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In Sykesville, ballot harvesting & generational gender crusading
Gender crusading & ballot harvesting
Stacy Link knew she was making history when she was elected Mayor of Sykesville in 2021, the first woman and openly-gay person to win the town’s highest seat in it’s more than one-hundred year history. Link beat incumbent conservative Mayor Ian Shaw by 111 votes in what became a record turnout for the small town of 4,500 people, with 50% more ballots cast this election cycle than last.
Link ran a campaign oddly focused on gender and even sex-organ innuendo, featuring one campaign sign on the side of a Main Street building that read, “The Best Man For This Job Is A Woman”, and another, outside of her residence, reading “Bigger Isn’t Always Better (Unless it’s the size of my sign)”.
Link told the Carroll County Times that, on election day, other women were blowing her kisses and pumping their fists in the air for her as they went to and from the polls. And how once it was confirmed she won, dads with daughters sent her congratulatory messages, finally their little girls would have a role model, a strong woman in leadership to look up to.
Turns out Mona Becker was accomplishing the same feat just North in Westminster at the same time, becoming that town’s first openly-gay woman Mayor too. Carroll Magazine announced that the two “Madam Mayors” had blazed their own trails and broken the glass ceiling in Carroll Government.
Indeed. In fact gay women are now over-represented when it comes to Carroll’s mayorships, holding 25% of the county’s posts while making up a markedly smaller portion of the broader population.
But for Link, making history is nothing new, she’s done it before. As a 9 year old girl in Cambria County Pennsylvania in the mid 1980s, she decided she wanted to play Little League baseball with the boys. But the League’s Officials, all of whom were men, told her no, that she had to play softball with the girls instead.
That was the League’s policy, had been that way for at-least thirty years. Once the kids turn 9, they age out of co-ed, then boys play with boys and girls play with girls. Of course girls were encouraged to play, that was the reason they started a softball program to begin with. But as boys start to get bigger, playing together becomes a safety issue for girls.
Link’s father, Regis, who had previously been elected Borough Councilman with 16 write-in votes and worked in the county’s Domestic Relations Office which settled paternity issues and enforced payment of child-support, responded by suing the Little League for discrimination, claiming it had done his daughter an “injustice” by “intentionally violating her civil rights”.
The League Officials reacted with confusion, discrimination? They thought it was just “common knowledge” that boys and girls played sports separately once they hit a certain age.
The case was eventually raised to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission which ruled in Link’s favor, determining that, yes, she did have the right to force her way onto the boys team, her Civil Rights had been violated.
Reacting to being ruled against, the League Officials maintained that, even if they were in the wrong legally, they still felt right morally. Then they vacated their posts and the League folded. It just wasn’t worth the hassle, they said, the aggravation.
When a new League eventually formed in the old one's place, it operated in a way more in keeping with the times: girls were allowed to play with boys, and there would no longer be any tryouts, everyone made the team. The registration fee doubled too, to cover the cost of liability insurance the old League recommended the new League purchase due to the added safety risk of girls playing with boys.
When the new League’s gender-inclusive season finally arrived, curiously, not one single girl signed up to play baseball with the boys, despite having just won the right. That includes Link, who after it all, ended up playing softball with girls anyway in a separate League.
She played all the way through high-school as a standout and even into college, all part of an upward trajectory that would later see her become an occupational therapist, a profession where women make up 83% of the workforce, a Sykesville Town Councilwoman, and finally, Mayor.
Cambria County on the other hand is the picture of a place left behind by modernity. A former steel-town, it was once the proud home of Cambria Iron Company, an innovative metals manufacturer founded in the 1850s that helped produce the railroads needed to connect the wild American West to the industrialized American East.
Then during the 1940s, after being acquired by Bethlehem Steel, it was instrumental in the Allied World War effort, producing metals for the ships, planes, and cannons our boys needed to beat back the Nazis and the Imperialist Japanese as they jointly sought world domination.
Cambria’s population swelled from the wealth of industrial work in the area, growing ten times over from 1850 to 1940, only to collapse precipitously since then as manufacturing plants were increasingly found non-compliant with environmental regulations and shipped overseas where labor was cheaper.
