Counting votes behind closed doors is wrong
Editorial 7 comments below
A strange thing happened Tuesday night in Oysterponds.
District officials decided to count the votes cast in Tuesday's election in secret.
It's odd because we can't remember this ever happening before. In Oysterponds and in every other school district whose elections we've covered when the polls closed, the press and members of the public were allowed to remain in the room while the votes were counted -- until this year.
Even Oysterponds school board president Ted Webb was ushered out of the room on election night. He said the district clerk thought there was too much noise in the room to conduct the vote count. But district officials didn't ask those present to quiet down.
"That's what I would have done," Mr. Webb said. "What happened to transparency? It should be a public act. Election officials will always tell you there are safeguards. But try telling that to the people in Florida in 2000."
He's right. The count should be a public act. But oddly, that's not what New York state law says. According to John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, it's perfectly legal to exclude the public and the press from the room when votes are being tallied.
But Bev Harris, founder and director of the Seattle-based nonprofit BlackBoxVoting.org, said a public counting process is fundamental to our system of government, based on the Declaration of Independence. "You can't have liberty without self-government. You can't have self-government if you count votes in secret. Liberty and self-government are considered by the Declaration to be inalienable rights, endowed by our creator. You can't pass a law that takes away these freedoms," she said. "Having government insiders count votes in secret effectively transfers power from the people to the government."
Communist dictator Josef Stalin put it another way. "I consider it completely unimportant who ... will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this -- who will count the votes, and how."
Transparency is everything.
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