how he cast his ballot. But that's two too many counties in this state. In light of how many races might be decided by only a couple of votes, this omission needs to be corrected pronto. As in ASAP.

But what, why should good ol' boy Britt Williford worry? For in addition to being the county clerk of Ouachita County, he's everybody's buddy. But that doesn't mean his approach to We the People's sacred ballot is acceptable.

"We haven't had any problems," Mr. Williford said. "The only problem would be is that there's no box they can go and pull all the ballots out of in the case of a recount." Voters would have to take his word for it.

If he's casual about the finer points of voting, or even the essence thereof, that doesn't mean all should be. The more of us share this careless attitude toward voting, its rights and duties, the more dangerous it can be.

Hail, hail the gang's all here, but for what purpose? To turn a blind eye to possible corruption? And by corruption, we don't mean willful wrongdoing but the cordial, convivial kind that passes itself off as just doin' what comes naturally in a small town or even a small state.

For just as one good deed follows another, so does one moral failure come after the other. Spare us all that, brother. Who needs it except the kind of hackers who are out there waiting to corrupt the whole American political process? Call us picky, but we won't have it, however nice and neighborly this closeness is supposed to be.

And that's why we're filing this minority report today. Professionalism has its points. For your surgeon needn't be your friend to cut out a dangerous tumor before it spreads and threatens your whole system.

Stay well and strong instead. You'll live longer and better.


Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 05/30/2018

Print Headline: Minority report

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  • RBear
    May 30, 2018 at 6:25 a.m.

    Completely agree, Paul. What if those two tight races in this past election had been in Ouachita or Union counties? Electronic voting machines are great for recording votes easily and counting them after. But, in case of a recount the paper tape always saves the day until we have more secure electronic voting methods (and they do exist).

  • GeneralMac
    May 30, 2018 at 10:50 a.m.

    I also have qualms about many small town election judges.

    Both now and in my former state, many election judges are retired women who refuse to give up that position due to their ego or the extra few $$$$$$$$$$$ they earn that day.

    Some of them are border line senile and get confused easily.
    Seniority does not excuse poor job performance.