Tonawanda News

Opinion

November 9, 2012

READER LETTER: Niagara election board failed voters

Tonawanda News — I am one of those people who pesters everyone they know in the weeks leading up to the election. “Are you registered to vote? Do you know where your polling place is?” I registered to vote the first month I was eligible to do so, and encouraged everyone I know to do the same.

With this commitment to civic responsibility, I was more surprised than anyone to find myself standing in line at the Niagara County Board of Elections (BoE) at the eleventh hour on Election Day, trying to get a court order so that I could once again participate in the political process.

Last month I moved from New York City to Niagara County, and found that the voting address change I submitted at the DMV wouldn’t be valid for the general election. I called the BoE to find out what I needed to do, and thus began two weeks of frustration.

The judge signing the court orders was only available during working hours, so I needed to schedule around my lunch hour. I was told I could see the judge at 1 p.m. in the BoE office, and arrived to be told he’d actually be in the courthouse at 2. The staff told me my only other option was to come between 4 and 4:15 p.m. on Election Day. I diligently arrived at 3:45 p.m. where I was greeted with a melee; there was mass confusion and a mob of people all told to show up at the same time.

The BoE staff belligerently insisted to any who inquired that the judge was seeing people “first come, first serve” which everyone could see was patently untrue. Polite inquiries were met with snotty responses, and one staff member went so far as to tell a group, myself included, that we were there by choice and if we didn’t want to wait in line (upwards of three hours for some) we didn’t have to vote.

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