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Our Opinion: Restoring the faith

June 04, 2002

That turnouts were sparse and that many of those who attended the hearings were aggrieved parties should not discourage county officials on their course of local election reform.

Elections do need reform in Imperial County, and they need it soon. There have been controversies in almost all local elections over the last several years, with problems such as lightly (at best) trained poll workers, confusing ballots, ballot boxes disappearing for unexplained periods of time, election night results overturned upon the counting of absentee and other ballots, improper voting equipment and procedure, myriad problems with absentee ballots and allegations of voter fraud by candidates and their campaign workers.

We have said this before, but such improprieties, and even perceived improprieties, do nothing but bad things for the county's electoral process. People who lose faith in a system soon won't participate in that system, and that lack of participation tears at the heart of our democratic process. We don't know if the masses have lost faith in the system here yet, but they seem to be on that precipice.

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Among those who turned out for the meetings were those who have participated in the system and seen its flaws up close. One was Ruben Garcia, a Brawley man who over the last four years has lost two countywide elections by a handful of votes. Garcia expressed legitimate concerns, as did others who have seen the process go askew and awry in recent years.

That more members of the general public did not show up for the meetings should not discourage Gary Wyatt and Joe Maruca, the county supervisors who set up the hearings, one each in Calexico, Brawley and El Centro. While the turnout was not what they may have desired, it may have a lot to do with that we are between election cycles and people have other concerns this time of year.

And good things did come from the hearings. Groups offered to volunteer to help make local elections better, and Dolores Provencio, the elected chief of county elections, was at one of the meetings to hear the suggestions from her constituents. On top of that, county leaders got input from the citizenry on what has gone wrong,

The best thing from the meetings, though, may be that the public will know that county leaders are trying to clean up the elective process here. Maintaining faith for those who still believe in the system, and restoring it for those who have lost faith, may be the best end result of the hearings.

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