As snow blanketed Dobbs Ferry in late March, it looked like nature was unfairly siding with the Democratic Committee. The very elements were mocking the nonpartisan idea (Republican) of an election in March.
In February, the good Commissioner LaFayette (Democrat) had wisely canceled the referendum in March to move the election to March and spared the electorate the nuisance of voting amidst freezing rain and snow drifts.
But the forces of reaction and stasis, the Dobbs Ferry Party (slogan — Representation for All the Citizens of Dobbs Ferry, except the Democratic Committee), cannot be underestimated. Sensing the end of their long reign (Republican), they struck back with every device at their disposal, i.e., backroom deals and, when the deals failed, a lawsuit funded by their largest donor, Clay Lifflander (Plutocrat). First, they spooked the good Commissioner LaFayette who retreated into equivocation. Now they have managed to effect a split amongst the Democratic majority; separating two Trustees, Dambroff and Seskin, from their more stalwart brethren, Dengler and Koenigsberg.
The net result is that the Democratic Committee is in complete disarray. The email strings are so thick that the threads are weaving and reweaving a tapestry of woe.
The Republicans are clearly triumphant. Chapeau to Lyle Miller (Republican) who negotiated a deal to withdraw the lawsuit which was going to cost the taxpayers $15,000 to litigate, in return for a referendum on May 22 that will cost the taxpayers $10,000 to hold (but twenty-five elderly folks will get the money as poll watchers versus one fat cat lawyer). The unbiased local newspaper, The Rivertowns Enterprise, quickly heralded the event in a piece careful crafted to support all the talking points of the pro-referendum Dobbs Ferry Party (Republican). The neophyte Democratic Trustees meant well (they are gentle, trusting souls), but then so did the States Supreme Court when it ratified George Bush’s stolen election of 2000.
Now the mud slinging will begin in earnest. Both sides will accumulate war chests. Mailboxes will fill with solicitation letters. Fliers will appeal to reason and sanity. Fear mongering will blossom. Credentials will be challenged. Parents will enlist their unsuspecting children in the holy cause and the local papers will be filled with predictable letters from the two dozen people in the Village who feel passionately about everything local.
What the contest will come down to is “How lazy is the electorate?”
Will the voters really get out of bed on Tuesday, May 22, and go to a polling station and pull one lever so that they will not have to get out of bed next March and go to the polling station and pull three or four levers? Or will they stay in bed worn down by repetitive voting syndrome?
It should be noted that on May 15 the same voters are being asked to get out of bed and pull two or three levers for School Board members and budget ratification. And we know from history that voter turnout in May is very low, less than 800 people per recent School Board election. That means that the Dobbs Ferry Party will surely triumph in May, because they can muster more than 500 people — through the power of patronage alone — to any election on any day. Kiss your majority good-bye Democrats; you have been outwitted, outlasted and outplayed.
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For those of your who can’t get enough of Dobbs Ferry politics or who don’t think an article is good unless it is long and boring, read on.
The fundamental question in this referendum is about voter turnout/participation versus the influence of ballot position / poll position.
It is an undisputed fact that more people vote in November than March. So if voter participation is the benchmark of democracy, then the election should be held in November.
Arguments that the voters in November are ‘uninformed’ and that they ‘blindly vote their national and state party affiliation” are just an insult to the intelligence of the electorate and should be struck from the record.
Though Trustee Linda Leone’s (Dobbs Ferry Party) shameful statement at the March 27, 2007 Board of Trustees meetings needs to be inserted for the record, ""What kind of people [vote in November]: my aunt who decided to vote for Bush because she didn’t like Tipper Gore, that’s the kind of people that vote in November . . . I think there’s a lot of people in Dobbs Ferry, they’re not stupid, they are loyal Democrats, they’re not stupid, they think they’re doing the right thing by clicking across the line, especially this last election . . . because they think they’re doing the right thing . . . and they have no idea who they’re voting for."
The only possible argument for a March election is ballot position. In New York State, ballot or poll position is governed by the following rules:
First, those parties that got more than 5% of the gubernatorial vote in the last election get the top spots on the ballot statewide in November – ranked by the relative number of votes their received. In the last election, five parties made the cut: Republican, Democratic, Independence, Conservative and Working Families parties. Since George Pataki won the previous gubernatorial election, the Republicans got the poll position or Row A, followed by the Democrats in Row B.
Next, marginal statewide parties like the Green and Libertarian parties who qualify by gathering petition signatures are ranked on the ballot. Their position on the ballot is determined by lot. That’s right the State Election Commissioner draws colored balls from a velvet bag to determine what row the secondary parties will occupy. And some of the secondary parties are lumped together on the same row if they don’t have enough candidates to fill an entire row.
Finally, the local or county parties like the Dobbs Ferry Party are ranked on the ballot. They follow the secondary statewide parties and their position is determined by “the earliest to file” rule. So it is like buying Yankees tickets, if you are willing to wait in line all night you will get the best seats. That is how the Dobbs Ferry Party ended up ranked first among the county parties on Row H next to the marginal state parties, Rent Too High and Socialist Equality. Oh, the inequality of it all to be next to the socialist equality party.
In a March election that is run by the county, all ballot positions are determined by the “first to file” rule, so get ready to camp out Democrats.
A five-nanosecond search of the Internet reveals academic research on the importance of ballot position on election outcomes. According to Jonathan Koppell, Yale University, and Jennifer Steen, Boston College, The Effects of Ballot Position on Election Outcomes, The Journal of Politics, February 2004, ‘This article presents evidence of name-order effects in balloting from a study of the 1998 Democratic primary in New York City, in which the order of candidates’ names was rotated by precinct. In 71 of 79 individual nominating contests, candidates received a greater proportion of the vote when listed first than when listed in any other position. In seven of those 71 contests the advantage to first position exceeded the winner’s margin of victory, suggesting that ballot position would have determined the election outcomes if one candidate had held the top spot in all precincts.” These academics verify that being at the top of the ballot helps candidates win elections if the elections are close.
But New York State is one of the few states in the Union that tries to overcome this flaw in the electoral process by allowing candidates to run on multiple lines. Therefore, the Dobbs Ferry Party would have been well served to have run its candidates on Row A, the Republican Line, in the last election if ballot position were the decisive factor. Or at least with the Independence Party on Row C.
But the fact is that the Dobbs Ferry Party knew that the Republican line was a liability in the last election because of the unpopularity of George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and Dick Cheney. Only Frank Farrington had the guts to run on Row A and he got the most votes amongst the Dobbs Ferry Party candidates and he still lost decisively. The other candidates hid behind the “I am an independent” cop out. Guys and gals, wake up and smell the coffee, being an independent means only one thing – other people decide your future because you can’t vote in the primaries and the real decisions are made in the primaries of the major parties.
Fnally, the Dobbs Ferry Party lost the November election because it took an unpopular position on a local issue. Its willingness to do a deal with Stop’n’Shop, if such deal was in “the best interest of theVillage”, to permit the construction of a box store in the middle of the Village is what cost it the election.
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers
T. S. Elloit 1922