Editorial | Close race in Macon County

Editorial | Close race in Macon County

The contest for sheriff shows why your vote can make a difference.

Every vote counts.

How often have readers heard that one — perhaps so many times that the phrase to them is nothing more than a tired cliche.

But the thing about cliches is that they sum up a simple truth — as demonstrated by the tentative results of the race for sheriff in Macon County.

The difference between the two candidates — Democrat Tony Brown and Republican Jim Root — came down to one vote in Brown's favor. Once again, voters can see the enduring wisdom in the phrase that every vote counts.

That, in fact, is why there's going to be a recount.

The first step toward a possible full-scale recount comes Friday.

Root is seeking a nonbinding recount, which will be used determine whether to seek court permission to conduct a full recount.

While that process plays out, the election results remain in place.

That means that Brown's election win stands. He'll be sworn into office Monday and, as a consequence, will be the sheriff until notified otherwise by a court of law.

Root and Brown, both lieutenants in the sheriff's office, ran an obviously closely contested race that became even closer.

On election night, Root held a 99-vote advantage. After provisional and mail-in votes were counted on Nov. 20, Brown took the narrowest of leads — 19,655 for him and 19,654 for Root.

No one is quarreling with the motives of the vote counters. But this kind of delay between the election (Nov. 6) and the final tally (Nov. 20) can only encourage public suspicions about the legitimacy of the vote count.

State legislators need to think about that problem and act. But they probably won't.

Why?

Because even they don't understand that every vote counts until they encounter one of those rare situations like the Brown/Root sheriff's race that opens the legal door to the complicated tactics of a discovery recount and then perhaps a full recount.

Under the rules, Root is allowed to review the entire voting process — including ballots, affidavits and even voting machines — in up to 25 percent of Macon County's 72 precincts — in other words, 18 precincts.

Root, naturally, will choose the precincts in which he might reasonably expect to pick up votes.

The Decatur Herald reports that Root won't be reviewing results in Decatur Township, which has nearly half the county's precincts and went big for Brown. Instead, he'll look at precincts in areas where his support was strong — places like Forsyth, Mount Zion, Long Creek and Harristown.

If Root finds good reason to seek a full recount, he has until Dec. 26 (30 days from Tuesday) to ask for one. A judge would then hear evidence on the issue and decide how to proceed — recount the vote or let the results stand.

If a recount is ordered, the costs of it must, according to state law, be paid by the party that requests it — Root and/or the Republican Party.

What all that constitutes is a big mess.

But no one ever said democracy is the neatest of processes. Warts and all, it's the best, one that channels popular sentiment into a public decision that rests on individuals who educate themselves about the candidates and then cast ballots that count.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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