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The H-T has it wrong on canceling elections

By Scott Tibbs, August 25, 2011

The Herald-Times published another shameful editorial yesterday, attacking county clerk Linda Robbins and calling on her to "uphold the law" by leaving names off the ballot. The problem with this argument is that people had been posting all day before the editorial was posted to HeraldTimesOnline on Tuesday evening making good points about whether the law actually prohibits including the names of unopposed candidates on a general election ballot.

First, the way the "newspaper" dealt with Robbins was inexcusable. When Robbins told the H-T she did not know how much the election would cost, the "newspaper" got snarky, editorializing that her answer "shows either a lack of candor or a lack of knowledge she really should have." Robbins responded in the comments:

I was interviewed about this subject while driving in my car. I would rather shoot an "I'll get back to you" than guess, and the article was written prior to my ability to get back to the office.

This is simply not acceptable. Is this what "journalism" has sunk to in a city that hosts the Ernie Pyle School of Journalism? This was a pure "gotcha" moment, nothing more. The Herald-Times needs to apologize to Ms. Robbins for calling her dishonest in print, and H-T editor Bob Zaltsberg should apologize to Ms. Robbins face-to-face.

With the way the H-T is treating Robbins, you would think she is a Republican rather than a Democrat.

As was pointed out in the comments, the word may has a different meaning than the words shall and must. But the real kicker is the legislative summary (see here and here) which very clearly states that removing municipal candidates from the ballot is optional. The summary reads that the bill "provides that uncontested municipal offices are not required to appear on the ballot in a municipal or general election."

Obviously, "not required" is very different from "not allowed" for any reasonable person.

Of course, the Herald-Times had access to that language because it was already posted in the comments for an earlier story. Any freshman journalism student at Indiana University - or a high school student, for that matter - could have very easily found the legislation and read the legislative summary. Clearly, the Herald-Times has an agenda, though I cannot imagine why a newspaper would want people to take office without even getting one single vote.

The H-T whines that holding an election in Ellettsville with no contested races "will be an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayers' money." Elections are not a waste of tax money, unless you are an authoritarian who believes people should not have any voice in who represents them. Apparently, that describes the Herald-Times editorial board.

There is also the issue of the the right to vote as protected by the state constitution:

Section 1. All elections shall be free and equal.

Section 2.
    (a) A citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen (18) years of age and who has been a resident of a precinct thirty (30) days immediately preceding an election may vote in that precinct at the election.
    (b) A citizen may not be disenfranchised under subsection (a), if the citizen is entitled to vote in a precinct under subsection (c) or federal law.
    (c) The General Assembly may provide that a citizen who ceases to be a resident of a precinct before an election may vote in a precinct where the citizen previously resided if, on the date of the election, the citizen's name appears on the registration rolls for the precinct.

Source: http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/const/art2.html

The state constitution trumps state law, so any law that allows (much less forces) counties to cancel an election is null and void. County clerks are not permitted to disenfranchise voters. Canceling elections is disenfranchisement.

Game, set, match, H-T. You lose again.

Previously: All candidates should always be on the ballot