By Kerry Lippincott, Education Coordinator
In preparation for my program Vote for Me, I’ve probably gathered enough information for several lectures
and blog posts. For example, there’s political
families, Woodlawn Cemetery’s place in political history and presidential sightings. One event that caught my attention was
the Elmira Compact.
At the turn of the 20th
century, vote buying was a common practice not only in Chemung County but across
the country. Men were given money, jobs
and other rewards for voting a particular way or in some cases for not
voting. By 1905 vote buying was a drain
on the local parties’ bank accounts. That
year Republican chairman J. Sloat Fassett wrote and published a letter in The Elmira Advertiser to the Democratic chairman
William H. Lovell. In the letter,
Fassett proposed the “Elmira Compact,” which outlawed vote buying, limited
campaign expenditures (no more than $40 dollars) and sought to prosecute anyone
involved in bribing voters. Both parties
accepted the compact and Lovell and Daniel Sheehan signed it for the Democrats
and Fassett and Seymour Lowman for the Republicans.
The wave of good feeling led to both
parties nominating the same candidate for mayor in 1906. That candidate was 78 year old Zebulon
Brockway. Best known as the first
superintendent of the Elmira Reformatory, Brockway only served one term as
mayor. His primary focus was to improve
city government. During his term of
office, Brockway tackled financial spending by reorganizing the city’s business
structure and paid off debts instead of refunding them, revised the city’s
charter and made extensive improvements throughout the city.
(Now for the shameless plug.) To learn more learn more about Chemung County’s
political history, join us Thursday night at 7 pm for the kickoff to our Fall Lecture Series.