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Defending right to vote in Cape Vincent

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By Urban Hirschey

Special commentary

Cape Vincent — I was asked to comment on the letter written by the assessor of Canandaigua back in 2011 about Cape Vincent voters despite it being addressed, not to me, but to both Jefferson County election commissioners and copied to the district attorney.

Why was this not brought to light a year-and-a-half ago by any of the letter’s recipients? It would certainly seem that they concluded that the allegations in the letter lacked merit. It would further seem this letter was sent at the behest of some here in Cape Vincent, who were politically motivated and/or who stand to gain financially from wind development.

The legality of seasonal residents’ right to vote in Cape Vincent has been well-established; if there are any doubts one only has to contact officials at the board of elections.

What apparently remains unclear to some is the real property tax question of what constitutes a primary residence and specifically the fact that voters can keep their STAR exemption status even if they choose to vote in a district other than where the STAR exemption is claimed.

According to assessors with whom I have spoken, STAR status is not determined solely by where you vote, but by any number of other criteria, such as driver’s license, where you live most of the year, address for federal and state tax purposes, etc. However, individual assessors have flexibility to make this determination.

I left a message with the Canandaigua assessor on behalf a Cape Vincent neighbor to help explain why it was important for seasonal residents in Cape Vincent to consider changing their voting status, but that is no more than any stand-up supervisor would do for any of his constituents. I support and will defend the legal right of any legitimate resident of Cape Vincent to exercise his or her right to participate in the democratic decision making processes of our town.

What I found odd was that Canandaigua assessor Mark Brown did not return my call because I did not have “standing,” but on the other hand believed I had enough standing to report me to Jefferson County election officials, presumably for “fraudulent” conduct. Of course, determining fraudulent voter conduct is not the job of any assessor. Additionally, there has been no evidence of illegal voter registrations, nor were any formal written complaints received by the election commissioners, to my knowledge.

What I hope all your readers understand is that the charges of voter fraud and unethical behavior were shown to be groundless. Unfortunately, that truth was buried far back in the Times article, and I believe the truth should always be front and center for everyone to see easily and clearly.

I would like to emphasize that the right of seasonal residents in Cape Vincent to speak, be heard and to participate in the governance of what is their town too has been largely ignored up until recently. Beginning several years ago this valued and rightful constituency, along with all of us, came to be faced with the possibility of industrial development of unprecedented dimensions. The outcome of this possibility will greatly affect the value of their stake in our town and their quality of life, among other things.

Seasonal residents have much reason to opt to vote here. Efforts to discourage seasonal residents from voting will only firm their resolve to vote where their heads and hearts are focused.

The writer is Cape Vincent town supervisor.

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