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Voting was simple — make an ‘X’ in the box

December 18, 2010

When village workers were cleaning out a section of the pump house (a.k.a. water department) at 10 Main Street they ran across paper voting ballots from 1925 and 1927. They turned them over to Village Clerk Kareen Tyler who immediately turned them over to menot only thatbut she popped into the walk-in safe and produced the minutes containing the voting results from those two elections.

I cannot determine from what I have if the same ballots used for propositions were also used for the election of officials. But it seems likely that there would be only one method of voting. The ballots were numbered and handed out to registered voters (up until sometime in the 1960's one had to own property in the village to be qualified to vote) who would then make an x with a black lead pencil in the box labeled yes or no. Pretty simple compared to the convoluted system we used last November.

Even with those straightforward ballots containing this explanation: "Any other mark, erasure or tear on this ballot renders it void"some voters must have gone nuts in the voting booth because there were at times as many as 57, 109 and 206 "spoiled or blank" ballots cast according to verified election results.

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Voting results

The residents in 1925 were all in favor of lighting the streets, maintaining the incinerator, paying the fire and police departments and providing a free public skating rink (for $2500) but that benevolent attitude changed when it came to building public restrooms, paying village officials or buying property for a public park.

There were an incredible 12 propositions submitted to the voters in 1925. Eight of the 12 propositions passed. Here are the four that did not pass. $2,000 for a public park; $1200 for public restrooms; Colbath property (no dollars listed) for a park; the first three were voted down by large percentages but the board of trustees seeking "compensation for board members be it resolved that the Village President, (remember, the title was changed to Mayor in 1929, the same year the village manager from of government was enacted) trustees and water and sewer commissioners shall not receive compensation for services as such, except that they shall be entitled to receive the same pay for board meetings as the Town Board receives."

Well, son-of-a-gun, there were 362 taxpayers who thought that those village officials should be paid, but, sad to say, there were three extra votes on the other side who thought they should not be paid; the proposition lost 365 to 362.

The propositions that passed in addition to those mentioned above were mostly for water and sewer repairs in various sections of the village except that $15,000 was approved (668 to 129) for a fire truck.

It also appears that less than 50 percent of those who voted did not even bother to vote on the propositions. The biggest number voting on any one proposition was just over 700 but there were 2337 who voted in the general election. (In the village election held in March 2010 there were approximately 1260 votes castbut the population was nearly double in 1925, counting TB patients, probably around 10,000.)

Democrat Dan Foster was elected President in 1925 beating H. Ray Williams 1155 to 1088; Trustees elected were Democrats Eddy Whitby and Sidney F. Blanchett beating Walter Sagendorf and John R. Hogan 1069, 1049, 937, 1103 respectively; Republican Matt Munn beat Democrat Walt Weir for Treasurer 1076 to 1039; Democrat John C. Leary beat Republican Dick Malone for Assessor 1297 to 769.

The philosophy of responsibility for those elected to village office has changed over the years. Obviously in 1925 the village board thought government by referendum was the way to go. I don't know how anything got accomplished letting the taxpayers vote on almost every important improvement to the village.

The board members made up of Republican and Democrats who I served with as village trustee and Mayor in the 1960's believed that the people who elected us also trusted us to study the issues and act accordingly. Referendums for major purchases or public works projects (bond issues), in most instances, are required by law.


The 1927 village issues

The only two propositions placed before the taxpayer in 1927 were both voted down. The amount of $66,000 for the reinforced concrete paving of Petrova Avenue from Lake Street to Lake Street was turned down 416 to 327.

Mr. Ed Harvey had submitted a petition (with other village taxpayers) to have the sidewalk raised to eight inches above the grade level on Lake Flower Avenue (cost $5,000) by the construction of a combined curb and gutter with the improvements to extend from Winona Avenue to South Street. Maybe Mr. Harvey demanded a recount because his proposition lost 365 to 364.

Republican Fred Conrad was elected President over Democrat John C. Morgan 1211 to 789. Republican Trustees Hartley Taylor and James Mannix were elected over Democrats Joseph J. O'Connell and Eddy Whitby.

My friend Lee Keet, mayor of Lake Colby, has had family in this area forever. His great-grandfather was a Harrietstown Justice way back and now I have run across another relative right here in the type written results of the March 15, 1927 election for assessor, verified and signed by village clerk Seaver A. Miller it reads:

"Eugene Keet, Republican received 1059 votes; William S. Ames, Democrat received 889."



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