Updated: October 12, 2011
The palace guard surrounding Erie County Executive Chris Collins is chanting against a poll showing Democratic challenger Mark C. Poloncarz in a dead heat with Collins one month before voters elect the next county executive. The Collins cadre howls, among other things, that Siena Research Institute pollsters gave too much weight in their mathematical calculations to the opinions of City of Buffalo voters when this isn’t a year for Buffalonians to turn out in droves. Of course the Collins-camp Republicans would say that. In a contemptible gambit, the county Republican Party has actively discouraged Buffalo voters from going to the polls next month.
The political parties are to place candidates in front of the electorate. That’s their contribution to the democratic process. Except, apparently, when they might jeopardize a candidate atop the ticket, such as Collins. For the Republicans, it is not just a happy coincidence that they could not come up with a candidate for any City Council race, City Court vacancy or County Legislature district concentrated in Buffalo. The GOP aims to suppress turnout in a city where Democrats have a 7-to-1 enrollment advantage and voters, in the main, are less likely to support the Republican incumbent. The Republican overlords prefer to encourage turnout in friendlier suburban precincts and tamp down on contests in Buffalo, even though they have found candidates to run against the odds in past years.
We can find nothing good to say about this practice. It is cynical and sinister. Party hierarchies that play this game — and candidates who go along — show they are not about democracy and fair elections but about subversion as their means to an end. They lose any moral authority to demand fairness elsewhere or to claim the high ground.
As for the poll, while Collins’ followers denigrate its methodology, they will not disclose the methodology employed by their pollster to supposedly show their candidate far ahead of Poloncarz. The Siena poll — commissioned by The Buffalo News and WGRZ-TV — finds that voters generally hold Collins in high regard. Seventy-seven percent of the respondents said he’s doing a fair job or better. Fifty-five percent rated the current county executive favorably, compared with 49 percent for Poloncarz. And in line with the Collins’ mantra, they ranked county spending, jobs and taxes as their most important issues.
Are all those results wrong, too?
The Siena poll provides a base line for the campaign’s final month. Another poll shortly before Election Day will show how voters rate the candidates just before the big day. We suspect the Collins flock dislikes a poll showing that the race is neck and neck because it will assist Poloncarz’s fund-raising and inject some sorely needed energy into his campaign. So to counter that message, the Collins folks claim the poll should not be believed. That’s politics.
But suppressing turnout by refusing to put up candidates? That’s dirty politics. Voters everywhere, especially those in Buffalo, should turn the tables and express their conscience on Election Day.