Editorial: Voters will have final say

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 25, 2008

Both the county and state boards of election have now ruled that Laura Lyerly can remain on the ballot as a Democratic candidate for county commissioner.
That ought to settle the question of whether Lyerly should be disqualified from seeking office because of her 1998 plea of guilty to a felony embezzlement charge and subsequent prayer for judgment continued. However, James “Pete” Hoffman, the Salisbury attorney who filed the initial challenge to Lyerly’s candidacy, has said he intends to appeal the state decision to the Wake County Superior Court.
At this point, with scarcely two months left before the election, it would better serve the electoral process to accept these rulings and let the debate focus on matters such as leadership ability, experience and county issues. Hoffman’s initial challenge raised a question that neither the local nor state boards had previously been compelled to consider: How should a prayer for judgment continued be treated under a state law that says convicted felons lose some rights ó including the right to vote or hold office ó until they have served out their sentences and had those rights restored? Both boards determined that Lyerly should not be disqualified. Since this issue had not arisen before, these rulings can now serve as a guide in future cases ó although we’d hope that in the future, candidates would be more explicit about their legal history and the Board of Elections more diligent in vetting their eligibility to hold office.
Hoffman’s challenge raised a legitimate question about Lyerly’s legal standing as a candidate, and it also helped elicit a few more details about the 1998 incident, which occurred when Lyerly was 19. Far better that an issue like this surface before the election than erupt after a candidate has won office. While Hoffman may not be satisfied with the boards’ decisions, remember that they were simply considering a narrow legal point. Their rulings have no bearing on how well suited Lyerly may be to serve in an official capacity. That pronouncement will lie with the voters of Rowan County. It’s time to declare this case closed and let them render their verdict come November.