Elections Supervisor Annie Williams' swan song nearly turned one candidate into a political dead duck. Williams' colossal gaffe — providing the wrong election date to School Board candidate William Kingeter — puts the decided underdog at an even greater disadvantage as he attempts to unseat incumbent Matt Foreman. Just a little more than two weeks ago, Kingeter believed the District 2 School Board seat would be decided in the Nov. 6 general election. That was the information Williams' office, citing the wrong state law, provided to Kingeter.
Just one problem. The nonpartisan Hernando School Board elections are on the Aug. 14 primary ballot. They only appear on the November ballot if a candidate fails to win 50 percent of the vote in the primary, an impossibility in the head-to-head race between Kingeter and Foreman.
Williams, supervisor for a dozen years, is overseeing her final elections in 2012 after announcing her retirement. On July 20, a member of Williams' staff called Kingeter to apologize and acknowledge the error. That left Kingeter, who had done little campaigning over the summer and had scheduled fundraisers for the fall, with just 15 days to reach voters before the onset of early voting.
Kingeter, with every reason to be angry, has been diplomatic and said the news accounts of the episode likely helped is candidacy. "I'm not faulting or criticizing,'' he said last week. "I was a little taken aback by the timing of it, though.''
His bewilderment is understandable. Williams' inattention to detail is not. It is inexcusable. The public has to have faith that its elections supervisor can manage the voting process fairly and accurately. Williams did neither. Her unfamiliarity with the most rudimentary canon of running an election — the actual date of the contest — is disturbing. That a staff member checked the apparently contradictory state laws about the ballot date and still got it wrong is of little comfort as well.
There has been unfair criticism of Kingeter for not knowing the rules himself. It is misguided. The ignorance originates in the elections office and Williams and her staff passed the faulty information to a candidate.
There is no evidence of malice toward Kingeter, nor partisan-tainted conspiracies, but that is of little solace to a late-starting candidate who has no recourse. This is a case of a constitutional office remiss in its duties. Candidates and the voting public both deserve better.