EDITORIAL: Village residents vote Tuesday

TO POLITICIANS AND THEIR SUPPORTERS: Please don’t try to shame voters into voting for you. Around here people don’t need to be reminded voting is their duty and shaming will end up attracting voters who oppose you.

You could try frightening the electorate. It works, but at a high cost. You pit one side against the another, regardless of the facts, and then you pledge to protect your supporters from the “others” you’ve demonized. Like shaming, fear mongering also works both ways.

There are other approaches that can win elections, some of them legal. But, wait. What election? Who’s running for what and when? Primaries are held in late June; the general election in November. But for roughly 10% of Columbia County voters, there is an election next week.

Elections Tuesday, March 15, from noon to 9 p.m., are only for people who live in one of the four villages in Columbia County: Chatham, Kinderhook, Philmont and Valatie. As well as living in one of those villages, to cast a ballot in one of these elections you must be registered to vote in the village.

Each of the villages has elections but only one village has a ballot contest: three people are running for mayor of the Village of Kinderhook. Also in Kinderhook, as with the other three villages, there are vacant seats on Village Boards with just enough candidates on the ballots to fill those seats.

Does that mean there’s no reason to cast a vote because the results, with the exception of Kinderhook mayor, are already decided?

No. If you know someone running for a seat on your Village Board, consider voting for her or him because that person is doing an essential job that you and the rest of your village don’t want to do. That’s not shaming. That’s gratitude.

Maybe there’s no familiar name on your ballot. As a practical matter it’s simply writing in a candidate’s name at the bottom of a column with the title of the village position you want the write-in to have. The law doesn’t require it, but good manners suggest that you should inform the person you plan to write in before you submit your ballot. But choose carefully. Occasionally write-ins win elections. If you want to make a point about a candidate you don’t know or don’t approve of, leave that candidate’s column blank but cast a ballot for the others. That sends a message.

The scale of these village elections is as small as democracy gets. The combined number of active voters in all four villages is less than 5,000, according to the latest available figures. That’s 10% of the active voters countywide. And yet the impact of the local elections can be tremendous. A handful of votes determines who will set water and sewer policies, the quality of local roads and bridges, and what you may and may not do with your home.

But you probably knew most of this anyway. So let’s look at one other motivation for participating in our village elections. Think of these votes as a message to all the communities around the world that don’t have the opportunity to choose their leaders. Now add to that list the people of Ukraine, whose rights—and lives—are extinguished with every moment the brutal Russian invasion crawls on. Those rights we have are equally fragile if we fail to exercise them every chance we get.

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