Elections are elections, protests are protests, glitches are glitches, and the fact of human variables remains constant. So, until the final word is in — notably from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which hasn't yet issued its report on the recent county election in Shelby County; and from Chancery Court, which will ultimately rule on litigation from the Democratic losers — we'll withhold judgment on just what happened here on August 5th.
It is quite likely that whatever discrepancies arose in the oversight of the election by the Shelby County Election Commission were just what the bipartisan commission said they were in deciding to certify the results — the product of "human error," not conspiracy, and insufficient to have altered the outcome. It is also possible that a sufficient number of the 12 irregularities alleged by consultants for the litigants were in play to have affected at least some of the races.
What is undeniable, as we have previously said, is that there was inexcusable carelessness on the part of the commission and its employees in permitting the certifiable reality of at least one major election-day glitch — the feeding of incorrect early-voting data into the electronic poll book that recorded who could and who could not vote on August 5th. Some 5,400 voters might have been affected by the mishap — the exact number is still uncertain — but the great majority of those who were at first blocked from voting seemed to have found a way licensed by the system to cast their ballots.
But that screw-up cast doubt on the entire process of voting in Shelby County and will fuel distrust and animosity for years to come, regardless of how the ongoing litigation turns out. There must be reforms — and serious ones — to ensure that in the future there is no repetition of the confusion left in the wake of this election.
We rather like an idea seriously floated recently by developer Henry Turley (disclosure: a board member for CMI, Inc., our parent organization) that a blue-chip local commission — bipartisan, biracial, and composed of committed citizens whose integrity is unquestioned — might be appointed to look into both matters, the election just concluded and such reforms as are needed to safeguard future elections and to restore voter trust.
And there is one other thing: In the highly electric atmosphere of an election protest held last Thursday at Bloomfield Baptist Church, a threat was voiced by a speaker or two to "shut this city down" in outrage over the "stolen" election. There are several things wrong with that formulation — among them the fact that no election fraud has yet been diagnosed by any probative agency — legislative, executive, or judicial. And, even if there were to be, reprisals against the "city" (where, if we read the reported vote totals correctly, most or all of the defeated Democratic litigants did quite well) would be a particularly egregious and misdirected form of scapegoating.
As is true with any realm in which representative democracy exists, imperfections will occur, and sometimes outright misdeeds. Processes now under way are capable of detecting and correcting both circumstances. We recommend a degree of patience and objectivity in the meantime.