On Nov. 4, Kenmore voters will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to switch the biennial village Election Day from the third Tuesday in March to the traditional Election Day in November.
I was involved in the petition drive that sought to place this referendum on the ballot. I'd like to provide voters with some information to help them decide.
There are a number of good reasons to make the change. The principal benefit is to increase voter participation. March elections historically have low turnouts. A common complaint is that people simply forget about them. In the last village election, 25 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. By comparison, the turnout was 78 percent in the November '96 election and 53 percent in November '95, the last non-presidential general election.
The Kids Voting program is now in its second year locally. One of the purposes of this program is to increase voter participation by developing regular voting habits in our children. It also has the side benefit of reminding parents to vote. There is no similar program in March.
By switching the election to November, the village would save about $5,600 -- the cost of last year's March election. Although this amount is not huge, any savings that can be made is a benefit.
November elections provide added convenience for voters. While the polls in November are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., they are traditionally open from noon until 9 p.m. in March.
Opponents of the proposition claim that village issues will be lost in the mix of other elections held in November. The assumption that voters will be overwhelmed by three or four additional choices on the November ballot shows a lack of faith in the voters. On the contrary, many people are more focused on election issues in November.
Another claim is that this is a plot by Kenmore Democrats to gain control of village government. This criticism fails to consider the fact that Republicans in the Town of Tonawanda have dominated November town elections and continue to carry the village in town elections. It also seems to imply that there would be something wrong if greater voter participation resulted in someone other than a Republican being elected.
Finally, opponents claim this is the first step in dissolving the Village of Kenmore. That is ridiculous. The simple wording of the proposition merely changes the village election date. It deals only with the election of village officers.
The intent behind this proposition is not to dissolve Kenmore -- it is to strengthen the public's interest in the operation of the village through greater participation. The real threat to Kenmore's continued existence is a lack of voter interest.
Patrick J. Bannister Kenmore