HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Columbia County Democratic Committee has been accused of voter fraud by the county’s Republican election commissioner. Commissioner Kelly Miller-Simmons has filed a complaint alleging the committee misused mail indicia and fraudulently misrepresented an absentee mailing that did not come from the Columbia County Board of Elections.
Miller-Simmons said she heard of the mailing list late Friday after already receiving calls from voters who had received the mailing after already requesting an absentee ballot. She went on to describe the mailing as “a deliberate effort to mislead voters.”
“I received a copy of the mailing. It was an envelope addressed to Democratic voters with a return address in the corner from the Columbia County Board of Elections.
It used the “Official Election Mail Authorized by the US Postal Service” indicia authorized by the Post Office for official election mail only. It contains a pre-filled State of New York absentee ballot application with a return envelope to the County Board of Elections. I feel that it was clearly meant to mislead voters into believing it was official mail from the Columbia County Board of Elections.”Commissioner Miller-Simmons.
Miller-Simmons also claimed that the mailing in question did not come from the Board of Elections, and the Board of Elections did not approve the mailing nor give permission for their address to be used.
Ken Dow, Columbia County’s Democratic Commissioner of Elections, has made it clear the accusations are Miller-Simmons’ individual complaint and not an action of the Board of Elections.
Dow did acknowledge the Columbia County Board of Elections shouldn’t have been used as a return address on the mailings, saying: “if it was done by choice, it was not good judgement.” He also stated it is not clear how this came to happen as the Democratic Committee worked with the US Postal Service to prepare the envelopes.
The Chair of the Columbia County Democratic Committee, Keith Kanaga, has labeled the allegations a “partisan attack by someone who should know better,” and dismissed the notion that the mailing is inappropriate as “nonsense.”
Firing back, Kanaga describes the complaint as an attempt to suppress voter turnout and encourages everyone who has received an absentee ballot application to complete it and return it to the Board of Elections immediately.
Kanaga says claimed that the indicia used is from the firm used to mail the applications, and the designs were reviewed by the U.S. Postal Service. No public or Board of Election funds were used to produce or send the mailing.
Keith Kanaga’s full statement to NEWS10 can be seen below:
The Columbia County Democratic Committee has mailed absentee ballot applications to a large number of voters in Columbia County, encouraging them to request absentee ballots. All costs associated with the mailing were paid for by the Committee; no public funds, or Board of Elections funds, were used. The envelope designs were reviewed by the U.S. Postal Service, and the postal indicia is that of the commercial firm we used to mail the applications. The notion that some inappropriate postage or indicia was used is nonsense.
It is disappointing that someone whose job is to encourage voter registration and voter turnout would find this mailing objectionable. It appears to be an attempt to discourage people from returning their absentee ballot applications and thereby suppress voter turnout.
We encourage everyone who has received an absentee ballot application to complete it and return it to the Board of Elections immediately.
Finally, we have full confidence in Columbia County voters and the election process, in spite of this partisan attack by someone who should know better.Keith Kanaga
Chair, Columbia County Democratic Committee
More local election coverage: Your Local Election Headquarters
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