Sunday, July 5, 2009

Challenge Provincial Power: The Test

On Quixotic Attempts to Challenge Provincial Power

Select the answer which best describes the actions of the various public officials as set forth in the following paragraphs.

A- Arrogance B- Ignorance
C- Malfeasance D- All of the above

In the fall of 2008 The Voting Integrity Project requested a meeting with the Board of Supervisors subcommittee responsible for oversight of the Board of Elections. We reasoned that, since there was a subcommittee charged with elections oversight and recognizing there was a risk Election Commissioners might not want to meet with representatives of an election integrity advocacy group, that it would be both practical and respectful to recognize the subcommittee’s authority and responsibilities.

We had hoped the members of the Rules and Legislation subcommittee would appreciate that a Citizens’ Advisory Board for Election Administration (CABEA) could be an asset in the accomplishment of their oversight duties while at the same time assisting the BOE in various ways.

Following our initial meeting with the Rules & Legislation Committee months passed while we waited for a follow-up meeting with Board of Elections representatives to be arranged by the committee Chairman. First we were told one or the other Commissioner was in Florida for the winter. Then, finally after more than three months, the committee Chairman returned our calls. He reported that the Election Commissioners refused to meet with us, and…..that the Rules and Legislation Committee was in agreement with the Commissioners’ decision.

Since the Chairman delivered his message through a third party it was not immediately clear with whom the Election Commissioners were refusing to meet. I needed to know were the Commissioners just refusing to meet with curious and annoying citizens, or were they arrogant enough to refuse to meet with the oversight committee for the purpose of hearing the annoying citizens? Or could it be, that when presented with a threat that both the legislators and the Election Commissioners were loathe to deal with, a mutually agreed upon defense was needed: No!

Some might say the Quixotic citizens failed to recognize the unofficial power relationships at play. There’s a long-standing practice in Schoharie County for the Board of Supervisors to appoint the chairpersons of the county partisan committees as Election Commissioners….regardless of the individual’s experience, skills or abilities. Such is the nature of a feudal patronage system. So it seems that the elected legislators feel greater allegiance to their partisan leadership than to the citizens they are elected to represent.

We suspected that might be the case. That is why we chose to engage the legislative committee. What we misjudged was the timidity of the lawmakers. We had expected to have at least one meeting with the Election Commissioners before they rejected our proposal. It was expected that engagement of the legislative subcommittee would guarantee that opportunity. I suppose we should have known better. Historically, there has been no evidence of legislative oversight. In fact, it more often seems that the Board of Elections leads the subcommittee. We have attended Rules & Legislation Committee meetings which were initiated by the Board of Elections staff, held in the Board of Elections office and organized with an agenda prepared by the Board of Elections staff.

So it seems we might be paddling upstream. I’m OK with that. Jim Hightower is fond of saying that even a dead fish can go with the flow. The Voting Integrity Project folks are very alive and still paddling. Check out the following postings for further clarification of our recent efforts.

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