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Owego's Unique Election Process is Packed With History

By Kerry Longobucco.
Tuesday is Election Day in the Village of Owego. Fox 40 took a look at the rich history behind the village's unconventional election process.

Electoral ballots are typically divided by Republicans and Democrats -- but when it comes to parties here in the village of owego -- those two haven't existed since the 1800's.

"Most of the village was Republican," Gerry Turecek, who served as a village trustee in the 1960's, said. "So if you were a democrat, you didnt stand a chance."

Traditional party names were abolished in order to give candidates a fair shot. Groups of candidates come together each election year -- and pick their own party names.

"We have the taxpayer parties, the rebuild parties. We had the oak tree party, we've had the citizen's parties," Ron Marchewka, village clerk, said. "Every year, there's a different party."

It's a unique system -- but as a former village trustee says, it's a system that forces voters to judge each candidate individually.

"You've got to know who the candidates are. You can't just say "Hey, I'm a Republican" and just vote for any Republican," Turecek said.

While most other municipalities hold their elections in November, Owego villagers have always voted in March. The mayor only serves two years at a time, rather than a typical four year term.

"There's been talk about changing it to a four year term," Marchewka said.

That's a change Turecek wouldn't welcome -- he says elections every other year give the voters a louder voice.

"It gives them a lot more control," Turecek said. "If you don't like somebody, you can dump them out of there, and bring somebody else in."

It's an election packed with plenty of tradition but there is something new and exciting in the village this Election Day. For the first time ever, voters will be punching electronic ballots, rather than writing in the name of their candidate by hand.

"We've always gone with the handheld ballots you fill out, and then the election inspectors would have to count each one individually," Marchewka said. "A couple years ago, it took till 6 a.m. to count them all."

"I gotta see what those are. We've never had electronic ballots before," Turecek said.

Voters can cast their ballots from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Owego Central Fire Station.