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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vote By Mail Wrong For The City of Frederick

George Wenschhof

Scheduling, a city workshop on an issue as important as a city election a few days before Christmas should raise voter's eyebrows.

Spending money to implement an unproven ballot by mail election, fraught with fraud possibilities and vote manipulation would be folly for The City of Frederick. Particularly, when only a small per cent increase in voter turnout would result.

The city election issue is not a new one and discussion should focus on increasing the city's anemic voter turnout.

I have advocated for some time the need to move the city election to coincide with the presidential election cycle.

This move, by The City of Frederick would result in tripling the 24 per cent voter turnout in the 2009 General Election.

An added plus could be the cost savings to city taxpayers resulting from combining the Frederick voting with the presidential election. The ability to use the same polling locations would put an end to the city’s questionable and awkward move to use primarily churches; as polling locations in the 2009 election.

What further obfuscates the issue, is discussion by various interests suggesting nonpartisan elections and the blather; “voters would not be as informed if the city election was held at the same time as the presidential election”.

Unaffiliated voters are a significant and growing segment throughout the country and have valid concerns to ballot access. Unless, open primaries (all voters allowed to vote for any candidate in any party) are held, unaffiliated voters are unable to participate in primary elections.

The reasonable counter argument by political party operatives is; primaries are for political parties to determine their candidates in the general election and it makes no sense for non-party voters to determine who their candidate will be.

The suggestion to move to nonpartisan elections is another attempt to deal with the dissatisfaction of the Unaffiliated voter. However, numerous independent studies have shown the result is lower voter turnout, illustrating that this is not an answer to increasing the vote in The City of Frederick election.

A more reasonable approach would be to allow a much easier process for an unaffiliated voter to run for office, thus creating an opportunity for all unaffiliated voters to vote for their candidate.

The silliness surrounding the notion that moving The City of Frederick election to coincide with the presidential election would result in less informed voters is without merit.

The ridiculous argument that city issues would be lost in the clamor of a presidential election has no basis in fact.

First, how does one determine who an informed voter is? The voters who made up the twenty-four percent who participated in the 2009 city election were most likely informed by the candidates who won that election.

There was a time, mostly prevalent in southern states, when efforts were made to determine informed voters, resulting in restricted ballot access. Thankfully, due to legal rulings, these efforts were eventually discontinued.

Interestingly, there has never been a complaint of uninformed voters from the candidates for numerous county elected positions who appear on the ballot in the state of Maryland election.

Additionally, local media do not cover the Presidential election, relying on national news reports to keep their readers abreast. Local media reporters would be available to cover the city election at the same level they do at present in an off election year.

In reality, the excitement of the national election will result in more attention to the local city election.

Keeping voter turnout low is a control issue for those in power and it is way past time for this to come to an end in The City of Frederick.

If the goal of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen is to truly increase democracy, the answer is to move the election date to coincide with the Presidential election cycle – city voters deserve no less.

Stay tuned….


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Jim French said...

The issue of election fraud is typically exaggerated by conservatives. I am surprised to see it raised in this column. Also as appealing as the idea of linking the mayoralty election to the larger one in even-numbered years is, there is no assurance that all voters will complete their ballots. I remember in 2008 talking to numerous voters who filled in a preference for only one office, that of US President.

George Wenschhof said...

Thank you, Jim for your comment.

Promoting democracy and fair elections is an American ideal and one I support.

As to under votes, they occur in every election. Including, the present “stand alone” City of Frederick election