Thursday, July 09, 2009

Former Election Administrators All Whined Up

Several now-former Tennessee counter Election Administrators are whining because, they say, that "politics" cost them their jobs and they have filed suit:

That shift of power after decades of Democratic control has led to more than 30 changes in local administrators at the hands of majority Republican commissions since April.

"It's wrong," said Lisa Peterson, who lost her job in April after 11 years as DeKalb County election administrator. "To use someone's voting history over how they perform their duties to determine whether they have a job is wrong."

"While we cannot get into the details of pending legal action, this litigation makes one thing clear — when Democrats lose an election they file a lawsuit," Devaney's statement said.

By nature, the position of an election administrator is one of contradictions. They are appointed by local election commissions, which are controlled by whichever party is in power at the state legislature. But administrators, once on the job, are supposed to carry out elections in a fair and functional manner. They are not, however, protected by civil service rules designed to shield most government employees from politics.

Whether Ms. Peterson and the other Election Administrators in this suit realize it, they are political appointees, and were from the day that they took office. That is not some thin air creation by the Republicans as part of a mean and nasty power grab, this transition is a function of Tennessee law-law created by an overwhelmingly Democratic General Assembly. Control of Election Commissions and the Administrators of Elections is such a political hot potato that in the 1970's, the then-Democratic-dominated General Assembly changed the rules. The law had stipulated that the Governor's political party could control the State Election Commission, but the General Assembly changed that when Winfield Dunn was elected Governor, the first Republican in decades.

Since Tennessee Democrats are traditionally obsessed with maintaining control in an almost authoritarian fashion (elections be damned), Republicans being allowed to clean house at the Tennessee Election Commission could not be allowed to happen, so the General Assembly changed the law, and made control of the State Election Commission dependent on control of the General Assembly-something Democrats of that day never believed that they would see change. Now Republicans have control of the Tennessee General Assembly, and we get to do what the Democrats have done for nearly a century and a half-put our people in the run of things.

The argument could be made that the election administrator in each county should not be a political appointee, and should be appointed on a non-partisan basis. I'm certainly not immune to the argument that those who are doing a good job should be kept on, because I have made the argument that former Jefferson County Administator of Elections Tycia Kesterson (D) should have been retained by Jefferson County's new Republican majority Election Commission. However, I did not dispute the Election Commission's right to replace Kesterson. She was a political appointee in a patronage job, and when a new government takes power at the State level (and in Tennessee, the government really is a function of the Legislature), political appointees should have the reasonable expectation that they might be replaced. It was the Democrats who created this system, the Republicans are merely exercising the rights and duties given to them by previous General Assemblies.

For the system to change, there must be a very broad bipartisan consensus, not merely the collaboration of a few. The Democrats may try to initiate some effort to change the system not in the name of fairness, but simply to prevent Republicans from exercising the full scope of this new authority.

When you are in a patronage job you might get replaced, that is the nature of the beast. If you don't like that possibility, or you believe as Ms. Peterson does that your political persuasion should play no role in your employment, then you need to find a non-political civil service job, or enter another line of work.

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At Thursday, July 09, 2009 9:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy jeebus! You may be the second stupidest person to walk on this earth! Thank jeebus for Sarah Palin making everybody else look sane and smart by comparison.

What each of these people are saying is that you can't use our political affiliation ONLY to make the hiring or firing decision. That is what is illegal under state law - when patronage was abolished, it became illegal to consider political affiliation to make the employment decision for everything except for executive hires. Had the republicans been smart (hah!), they would have simply said the current occupant wasn't doing a good job, but they said they were getting rid of Democrats and replacing them with Republicans. It was wrong, illegal and these people deserve to have their day in court.

Gawd, you guys are idiots!

At Monday, July 13, 2009 1:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon has a point.

I'm republican but also an attorney and I can't figure out how they thought this wouldn't be a problem after the Attorney General's opinion. The election commissions were on notice and acted reckless with a state facing such difficult financial times. One of this years GOP Statesman of the year is an Administrator of Elections that lobbied his congressman for the position after he was appointed. In the voice of Charlie Brown: "Good Grief."

At Sunday, August 30, 2009 8:24:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Patronage may have been "abolished," but he who does not understand that it will exist forever is the idiot.


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