Public disservice

Overblown reactions to minor mistakes can discourage office-seekers

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Whatever Lee Benedict is – political gadfly, conservative flamethrower, fly in the party ointment – he’s hardly a criminal.

Why are they treating him like one?

The politically overactive Columbia Countian acted out of overzealousness, certainly, and perhaps whimsy when he used a cell phone July 11 to photograph his own name on the electronic ballot while voting early in the July 31 primary. He posted the photo on Facebook and another platform or two.

It was a lark, and no doubt a bit of self-promotion.

It also was quite illegal, owing to a ban on both cell phone and camera use in voting places. You need not imagine why the law is needed. It is.

But it seems to us that Benedict could have simply been notified of his innocuous blunder and been allowed to rectify it. It would’ve been easily done.

It appears a critic thought it would be more fun to cast a net instead.

So the county Board of Elections held a meeting and turned the matter over to the sheriff’s department for investigation. The district attorney’s office will now decide whether to prosecute him for the misdemeanor.

That would be penny unwise and pound-of-flesh foolish.

This was a harmless violation. A strongly worded letter and a furrowed brow would have been enough. Benedict feels bad enough as it is.

Unfortunately, once a complaint is made, elections officials probably don’t have the discretion to let someone off with a warning.

Prosecutors do have that choice. We hope they take it in this case and decline to prosecute.

The reason: We have a hard enough time convincing good people to run for office already. Between the news media and the nasty dealings of political operatives, public service has become an unnecessarily unpleasant chore. We need not make it more so by treating each other like underhanded criminals when we make the least little mistake, particularly out of sheer fancy.

Besides, Benedict’s offense is no more offensive, indeed mark-
edly less so, than the illegal posters placed on telephone poles or the candidate yard signs put in the public’s right of way. Who’s getting rung up for that?

Politicians like to raise funds with an occasional fish fry. Well, in this case there are a lot bigger fish to fry.

Comments (35) Add comment
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Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/23/12 - 02:47 am
4
3
Yes,

sirs.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 07/23/12 - 05:03 am
4
8
I would love the see the

I would love the see the county go by and take down all of the illegally placed campaign signs. I would suggest a fee of about $5 per sign, but then opponents might go around replacing signs to bankrupt a canndidate. My question for Mr. Benedict is, with all of the graphic software available, plus sample ballots, why did he feel he needed to photograph his ballot? Didn't a previous article say there was a large sign posted saying that no cameras or cell phones were allowed? I have a feeling he might have been aware of the rules, but didn't feel they should apply to him.

seenitB4
86957
Points
seenitB4 07/23/12 - 05:19 am
2
5
Chicken feed

Step over into Richmond county....now that's where the action is....
Kin-friend-oldie-goodie-the Southside will rise again!

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/23/12 - 07:23 am
5
3
Don't think so

Techfan. Lee is not that kind of person. We need more like him to run for office.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 07/23/12 - 07:45 am
6
6
Well, what he did was

Well, what he did was illegal. Should there be special rules for him? If it was one of us that took a picture inside a voting booth would a strongly worded letter and a furrowed brow would have been enough?

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 07/23/12 - 07:49 am
10
2
Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself

Now to my friend who has been debating me a bit about the seriousness of this matter, this is how most view it....a minor indiscretion that should have never gone as far as the county carried it.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/23/12 - 08:09 am
7
4
Speeding

is also illegal. Most do it and think nothing about it. So, give the guy a break. Unless you are squeky clean don't find fault with others minor mistakes.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/23/12 - 08:14 am
6
0
Techfan

I agree with you on the sign situation. There is nothing worse than having to look at a bunch of political signs everywhere we go.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/23/12 - 08:38 am
7
2
Tparty, take one and let's

Tparty, take one and let's see!

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 07/23/12 - 08:38 am
2
8
This isn't speeding, which is

This isn't speeding, which is only an infraction, C. Duvall. This is a misdemeanor offense.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 07/23/12 - 08:45 am
7
2
A pain in the hips

... or a few inches lower; that's what Mr. Benedict is to the powers-that-be. Which explains why this is such a big deal; if it had been one of those 'pretty girls' of Columbia County's in crowd, we'd never hear about this. Boss Hogg and the Commissars are the mean girls and want to embarrass him; this is about petty payback.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 07/23/12 - 08:56 am
4
1
Infraction

Reading TParty's post, I can see a better solution to the cell phone and photography. Just have the General Assembly repeal this law and give the Secretary of State the authority to make a rule about cell phone use and camera use in polling places.

Riverman1
83725
Points
Riverman1 07/23/12 - 08:59 am
9
1
Keep in Mind Rick Allen's Staffer Did the Same Thing

We forget about Rick Allen's staffer doing the same thing including posting on FB on Allen's campaign site. The way this paper has criticized McLeod for minor infractions, it would have been nice to see some fair play there. The Allen campaign said they took it down voluntarily. Didn't Benedict do that, too? Double standard here with Columbia County and the Chronicle.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 07/23/12 - 09:00 am
5
2
Hey look at that! A solution

Hey look at that! A solution to the absurdity, instead of just saying "ignore the laws we have". Well done Little Lamb.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/23/12 - 09:16 am
7
3
Much to do about nothing

which is typical on the political scene. Speeding is an infraction , taking pictures in a polling place is a misdemeanor . How absurd can one get.

