Is the voting booth a good place to cut budgets? Thursday’s second editorial isn’t so sure:
Recent cutbacks in election commission staffs and technicians in both Carolinas illustrates the danger that state legislatures and elected officials are flirting with in cutting back state services.
Little is more important in governance than ensuring that elections are properly run. Elections are fundamental, and it takes a certain number of people to make certain that voting and vote-counting are properly conducted.
Both states have whacked away at election commission budgets, as The Associated Press reported in a story printed Monday in The Sun News. North Carolina cut more than $1 million from its state elections budget, money that paid for voting machine technicians and poll worker training. A watchdog group in North Carolina suggests the election next month could present problems.
South Carolina may be in slightly better shape than our sister state, despite seeing the election commission’s budget cut by more than 50 percent since 2008. S.C. officials maintain there are enough people left to carry out the election in November. But spokesman Chris Whitmire warned, “There is no more meat on the bone to cut.”
Of course, these are concerns public officials should have been considering before elections budgets were cut. While we want to believe they were, actions throughout state government – cutting funding across the board for the most part without regard to the end results – suggest budgets were cut in many areas while legislators and others crossed their fingers that the reductions in services did not result in more human suffering. Some areas have the ability to impose or increase fees, and we see that happening in state parks and hunting and fishing as agencies try to shore up their sagging budgets. But election officials cannot impose a fee to vote.
There are services which cannot be reduced further, and at some point state officials must ask themselves how to pay for fundamental services. Cutting out fat in spending is a good thing – but it has to stop somewhere short of causing a social disaster.
We hope the election goes better than the watchdog group fears and that the election here in South Carolina goes as well as the officials here say it will.
Nobody wants to contemplate botched elections and we surely hope that is not the situation in either state. We will get our first test in a month. And come January, after the much larger primary election, we will see if our elected public officials have acted prudently.