Minority leader: Primary issues ‘being blown out of proportion for political gain’

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Minority Leader Vince Felder addressed Tuesday’s Primary Day issues on Friday. He said it’s being blown out of proportion.

Folder said while he knows and agrees there were problems on Tuesday, he said this is no different than any other year. Others such as Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart, said what happened Tuesday is unacceptable and are calling for the Board of Elections commissioners to resign.

“This election was not a fiasco, this is being blown out of proportion by people for political gain,” said Felder. He said he can’t think of a year when they weren’t issues at polling sites.

“The election commissioners took care of that on Tuesday, they removed the individuals that were causing the problems and put other people in place to make sure that it stopped.”

Some candidates said they received calls from voters who said they had received the wrong ballots, specifically at the Baden St. polling site. Folder said this was due to poll workers not checking receipts to determine which ballot voters should receive. On Thursday, Acting Democratic Election Commissioner, LaShana Boose, also commented on the mixup.

“I don’t believe it’s the margin of error in which some of the candidates may feel it is because when I physically got there it appeared that the poll workers were issuing the correct ballots to the correct voters,” Boose said.

Monroe County Legislator in District 21, Rachel Barnhart said Felder’s comments are just “excuses about Tuesday’s meltdown.” She also said this in a full statement:

“The pandemic created challenges for counties across the state, but news reports indicate only Monroe County and the notoriously-troubled New York City had extensive Primary Day meltdowns. 

Voters were issued the wrong ballots, voters didn’t receive all of their ballots, polling sites didn’t open on time, and workers were poorly trained. There were not enough polling sites. The few polling sites available did not accommodate social distancing. What’s more, not all voters received absentee ballots they requested.

What happened Tuesday was very serious, as it undermined faith in our elections and damaged trust in our democracy. That’s why Commissioners Lisa Nicolay and Lashana Boose should resign. Their respective parties should immediately act to replace them with competent elections administrators.

Nicolay and Boose have admitted they struggled with new election mandates and technology that was implemented last year. Their lack of expertise forced them to ask the legislature to approve six supervisor jobs to make up for their inability to manage an election.

We heard a lot of excuses at the Commissioners’ press conference today. We heard a commssioner say voters given the wrong ballots wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome. We heard them complain about having to send out tens of thousands of absentee ballot applications and ballots. None of this excuses what happened.”

Back in March, there was disagreement between the executive committee and the legislature about choosing a new election commissioner. There’s also been disagreement about six new Board of Elections training positions. Adam Bello originally vetoed the jobs and the county legislature overrode that veto. Many Democrats felt the jobs would cause taxes to increase. Felder said he wanted all these positions filled before the Primary.

“Most people who voted on Tuesday reported no problems but ironically the one place where we said the election is most important, the reason we needed a fully functioning Board of Elections, is where the issues were,” he said.

The new jobs are now approved and will be filled before the November election. On Thursday, the commissioners said they believe these new employees will help train poll workers better and eliminate some of the issues such as those faced on Tuesday.

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