Sunday, November 8, 2015

Election Gamesmanship

It's a time-honored Hudson tradition to try to get your name on the ballot as many times as possible. This year, as has regularly happened in the past, some of the Democratic candidates reappeared on the Working Families line, and most of the Republican candidates appeared again on the Conservative and Independence lines.

The most memorable example of party line acquisitiveness happened back in 2003, when one of Rick Scalera's minions commandeered Linda Mussmann's independent Bottom Line Party line, forcing her to create another independent party, the Fair Deal Party, to run against him that year.

Back in the day of lever voting machines, having the same person appear several times in the same column didn't matter much. The machine didn't let the voter flip more than one lever in a column, forcing voters to decide, before opening the curtain, on which party line they wanted to vote for a given candidate. With our current system of voting, voters can, and often do, fill in the circle beside the name of the candidate of their choice every time that name appears on the ballot. It's only when the ballot is fed into the machine that an error message warns that multiple votes have been cast for the same candidate. The voter then has the choice of casting the ballot as is and having the vote go to the candidate on the first line on which his or her name appears, or having the machine spit the ballot back out, returning it to the election inspectors to have them mark it "SPOILED," and getting a new ballot to mark correctly.

There are presumed advantages to cross endorsements, as they are called. If a candidate loses a major party primary, having a second party endorsement ensures the candidate's name will still appear on the ballot in the general election. That advantage is iffy though. It's impossible to recall any candidate in the past twenty-two years in Hudson ever winning on a second party line after losing a major party primary.

Once in a while, having your name appear multiple times on the ballot does pay off, as it did this year in the Fourth Ward. Running for Fourth Ward alderman, Lauren Scalera, daughter of Rick Scalera, past master of getting his name on the ballot as many times as possible (his name appeared three times on the Fifth Ward ballot this year, even though he was running unopposed for Fifth Ward supervisor), managed to get her name on the ballot three times: on the Democratic, Republican, and Independence party lines. (She'd tried for four times, but her Conservative Party petition was thrown out because it gave as her address her father's address in the Fifth Ward instead of an address in the Fourth Ward, the ward she wanted to represent.)

Scalera, in her very first run for political office, got 108 votes on Election Day, besting incumbent Fourth Ward alderman Alexis Keith by 13 votes. Quite an achievement for a newcomer to politics, but one has to wonder if the format of the ballot, which is dictated by a host of apolitical considerations, influenced the outcome. In Column 9, the names of three candidates appeared: Alexis B. Keith (Democratic), Derrick Smart (Republican), and Rich "Trixie" Volo (Working Families). In Column 10, only one name appeared, three times: Lauren Scalera. Although there is a single heading over the two columns with the direction "Vote for Two," one wonders how many voters, accustomed to voting for one candidate in each column, thought they had to choose one in Column 9 and one in Column 10 and voted for Scalera because she was the only candidate in Column 10. We'll never know.

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