Community

Ballot Problems- Again

It’s not every day that Lincoln County makes the news outside of our state. Our recent primary election did just that due to an error in ballot size, resulting in a hand-count that delayed results.

Montana gained a new seat in the house of representatives- and the race to determine the republican nominee for that new seat was a tight one. Tight enough that Ryan Zinke and Al Olszewski had to wait until Lincoln County’s results were counted in order to know who had one (Zinke).

This isn’t exactly the first time we’ve had trouble with the ballots in Lincoln County, though admittedly the last time didn’t leave such widespread headlines. Last year Trego residents incorrectly received ballots for the Eureka Elementary School Board Election, which complicated the counting a bit. Before that, during the last presidential election, an entire box of ballots was left in north county and not counted until days later (County Clerk Robin Benson, running unopposed for reappointment this November, described this as impeccable). Of course, we have been replacing our election administrator, so the trend belongs to the county and not the person. Still, this doesn’t exactly inspire faith for November.

I’ve been complaining about the number of elections by acclamation in our county, but I think I have a new request. In addition to actually having an election, I’d like to have one where only the results made headlines. Hopefully November’s election runs more smoothly.

Community

Be Nice to the Candidates

I can claim that I am an elected school trustee.  So can the school board members in Fortine and Eureka.  Yet I (and probably most of them) was elected by acclamation.  There may be a more politically correct way to describe it – but the reality is that I was elected without anyone voting for me.  A lot of school trustees share that reality – but I don’t believe it is a good situation.

The challenge is that, on far too many local boards and commissions, we have the same situation.  When a candidate can be elected by acclamation, without a single vote on a ballot, the concept of representative government breaks down.  On local district boards, it has broken.

The first reason to be nice to the candidates – all of them – is that they have expressed a willingness to spend time in meetings.  I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings.  Faculty meetings, departmental meetings, board meetings.  Usually I left with the feeling that a couple of hours of my life had just been taken from me.  I don’t care which party a candidate belongs to – he or she has expressed a willingness to attend meetings.  That deserves courtesy at the least.

Encouraging more candidates – being nice to them, regardless of party, just might reduce the need for term limits.  Often, we wind up with a long-serving politico who claims 10, 20 or 30 years of experience, but actually has two years experience repeated 5, 10 or 15 times. 

Encourage the candidates.  Reduce the unpleasantness of running for office – any office.  I will feel that I have done my job as a school trustee well if a better candidate beats me like a drum, with over half the district actually voting.  Elected by acclamation is a mark of a democracy in decline.