Assembly member Amy Paulin (D-88) and Sen. George Latimer (D-37) held a joint meeting at the Eastchester Public Library on Wednesday to hear what residents thought about the proposal to move the elections.
There was near unanimous support from members of the crowd, who said that inclement weather and a lack of awareness cause fire district elections to have perennially poor attendance.
Ron Shindel, who has been an election inspector in the town for more than a decade, said that often the entire voting attendance is firefighters, their friends and families.
“One of the biggest reasons people don’t come out, as opposed to the school elections, is that we don’t vote for the fire budget,” he said. “It’s often run unopposed as well. Why should people come out when it’s icy out in December to vote?”
The bill, as it’s currently written, doesn’t specify which date the election would be moved to. If a decision were to be made on a date, it would then be amended. Proposed dates at the meeting ranged from May, with the school election, to September, to the general election in November.
Resident Shawn Stewart said that rather than have the fire elections get lost in the shuffle of November elections, they should get their own separate date.
“In November, we have all sorts of elections, whether its local, county, state or for a judge. We don’t want to get caught in the quagmire, and hold even more debates, and put more signs up,” he said. “It would be better moved to a warmer climate on a separate date.”
Dennis Winter, the chair of the Eastchester Fire District, agreed that it should be moved to the general election, no matter what budgetary concessions need to be made. He stressed the importance of having it at a time and date when the most informed voters can make their choice.
“We have a big budget here and we have an aggressive fire attack. We need the best candidates to be running, and we need more than 600 people coming out to vote,” he said. “What we’re doing now is just wrong. We’re not getting the best candidates out there to run for fire commissioner, and it’s a disservice to the community.”
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