Editorial: A cliffhanger
New Shoreham’s elections didn’t get settled until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday — two days after the general election — when absentee ballot results finally came in. In a hard-fought and hard-to-call local election, it was the cliffhanger that shouldn’t have been.
The larger numbers of absentee ballots this year, made possible by new no-fault rules for absentees, probably reflects a trend. Many of Block Island’s 1,435 registered voters are away at this time of year, enjoying a break after the summer season. And for those who have two homes, Block Island is often the place people choose to vote because here, one vote can really count.
It all adds up to plenty of demand for mail ballots, and while 206 requested them this year, we bet that number will only grow. Statewide, people liked the new laws, too, casting more than 25,000 ballots by mail.
The volume clearly caught the Board of Elections by surprise. Absentee ballots can’t be counted before Election Day, thanks to state law, and with only four counting machines, elections staff worked late Tuesday and started up again Wednesday morning but couldn’t get it done in a timely fashion.
In overwhelmingly Democratic Rhode Island, it didn’t matter much in terms of the presidential election, or even in some of the bigger state races. But on Block Island, it made all the difference, creating days of uncertainty for candidates for First Warden and Town Council.
They deserve better. Let’s hope the state gets the process better in hand before the next election.
And now the election is behind us, and our leadership is in place. Whether we voted for them or not, it’s time to get behind them — they’ll need our support as they face the knotty problems ahead. They, in turn, must recognize that the island is almost as divided as the country, and that they need to listen to the people who voted against them, not just their supporters. They all have legitimate concerns.
These are still tough economic times, but both the national and the local elections provide a mandate of sorts. We’ve all been working hard to pull ourselves out of a bad recession. Let’s keep up the good work.