Letter to the Editor


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To the editor:

After reading your Sept. 6 editorial concerning the election process in Mississippi County, I felt it imperative upon me to respond to some of your absurd implications.

Your editorial strongly implies that criminal intent was involved in the recent primary election which resulted in a newly ordered election for the presiding commissioner's race. This is far from the truth and was so indicated in Judge Dolan's ruling that voter fraud was not committed. An honest mistake of passing out two Democratic Party ballots to one voter on the part of the election judges was sufficient to cast doubt on the validity of a two-vote margin of victory. This miscue, and only this miscue, resulted in Judge Dolan's order for a new election. Had the margin of victory been three votes, the irregularity would have been of insufficient magnitude to cast doubt on the validity of the election outcome, and a new election would not have been ordered.

I have to believe that these redundant attacks on our election process are politically motivated, particularly in light of the recent call for federal monitoring of our elections. The voter-fraud incident of 1996 was regrettable, and I will not begin to defend it, as the act is indefensible. However, I will state that election authorities cannot be held accountable for what may happen on the street, just as law-enforcement officials cannot be held accountable for crimes committed on the street. It all comes down to personal responsibility. If an individual is intent on committing a crime, there is little that can be done. While safeguards exist to monitor internal processes, crimes committed on the street are beyond our control.

What we can be held accountable for is the internal process of the election, and I welcome any such scrutiny of our legal election process in Mississippi County. The recent hearing on the alleged irregularities of the primary election brought my office's process under intense scrutiny. I am proud to say that not one problem was found with that process. In fact, one of the attorneys from Cape Girardeau told me, "You run a damn good election, regardless of what they say." My only thought with regard to that statement was that "they" must be the GOP operatives in Cape Girardeau County, of which I wonder as to whether you are a part.

One last passing thought on the vote-buying scheme: The former convenience-store employee who pleaded guilty was reportedly a former employee of one of the GOP operatives and, in your words, "hardly the sort who could have masterminded such a scheme alone." The scenario of a GOP setup is intriguing: a videotape produced by a GOP operative who knew exactly where to go in a strange town to uncover a small-scale illegal scheme, then handed the case over to law enforcement officials on a silver platter. Hmm. Some tasty food for thought. After experiencing what I've experienced over the past couple of years, I wouldn't put it past them.

H.L. DeLAY JR., County Clerk of Mississippi County