Katon, You're Killing Us Man
FITS knew over a week ago that there were voting irregularities in Sumter County this election cycle. Why is it that auto parts store owner and SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson is just letting the media know about it today?
Heck, anybody who watched out-of-state Morris College students illegally casting the decisive ballots in Sen. Phil "LeBuster" Leventis' paper-thin victory over Dickie Jones two years ago could have told you there's always some shadiness going down on Election Day in Sumter County.
In case anyone has forgotten, Dickie Jones lost the GOP's best chance to knock off a leading Democratic obstructionist in the State Senate by less than a hundred votes two years ago. Why? Because the Republican Party didn't have its act together in Sumter County. Nobody challenged the legality of any of the suspect ballots when it mattered - before they went into the box.
Challenging ballots is easy. You just say "I challenge that ballot." The poll worker then registers that vote as challenged and doesn't it count it with the rest of the votes. In the event the outcome of the election depends on it - which it usually doesn't - the challenged ballots are examined one by one to determine if they are legitimate.
Why is challenging a ballot so important? And why is it so critical that the state parties have people who know what they're doing at historically suspect polling places - especially in tight races?
We're glad you asked.
Once a vote is officially counted (i.e. once a ballot "goes in the box"), the burden of proof shifts from the voter to the challenger. If a ballot is challenged, it's ultimately the voter's job to prove that he or she is legit and that the vote should be allowed to count. Once the ballot has actually been counted, however, you're more likely to get a judge to overturn the Bill of Rights than to start digging into the box and taking votes out - no matter how egregious the alleged voting improprieties may be.
"Votes go in the box, they don't come out," a senior Election Commission official told FITS. "If it's been counted, it's going to count."
All of which brings us to auto parts store owner and SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson, who apparently doesn't understand either the notion of challenging ballots or managing perception in the media.
People were told last Wednesday that Jim Rex won a very, very close election but that there was going to be a recount. Then yesterday, people were told that the recount had been completed and Jim Rex was still the winner.
Predictibly, Jim Rex declared victory on both occasions while Floyd's people kept regurgitating the same old tedious, highfalutin language about "respecting the integrity of the electoral process" or something equally mind-numbing.
Sure, Katon said at one point that he was "confident" Karen was going to win, but there was nothing substantive buttressing his remarks (which we have to say isn't all that surprising coming from this Chairman).
Like a ballot that's already gone into the box, public perception is that Rex has won the race (twice). Just look at the body language of the two candidates: He's up and about setting up his transition team while she's holed up somewhere trying to decide whether or not to challenge the results in court. Floyd finds herself in the same hole Al Gore was stuck in six years ago in Florida. Not only does she have to make up the votes, more importantly she has to overcome the now-cemented public perception that she's lost the race (twice).
Even compelling evidence of impropriety becomes very suspect under these circumstances, which is why you never hold your ammunition when it comes to recounts. The longer you allow the perception of a clear winner and a clear loser to gel in the minds of the public, the further you paint yourself in a corner.
Of course the ammunition you've got also needs to matter. Katon claims Rex received 266 "erroneous" votes in Sumter. Floyd is down by 455 votes.
Looks to us like too little, too late.