02/11/05 — Give it up: Republican shouldn’t try to disenfranchise voters

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Give it up: Republican shouldn’t try to disenfranchise voters

Despite his victory in the state Supreme Court, Republican Bill Fletcher should drop his challenge of the outcome of the Nov. 2 election for state superintendent of public instruction.

True, the ruling was a good one. The court said that “provisional” ballots that were cast outside of voters’ home precincts should not have been counted. That might mean that one of the new well-intended but ill-conceived election practices will be stopped.

This one is ill-conceived because, like so many other changes in the way elections are conducted, it makes cheating easier.

Unless provisional votes cast on Nov. 2 are discounted, Fletcher will probably lose the race for schools superintendent.

About 3.3 million people voted in that election, according to the state Board of Elections. The board declared Fletcher’s opponent, Democrat June Atkinson, the winner by the narrow margin of 8,535 votes.

About 11,310 people voted by out-of-precinct ballots. Ms. Atkinson probably got most of those votes because Democrats seem more likely to vote outside their precincts. If these votes were thrown out, her margin would decrease.

But these people voted according to the law as it was explained to them. To discard their votes now would be unfair.

The Supreme Court sent the Republican’s lawsuit back to a Superior Court that had ruled against him. The correct thing now would be for Fletcher to make the courts’ ruling irrelevant by quitting.

Some weeks back, an editorial in this space urged Democrat Britt Cobb to concede the close agriculture commissioner race to Republican Steve Troxler, because it was unlikely that Cobb could have gotten a majority of votes that had been lost in Carteret County. Eventually, Cobb gave up on a plan to fight for a new statewide election, and Troxler became the agriculture commissioner.

Now the tables are reversed. The Democrat has the lead, and the Republican could win only by having some voters disenfranchised.

He should let the people, not the courts, decide the election.

Published in Editorials on February 11, 2005 10:52 AM