KSL
129204
Points
KSL 07/23/12 - 10:10 am
3
2
Just what are you supposed to

Just what are you supposed to do with your cell phone if you are not allowed to take it into the voting booth?

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 07/23/12 - 10:28 am
5
0
Use

The law says you cannot use your cell phone in a polling place. It is okay to have it in your pocket or purse.

And it's not only about photography. I presume you cannot use it for anything — talking, checking e-mail, surfing, texting, or playing Angry Birds.

allhans
23620
Points
allhans 07/23/12 - 10:48 am
4
0
It makes perfect sense to me.

It makes perfect sense to me. I guess it wouldn't be impssible, if it is your hand, to photograph the ballot of someone else. After all, you walk right behind them.

burninater
9580
Points
burninater 07/23/12 - 11:08 am
6
3
We have a hard enough time

We have a hard enough time convincing good people to run for office already.
-----------
This may be true. But the last thing we need is yet another person in office who believes that the law is something that applies to those other people.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/23/12 - 11:52 am
5
1
I am pretty certain, there are some "donkeys in bathtubs"

Just a quick perusing of Georgia Law and I discovered many commenting today, may be no safer from an impending indictment than Lee Benedict. Here are a few examples…

You cannot live on a boat for more than 30 days during the calendar year, even if just passing through the state.

If an organization non registered as “non-profit” fails to register their raffle with the local sheriff, that group risks paying up to $10,000 in fines and spending five years in jail. (Prison, again)

While Georgia operates its own lottery, it “protects” its citizens by making it illegal to promote a private lottery.

The term “sadomasochistic abuse” is defined so broadly, that it could possibly be applied to a person handcuffing another in a clown suit.

All sex toys are banned.

It is illegal to use profanity in front of a dead body which lies in a funeral home or in a coroners office.

Members of the state assembly cannot be ticketed for speeding while the state assembly is in session.

Donkeys may not be kept in bathtubs.

Signs are required to be written in English.

No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday.

burninater
9580
Points
burninater 07/23/12 - 12:02 pm
5
4
Yup, a lot of stupid, obscure

Yup, a lot of stupid, obscure laws on the books.

Breaking an obscure law of which you were not aware is completely different from deciding that a law prominently posted at a polling site just doesn't apply to someone like you.

corgimom
32231
Points
corgimom 07/23/12 - 12:08 pm
4
5
Oh, I get it, Lee Benedict is

Oh, I get it, Lee Benedict is above the law.

Not to mention, he also has poor judgment, to do something illegal and then post it on FB. That's what teenagers do.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/23/12 - 12:24 pm
5
3
Actually, burn, doesn't it

Actually, burn, doesn't it say also that ignorance of the law is no defense?
The point I am making is , all sensible people get that the laws are already selectively applied, and there is and always will be a need to apply discernment. Prosecution in this matter would be a foolish waste of taxpayer dollars.

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 07/23/12 - 01:05 pm
5
2
Sorry

Ain't ever gonna believe that there are "good" politicians until someone shows me a real life unicorn.

Naaa, not even then would I believe in such a thing.

The guy committed a crime, didn't he?

KSL
129204
Points
KSL 07/23/12 - 01:40 pm
3
1
Here is why I asked the

Here is why I asked the question. It was because of the wording of this sentence from the previous article on the subject:

" A large orange sign explaining that cellphones and cameras are banned from voting booths hangs in the office and at every polling location, said Nancy Gay, the Board of Elections registration coordinator."

It doesn't say "the use of."

eagle
94
Points
eagle 07/23/12 - 01:43 pm
0
0
He committed a minor
Unpublished

He committed a minor crime...let him go? But if a kid commits a minor crime, many people want to hang him by his toes. Perhaps there is a double standard here.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/23/12 - 04:00 pm
3
1
I was thinking similarly,

I was thinking similarly, KSL. I would think, banned cameras would be mostly about video and photo taking of others in the precinct, particularly by the news media. Most of us when seeing a cell phone ban, read that to mean not to be talking on cell phones which exclude the ability to have it in our possession, text, check email. I would also not think that taking a photo of my own hand, own foot, or own ballot would be against the law or that the sign had properly warned me.

I guess you and I are use to making sure signs are printed to read as they are meant to convey.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 07/23/12 - 02:00 pm
4
0
O.C.G.A. § 21-2-413 (2012)

(e) No person shall use photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones while such person is in a polling place while voting is taking place; provided, however, that a poll manager, in his or her discretion, may allow the use of photographic devices in the polling place under such conditions and limitations as the election superintendent finds appropriate, and provided, further, that no photography shall be allowed of a ballot or the face of a voting machine or DRE unit while an elector is voting such ballot or machine or DRE unit and no photography shall be allowed of an electors list, electronic electors list, or the use of an electors list or electronic electors list. This subsection shall not prohibit the use of photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones by poll officials for official purposes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

KSL, Barry Paschal posted the text of the actual Ga. Code, which I just pasted above. Note the word use .

KSL
129204
Points
KSL 07/23/12 - 02:25 pm
2
1
Thanks, LL. I must have

Thanks, LL. I must have stopped reading the thread before he posted it.

jbartley
545
Points
jbartley 07/23/12 - 03:41 pm
5
1
Backfire

There was a picture in the metro Sunday of people voting and the machines, how come that wasn’t breaking the law? If his opponent’s supporters weren’t worried Benedict was leading the election they would not have made the complaint.

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