About the Author
Opinion Archives
E-mail Scott
Scott's Links

Election night 2011: An unmitigated disaster

By Scott Tibbs, November 11, 2011

Monroe County Republican Party chairman Steve Hogan should remove Judy Smith-Ille from the Monroe County election board, and Linda Robbins (a Democrat) should resign from her position as Monroe County Clerk. The unmitigated disaster that was the 2011 election requires that neither woman have authority over our elections.

Here is how it went down. Indiana law requires that paper ballots be hand-counted at the polling place after the election, not at the clerk's office. Robbins, who was elected in 2010, did not know the law despite having been in office for ten months.When informed that the plans for counting votes was illegal, Robbins had to scramble to retrain election workers and restructure the election process. On short notice, she failed in doing so and results for a very low-turnout election were delayed to an absurd extreme.

There is simply no excuse for this level of incompetence. Robbins should have been well-versed in the law starting in May 2010, when she won the primary and was the Democratic nominee for county clerk. As the county clerk, the buck ultimately stops with her. This is her responsibility.

But this was a bipartisan disaster. Republican election board member Smith-Ille admitted that she knew months earlier that Robbins' plan was illegal, but did not tell them until two days before the election. She said "They don't listen to me. ... I speak up all the time. It goes in one ear, out the other. I didn't want to be responsible for a Class D felony."

As I said on November 9, for Smith-Ille not to tell the clerk about these process-breaking rules until it was far too late to stop this from becoming a disaster is irresponsible and reeks of sabotage. This spiteful, petty and childish behavior is more than enough reason to remove her from the election board.

Perhaps Robbins and Democratic appointee Jan Ellis would have ignored Smith-Ille. Then the election night disaster is completely on them. But Smith-Ille has a responsibility to the voters of Monroe County and to the Republican Party to provide the necessary information in a timely manner. If the clerk will not listen, she should have gone to the newspapers (the Herald-Times and the Indiana Daily Student) along with AM 1370, WTIU, WFHB and WFIU. She could have posted in the comments on the newspaper's website.

She didn't, because her feelings were hurt. Smith-Ille knew months in advance that the election process was going off a cliff and she let it happen. She's managed to smear the entire Republican Party with her childish behavior. Robbins' role in this fiasco was the result of incompetence. Smith-Ille's role is the result of malice.

Politically, Smith-Ille's inexcusable behavior amounts to Republicans snatching defeat from the jaws of a public relations victory. Had she been diligent about her responsibility, the Republicans could have laid this at the feet of the Democratic county clerk, and this could have been an election issue not only in 2014, but also in 2012. This could have been a reason to argue against voting straight ticket simply to support Barack Obama. It still can be, but the case for it weaker now. Hogan can make the case stronger by removing Smith-Ille from the election board.

It is times like this when elected officials need to take responsibility for their mistakes like adults. That is not what Robbins did. She whined in HTO comments that "Judy Smith-Ille either failed to attend and/or did not bother to mention that we were on the wrong path."

This unacceptable buck-passing by Robbins demonstrates a lack of leadership and a lack of character. Robbins is the county clerk. There is no reason for her not to know the law. She could have walked a couple blocks and asked the county attorneys if the planned vote-counting process was legal, or she could have e-mailed them. In fact, the entire Indiana Code is online and she could have looked it up herself. Instead of taking full responsibility, she decided to point fingers like a child."Waah! Waah! No one told me it was wrong! Waah!" Grow up!

This is a very bad sign for the 2012 election. If Robbins, Ellis and Smith-Ille remain in their positions of authority (and sadly, I cannot imagine they will resign or be removed) they need to get their act together before the 2012 election. The 2011 election was a low-turnout election where the majority of seats were not even contested. How are we going to handle this in 2012? I shudder to think what a mess that will be.