The Reporter has it on good information that all may not have been “on the up and up” with regards to election day here in the city of Niagara Falls.
“I hope the Board of Elections is looking into this,” posted Niagara Falls Police officer and Air Force Reserve Technical Sergeant Christopher James on Facebook Tuesday afternoon after casting his ballot, “I️ know a few voters have called (to complain to) the Board of Elections and they were shrugged off.”
He continued, “Election inspectors in Niagara Falls are incorrectly telling voters they cannot vote for City Council candidates in the same column… This is false! If you haven’t voted yet, please do, and know that you can choose any three candidates no matter the line or column.”
Mysteriously disappearing affidavit votes, campaign mailings of dubious origin, electioneering within the 100 foot buffer zone outside of polling places – just a few of the eyebrow-raising aspects of the Niagara Falls electoral experience over the years.
What may have happened Tuesday, however, at no fewer than five different polling places, appears far more serious – alleged interference by actual poll workers, deliberately giving misinformation to voters in a possibly coordinated attempt to influence the outcome of the City Council election… and a ballot sheet carefully constructed to favor one candidate over the others.
Specifically, accusations have been made that election inspectors at the following locations, 79th Street, College Avenue, Grace Lutheran, GJ Mann and Hyde Park schools, instructed, and in some cases, insisted, that voters fill in circles for three candidates for the City Council instead of one or two, effectively diluting their vote if their original intention was to “bullet” vote for only one.
As Kennedy campaign manager Ken Cosentino remarked, “They’re telling voters that you must vote for 3 candidates. This is FALSE. You can bullet vote just one or two candidates if you so choose.”
Mr. James confirmed Mr. Cosentino’s contention, stating that “I️ know of at least three sites where inspectors are doing this and also providing false information to voters – 79th Street, College Avenue and Grace Lutheran.”
Bear in mind that this is a police officer and Air Force sergeant raising these suspicions. Another upstanding citizen, Niagara Falls National Heritage board member and NCCC professor Robert Borgatti, underscored the disturbing accusations: “I had heard this was happening during the primary election as well.”
Similarly, a young Niagara Falls woman named Adelia Gueli related, “An inspector at GJ Mann tried to tell me that I HAD to vote for Jim Faso, even though he was the only choice available and there was no way in hell I would vote for him, because I couldn’t leave a column blank or it (the voting machine) wouldn’t accept it.'”
And in possibly the most precise, not to mention harrowing, account of the day, Karen Caso recounted the following:
“I just got back from voting at Grace Lutheran. A couple of things were confusing. First, there were three columns for council. The older gentleman at the sign-in table said we could only mark once in each column. The first column, I wanted two of those candidates and one from another column. He said “No,” it will void my vote. The woman next to him said we could pick three from any of the columns. The man got upset and told her, “No, that is why so many votes earlier are invalid.”
“Why couldn’t I choose any three I wanted for council?”
In fact, one political insider we consulted was very explicit, “I think it was an attempt to get people to vote down the line and get KG (Kristen Grandinetti) elected.”
Our analysis is that, considering the results of the primary election, with Andrew Touma and Bill Kennedy leading the field, it could have proven advantageous to Kristen Grandinetti for voters to be steered, or even coerced, into voting for three candidates instead of one or two, especially given that people tend to vote along party lines.
That would have improved her chances of winning the third seat vis a vis those of Republicans Pascoal, Voccio and Archie, none of whom garnered half as many votes as Ms. Grandinetti scored in the September primary election. It could have turned out to be an effective, though illicit, strategy.
Upon scrutinizing the actual ballot, it also becomes clear that Sam Archie and Robert Pascoal might actually have been deprived of votes, since they shared columns with the two frontrunners, Mr. Touma and Mr. Kennedy.
And it could explain why Chris Voccio won over both Mr. Pascoal and Mr. Archie, having been bested by the former and in a dead heat with the latter in the September primary. He was paired with the decidedly weakest Democratic candidate, Ms. Grandinetti.
In any event, if there was a conspiracy to benefit Ms. Grandinetti by pairing her with the perceived weakest Republican candidate Mr. Voccio in column three, the fact that voters gravitated to Chris Voccio all but derailed it.
This week the Reporter will submit a FOIA request to the Niagara County Board of Elections requesting identification of all poll workers and elections inspectors at the five suspect locations, as well as any available documentation of citizen complaints lodged with the Board on election day.