Monday, October 1, 2012

The Elmira Compact

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. 

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