Notorious Soviet leader Joseph Stalin purportedly once remarked about elections: “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.”
Whether the Soviet dictator ever uttered those exact words is open to debate, but the observation about elections in oppressive regimes is still valid – those contests aren’t decided by the people, but by their corrupt leaders.
Meanwhile, the foundation of American democracy is built upon the belief that we hold fair and open elections to choose the leaders who will decide our future.
Questions often are raised in many elections – according to legend, John F. Kennedy supposedly won Chicago’s deceased voting bloc in 1960 – but, for the most part, Americans accept the results.
The only time there’s a gripe is with close elections, especially in local or county races. Greene County experienced two of those in the Nov. 7 election.
Republican challenger Gene Rush defeated longtime Greene County coroner Gregory Rohanna by the slimmest of margins – just four votes – to win the seat. The drama continued for days after the election, as the vote totals seesawed back and forth as absentee ballots were added to the tally, and then some were discarded for not being filled out correctly. Rohanna conceded to Rush without a challenge.
However, there was a challenge in the equally close race for Center Township supervisor. Republican incumbent Seann McCollum lost to his Democratic challenger Harry Gillispie by 12 votes in that race. But one voter raised concerns that her vote for McCollum appeared to be recorded for Gillispie.
That prompted a challenge by five electors in the township who asked for a recount.
It was the first time since the county’s electronic voting machines were put into service in 2006 that voters had asked for a court-supervised recount in a local election. That left some interpretation about how far the recount should go beyond merely tabulating the votes stored inside the machine.
Greene County President Judge Farley Toothman agreed with the challengers that it should go beyond a recount, ruling for an audit to be performed on how the three machines in Center Township sorted the votes to each candidate. During a hearing that lasted for hours Wednesday afternoon, the elections staff pulled out the three voting machines, printed off the election results and then set them up for a mock vote.
The machines performed exactly as expected.
A recount of the vote totals stored inside the three voting machines produced identical results as election night. And a test run during the public hearing of 50 votes on each machine sorted them correctly.
County officials expect the demonstration shows the machines work flawlessly, despite periodic complaints about calibration issues when the touchscreen is not as precise as it should be.
“I think it puts any questions to rest,” county Chief Clerk Jeff Marshall said. “The machines were proven to be accurate.”
But more than that, Wednesday’s demonstration was a testament to the Greene County elections staff that performed professionally while under pressure as a result of such close results.
Elections director Tina Kiger and county information technology director Scott Kelley, who helps to calibrate the machines and troubleshoot any problems, explained during the hearing the process in which the machines are calibrated and checked before the election to ensure the correct results are produced.
They and the rest of the elections staff – along with all of the poll works who spend hours working thankless jobs – should be credited for doing their best to provide a fair and open election for Greene County’s voters.
They don’t have much time to rest on their laurels, however. We have a special election and a primary just a few months away.