Remember the counting of hanging chads?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Some of the most famous news photos include raising the flag at Iwo Jima, the sailor kissing the nurse when the war ended, and the man examining a ballot in Florida, looking closely at the now infamous hanging chad.

The photo on the subject of voting doesn't have the excitement of victory in war, but it's part of our American way of life and it's frequently identified as one of the freedoms we have because our military service men and women are willing to sacrifice for it.

This is not to decry low voter turnout. People also express themselves by not voting.

However, on Tuesday evening there were objections to the making of a photograph of Marshall County election officials counting results in the Lewisburg election.

Obviously, we disagree since the picture is published today.

Another thing that's remarkable about the situation is that the counting was done behind a closed door. The photo was shot through a glass wall.

Results of the election were assembled in a closed meeting of the Marshall County Election Commission.

State law calls for open meetings. Elsewhere in this state, government business conducted in closed meetings has been declared null and void. In Knoxville, a number of county leaders appointed to public positions during such meetings were removed from office because of the closed nature of the meetings.

We are not now suggesting that the county be sued and the results of the election be declared invalid until the votes are counted in public.

We don't think others would do so, but they might.

At the very least, there's an issue of how the chain of events looks to a suspicious public.

Perceptions have been and probably always will be a concern for public officials, especially those who are elected.

The idea of counting votes in public would appear to be widely accepted elsewhere as indicated by the photo of the man examining a hanging chad.

One might say that the Florida vote debacle was a special situation. Why isn't Marshall County special?

In neighboring Bedford County, a water district counts its votes in public. The Bedford County Utility District Board is elected by water and gas customers. Utility district charters are very similar to municipalities'.

There were only two people who objected to the photo of the votes being counted here. New members of the Election Commission were unfamiliar with local procedures and perhaps how American traditions apply. The door was shut, though, and to maintain decorum, that move was respected. It is now being reported.

What do other people in Marshall County think?

Memorial Day will be observed in 17 days. Soldiers died for the right to vote and other freedoms protected by our Constitution.