Challenges to votes in Fraser and Grand Lake threaten democratic process
August 20, 2008
Democracy and our electoral system are facing unfortunate challenges in Grand County that could undermine the very basis of our system of government. I refer to the ongoing attacks on the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District Board of Directors and the continuing “investigation” relating to voter registration lists in Grand Lake.
In the interests of full disclosure, readers should know that I’ve been hired to assist both Glenn Harrington and the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District in public relations work. However, I am writing this letter on my own time.
If there ever was a vote in the county that can be confidently called legitimate, it’s the vote for the $19.5 million bond issue for improvements in the Fraser Rec District that includes a new Fraser Valley recreation center and a new Pole Creek Golf Course Clubhouse. That vote has been challenged and upheld at both the county and state levels. This strikes me as an overwhelming official endorsement of the voters’ wishes last November.
This clear-cut statement of the voters’ wishes continues to face challenges, however, in the form of “concerned citizens” armed with money and a lawyer. The pecking away at the board over conflicts of interest and closed meetings may ultimately result in some sort of official legal action filed against the rec district.
That is, of course, the right of these citizens. However, any such action would, in effect, amount to a lawsuit against themselves since, as property owners of the district, they are part and parcel of the district. The expenses related to all these actions are, again, the expenses of the property owners in the district. Any such suit would be, in reality, like shooting themselves in the collective foot of all the district property owners. But that’s their right. Anyone can sue anyone or anything over any issue.
But my real concern here is how these efforts represent really nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the electoral process. The people of the Fraser Valley voted in favor of proceeding with the direction of the bond issue vote. Yet now this group ” unhappy with the votes cast by the majority ” want their way, even if it costs the district money; even if it imperils the district itself.
Complaints about executive sessions (closed meetings) are a smokescreen since it was made clear last August that the center would be located at Grand Park. This was no secret.
Worries over conflicts of interest are also really nothing more than noise since all conflicts were acknowledged and the law was followed accordingly. Requests for closed meeting minutes amount to nothing more than a fishing expedition.
The majority of voters want the rec center and other improvements. Will the right of the minority to sue trump the rights of the majority vote? Fraser Valley citizens should consider this question carefully.
In Grand Lake the problem is even more ominous since I think the town’s investigation of voters and voter registration lists represents voter intimidation and even discrimination. This is no laughing matter as our federal right to vote embraces the idea that any effort to intimidate or discourage a class or group of voters from participating in the electoral process represents discrimination and an abrogation of voter rights.
The open-ended nature of the investigation and the attempt to single out second-home owners and absentee ballots certainly seems to target a group of legal voters. It also creates a threatening atmosphere that would tend to discourage that very group of voters from wanting to participate in the process.
Would you feel confident about registering to vote in Grand Lake if you knew a town clerk was going to check you out and then, possibly, refer your name to the District Attorney? And what if you knew any real or imagined infraction could result in felony charges? This is wrong. It is, I contend, intimidation that contradicts the intent of our federal voting rights.
It’s hard enough to get people to register and vote in America as it is. Do we really need to discourage voter registration and participation in this manner? If there are challenges to the election, let those take place after the fact, as before. But this attempt before the fact amounts to fear-mongering and intimidation.
Even here in little ol’ Grand County, the right to sue should take a back seat to the majority’s voting rights. Efforts to interfere with the intent of the voters and the right to vote should be considered with the ultimate seriousness.
I can only hope that Grand Lake and the Fraser Valley can surmount these challenges to our most sacred right ” the right to vote.