Editorial – Good call by Electoral Board

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022

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Election integrity — a topic that has roiled the nation since 2020 — matters locally as well.

In fact, we believe that running elections fairly and honestly at the local level heads off problems, real or perceived, at the state and national levels. After all, every vote, whether in Virginia or Vermont, is cast in a local precinct and tabulated by local people. A conspiracy to alter the outcome of a statewide or national race would require so many participants as to be impossible to pull off, in our view.

Local elections officials here and elsewhere are democracy’s unsung heroes and worthy of commendation rather than scorn. We were reminded this week when the Suffolk Electoral Board booted from the ballot a City Council candidate whose qualifying petition clearly benefited from bogus signatures.

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Reversing a vote less than a week earlier, the Electoral Board decided unanimously during a special meeting Monday to remove Art Bredemeyer from the Suffolk Borough ballot. It absolutely was the right decision, even though it means that voters in that area won’t have a choice on this fall’s ballot.

As our Jimmy LaRoue has reported, Bredemeyer initially was certified as a candidate for the Suffolk Borough council election after submitting a petition with 222 signatures, well over the 125 needed.

General Registrar Burdette Lawrence’s office received a report in early July that the petition contained forged signatures and turned the case over to the commonwealth’s attorney.

After a 2-1 vote last week to leave Bredemeyer on the ballot, the registrar continued investigating and, by Aug. 16, had confirmed 84 invalid signatures.

With such overwhelming evidence, the board reconvened Monday to reconsider. This time, board Chairman Brent Rowlands, who cast the lone vote for removal last week, was joined by Vice Chairman Edward Roettger and Secretary Issac Baker in a unanimous vote.

Bredemeyer has said he was unaware of the fraudulent signatures and blamed it on a consultant for his campaign. Whether the candidate himself knew about it doesn’t matter, in our view. His petition didn’t follow the rules and would have left a permanent cloud over his City Council service had he been elected in November.

Though he’ll technically still have to get at least one vote to be elected, we congratulate John Rector, a current planning commissioner, for his victory in the Suffolk Borough.

We commend Lawrence for her thorough investigation and Rowlands, Roettger and Baker for acting wisely after receiving the results. Suffolk voters can take comfort in knowing that local elections are in good hands.