Letter: Election transparency lacking in North Adams
Election transparency lacking in North Adams
To the editor:
As a college student majoring in politics, I have to look over election data on an almost daily basis. For a recent project, I looked into elections in Ohio; a plethora of data dating back to the 1960s was available, with only minimal searching. For fun, I decided to look at similar data for Massachusetts, Berkshire County, and North Adams. I was saddened by the results of that search.
The Massachusetts secretary of state's office has records for elections dating back to the 1970s, covering both statewide and county election results in a clear, easy to read, and pleasant on the eyes format. The results were broken down by city for every election, all the way back to 1970, with a color-coded graph of the results.
The secretary of state does not, however, keep track of municipal elections in its online database, so I went to the North Adams city clerk's office's website. That's where I realized there was a problem with our city's transparency.
The city clerk's web page is horribly out-of-date. The last city budget available on the home page is from 2012, the last school budget available is from 2011, and election results are nowhere to be found. More recent city budgets can be found with some digging around on the site, under the city reports section. Campaign finance reports are available dating back to 2010, but the most recent is a 2015 filing by Councilor Nancy Bullet. Are city councilors and mayoral candidates not filing these forms?
The only election-related information on the city clerk's page is the schedule for the 2013 city elections. What if someone is considering running in 2017?
I thought that maybe no city in Berkshire County had this information available, so I checked for Pittsfield. Pittsfield has election results, for primaries and general elections, going back to 2012 available online, with only one click from its home page.
Democratic government is built on trust, transparency, and the fairness and openness of elections. Without official public reporting and recording of election results available online, the easiest way for concerned citizens to look it up, that trust is challenged. When the only way citizens can find election results is in the archives of The Berkshire Eagle, democracy is threatened.
Citizens of North Adams need to stand up and demand that the electoral process be more open, and information made more readily available.
Cameron M. Lapine, North Adams A member of the Saint Anselm College Class of 2019, the writer is executive director of both the Saint Anselm College Republicans and the New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans.
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