The dismissal of criminal charges that had been placed against a local election commissioner brings to a close an inquiry into the very foundation upon which our system of government rests: the fairness and integrity of our elections.
Norman Green, Chautauqua County's Democrat election commissioner, was accused of violating the state election law in the days leading up to the Independence Party endorsement of his political party's candidate for the state Assembly two years ago. This ensured the Democrat candidate an extra line on the ballot, the charges said.
As a civil matter, a state judge had agreed that Green withheld paperwork so that the Republican candidate, Andrew Goodell, would not have time to seek the Independence Party line on the ballot. The remedy was for the judge to even things up by ordering the Democrat candidate, Nancy Bargar, off the ballot on the Independence Party's line.
Then the matter moved to the criminal court where a grand jury declined to issue a felony indictment. Instead Green was charged with misdemeanors last year under sections of the state election laws.
Given the fact that the judge who would hear the case and the district attorney whose office would prosecute it were elected and, thus, had dealings with the county's election commissioners, the case was moved to neighboring Cattaraugus County.
There, Judge Michael Nenno ended the two-year saga last month by dismissing the case against Green. There was no evidence to prove the charges, the judge ruled.
While Green had to wait for the legal process to play itself out, he trusted in the integrity of the system from the beginning and knew how it would end.
"I never doubted the outcome," Green told The Post-Journal. "I've never had a problem with anyone looking over my shoulder. I operate in a transparent manner. As such, I had no doubt what the outcome would be."
When the misdemeanor charges were brought against Green late last year, we noted that since there was a question of fairness surrounding the Assembly district race, it was good that the matter would get a hearing in our third branch of government - the courts.
Now it has. The charges are dismissed. The case is over.
As we said at the time, our system of fair, honest and open elections must be inviolate. It is the only way the public's ultimate confidence in and support of our form of government will endure through the harsh trials that beset it every day.
Justice has been done.