LETTER: Wishy-Washy, Flip-Flopping Leaders Waste Your Money

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While it was encouraging to see civic involvement in high gear at our Election Commission Meeting on Monday evening, it was also disappointing in many respects.

The first concern is that not every voting district in Cannon County was represented. Second, not all comments and remarks were rude or short sighted, but some were. Individuals would claim to be presenting "facts" yet go the extra mile to muddy the water and omit both relevant and important information, as well as aspects of the discussions that led to the … ”unanimous” decision to change the polling locations on November 7, 2011.

Several Citizens spoke up during the meting stating they were “tax paying” citizens and therefore our boss. Others spoke as if "all" tax dollars spent in Cannon County originate in the Short Mountain and Pleasant Ridge communities. It was believed that those affected would be more understanding.

The Election Commission, after lengthy bi-partisan discussions, scrutinizing all expenditures for our Annual Budget, voted unanimously on the final submission to the Cannon County Commission Budget Committee and the Commissioners. This Budget was cut by the Commissioners in their efforts to reduce costs from every Department Head in Cannon County. I commend their efforts to reduce costs and save tax payer money. However, they were advised that the Law required them to approve or deny this Budget, rather than cut it. When the full Cannon County Election Commission met on November 7th, the Election Office was still trying to operate on a budget that had been significantly reduced.

At the November Election Commission Meeting, the cost cutting aspects of reducing our County Wide Polling places was discussed in a robust manner. We discussed that “one” Polling place at West Side serviced about 1824 voters. The “one” Polling place at Woodland serviced about 1569 voters. The Pleasant Ridge Polling place located in Woodbury (out of their voting District) only serviced about 425 total voters. After early voting, only about 137 voters actually voted at the Polls in the last election. There were 5 Poll Workers (4 @ $120.00 per day and 1 @ $140.00 per day) working 12 hours.

While thoroughly discussing Short Mountain and Pleasant Ridge poll places, and the cost per voter aspect of multiple voting locations in the same district. It was obvious that we could reduce the number of Polling Locations and save our Citizens’ money. In fact, Commissioner Patrick stated after discussing the multiple locations that serviced smaller voter numbers …”well that don’t seem right.”

This low voter volume meant considerable dead time with no voter activity, to which Commissioner Patrick stated “you’re right, they don’t do much”. After discussing that these changes the Full Commission was making would not be agreeable to some citizens, Commissioner Gannon stated “somebody’s going to gripe about what ever you do, no matter what you do”. Both individuals were still in full agreement with reducing the locations. In fact, two full weeks after the meeting, they were still in agreement.

I received a total of four calls from Citizens from Short Mountain residents regarding this matter, with all but one, just days before the meeting. Two of the Citizens I spoke with told me that both Commissioner Patrick and Gannon had already told them, they were going to reverse their votes at our January meeting and that they needed one more Commissioner to side with them for a voting majority, in order to restore their Polling locations.

Citizens should consider, that two full months ago, the entire Election Commission voted and instructed Administrator of Elections-Stan Dobson to prepare for our 2012 Elections with these changes in place. Mailings went out. Newspaper updates were posted. Voter Lists updates and machine programs revised. Tax payer money spent, from a Budget that had already been reduced. These actions were taken based on deadlines that must be met.

The initial action taken by the Election Commission was lawful, helpful and cost effective — when ALL the County Citizens’ factors were considered. This difficult, but obvious decision was not reached in order to place hardships on anyone. Our voters in West Side and Woodland have many miles, many large hills and dangerous roads, yet only one polling place each.

If Citizen input or “will” is to impact a County wide decision, for our Flip Flopping Commissioners, did they consult ALL OTHER voters before deciding to waste Cannon County money? Did they make any efforts to consult the OTHER districts for input, before they revealed they were going to reverse their votes and unravel the actions they knowingly took? Considerable additional work hours will need to be worked to undo the mess. There is no wisdom in directing a Department Head down a two month plan of costs and direction, and then pretend it wasn’t the right path to begin with.

Additionally, I presented a Resolution supporting the Voter Photo Identification Law which took effect this month and provided relevant information Voters need to know. Two of these same Commissioners voted against this resolution claiming not to support this Law, even though it is current law and we will have to follow it to the letter. This Photo ID Law does help secure and protect each vote cast.

