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Editorial: Virginia election officials freak out over the wrong offense

Editorial: Virginia election officials freak out over the wrong offense

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Decorum matters, but there’s a line between decorum and pearl-clutching. State election officials crossed it this week when they suspended a registrar from an email list.

Cameron Sasnett, the registrar for Fairfax, was quite properly outraged to find absentee voter applications from August and September had been sent from the state to his system only recently. “Where in the hell were these?!?!” he asked in a message to the listserv, a group email list.

Elizabeth Howard, a deputy commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections, suspended his posting privileges over his “unprofessional” and “discourteous” communication. After the story broke Tuesday evening, Commissioner of Elections Edgar Cortés said Sasnett would be reinstated Wednesday morning.

Couple of points:

First, if Sasnett’s message went too far, then the standards of conduct for the listserv look positively Victorian. We know churchgoing little old ladies who use saltier language, for Pete’s sake. (Note to election officials: Where do you stand on “Pete’s sake”?)

The bigger issue is that the controversy ignores the bigger issue — namely, the failure to ensure that absentee voter applications promptly get where they need to be. Sasnett had every reason to use strong language. It’s telling that Cortés says Sasnett was not suspended simply for criticizing the state operation: “If that was the case, we’d probably have half the registrars at this point not able to send to the list.” Really? That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the state’s performance, is it?

Instead of being upset over a mild oath, election officials should be shocked and embarrassed that some citizens might have been denied the right to vote because of a clerical foul-up. Pardon our French.


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