Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Letter to Editor 29 November 2009

Letter to editor concerning voter turnout

To The Editor
The Times-Journal

Last week’s T-J editorial included notice of local election contests which were decided by slim margins and an invitation to those who didn’t vote this year to take part next November. The editorial emphasized how important one vote can be in deciding a contest.

I share the editor’s sentiments concerning voting responsibilities and do also encourage greater citizen participation in elections, however, such annual lamentations are not likely to improve matters much. More attention by local government, election administrators and the media will be needed to solve the low voter participation problem.

The Peacemakers Voting Integrity Project has been attempting to address these issues. Last year we requested to meet with the Election Commissioners to discuss the creation of a Citizen Advisory Board for Election Administration. We had hoped such an advisory board could be of assistance to both the Board of Elections and the Board of supervisors. The Commissioners refused to meet with us and the Supervisors did not carry the issue forward.

This past June The Voting Integrity Project released an analysis* of voter registration and voter turnout statistics for several upstate counties including Schoharie County. The numbers are troubling: One in four eligible Schoharie citizens is not registered to vote. Factor in low turnout percentages and contests or propositions can be decided by a minority of the citizens. As of this writing there has been no announcement of Board of Elections or Board of Supervisors action on this problem.

Members of the Voting Integrity Project were present at the Board of Supervisors meeting this month. Our purpose was to announce initiation of a survey of county Boards of Elections administration practices, resources and accessibility. We asked the Board of Supervisors to assure us that the Schoharie County Board of Elections will respond to the survey. We did not receive any such assurances from the Supervisors but remain hopeful the Election Commissioners will return the survey.

This small group of citizen volunteers is doing their part to make democracy work. We need government and the media to do their part if we are to succeed.

Wayne Stinson, Coordinator
The Voting Integrity Project

Analysis of Voter Registration Performance (http://paperballotwarrior.blogspot.com)
The Voting Integrity Project, 30 June 2009.

Voting Integrity Project Update

6 December 2009 report to The Peacemakers,

Wayne Stinson and Katherine Hawkins attended the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors meeting in November. Privilege of the floor had been requested via Summit Town Supervisor Harold Vroman, however, when the VIP presenters arrived they discovered no agenda notation to that effect. Fortunately, the BOS meeting included a continuation of the budget comment period so Wayne was able to address the board anyway.

We reminded the board of our earlier attempts to meet with the Election Commissioners (Nov. '08 - March '09) to propose establishment of a Citizen Advisory Board for Election Administration and the Commissioners' refusal to meet with us.

We reminded the board of our earlier research and analysis of voter registration and voter turnout statistics which revealed lower voter registration percentages in Schoharie County compared to five other demographically similar NY counties, and the disturbing fact that one in four eligible Schoharie County citizens is not registered to vote.

We notified the board of our most recent research effort, a survey of twelve county Boards of Elections (10 Nov. '09) which asks the ECs to report administration practices, department resources and accessibility data. We asked the Board of Supervisors to assure us that our Board of Elections would respond to the survey. We have received no such assurances and the Schoharie county Election Commissioners have so far not responded.

So far three counties have returned surveys. we will begin contacting those counties which have not yet returned the survey to remind them and to encourage participation. If personal contacts fail to gain cooperation the only remaining option would be Freedom of Information Law demands. No decision has been made as to this course.

Schoharie County BOE participated in the so-called pilot project use of the new voting equipment last month. The Sequoia-Dominion ImageCast machines were used in Schoharie Town election districts only. We have been told our BOE chose to do a 100% hand count of the paper ballots in those districts. If this is true they deserve credit for doing the right thing and something the state board didn't have the good sense or courage to require. We are not aware of any problems occurring with the new equipment in Schoharie Town pilot project.