Commissioner Foster’s statements sow doubt on electoral process

Cambridge’s election for five commissioners and the mayor will be held on Oct. 17 at Chesapeake College. With only nine weeks to go, social media and local publications are already filled with declarations, campaign websites, ZOOM meetings, and Facebook pages dedicated to the candidates.

Yard signs are popping up and “meet the candidate events” have started. It’s going to be a challenge to hold an election during a health crisis and these candidates are going to have to be creative.
Unfortunately, discussions about voter suppression, electoral theft, ballot tampering and other sinister acts have also started to crop up. These unfounded, and false, conspiracy theories create a dangerous perception and can discourage voter turn out. Democracy only works when the voters have confidence in the electoral process.

Recently, I have tuned in to listen to an internet radio show that interviews local leaders and facilitates community participation in a call-in format. You can tune in every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Dj Skillz of NYCS Urban/RnB:Dj Skillz of NYCS on Mixlr.
Commissioner LaShon Foster is currently the commissioner for Ward 3, and officially has declared her candidacy for mayor. She is also a regular on the show.

It is my opinion that she is using this media opportunity to push hate and fear, in an attempt to delegitimize the election before it is even held. Between now and the election, I plan to address her statements with verifiable facts, since it appears that there is no mechanism to hold our leaders to a standard of honesty and accountability, other than my own right to free speech.

Here are just a few of her direct comments from the interviews (these have been transcribed from a recording of the radio shows):
“We don’t even know what kind of security they got at Chesapeake College. We don’t know how they’re not gonna be tampered with.”
The building does not control the election. People do. The company running the election will have the assistance of city employees. In addition, there will be experienced election judges and seasoned volunteers. A retired federal worker from the NSA, the National Security Agency, will assist with the day-to-day communications during the election cycle.

If Commissioner Foster has concerns, she should encourage people to be trained as poll watchers and ask for volunteers to work the polls.
“They’re going to hire somebody else, they’re going to hire to my knowledge, a lawyer who has ran elections before. How much faith do I have in a lawyer when I see what a lawyer and a judge have done for our city already? So, do I know that this is not connected, and how do I know that it won’t be rigged so that our votes are not counted and their votes are doubled?”

The implication here is that since Commissioner Steve Rideout is a lawyer and former judge, and the election company, True Ballot, is owned by a lawyer, there must be a conspiracy. This is completely ridiculous and without merit.
It is simply assumed guilt by association. If Commissioner Foster has specific evidence of wrongdoing, she should provide it, otherwise, she should be subject to libel laws. I would also like Commissioner Foster to clarify, what do you mean by “our votes are not counted” and “their votes are doubled”?

“They have hired someone to run our election who has had very little experience with municipal elections. I have no idea where they get their directions from.”
Here are the facts. True Ballot is a highly respected election service with 25 years worth of experience. (TrueBallot.com). They provide election services for thousands of public entities. Their auditing system is considered to be the most accurate, efficient, and transparent auditing solution available.
Their patented system provides a level of confidence unmatched by any other technology. Is it possible that Commissioner Foster does not understand this technology?

The next series of statements by Commissioner Foster are truly frightening, in that she is challenging both the integrity of the mail-in voting process, and the US Postal Service. Again, offering no evidence. I can only surmise her intent is to prejudge the validity of the results of the election. These are her words:
“So your ballot can be tampered with. And as a constituent and a resident voting you won’t even know if your ballot made it in the mail.”
“So to me that is another form of voter suppression. This particular election is going to be one of all times in the state of Maryland if we do not get our governor some the state of Maryland and other (inaudible) to come in make Cambridge do this election right.”

“Make Cambridge realize that we are not going to just sit here and let you walk all over this and we are going to accept the results of this bogus election that is set up to be fraudulent.”
“It is going to be an all mail-out ballot. But there will be no signature verification and once you mail your ballot back it’s going to go to a post office and it’s going to sit there until the election day. And if anybody knows what the post office looks like on the side, it’s completely open. Open to all the postal workers and anybody who comes back there for any reason whatsoever.”
“So our election process has gone back and it appears to be voter suppression right down to the fact that they moved it from the normal place where we have it at Sailwinds to Chesapeake College where you will not be able to do any kind of campaigning with signs or anything unless it’s done in the back of the college where nobody can see you at.”

A council vote was held to choose the polling venue. Commissioner Foster voted to have the election held at Sailwinds at a cost of $6,000 a day with the real possibility that it would be needed for two days in the event of a probable run off. Chesapeake College is free. The city can authorize political representatives to be on Poplar Street sidewalks as well as the back parking lot. Commissioner Foster, what is your motive for wanting the election to be held at Sailwinds?

Commissioner Foster’s statement:
“Sailwinds is willing to have the election there. We have to have the vote to have the election there but the vote was not for us. But it’s going to be held presently at Chesapeake College. Now that’s a fight that Mr. Sydnor and I currently are still doing. We are currently still fighting to try to get this moved back to Sailwinds.”
Commissioner Foster, the vote has been taken. You mislead the citizens when you make statements that lead them to believe that you can override the decisions made by council.
In this next statement, Commissioner Foster insinuates that there are two sets of rules and that one particular “community” does not need to follow them. This is not true. There are no rules governing when a potential candidate can begin to campaign. You can announce your intention, create a Facebook page, hold events and put up signs before the official application to run is available. She implies that candidates are selectively given candidate packets at different times. This is patently false.
“The other community has been campaigning. It’s illegal because you haven’t even sent out a packet. But nothing is going to be done about it while our community is going to be given 45 days to try to pull everybody together to get these votes together.”
“We rightfully own, we are the majority in the city of Cambridge so we should have at least four seats. If not all five.”

She continues to use the phrase “voter suppression.” Commissioner Foster, what you are doing by continuing to push false narratives is real voter suppression. Your false attacks on the system actually discourages participation. “Why bother voting if my vote doesn’t count?”
Commissioner Foster, nobody or one particular group “owns” a political seat. The seats belong to the people of the City of Cambridge. They will decide who they want to represent them. This decision will be made at the ballot box.
Commissioner Foster makes these claims without rationale and without evidence. These absurd claims shake the foundation of our election process.
Commissioner Foster, please re-evaluate your message. Run on your specific and verifiable positions. Step up and use responsible rhetoric. Offer the citizens real solutions to real problems.
A good mayor sells the future. They provide and can sell that vision to the public. Commissioner Foster, what is your vision?

Good mayors also inspire. Commissioner Foster, how have you inspired the citizens in Ward 3?
Commissioner Foster, don’t opt for unproven calls of cheating. Stop going for the cheap applause lines.
Barbara Knepp is a resident of Ward 3.