Trib editorial: Monessen's election meltdown underscores a broader lesson
What a sorry mess in Monessen. A routine municipal election in an off year descended into confusion Tuesday and ultimately led to a judge's order to sequester absentee ballots simply because the law was not followed.
Therein lies a broader lesson, unfortunately rendered at the inconvenience of Monessen's voters.
As a result, there initially was no winner in the city's mayoral race, or any other Monessen races for that matter, because a Westmoreland County judge Tuesday night impounded up to 307 absentee ballots until a hearing. This, after it came to light that the county's election bureau granted absentee ballots based solely on age (for people 65 and over) when age, alone, is not a qualifying reason under state law.
So Democrat Matt Shorraw, who won the spring primary by a slim 59 votes against incumbent Mayor Lou Mavrakis, filed an emergency injunction late Tuesday. He subsequently dropped his legal challenge after declaring victory over Mr. Mavrakis, who launched a write-in campaign and encouraged absentee ballots.
Fault lies with the election bureau, which reportedly has granted absentee ballots based only on a person's age for years. And the supposed “fix” — encouraging absentee-ballot filers to, in effect, vote twice by also voting at the polls, then straightening things out afterward — doesn't pass the sniff test.
This is the unfortunate consequence when clearly delineated laws are free-lanced or otherwise abridged, regardless of the intention. People expect their public officials to know the law and abide by it. It shouldn't have taken a meltdown on Election Day to drive home this elemental point.