Confehr: Speeches, write-ins improve elections

Friday, April 23, 2010

Two developments in local elections crossed the news desk this week here on the south side of Lewisburg's public square.

First, a caller suggested that what's sometimes called the talking rock be moved from Berlin Spring to the Courthouse lawn so candidates could again stand there and deliver a stump speech. Since yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, it only seems right to use a rock instead of chopping a tree down so a politician would have a stump to stand on.

For those who haven't read the historic marker at Berlin Spring, the rock is where a number of famous politicians -- most from way back when they didn't have microphones -- made campaign speeches. I didn't know the rock had been on the square, but it sounds like a good idea and the caller suggested the Berlin Fire Department could use the move as a fundraiser. There's more to come on that as the election proceeds.

The other development is that R.L. Williams is running a write-in campaign to succeed Kristen Gold on the school board. So far, there's no other candidate for the position that would appear to be one of the most difficult elected positions in the county.

Explanations about write-in campaigns from Marshall County Elections Administrator Jo Ann Henry bring back memories of a write-in campaign in Franklin County during the 1980s.

On Sewanee Mountain, there was a constable who'd disgraced himself, but he was the only person named on the printed ballot. Local residents on and around the University of the South campus were very dismayed with what their constable had allegedly done. What that was is less the point than what the voters did. Some of them decided to defeat him, but nobody wanted to be constable.

So, they selected the proprietor of their grocery store and conducted a stealth campaign on his behalf. He never knew about it until after he was elected.

Now, write-in campaigns must be registered. In other words, you must ask the election commission to count your votes if you wage a write-in campaign. Without the law that requires certification of a write-in candidacy, election officials were honor bound to count votes for Daffy Duck, Alfred E. Newman, or the one person voting for themselves in a race with no name on the ballot. That's happened, too. In Murfreesboro, one man elected himself constable.

Anyway, in Sewanee, it took several days to find the grocer to tell him he'd been elected.

After he'd been told, the local newspaper asked him what he thought about his new law enforcement responsibilities.

His reply was that nothing much happened in Sewanee. The people were law-abiding folk and he wasn't worried.

A few days later, the only bank in town was robbed by a moonshiner nicknamed Robin Hood who was really just looking for three hots and a cot at no cost to him in a federal penitentiary. He was convicted and ate three hot meals a day and had a place to sleep that's not cruel and inhuman. He'd been living in a cave where bear bones were found.

As for the talking rock, we may have more on that here where we hope to be announcing a candidates' debate at local venues in or around beautiful downtown Lewisburg.