The Knoxville News-Sentinel's article about today's primary election leaves out more than it tells. Here's what you need to know. Get out your glasses-cleaning kit and be sure to have a soft cloth handy . . .
According to Hayes Hickman's article, "Turmoil still surrounds the primary election – one of the most complex and confusing in Knox County." Perhaps. But the Knoxville News-Sentinal is at least partly to blame for the confusion, if not the complexity. It's not alone, though. Rather than spending the last few critical weeks explaining how things got to be so confusing, why it happened, and what voters need to know to fix it, both the News-Sentinel and the local news channels have published exclamations and complaints about how confusing it is.
The current article continues the pattern. In addition to still-unanswered questions about term limits for various city and county officers and the fact that a number of ineligible candidates for county commission appear on the ballot while an even larger number of eligible candidates do not appear on the ballot, we find that we still are left with
persistent questions from some voters over how to forgo the voting machines in favor of a write-in ballot. Where do you get one? Who are the candidates? Why do the poll workers ask whether you're a Republican or a Democrat? Will my vote count?
Well, what are the answers? Doesn't the News-Sentinel know? OK – to be fair I should say that some of the answers are given in the sidebar on the right of the online article, "Write-in Ballot Refresher," so, Knoxville voters, be sure to check there. There, you find out what to do if you go to the polls planning to fill out a paper ballot. Let me assure you, though, this is not the hard part. I did it, and it was easy. I didn't even have a list of the possible write-in candidates available to me. I had to memorize four people's names and had my eleven-year-old daughter with me, asking questions the whole time, and still I managed it without any troubles.
Here are the really important questions and my attempts to answer them.
Why would I want a paper ballot? Why would I even bother to vote in the primary anyway?
First of all, you need to know that party matters in today's election. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican will determine how and perhaps even whether you vote.
If you are a Republican, especially one living in the ultra-conservative 5th district, you can probably just relax and go about your business. Just in case, though, you might want to go in and make a vote. Do you need a paper ballot? Only if there is a contested commission or school board spot in your district and your candidate is not on the official ballot.
If you are a Democrat, do you need one? Only if you don't mind having a county commissioner chosen for you by the Republican party. If no new candidate is chosen by vote and the commissioner in your district is determined to be ineligible due to an expired term limit, as he almost certainly will be, that is exactly what will happen: the Republicans will get to choose your commissioner for you just as they have done for the last however many years.
Who are the candidates? Don't you find it amazing that the KNS doesn't feel obligated to provide that information in this article? Look in the Metro Pulse or on the website of your party's local organization. That's where you'll find it.
How did this happen? That is an entirely different story. It has a lot to do with the popular will being thwarted by cronyism and Mike Moyers bottling up the term limits issue — mandated by Knoxvillian's overwhelming majority vote years ago — so that it couldn't go to the state supreme court until — well, it hasn't gotten there yet.
How do we get out of this mess? Vote. Ask for a paper ballot. And pay attention, Knoxville. We've got to understand what's going on with our government.
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