Perhaps the right to vote is priceless. But should taxpayers really have to shell out more than $1,500 for the right to cast purely symbolic ballots in an election devoid of races, drama and any tangible value?
Turns out the answer to that seemingly outlandish question is yes – at least if you live in New Haven. When members of the Allen County Election Board last week unanimously agreed to place the names of unopposed candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot despite a new state law to the contrary, they may have thought they were upholding a higher principle: that even the lack of an opponent shouldn’t disenfranchise people whose right to vote was bought with blood, not money. In most cases it would be a nice – if meaningless – gesture.
But not in New Haven, where two polling places that were to have been closed in November because of the total lack of contested races must now be opened, fully staffed and equipped – just so anybody who bothers to show up can futilely vote in elections that were decided long ago.
“I don’t think we thought of the cost, but at the fact that if you live in certain parts of New Haven you couldn’t have voted for mayor, clerk-treasurer, judge and City Council races for at-large and in Districts two and four,” said Election Board President Zach Klutz. “They all have people who would like to support them.”
But as Klutz acknowledged, Mayor Terry McDonald and New Haven’s other unopposed Republican candidates are guaranteed victories regardless of whether the polling places at the New Haven library and Emanuel Lutheran Church open or close (provided they vote for themselves, of course). So surely it must be asked:
With budget cuts having already caused the Election Board to forego satellite early voting sites this year and to warn about shortages of workers and machines in next year’s presidential election, why should 11 Election Day workers be paid for essentially doing nothing in New Haven when their services will obviously be more valuable elsewhere?