SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 18, 2014

Letter: Is this democracy?

To the editor:

This morning I read an article by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia in which he said: “In a democracy such as ours, the right to vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool the people have in a democratic society.”

I have had voting rights on my mind a lot recently because of the Brimbal Avenue rezoning referendum. The vote on this referendum is scheduled to take place in a SINGLE POLLING PLACE ON A SATURDAY in the middle of winter in the city of Beverly. Massachusetts laws prohibit a single polling place for an election in a city (MGL ch 54 section 24). Yet our state Legislature has been asked to pass a special act to allow this election. The reason for the single polling place is to save the city money — but at what expense to the rights of the voters?

Think about these points:

In 2013, Feb. 8 was the biggest snow storm of the year.

The high school field house is on the opposite side of the building from the major parking area.

Parking is limited to 460 vehicles.

There are more than 25,400 registered voters in Beverly. If even only half of them turned out there could be 1,000 voters per hour at the single polling place if all were spaced out evenly over the 13 hours of polling. Where will they park? How will the handicapped access the polling place? Beverly High School is not an easy place to walk to from most neighborhoods.

This issue is amplified by the fact that the City Charter is confusing and unclear on the number of votes required for the referendum. My interpretation is that the section for citizen referendum does not state a minimum number of votes required. However, the city may point to a “rogue” line in another section that says that a referendum must achieve 20 percent of the votes of the registered voters (in this case about 5,000 ‘‘no” votes), which would require an incredibly high turnout to even be possible. In the last election for mayor, only 10,000 voters turned out. In the previous primary only 4,300 voters turned out. These elections were in good weather at local polling places on the normal Tuesdays.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium