Our View: Elections office needs new leadership | TheUnion.com

Our View: Elections office needs new leadership

The Union Editorial Board

Arrogance and incompetence are a bad combination and that’s why we believe Nevada County Clerk-Recorder Kathleen Smith should be replaced.

Smith Ð who was appointed to the post almost three years ago after then-clerk-recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick resigned Ð is seeking to retain her job in the June primary and is being challenged by Gregory Diaz.

Smith’s three-year performance has been marked by controversy and failure. The Union headlines during that period reflect both:

Oct. 5, 2004: “Absentee ballots mailed out; many feature black-out error” Ð “We sincerely apologize for the error,” Smith said then. “It is a correction only absentee ballots will see.”

Oct. 8, 2004: “Election walk-out: One fired, three quit at Nevada County Clerk’s office” Ð “Now that she (Smith) has a new crew in there, God help this county,” one former employee said.

Oct. 30, 2004: “Missing ballots plague some area residents.”

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Nov. 10, 2004: “Supervisor calls election a ‘meltdown.'”

Sept. 20, 2005: “Polling place officers needed” Ð The statewide election was two months away and the Nevada County Elections Office was experiencing a decline in the number of polling place officers.

Nov. 9, 2005: “Some voters end up in wrong places” Ð Smith said she changed a number of polling places and that voters should have checked the back of their ballots.

Nov. 11, 2005: “14,000 ballots still to be counted”

April 8, 2006: “Deadline extended due to clerk-recorder error” Ð A postcard mailed to 3,700 potential voters on March 31 contained “half an error,” according to Smith.

April 20, 2006: “Eighty skipped on voting pamphlet.”

May 5, 2006: “Some could struggle to vote” Ð Nevada County’s inability to comply with the Help America Vote Act by the June 6 primary is expected to make it difficult to vote.

Diaz, a former clerk-recorder from San Francisco, said he contacted Smith twice to determine her appetite for remaining in office. He knew it would be difficult to beat the incumbent and wanted to make sure she was not running. On both occasions, Diaz said Smith told him she had no desire to continue as Nevada County’s elections chief. But as soon as he filed paperwork, Smith decided to run.

Smith said she decided to run after determining that Diaz was not as qualified.

Qualified? We believe the proof is in the pudding and so far the pudding has been terrible.

Nevada County voters cannot afford a mistake-prone or dysfunctional elections department. There is nothing more sacred to democracy than an unhindered and credible free election, especially at a time when many Americans are already suspicious of the past two national elections. Remember Florida?

In a several-member legislative body such as the board of supervisors, or city council, we can afford an occasional bad apple, so long as the majority is there to compensate for the shortcomings.

That’s not the case in the elections department, where it only takes one incompetent leader to destroy the credibility of an entire election.

To that end, we encourage a vote for Gregory Diaz for Nevada County Clerk-Recorder. We believe he has the intelligence to get the job done and the ability to set his ego aside when it comes things he does not know.

Ignorance is bliss, but not when it’s mixed with arrogance.

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