Sunday, October 12, 2014

Election 2014 Voter Registration and Ballot Questions

Are you ready to vote on November 4?

Check your voter registration status online to make sure you're registered where you currently live.

If you need to register, or if you need to change your address, or if your name has changed, you can register online; OR,

         Download the registration form, print it out, and mail it to Registrar of Voters, Chase Municipal Building, 236 Grand Street, Floor 1, Waterbury, CT 06702 postmarked no later than October 21, 2014; OR,

         Download the registration form, print it out, and deliver it in person to Registrar of Voters, Chase Municipal Building, 236 Grand Street, Floor 1, Waterbury, CT 06702 no later than October 28, 2014.

You can also register and vote in person on Election Day if you aren't registered in Connecticut at all, or if you have moved to a new town. You will need to provide proof of identity and proof of address. You must call the Registrar's Office at 203-574-6751 to find out where to go for this.

Ballot Questions

In addition to the slew of candidates, this year's ballot includes four important questions to answer.

1. Shall the Constitution of the state be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of the election?

The short explanation: Currently, absentee ballots are available for people who can't vote in person on election day, but only if they will be out of town, sick, physically disabled, or if their religion forbids voting on election day.

Voting YES on this question will change the rule so that anyone can vote by absentee ballot, with no reason needed. Voting YES will also remove the current deadlines for submitting election results to officials.

Think of it this way: since Election Day is not a holiday, most people have to find time in their already busy day to schlep to their polling place. If you are careful and can time it just right, you won't have to stand in line and the whole process chews up only half an hour of your time. If you aren't lucky, you have to stand in line for who knows how long, losing an hour or more of your day.

Voting YES will make voting easier for many people.

Click here for the official explanatory text.

2. Shall the Charter be revised to provide for four year terms of office for the Mayor, the Town Clerk and the Registrar of Voters?

If this Charter Revision passes, it goes into effect with the next election cycle. The Mayor's current term in office would not be extended. He will have to run for re-election next year, as regularly scheduled.

This question has been on the ballot before, and has been voted down. The usual argument I hear for keeping two year terms of office is to be able to vote out bad Mayors. This is a false argument. Giordano was as bad as they come, everyone knew he was a louse, but he wasn't voted out of office--the FBI had to take him out in handcuffs. Jarjura was voted out, but only after ten years in office and a massive, expensive campaign.

Under the current system, each Mayor gets one year off from active campaigning. The next election is constantly on the horizon, which means that each Mayor is constantly thinking about keeping major donors happy. Those major donors end up with more control than they would have otherwise--if they don't like something, all they have to do is tell the Mayor they won't fund his campaign next year/this year to get what they want. Switch to a four year term, and those donors will have less control--Mayors will have years to cultivate new donors, or maybe even not bother with donors at all, if he or she thinks four years is enough time to be in office.

If we switch to four year terms, each Mayor will enter office knowing that there is ample time to get the job done before worrying about campaigning.

The standard business model in use today is to have a five year plan (year five is usually a little vague). Waterbury's Mayors enter office with a two year plan, which limits their effectiveness and creates more stress than needed.

Additionally, switching the Mayor over to four year terms will "liberate" the candidates for the Board of Aldermen from the Mayoral candidates. The Aldermen will continue to run for election every two years, running independently from the Mayoral candidate.

As for the Town Clerk and the Registrar of Voters: these positions have been held by the same people for a very long time. Frankly, I think the Town Clerk should be exempt from political campaigning entirely and instead be a standard employee position, filled by the most qualified candidate.

Voting YES will reduce the insanity of Waterbury politics. Voting YES will allow our Mayors to focus on their jobs, instead of on their re-election campaigns.

3. Shall the Charter be revised to provide that three Aldermen shall be elected from each of five equally populated districts rather than the current manner of electing fifteen Aldermen at large (citywide)?

The short version of what this means: the city would be divided into five districts similar to the existing State Representative districts (71, 72, 73, 74, 75). Each political party would have two candidates in each district. Each district would elect three Aldermen.

Efforts to switch to Aldermen by District have been ongoing since at least the 1990s.

Currently, voters get overwhelmed by the number of candidates running for the Board of Aldermen. Each party can run nine candidates, which means there are typically 27 candidates to choose from. It's unrealistic to expect every voter familiarize themselves with all 27 candidates. As a result, voters often vote blindly for the entire slate, or pick a few with familiar sounding names and then give up.

With the proposed new system, voters would have to choose between only six candidates (or four, if the Independent Party doesn't run), making it easy to learn about the choices and make an informed decision.

Voting YES will empower voters.
Voting YES will give voters the ability to make sound decisions about their voting choices.

Aldermen will be required to live in their district. Currently, our Aldermen live almost exclusively in four neighborhoods: Town Plot, Bunker Hill, Bucks Hill, and the East End. Only one Alderman lives outside those neighborhoods. While at least some of the Aldermen try to keep up with what's happening in neighborhoods around the city, it's not realistic to expect them to truly know what issues are facing every part of the city.

Voting YES will give every area of the city representation on the Board of Aldermen.

Voting NO will keep political power concentrated in the same small handful of neighborhoods where it's been for decades.

It's been argued that switching to Aldermen by District would somehow mean that the Board of Aldermen would no longer focus on citywide issues, that instead each Alderman would care only about what matters in his or her neighborhood. I see no reason for this to be true. If the Board of Aldermen is made up of equally distributed representatives from throughout the city, they will be better able to address citywide issues, because they will truly know what those citywide issues are.

With the current system, most of the city is not represented on the Board of Aldermen, making it difficult for them to really know what's going on everywhere. Switching to Aldermen by District will improve the Board's ability to understand what issues are happening citywide and how their decisions impact all of Waterbury's residents.

4. Shall the Charter be revised to require the Board of Aldermen to appoint a new Charter Revision Commission within 10 years of the previous Charter Revision Commission's Final Report?

Currently, the Charter Commission is appointed every ten years regardless of whether or not a final report was issued within that time frame.

Click here for the official explanatory text of all three Charter Revision questions, as found on the Town Clerk's webpage.

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