Answers Needed 

Another local election is in the books — or is it? For the nth consecutive time, questions have been raised about the authenticity of the results — this time because of the sort of error that goes by the name of inexcusable.

What all parties (using that term in the generic, as well as the strictly political, sense) agree on is that the wrong set of early-voting returns were fed into the electronic voting roll countywide. This resulted in challenges to a number of voters who arrived at their polling places on Election Day, having forgone the opportunity to early-vote this time around.

The disagreements that exist are A) on the matter of which set of early-voting records were fed into the system — those of August 2008 or those of the May primary election of this year — and B) on the question of how many voters were affected. Spokespersons for the losing Democratic slate maintain that the number is 5,300; Republicans and spokespersons for the Election Commission insist that the number is much smaller and that the error was corrected before it could affect more than a handful of voters.

The difference is crucial, since a few of the losing candidates were defeated by margins well less than the larger number claimed by the Democrats, who — that being the case — would be well within their rights to litigate and/or call for federal authorities to investigate.

We prefer to believe that the Election Commission members and officials, regardless of their party affiliations, are too honorable to engage in hanky-panky. But even in the best-case scenario, somebody committed a titanic screw-up, one which casts into doubt the integrity of the election process. At the very least, the voting public is entitled to know how this flagrant error got committed, what the consequences are to the individual or individuals who committed it, and what concrete steps will be taken to prevent its recurrence in the future.

We are not out for blood, just transparency and accountability.

Fixing the Med

So much political rhetoric has been expended of late on the future of the Regional Medical Center at Memphis that it's a relief to hear from someone whose perspective on the cliff-hanging institution is purely professional. That would be Dr. Reginald Coopwood, who took over the reins of the county's charity hospital and world-class trauma center this year.

Dr. Coopwood related his own vision of the Med's future to Memphis Rotarians on Tuesday, and what it boiled down to was this: For all the well-merited alarms that have been raised about the hospital's precarious sources of funding, the Med's director sees the solution as mainly internal — in the creation of a more efficient institutional model, one which stresses the salability of the Med as a premium care center for paying patients, as well as indigent ones.

To that end, the Med is retrofitting itself in numerous ways, including the provision of private rooms for all patient care. It's a noble vision, and the best thing about it is that responsibility for bringing it about rests on the shoulders of those who actually run the facility.

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