The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

September 28, 2013

Rules must be changed to ensure honest vote

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The Daily Star

---- — In local elections, every vote counts. Just ask Fran Enjem. 

Enjem recently won the Republican nomination for Richfield town supervisor with a two-vote margin. And one of those two votes was ... an odd one. 

According to election officials, on Primary Day a woman’s eligibility to vote was questioned, and she filed an affidavit ballot. 

The woman’s mother told The Daily Star that the voter in question lives in Oneonta, but that she uses a Richfield Springs mailing address. 

No matter, said the state Board of Elections. To vote in a town election, a voter need not live full-time there — or, apparently, at all. No, the voter need only have “a significant and continuing tie to that address.”

We can say with certainty that this woman did not vote in Oneonta on Primary Day, but only because there was no primary there. Come November, what is to stop anyone from voting in more than one election, if this is the loose standard by which such matters are judged?

The Richfield candidates had the opportunity to challenge this ballot, but didn’t. Enjem told The Daily Star that he “probably” would have done so, but he wasn’t aware of the deadline, which was Sept. 17, a week after the primary. So the vote stands.

This issue came up several years ago, when a group of names were removed from the Bovina voting rolls, and the voters successfully sued to have their names restored. 

There was so much confusion and disagreement over how to define a voter’s residence that the matter went all the way to the state Supreme Court.

The final decision, which came from the Appellate Division, did little to clarify matters. 

 “Each petitioner listed the Bovina address on his or her driver’s license, and there is nothing in the record to indicate any petitioner voted elsewhere while registered to vote in Bovina,” the decision read.

“Further ... petitioners expressed the fact that, although their employment requires them to maintain another residence, their intent is to spend as much of their lives in Bovina as possible.”

Yet neither of these standards was met in the case of the Richfield vote. And still it stands. 

In local elections, where so much is at stake and each vote can play such a major role in the outcome, it is dispiriting to think that the system can so easily be exploited. 

Why not use the same standard for voter registration that we do for taxes? The state requires each of us to define a primary residence — and stick to it. Granted, the tax definition isn’t extremely specific, either. But it would help if, at least, the two had to be the same. Then maybe it would be easier to make sure people are only voting once.