Sunday, November 29, 2009

Voter Rights at Risk

by Michelle Richardson

This was submitted as a letter to the editor of the Register Star, but was not printed.

A thirty-six year resident, farmer’s market organizer and Meals-on-Wheels coordinator who recently underwent major surgery. A student, ICHS graduate and Columbia County native away at college. A twenty-year resident and University at Albany professor. A town council candidate hired to assist voters with the new ballot marking machines at other poll sites in the county on Election Day.

What do they have in common? These are just some of the Stuyvesant residents, deemed likely to vote Row A, whose absentee ballots were challenged by Supervisor Valerie Bertram's campaign and the Columbia County Republican Committee.

Most of them are not second homeowners, but if Mr. Fingar’s detectives did not find clear connections and commitment to Stuyvesant, they weren’t doing their jobs. Fraud? Hardly.

Republican lawyers challenged votes, along party lines, due to "missing information" on the absentee ballot application provided by the Board of Elections -- information that the form did not ask for!

Voting is a constitutional right. How can they justify partisan challenges under the guise of application technicalities? What have we come to when people with money and power can disenfranchise our neighbors, while talking out of the other side of their mouth about “one person, one vote”? Whose veracity is in question?

I hope people speak out against this injustice regardless of party affiliation, and hold the county Republican party accountable. After all, each of our rights are only as secure as our neighbors'.