ONCE there was a time not so long ago when elections at Southbridge Towers would at most generate 20 or 25 proxy votes for Board of Directors candidates or SBT referendums. Recent elections have seen the proxy vote balloon to nearly 300 votes. This recent explosion of proxy votes is the direct consequence of energetic helpers – connected to the present BoD – sent out to “help” some of the elderly and non-English speaking co-operators at SBT to fill out proxy sheets, whether they need assistance or not. On the day of election we could also find BoD members standing in front of various SBT buildings with handfuls of unsigned proxy vote ballots, asking tenants if they have voted yet. Is it surprising then that most of the proxy votes turn out to be for the candidates or referendums favored by the BoD? Wally Dimson, the president of the BoD, when asked at a candidate’s night meeting about this tactic of ballot box stuffing, responded that the other side could do it too. This sort of contempt for democracy is what you expect to hear in Washington, DC.
This time around we won’t see BoD members (sponsors of the privatization plan) standing in front of SBT building entrances with blank proxy ballots in hand (mailed and bar-coded ballots have made this tactic impossible), but I have seen BoD minions slinking through SBT buildings like serpents in the garden, whispering into elderly and non-English speaking co-operators’ ears.
Vote in person if you can. If you must use a proxy ballot, do not let anyone that is not your immediate family or a trusted friend “help” you fill out your ballot. If you think you were talked into sending in a proxy ballot that doesn’t represent your real choice on privatization you can still vote in person and invalidate any previous proxy ballot.