By Vee Gordon
Published March 16th 2006 in The Essex Reporter
As a Village resident I attended the Feb. 15 meeting of the Merger Task Force at which Irene Wrenner introduced the concept of proportional representation as a new election method for the merged community.
You see, our current Winner Take All system has numerous flaws -- like huge and unfair advantages for incumbents -- which result in ridiculously low voter turnout for local elections.
An even bigger problem with the election method we use is how it works against providing fair representation to Village residents on our Town Selectboard.
Because 56% of voters live in the Town, it's easy for them to sweep Selectboard elections, in which a winner only needs to exceed 50%. Town of Essex voters are confident of a win, so they don't turn out in force. Village of Essex Junction residents know it's futile, so they stay home in droves. (Take a look at voting statistics for the past ten years, and more on this later.)
People aren't just discouraged from voting, of course. They don't run for office either. We are not stupid.
The Merger Task Force knows of a better way to elect its merged Town Council. I'd encourage them to do their homework, really look at proportional representation and strongly urge them to provide for fairness in the merger charter.
Open your notebooks, Merger folks, open your minds, and hang on! If you're careful, you really can change history!
Vee Gordon is a member of the Essex League of Women Voters.