Early voting for the March 6 Republican Primary starts today. The ballot, at least in Washington County, is pretty light. Voters here have just two county offices (both uncontested) and the presidential preference primary to decide.
Nonetheless, this an important election for a number of reasons. The most obvious is Republicans in Washington County will help select their party’s nominee for president in November. Another factor that will make this an election to watch is the fact it is the first to require voters to produce a valid form of photo identification when they go to the polls.
But perhaps the No. 1 reason Washington Countains should pay close attention to this election is that it is the first in 28 years that Connie Sinks will not supervise.
Sinks was fired as county administrator of elections on Friday, a week after she confronted three members of the county’s Election Commission with a handwritten memo that seemed to indicate they had met in November without proper public notice. If proven true, this would be a clear violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.
Sinks informed commissioners she had fired the employee who authored the memo and disciplined another who was mentioned in the correspondence.
Election Commissioners Janet Willis, Jon Ruetz and Thomas Graham denied ever receiving the memo or meeting clandestinely to conduct election business. None of them, however, offered an explanation as to why their names might be included as the recipients of a secret memo.
The three commissioners also declined to cite any grievances with Sinks in regard to her service as election administrator at that Feb. 3 meeting. They were more talkative a week later, however, when they offered a vague laundry list of problems they said merited her dismissal.
During her nearly three decades as a county election administrator, Sinks has earned the reputation of being one of the most knowledgeable and professional courthouse officials in the entire state. People in this county may not have liked the way some elections turned out, but they could never question Sinks’ competence in running them.
So it comes as something of a surprise to many of us to now hear three of her bosses (all rookies, mind you, when it comes to running elections) think she is so inept. It’s also curious they came to this realization only after being confronted directly by Sinks.
If it weren’t for the fact that the vote to dismiss her was a bipartisan one (Graham, the Democrat, joined Republican members Willis and Ruetz in firing Sinks), we might think partisan politics was at play. But then again, politics often cross party lines in such matters.
We hope the voters of this county can get the real story soon. We know politics is a vital part of elections, but politics must never be allowed to corrupt the integrity of the ballot box.