Hanging on, as of 1973, Cambria’s plants still employed more than 11,000 workers, overwhelmingly men. But by 1982, only 2,000 were left. And come the 1990s, there was nothing. Contemplating the decline, one Pennsylvania welder told the New York Times that the plants used to be so busy you couldn’t hear yourself think, then they turned quiet as the grave.
Just so, today Cambria is the fastest shrinking and most-pill saturated county in all of Pennsylvania, offering 61.5 pills to every one of its residents according to state representative Frank Burns. And from those pills and other opiates, it is men doing the bulk of the dying, accounting for 67% of the county’s lethal overdoses from 2015 to 2017 according to a report jointly released by the DEA and the University of Pittsburgh.
Now as then, they say the camaraderie that comes from masculine sport can be a needed reprieve for boys stuck in tough circumstances, maybe even a permanent ticket to something better for the talented and the hard working — and they are right.
But it appears that is a little less so the case when a neighborhood kid throws a juvenile tantrum at being reasonably told no and gets affirmed by misguided parents and a broken legal system that confuses exclusively male sporting for discrimination and decides unseriousness is the only path forward.
But hey, that is the law right? Progress even. Some impossible to interpret amalgam of Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Title IX, and progressive case precedent, all at the expense of what the plain eye can see is good and decent: boys playing baseball with boys, and girls playing softball with girls.
That was America, literally its pastime, until the age of entitlement came and a generation of social opportunists demolished freedom of association with bogus grievance lawsuits only to be heralded as heroes and history makers for a lifetime by local journalists who have neither the imagination nor the conviction required to capture actual truth.
Which leaves us only with the recent revelation that, during the 2021 Sykesville Mayoral election, the one that Link won with the “record turnout” where all the history was made, there were seven individuals who in aggregate submitted 115 ballots in a race that was won by 111 votes.
Maryland State law does permit what Ballotpedia calls “ballot harvesting”, where voters can designate an authorized agent to pick up and return a ballot on their behalf. The law was originally conceived of with the notion of a household in mind, which is why many states, like Massachusetts, require a voter’s designated agent to be a family member.
But in Maryland, no such stipulations exist, meaning campaign operatives are free to collect and submit ballots for their candidate at scale, an unsavory but ultimately legal tactic that makes for yet another murky departure from voting in a booth with a pencil on election day.
Data surfaced through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that Link’s own spouse, Dana Alonzi, submitted 49 ballots in the race, Julie Decca Maria, the Executive Director of the Downtown Sykesville Connection, submitted 12, and Jeannie Nichols, formerly a Democrat candidate for Carroll County Commissioner, submitted 8, among others who submitted in bulk.
It remains unclear why the people of a town that is barely two miles wide, that already offers absentee voting, mail-in voting, early voting, and election day voting, all supported peripherally by voter accessibility services, would be in need of ballot harvesters too.
Like would the people whose ballots were harvested not have voted otherwise? What characteristics do the people in this population share? How exactly were the ballots procured and under what pretext?
But of course, whether it be 1985 or 2021, questions like these, that buck the prescribed progressive narrative, rarely get asked. And so the story will remain: Link won, it was a record turnout, a historic moment, #Progress.
And the whole Little League lawsuit thing, a heroic political origin story.
Those are the things to remember.
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Carroll County Times, May 5, 2021, Stacy Link elected as Sykesville’s first female mayor
Carroll Magazine, April 5, 2022, Madam Mayors
Altoona Mirror, November 6, 1981, Cambria County Election Results Determine Victors
Altoona Mirror, October 9, 1984, Patton Little League Officials quit after barring girl
Altoona Mirror, March 11, 1985, Patton: No word on girls in baseball
Altoona Mirror, March 25, 1985, Patton girls: Play ball!
Altoona Mirror, April 2, 1985, Patton group about faces, reinstates old boundaries
Altoona Mirror, August 14, 1985, Patton Little League gets new discrimination blast
Altoona Mirror, June 21, 2021, Former Cambria County native continues making a difference
New York Times, October 3, 1982, Steel Industry Woes Weigh Heavily on Johnstown
Johnstown Area Heritage Foundation, History of Steel in Johnstown
Drug Enforcement Agency with the University of Pittsburgh, The Opioid Threat in Pennsylvania
Rep. Frank Burns, July 29, 2019, Cambria hardest-hit by opioid pill dumping, deserves fair restitution
Wikipedia, Cambria County, Pennsylvania