Editorial: Polls apart

Election Commission making all the right moves to ensure fair referendum
Jan. 31, 2013 @ 12:18 AM

To its credit, the Sevier County Election Commission is trying extra hard to make things right for the upcoming liquor referendum in Pigeon Forge. Stung by its failings during the Nov. 6 referendum that forced a revote, the commission and the staff are doing their best to ensure there are no glitches this time around.

To that end, the commission has decided to use entirely new polling workers when the new referendum is held on March 14. None of the workers on duty that day in November when things went awry will be back at the site. That’s good. While it paints the entire Nov. 6 poll worker staff with the same broad brush, it was important to make a fresh start with new personnel for the revote in Pigeon Forge.

The panel split 2-2 on using scan voting machines for the upcoming referendum. The scan machines are what all election commissions around the state will switch to in the coming months, as we move from the non-paper ballot machines to scan machines in which voters fill out a paper ballot. In other words, there is a paper trail.

The 2-2 vote — chairman J.B. Matthews was absent — means it is unlikely the scan machines will be used for the March 14 vote. It would have been a good opportunity to see the new machines in action and allow some voters to get used to the new way of voting. However, there was understandable concern —both local and at the state level — about introducing a new voting machine in such a hotly contested referendum — and one that created enormous controversy the last time. Why confuse voters in the wake of what happened last November, some argued. That is a very real and appreciated concern.

The liquor-by-the-drink referendum will continue to generate complaints and concerns. That’s just the nature of the issue. However, the Election Commission is rightfully doing all it can to eliminate itself as any source of concern. New poll workers, a single issue to deal with instead of multiple ballots at one site, and more attention to detail will mark the election this time around.

Any time an election is overturned because of errors by the people hired to run such elections, it is jarring, embarrassing and indefensible. All you can and should do is fix the problems and make sure the next one is done right. That’s what the office aims to ensure.