Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Press Release on Absentee Vote Count in Columbia County

Hudson -  In what is now becoming the routine in Columbia County, Republican operatives and attorneys have descended upon the County Board of Elections to deny the rights of voters in Columbia County.  After Republicans reneged on a scheduling agreement, the impasse was resolved after a court order and appeal and counting finally began of absentee ballots more than ten hours behind schedule.

Democratic Elections Commissioner Virginia Martin stated that "we had all expected to start the counting of absentee ballots this morning at 9am. Unfortunately after an agreement had previously been reached on the schedule for counting paper ballots, the Republican Commissioner changed his mind." Martin continued, "After meeting the Republicans more than halfway, there was no compromise from the other side. This resulted in a wasted day for all of the poll watchers, candidates and party officials who had assembled at the appointed time of 9am. This was a tragic waste of the taxpayers' money."

Once the opening of absentee and other paper ballots began, Republican representatives routinely challenged 2nd home owners, students and other valid voters' ballots, in an effort to win the five local races still left to be decided in the county.  The Republican party is spending an exorbitant amount of money on high-priced attorneys and operatives.  All this without having filed complete, or in some cases any, financial reports with the NYS Board of Elections.  The voters who cast absentee ballots in Columbia County are being disenfranchised, and we are all unable to even determine who is paying the bills.

This tactic reached its peak previously during the extremely tight race to fill the vacated seat left by the appointment of Senator Gillibrand between Scott Murphy and Jim Tedisco.  The same players in that weeks-long fiasco are now back in Columbia County and up to their same old tricks. They are trying to throw out ballots on technicalities; students who did not put the name of their school on absentee ballot applications or workers who omitted the name of their employer, or questioning the right of 2nd home owners to vote at the residence of their choice. They are particularly targeting people who have New York City or Florida addresses. 

Christopher Nolan, Chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee, said:  "We believe that the profiling being employed by the Republicans is discriminatory and is harassment of legitimate voters, the aim of which is to discourage Democratic voters from registering and voting in Columbia County. These voters pay a significant amount of the taxes in Columbia County; they contribute to our libraries, schools, fire houses, local civic organizations and our economy.  The Columbia County Democratic Committee stands with all of these voters to vote where they choose to vote and to have their votes counted, as is their right."

The issue of 2nd home owners in particular has been resolved by the courts.  Any voter who has more than one residence may choose which single residence they would choose to use to register to vote.  Yet since the Republican operatives consider 2nd home owners to lean more toward the Democrats, they are routinely attempting to disenfranchise these voters. 

Counsel for the Columbia County Democratic Committee, Kathleen O'Keefe stated: "It is an outrage that people who have been registered and voting in Columbia County, some since the 1970s, are having their ballots contested on residency issues."

After the Murphy/Tedisco election, the Columbia County Democratic Committee warned the voters of Columbia County that the tactics employed in that race might very well become the routine operating procedure for the Republican party in our local races.  That prediction has now come true.