Smitherman Appeals NAACP Election Count
Christopher Smitherman has filed an appeal with the NAACP’s national headquarters seeking a new election for the local chapter’s presidency, alleging that current president Edith Thrower didn’t comply with the group’s rules about how elections should be handled during recent balloting.
Smitherman made the request today through his attorney, Patricia Foster. He alleges that Thrower shouldn’t have served on the chapter’s Election Supervisory Committee or acted as its chair because candidates for office are prohibited from serving in that capacity.
Moreover, Smitherman says Thrower inconsistently applied rules about which new memberships were eligible to vote in the election, to stack the deck in her favor. He alleges about 30 people were allowed to vote in the Nov. 28 election who didn’t make the filing deadline. For the most part, those people were Thrower’s supporters.
Also, the manner in which the contested ballots were handled after the election was inappropriate, Smitherman says. The ballots were taken home for safekeeping by the Rev. Victor Brown, a close friend of Thrower’s.
The complaint states, “Irregular activities that were entirely beyond the scope of any authority vested by the (election procedures) manual occurred during the nine days after the votes were tallied and the official canvass was signed that changed the apparent winner of the election for president.”
In initial tallying, Smitherman, a former member of Cincinnati City Council, won the election in a 134-125 vote, defeating incumbent Thrower. After the Election Supervisory Committee reviewed some contested ballots, however, some were deemed ineligible and Thrower won by one vote.
Different standards were applied to determine membership status and who was eligible to vote, according to Smitherman. For example, the Rev. Ronald Sherman is listed as a new member, solicited by Thrower, on the Nov. 13 membership roll. But Sherman previously was listed as the local chapter’s chaplain under the “officers” section of the NAACP’s letterhead on a letter dated Oct. 4. All members must be in “good standing” for at least 30 days prior to serving as an officer. The same standard, however, was enforced by Thrower at an Oct. 26 meeting when she didn’t allow a lifetime member, Herbert Walker, to be nominated as president based on Walker’s name not being listed on the membership roll.
Smitherman says this is just one of many instances in which the group has inconsistent procedures and the written rules aren’t followed.
Sensing possible problems in the weeks before the election, Smitherman had unsuccessfully requested a thorough review of all membership applications received after Oct. 1 to determine each new member’s eligibility to vote. Also, he wanted an audit of the existing general membership list to ensure the inclusion of all members whose fees were paid by Oct. 27. After the audit, he sought to have an official list of members who are eligible to vote compiled and have that list, not the general membership list, used in the voting process to ensure the election’s integrity.
To promote transparency and alleviate future concerns over voting eligibility, Smitherman wanted the audit’s findings sent in writing to him and all other candidates in the Nov. 28 election. He says a reply was never received.
— Kevin Osborne