We will not know the official outcome of Tuesday’s mayoral race until next week, after as many as 53 mail-in absentee ballots postmarked on election day are added to the official count. With a current lead of 40 votes, Independent challenger Keith Gaskin appears well on his way to victory over incumbent mayor Robert Smith, who has held the position since 2007.
We will withhold announcing a winner until the result is certain. The media doesn’t select the winner after all; the election process — defined by state law — does.
The outcome may not yet be settled, but the reaction thus far has been sadly predictable.
In a race where the margin is small, suspicion is large. That’s always the case, but particularly true after a presidential election where many Americans persist in the belief that the election was stolen, even in the absence of any evidence of widespread wrong-doing.
If nothing else, Tuesday’s election has made election experts of people who, prior to Tuesday, had little knowledge — and even less interest — in the vagaries of our election laws. Since then, there is no fine print too small to devour or detail too insignificant to elevate to critical proportions.
The truth is that practically everything we are seeing play out this week in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election has been a routine part of the process for years. State law allows for multiple ways to vote, each with an intended purpose. And each option has a set of checks and balances.
Affidavit votes aren’t always immediately counted the day after the election. Mail-in votes postmarked on election day always need time to be delivered and are always counted. Disabled voters are given the option of curbside voting. Elections are certified days later.
What we have seen play out since Tuesday evening is the minutiae of election law, details that only get scrutinized by the public in a close election.
Columbus’ municipal election wasn’t flawless. Aspects of the absentee ballot process have needed to be addressed by state lawmakers for many election cycles; we should determine why so many voted affidavit; and election managers should ensure state law is followed to a T. But there’s no proof that we’ve seen of a “rigged election.”
Baseless claims of widespread election fraud undermine our election process, unfairly accuse innocent parties, damage the reputation of the candidates and create division among voters.
Those who persistently participate in these conspiracy theories are doing real harm to our community.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.