Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

July 23, 2010

Editorial: Don't let intimidation keep you from voting

CROSSVILLE — Tennesseans by nature and by history are independent and this flows over into the voting habits of the majority of Cumberland Countians. While we exist under a two party system, the "yellow dog Democrats" and the "dye-in-the-wool" Republicans are in the minority.

The majority of us still have this crazy idea that we want to "vote for the man" as opposed to voting for the party and such has been the tradition of Tennessee elections for decades. And so it is in Cumberland County.

We recognize many who have moved here came from states that have closed primaries where only card-carrying, oath swearing party faithfuls can vote.

We are not opposed to that, if it is the wishes of the majority of Tennesseans. However, the very nature of Tennessee primaries is that voters have the option of voting for friends, co-workers and acquaintances, or for "the best man," if they wish.

Any veteran politician in Cumberland County will tell you a local candidate cannot win without votes from both sides. This is the way we have conducted our elections for decades and this is the accepted custom of the polling place.

We are against one person being singled out and denied the right to vote for people they had told they would cast a ballot. And that is what happened Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Mickey Eldridge is a very fine, outstanding citizen of this community whose good works as field representative for Congressman Jim Cooper when he represented us, and since as a supporter of senior citizens and their issues, as a community activist and as executive director of Cumberland Good Samaritans, are unapproachable.

She was pulled out of line, her voting paper taken from her hand and was told her right to vote in the Republican Primary was being challenged by Linda Thompson, a poll watcher and aunt of state Rep. Eric Swafford.

This was an absolute slap in the face of all Cumberland Countians who hold dear the right to vote their conscience in an election.

It is even more so when one considers that Swafford voted Democratic for years prior to seeking the state representative job and given that fact, ten years ago under his rules could not have voted for himself.

If Eric Swafford wanted to change the way Tennesseans vote in primaries and keep primary elections closed, then he could have introduced legislation to make primaries open to only card carrying party members ... he has had how many years to do this?

Yet, he only chooses to challenge a voter when it appears he is in trouble. This is an attempt at intimidating others to not cross over into the Republican Primary and while it may be legally right, morally, it is wrong.

After the first two days of early voting, 80 percent of the ballots cast were in the Republican Primary. It was clear that cross-over voting was taking place. We know first hand that local Democratic Party, leaders including one high-ranking county party official, voted in the Republican Primary unchallenged.

So why was Mrs. Eldridge singled out? Her husband voted in the Republican Primary and was not challenged. We can only guess as to the motive for that action.

Let it be clear. This was not the work of the local Republican Party and nearly all party members we have talked with have distanced themselves from this action, and condemned it.

And finally, was the three-member judges panel appointed by Aaron Snodderly, chairman of the local Republican Party, a fair and impartial group or were they instructed on how to act if and when a challenge was issued?

The idea that Snodderly appointed his younger brother as a judge is appalling. The fact young Snodderly asked Eldridge how she was going to vote in the General Election illustrates this point. How can someone who has such limited experience with elections and polling places sit in judgment of someone who has voted for over three decades?

At least one of the judges questioned Mrs. Eldridge's motives for voting in the primary. Is "motive" a legitimate reason to take someone's right to vote for the person they wish away? The law only requires Mrs. Eldridge to take an oath of allegiance to the party, which she did.

We feel certain that this action was only taken in a desperate move to stop the flow of cross-over voters by sending a chill. It is an intimidation factor to prevent people from voting their conscience and for who they believe to be the best candidate.

Do not let this single action intimidate you into avoiding the primary you wish to vote in, or worse, keep you from voting at all. If ever there was an important time to vote, it is now. Voters need to look long and hard at the candidates, and they need to look long and hard at what has happened this week, and then exercise their right to vote for whom they deem to be the best person for the job, whether it be governor, state representative or county commissioner.

Cumberland County voters can send a message this primary election that we won't tolerate these tactics.

 

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