We've got to admire the resourcefulness of the typical Best of Charleston ballot stuffer, if not his or her intelligence. This is somebody who cares deeply about the outcome, after all, and we have an inherent affection for such people. It's hard to be angry at a guy who sits down before a giant pile of blank paper ballots ripped from individual copies of the paper, takes pen in hand, and painstakingly fills in at least 35 categories on each ballot, taking care to create a different, plausible pseudonym, phone number, address, and e-mail for each one. That's genuine dedication, and we salute the integrity that goes into such an effort -- even if we have to throw all of those ballots away because they each show the same handwriting from the same blue marker with the same answers for all the same 35 categories.
Work ethic: check. Critical thinking: not so much.
Then there's the dunderhead who fills out 12 or 15 online ballots, meticulously switching up the categories and answers except for a core few he really wants to see win -- and, clever fella that he is, writes in firstname.lastname@example.org on all the ballots for the required e-mail. Interestingly, all the votes also originate from the same IP address.
Over 10 years of Best of Charleston, we've become so good at sussing out ballot stuffers that we've developed a second sense for it. And we've also learned to distinguish between outright stuffing -- which is verboten -- and legitimate campaigning, which is perfectly OK.
Although we've been encouraging online voting for four years, we'd never seen a situation where a ballot stuffer was out in front of us with the technology. Until this year. We generally see several thousand ballots cast online, but this year the numbers were off the charts. We were ecstatic. We were slapping each other on the back. Until we realized roughly 8,000 of them had originated from an IP address in Sumter, S.C. A little digging turned up a computer programmer who'd writtten a script for an internet bot that was generating automated ballots, all of them submitting his personal MySpace page for Best Local Website.
We've gotta admire 'em. But we don't have to count 'em