Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Getting the numbers straight

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Thank you for coverage of Garrett Park’s mayoral election. It showed great community spirit to have two very qualified and eager candidates for mayor.

The official 57 percent is an impressive showing, but the actual percent turned out was even higher. The list of 789 ‘‘qualified (registered) voters” includes an unknown number of deceased former voters and no-longer-eligible former town residents. The new mayor, Chris Keller, mentioned this and I asked Ted Pratt, the town administrator about it.

For years the town purged its registration rolls months before an election, sending a list of ineligible voters to the county. Apparently now, under the new Patriot Act, the town must send individual letters for each voter suspected of being ineligible; then the county makes a final decision. This process takes longer and will not be completed until summer — after the election.

It saddens me that a local town government with hard-working, competent, honest and motivated paid staff is hamstrung and must use a voter roll with known deceased persons and non-residents on it. We can’t get straight numbers, even in an election of fewer than 1,000 voters. Imagine the magnitude of error in cities and states with millions of voters, at best no more able and motivated staff and at worst suffering pressures from corruption.

Maybe in June we’ll get a more accurate voter turnout figure.

Douglas Mader, Garrett Park