To work, democracy requires a majority of those affected to believe in it.
Sometimes, an individual can reinforce belief in the system for everyone.
Macon County Sheriff Tony Brown announced his retirement Friday. The announcement caps two-and-a-half years of legal battles and confusion after a razor-thin race for the position in the 2018 elections.
Late last week, the latest court ruling on the election awarded the victory to Jim Root, who was down by a single vote in the original count. The months that followed found two uncounted ballots, numerous looks at the ballots by a number of officials, COVID-delayed court hearings and more rare and new occurrences.
Through it all, Brown was serving as sheriff and Root was an employee in the department.
After last week’s announcement by Champaign County Circuit Court Judge Anna M. Benjamin, newly-named victor Root said, “We know that Tony Brown has an appeal process.” Even as he asked for a smooth transition of power.
As part of his Friday announcement, Brown gave voice to one of our major concerns about the process. “I can't express enough my disappointment that the citizens of Macon County took the time to vote in the sheriff's race and not to have their voices heard, especially those who voted early at the county clerk's office,” Brown said. The evidence showed that the ballots were fed into the tabulating machines under the eyes of election judges, Brown said, but some early votes were negated because election judges neglected to initial the ballots.
We hope we can dismiss the assortment of election irregularities as a perfect storm. Too many of the things that could go wrong did, not necessarily being the fault of a single person or two. With the integrity of elections in question, that’s not the kind of news voters need to hear.
Fortunately, the candidates are professionals who we knew were aware of what was going on and what needed to be done, so things were done right.
Brown’s retirement is effective June 28. We won’t bid him farewell, because we know he won’t be able to resist places in the community that need his help.
We are grateful for the conclusion to the case. We’re especially grateful it concluded before the next sheriff election.
LOOK BACK: Democrat Tony Brown sworn in as Macon County sheriff in 2018