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Staff file photo by Olivia Ross / Many came to the Hamilton County Election Commission to participate in early voting for the May 3 Hamilton County primary election.

The "big lie" about an election has come to a mayor's office near you.

GOP sour grapers — Hamilton County mayoral candidates Sabrena Smedley and Matt Hullander — on Wednesday formally contested fellow Republican Weston Wamp's victory in the May 3 primary election, citing crossover voting by Democrats.

How dare those pesky voters. How dare "they" cast votes for the mayor of their county.

Smedley and Hullander are asking the Tennessee Republican Party either to declare Smedley the victor or set aside the results of the contest and set a new election. The filing asks Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden to convene the GOP's 66-member State Executive Committee in its role as State Primary Board to hear and decide the matter.

Wait. Don't voters, not parties, decide elections? VOTERS?

Wamp won the contest — certified last week by the Republican-majority Hamilton County Election Commission — with 14,428 votes, a 318-vote margin over Smedley, who received 14,110 votes, and Hullander, who received 12,171 votes. The three GOP candidates collectively received 40,709 votes. What's more, in this very Republican red county, Wamp — son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp — won 54 of 90 precincts in the primary compared to Smedley's 28 and Matt Hullander's 10.

Voters, this is just noise. Dangerous noise.

It's the kind of bogus, treacherous noise we've heard for more than a year now from fringe Republicans trying to reinvent history and circumvent the will of the people.

The people. Voters.

And let's be clear. There are not just Republican voters or Democratic voters or independent voters, no more than there are just white voters, Black voters, Latino voters, male voters or women voters. There are voters.

Try this exercise. Go the Hamilton County Election Commission's website at elect.hamiltontn.gov and download a voter registration application. When you read it, you'll notice that no where on it does it ask the applicant to declare a party affiliation.

When you become a voter in Tennessee, you are simply a voter. Not a Democrat, Republican or polka-dotted parrot.

And therein lies the strength of being elected in Tennessee — in America — in a democracy. We can vote for the candidate we think will make the best leader. And in the primary elections, we can narrow the field for that "best leader" by voting for the candidate we think will be the best next general election candidate.

But therein also lies the weakness the fringe "big lie" proponents hope to exploit.

Smedley's and Hullander's complaint states it "became very clear" there was no mechanism in place to ensure voters were bona fide Republicans, by either the Hamilton County Election Commission or the local Republican Party.

By "bona fide" they're saying they want only Republicans to vote in a Republican primary. They are aiming to handicap Tennessee's "open primary" election system.

And what can these GOPers gain besides limiting voters? There is no reasonable answer.

Tennessee has a majority Republican General Assembly and a Republican governor. Hamilton County now has a strong Republican mayoral nominee, as well a solid Republican slate of constitutional officers and a majority Republican county commission. Yet this simply isn't red enough? Heaven forbid, any of those candidates might somewhere along the line have been tainted by a vote from a Democrat.

Does this mean that in six of Hamilton County's 11 districts no self-described Democrat or independent should have been allowed to vote for their commission representative as there were no candidates from their party on the ballot? Does it mean that in three of our county's 11 districts no Republican should have been allowed to vote? That would be the cumulative effect.

Does it mean that Sabrena Smedley's campaign shouldn't have used social media to attract Democratic votes or promote the endorsements she received from unions — those so-called bastions of socialism?

Here's what it means. Last week, at the election commission meeting when the vote was certified, one voter voicing concern said: "We're not happy with the way things have been going ..."

Apparently the redness of our red county is not "bona fide" enough. We're not electing candidates who think talking about abortion bans and Trump's false stolen election claims — national issues — are more important than Hamilton County schools and jobs and future growth.

For the record, this page more than once encouraged a completely legal crossover vote in this primary election, for the simple reason that there were no significant contested races on the Democratic ballot in most of the county. Also, in this very red county, a Republican is likely to win in August, so it only makes sense that Democratic voters would want to have a say and vote for the person we think will make the best leader — no matter their party or ballot.

We believe there are few voters in America — or Hamilton County — who've never voted for a person over party. Ask yourselves — have you never crossed over in one race or another because a candidate suddenly rang the bell of truth for you? Most of us have.

Finally: So what if Democrats voted for Wamp? I'd bet some Democrats voted for Sabrena Smedley, too. Perhaps even for Matt Hullander. It is a free country isn't it?

At least it's a free country as long as we can vote freely.

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