Greenwich Time (Sunday)

RTM can cast vote of faith in registrars

- Alma Rutgers COMMENTARY Alma Rutgers served in Greenwich town government for 30 years.

It looks like the March Representa­tive Town Meeting meeting will be difficult.

Still, there’s hope most members will move beyond the nasty, partisan acrimony that characteri­zed the January meeting. If so, they should easily approve item No. 2 on the Call, which is a resolution authorizin­g the town to accept a grant in the amount of $9,600 from the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) for membership in the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence.

This item was postponed from the January Call when some members created confusion after the RTM voted 104-101 to approve a $500,000 grant from CTCL. Those opposed to accepting the grant objected to this outcome and mounted a campaign to rescind the January vote, as reflected in items Nos. 8 and 9 on the March Call.

The RTM should reject these efforts to rescind and avoid setting a terrible precedent. Those on the losing side of any future RTM vote could always find a reason to rescind, thereby also allowing the first selectman to disrespect such a vote, ultimately underminin­g town governance. The invented reason in this case – a new voting system – is bogus, regardless of the close vote. No prior votes conducted under this system were questioned.

Greenwich should be proud that the office of its registrars of voters has been designated as a Center for Election Excellence. Republican registrar Fred DeCaro and Democratic registrar Mary

Hegarty, in bipartisan cooperatio­n, approach their nonpartisa­n work with a high degree of profession­alism. These public servants are passionate in their mission to conduct the free, fair, secure, and inclusive elections that are the bedrock of our democracy. Thanks to their dedication, we can have confidence in the integrity of our local election process.

In these times of election denial, such profession­alism is of utmost importance and must never be taken for granted. Centers for Election Excellence throughout the country are models for election administra­tors and for the security of democracy.

When a political outcome becomes more important than the integrity of the process, and if election administra­tors cease to uphold the process, democracy crumbles. The stage is set for autocratic rule.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.”

Georgia Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensper­ger refused to “find” that vote Donald Trump wanted for Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. Despite Trump’s threats, Raffensper­ger upheld the integrity of the process.

Monday evening, Hegarty and DeCaro gave an informativ­e presentati­on – “Administer­ing Elections and Sharing Best Practices in a Polarized Environmen­t” – that illustrate­d the importance of keeping politics out of the process, the value of sharing best practices, and the remarkable resources available through membership in the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence.

This Alliance is a program CTCL launched last April with funding from the Audacious Project. Its purpose is to support excellence in U.S. election administra­tion.

It’s difficult to imagine how an RTM member could vote to deny the registrars this membership and deprive Greenwich of such a wonderful resource.

Sole reliance on local government funding for election infrastruc­ture and training is not necessaril­y the best way to ensure election integrity. There’s no expectatio­n that the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation will ever provide the funding that’s necessary to meet the highest standards for election infrastruc­ture and administra­tion. Lack of local government funding for elections is considered a national emergency.

By now, and especially after the registrars’ presentati­on, the wind should be gone from the sails of those who demonized CTCL in January. There’s light shining into those darkly invented nefarious places. Imaginary conspiraci­es have unraveled.

CTCL is not a far-left conspiracy, or “Zuck Bucks 2.0,” as MAGA champions would have it. The registrars’ presentati­on included speakers who are election administra­tors from counties that voted for Trump, a Republican election administra­tor from Utah who serves on the CTCL advisory committee, and a Republican election administra­tor from Colorado who serves on the CTCL board.

CTCL, a nonpartisa­n nonprofit, is designed to help modernize election infrastruc­ture, promote profession­alism in election administra­tion, share best practices, and increase public confidence in an election process that serves as a bulwark of democracy.

Hopefully, the nonpartisa­n RTM has recovered from the partisan infection prevalent in January and will support our registrars in their ongoing effort to protect democracy.

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