Did SBE de­ci­sion go far enough?

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION -

The Hopewell Elec­toral Board, in its cur­rent form, is noth­ing more than a train wreck. Don’t be­lieve us? Look back at the Sept. 20 State Board of Elec­tions meet­ing, when elec­toral board mem­bers were called to Rich­mond to ex­plain how the is­sue of il­le­gal cap­i­tal let­ters on a bal­lot got so out of hand. If you look at the tes­ti­mony from that meet­ing, the only rea­son it got so out of hand is be­cause the Hopewell Elec­toral Board has got­ten so out of hand.

Two of its mem­bers dis­ap­prove of the third be­cause they think he is a grand­stander. The third, who hap­pens to be the board chair­man, as­serts that the two oth­ers are noth­ing more than school­yard bul­lies who make de­ci­sions and set the pace with­out his in­put.

In the mid­dle of all this, you have a gen­eral reg­is­trar who calls her­self a “pup­pet” be­cause she has to serve the wishes of the lo­cal board while mak­ing sure the folks at the state De­part­ment of Elec­tions are happy, too. That’s chaos in our books.

It also does not help that the city’s reg­is­trar is trusted by some mem­bers of Hopewell City Coun­cil only about as far as they can throw her. See, she used to be on the board of the Hopewell Re­de­vel­op­ment and Hous­ing Au­thor­ity, but she was tossed off by coun­cil five years ago. Four of the sit­ting coun­cilors now were on coun­cil back then. Two of them are up for re-elec­tion in Novem­ber. One of them is the cur­rent mayor, whose name did not ap­pear on that bal­lot in all caps and, to no sur­prise, roared among the loud­est when the con­tro­versy came to light.

When this con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure came back as the city’s top elec­tion official five years later, it only stood to rea­son that some on coun­cil would take that as a fin­ger in the eye.

So af­ter all of this, it does not sur­prise us at all that the SBE mem­bers voted to ask the Hopewell Cir­cuit Court to re­move two of the three board mem­bers. We are sur­prised, though, that the third mem­ber of the board was not tar­geted for re­moval. His time is not with­out its prob­lems, ei­ther.

He claimed the oth­ers on the board pushed him around on agenda is­sues and al­ways voted as a bloc against him. And this is the chair­man, the one charged with keep­ing or­der. What does that say about his abil­ity to pre­side, much less get along with oth­ers? And who is to say trou­ble will not con­tinue be­cause he is of one po­lit­i­cal party and the po­ten­tial re­place­ments would be of the other party?

Over­all, Hopewell’s per­for­mance Sept. 20 be­fore the state board was far from their finest hour. Their tes­ti­mony gave SBE mem­bers no other al­ter­na­tive but to step in and do some­thing. We would ar­gue that per­haps they should have gone the ex­tra step and asked to sweep the whole board clean.

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