Some of the comments posted on the Courier Website, boldly claim the undesirable miles and routes to drive in order to go vote, but never mention the convenient options of early voting and absentee ballots. Deliberate?

I sincerely think that ALL Citizens should work harder to look at the Big Picture regarding Taxes and Wise Management and how it impacts everyone, rather than be single focused. We all need to man-up and face the facts that ALL belts will need to be tightened as best we can for the good of the whole County.

Matt Studd
Election Commissioner

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Members Opinions:
January 12, 2012 at 9:59pm
most of us are on the last loop hole
January 13, 2012 at 6:43am
Could the election commission use volunteers for poll workers rather than paid?

I,for one, had no idea that the polling places were going to change so radically until it was already a done deal. Perhaps public input should have been more actively solicited by the election commission? I wasn't thrilled about the change, but since I usually vote early at the election commission office, I wan't much bothered. But even if my polling place had been many miles away I would have made the effort to be able to vote. Think about it a minute, people: patriots have died for our right to vote and so many of us rarely bother to do so, and gripe if we have to put much effort into it!
January 13, 2012 at 9:29am
Thank you to Election Commissioners Matt Studd and Lindbergh Dennis for having the guts to stick by their decision to save money for the county taxpayers and consolidate polling places and put them back into the correct districts where they should be. Just because polling places were moved years ago for some unknown reason doesn't make them legally in the correct place. The current Election Commission is trying to do things according to the laws of the State and with the good of all the county citizens in mind. Seems to me that the three commissioners who caved in and changed their votes are poor risks for maintaining the integrity of the election process if they can be swayed by the whims of a few disgruntled people. Perhaps the lawmakers that appoint the Election Commissioners in each county need to consider this the next time Election Commissioners are up for appointment.
January 13, 2012 at 10:07am
I was disappointed to lose my polling place at Short Mountain School but if the change saves the county a significant amount of money I think that is a good thing. In these austere times all other county budgets deserve close scrutiny. TTT
January 13, 2012 at 12:34pm
My poll location was moved and i also agree with kane and tntntn.

Does anyone know : will state commission uphold this fiasco?
Also does anyone know what this flip flop will cost the tax payers and is there an out pour of discontent over the reversal?
January 13, 2012 at 12:38pm
Bud, I inquired this morning, and no decision has been reached.
January 13, 2012 at 12:43pm
Cannon County officials are notorious for trying to govern with their emotions on their sleeves and less with logic in their minds.

That is evident time and time again when obvious money pits are brought to the table for reductions or cut backs or even when certain people get a massive raise while others get nothing.

Matt's letter above is spot on. It explains the process that was followed, it explains the logic behind the first decision, it explains the savings the first decision made and it explains the unanimous agreement between all five members based off the information they had before them.

Unfortunately it also explains the lack of logic by the three members who changed their vote, the disregard of taxpayer money, the inability to make a decision and stand by it and the emotional decision to change the vote based off phones calls and an extremely small percentage of the voting population who didn't like the idea of giving up tradition despite the cost savings to all of Cannon County's taxpaying citizens.

My precinct would have changed also. I would have had a 25 minute drive to vote vs. a 2 minute drive to vote.

Did I like it? The answer is NO.
Did I cry over it? The answer is No.
Why? Because I trusted in those five members to make a decision that was best for the whole of Cannon County and I was willing to drive further if needed to help this county save money.

More importantly, I agree with all of those who understand how easy it is to vote, how privileged we all are in America and how thankful we should all be that we have the right and the ability to vote in our country compared to those around the world.

Even though my precinct changed I wasn't going to have to walk a mile, stand in line for a day, have the fear of someone pointing a gun at me or know my life was in jeapordy if I didn't vote a certain way. I was just simply asked to vote in the district I was zoned for. Nothing more and nothing less.

This has become another fiasco that could have been avoided by simply standing by the decision that was made and moving on and using more logic and less emotion.
January 18, 2012 at 9:15am

should election commission have ask citizens before moveing polling places
January 18, 2012 at 12:36pm
Well they advertised the meeting well in advance and anyone has the ability to show up and listen, so as far as asking I would say no.

Everyone has a bad habit of trying to learn about what the government is doing after the fact.
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