CAPE VINCENT – Three pro-wind town councilmen passed a resolution Wednesday night in an illegal attempt to prevent seasonal residents from voting in upcoming local elections.
The resolution, which passed 3-2 at the regular council meeting, requires voters to show their state driver’s licenses, with a Cape Vincent address, at the polls to vote in a town election.
The motion was made by Councilman Donald J. Mason, who said the resolution was in response to a petition submitted the same night and signed by more than 200 residents that argued that “unethical, if not illegal, voting methods were implemented to manipulate” the outcome of local elections in Cape Vincent.
Mr. Mason’s motion was seconded by Councilman Marty T. Mason, and Councilman Mickey W. Orvis cast the deciding vote, despite several attempts from fellow board members to persuade the three not to pass an illegal measure.
“I think this is just garbage,” said Councilman Brooks J. Bragdon, who voted “no” along with Supervisor Urban K. Hirschey. “This law here frivolously overrules an existing law that is run competently by the Board of Elections in Watertown and I don’t think we have, even remotely, the right to do that.”
Supervisor Hirschey strongly advised the three councilmen to seek legal consultation from town attorney Mark G. Gebo before taking a vote.
“Do you want to be putting yourselves in jeopardy by voting on something that’s illegal?” Mr. Hirschey asked. “It’s up to the voter to decide where he wants to vote.”
Mr. Bragdon pointed out that seasonal residents easily outnumbered year-round residents – with approximately 5,200 seasonal and 2,700 year-round residents in the town of Cape Vincent.
“I think the people who have come here and invested a substantial amount of capital or a high percentage of everything that they own have the right to express themselves on issues that exist in Cape Vincent,” Mr. Bragdon said. “The issue has become redolent of self-interest, redolent of wind, redolent of getting money directly for oneselves, and with all respect for my board members, they should not be running for office and they should not be proposing a vote to curtail (seasonal) votes, in their favor.”
Councilmen Marty and Donald Mason, who are seeking re-election this November, both have leases with wind farm developers.
The petition that sparked the debate was submitted by Harold L. Wiley, who started gathering signatures after learning that a recent voter registration drive resulted in more than 200 seasonal residents signing up to vote in the September Republican primary and November general election.
“In my opinion, it’s voter fraud,” Mr. Wiley said. “I used to know everybody in Cape Vincent. But among those 250 voters, I’d be surprised if I knew more than 10 people.”
Donald Mason said that the resolution “has nothing to do with wind” and that he didn’t “think anybody would be against stopping voter fraud.”
State election law states that a person can vote in a local election as long as he or she is a U.S. citizen who meets all the requirements to register to vote in the state and has “lived in the county, city or village for at least 30 days before the election.”
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