CHAUTAUQUA - Are elections legitimate?
That was the question discussed at the Chautauqua Institution on Monday between U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, D-South Buffalo; state Assemblyman William Parment, D-North Harmony; County Executive Greg Edwards; and Stan Lundine, former Jamestown mayor and state lieutenant governor.
The panel discussion was titled ''Restoring Legitimacy to Our Election System: The View from the Federal, State and Local Perspective,'' which featured the three in-office politicians answering questions from Lundine, who moderated the event. The discussion was part of Chautauqua Institution's lecture platform this week focusing on elections, as issues such as financing, length of campaigns and voter apathy will be addressed by politicians, journalists and election experts.
U.S Congressman Brian Higgins and Stan Lundine, former Jamestown mayor, discuss the election process with County Executive Greg Edwards and state Assemblyman William Parment at the Chautauqua Institution on Monday.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips
Lundine asked each politician a series of questions dealing with their office status, like Higgins being asked if he thinks national elections are too long.
''Believe me, I wish it only lasted three weeks,'' Higgins joked about the lengthy presidential campaign that has been ongoing for more than a year. ''It's not going to turn back (the length of national campaigns), it's only going to get worse.''
Parment was asked a question about redistricting at the state level, for which Parment sat on a state committee to do a few years back, and whether the system can be done objectively.
Parment said he dislikes and is suspect about the issue of reform anytime politicians speak on the topic.
''Reform is a cliche driven by politicians,'' Parment said.
However, Parment, after giving some history of the election process, said he doesn't believe a non-partisan commission could make a better decision on redistricting than what the state Legislature did a few years back.
At the county level, Edwards was asked a question dealing with the legitimacy of having party committees appoint the county's election commissioners, instead of giving the jobs to nonpartisan employees.
''It's a highly partisan process,'' Edwards said about the county's Democratic and Republican election commissioners.
However, even with the partisan political connections each commissioner has, Edwards said the process is legitimate and is not hindering the county's election in any fashion.
Edwards and Parment were asked about campaign finance reform on the state and county levels.
Edwards said on the local level that campaign financing is not an issue. He discussed how he had less money than his opponent and it didn't hurt his opportunity to win the election.
''I did not see a situation here where campaign finance was a problem,'' Edwards said.
Parment agreed with Edwards about his assessment about campaign financing at the local level, but said it's different on the state level.
''In Albany, money does the talking,'' Parment said.
The longtime assemblyman said the problem lies with the political party campaign committees that drive elections in marginal districts where elections are close.
''The limitations should be on campaign committees that control all the money,'' he said.