Fearing disruptive anti-abortion protestors, St. Mary’s has cancelled an event on instant runoff voting featuring former State Senator Alma Wheeler Smith.

“Subject: statement on cancellation of “Fixing Elections” presentation
From: “Fr. Tom Firestone”
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 14:45:27 -0500

February 6, 2004

Dear Peace and Justice Ministry,

I am writing to address the concerns some individuals have raised surrounding the invitation of former state Senator, Alma Wheeler Smith, to speak here at St. Mary Student Parish.

St. Mary’s Peace & Justice Ministry asked Ms. Smith to speak at a small education gathering of St. Mary’s parishioners interested in the topic “Fixing Elections.” She has a strong history of advocacy for the poor and is known for her work on behalf of victims’ rights and justice for juveniles. The subject matter to be addressed at the St. Mary’s gathering was one in which many recognize her intellectual and practical expertise. St. Mary Student Parish seeks to promote every dimension of Catholic social teaching as an integral part of our faith formation, including preferential option for the poor. St. Mary’s did not intend to create a forum for Ms. Smith to share her views on any topic other than that of the election process and issues related to the poor and disenfranchised.

It has come to my attention that individuals (many of whom are not active members of St. Mary’s) planned to protest Ms. Smith’s presence by demonstrations at the Confirmation celebration of high school students at another area parish, as well as likely similar demonstrations at the talk on elections at St. Mary’s. In light of the plan of these individuals to demonstrate at the Confirmation Mass of a nearby parish and out of pastoral concern for these youth celebrating such a special day in the sacramental life of the Church, I have decided to cancel the education gathering related to the elections, scheduled for Monday, February 9.

My pastoral recommendation is that we each pray and silently reflect where the Holy Spirit is leading us and that we keep in our minds that such occasions as these are laden with opportunities for sinning against one another. Please let charity be our aim in all.

Sincerely in Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Fr. Tom Firestone”

Curious about “Instant Runoff Voting?” fellow Arborblog EdgeWise has an interesting post about the cancelled event and IRV more generally:

“Ann Arbor (MI) elected its first black mayor, Al Wheeler, using IRV in 1975. The system was repealed in a low-turnout, spring election. The repeal effort was sponsored by backers of the mayor candidate who had the most first choice votes but failed to win a majority when 2nd choice votes of eliminated candidates were counted. The challenge of hand counting IRV ballots, which took one week and did not go smoothly in this case, played a role in the campaign to repeal the system. Most modern voting equipment, including electronic Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) and optical scanners, is compatible with instant runoff voting. More information on IRV is available at the Center for Voting and Democracy. … “

Author: Rob