Saturday, March 31, 2007

Costly Votes

When Umass students (a fresh faced, idealistic bunch) lobbied town officials to allow a central voting precinct in the heart of the sprawling campus, Select board Czar Ann Awad was more than happy to accommodate them; after all she surfed to her initial Select board victory on a tide of student votes that came like a once in a generation tsunami in 2000 to support the non-binding Pot Legalization ballot question.

So it was no coincidence 18 months ago Ms. Awad would support the idea and help get it on the fast track to spend $25,000 (Umass eventually reimbursed the town…but without interest) for the four fancy vote-tabulating scanners. Just in time for her reelection bid last year.

OF course last year no real candidate emerged to challenge Ms. Awad. Sorry Mr. Keenan no disrespect intended but your “campaign” was a tad lackluster. Even Ms. Awad on election night called it a very “collegial” campaign. And Mr. Keenan was seen getting into a limo with Ms. Awad on the morning of the election. I guess the opponents who vote together…

Not that the student vote would have mattered much that year as only 26 students bothered to vote at the new convenient location (combining 4 precincts), or a tad less than 1.25% turnout. Okay, so it was the debut year…these things take time. Ms Awad likes the metaphor (often applied to the floundering Cherry Hill Golf Course) that it’s “Like turning around a tanker at sea.”

So how did the young citizens fare this year? Only seventeen total, or less than 1% turnout. Ouch!

$3,216.14 in staff pay plus $240 for programming the machines and printing ballots divided by 17 kids comes to a whopping $240 per student vote. On the town side 3,356 voters requiring $8,455 in staff and $2,143 for programming and printing comes to $3.16 per townie vote.

Back in 2000, Select man Hill Boss (we always called him Boss Hill) sparked a controversy by suggesting the only sure way to increase student voter turnout was to place a couple kegs of beer at the polling place.


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