A state Board of Elections has advised Otsego County GOP Chairman Vince Casale that no action can be taken against Democrat Ed Lentz for alleged electioneering at a Milford polling site on Election Day, noting a complaint was never received that day by any of the polling inspectors.
“The complaint shared with the Board concerning Mr. Lentz was made on the following day, after the fact,” state Director of Election Operations Anna Svizzero advised Casale in a Nov. 14 letter. The complaint in question was filed by Casale, who was backing Lentz’s opponent, Republican Jamie Waters of Milford, in a county representative race.
Svizzero also said that poll workers attending an upcoming training session will be reminded that they need to collect poll-watcher certificates from each poll watcher visiting a voting place.
Lentz, a patent lawyer and a farmer, won a close race on Election Day over Waters for the District 5 seat, which holds the most weighted votes on the county board. Lentz vigorously denied he was engaged in electioneering, and took umbrage with the tenor of Casale’s complaint to the state Board of Elections.
Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate said Casale’s complaint smacked of sour grapes. Casale said Lentz, though a candidate himself on election day, was a poll watcher and did have the required certification to be at the polling site.
“Even in victory, they go for the low road,” Abbate said. The Democrat issued a press release declaring that the state agency had “dismissed” Casale’s complaint, though a spokeswoman for the state board said Svizzero’s letter stopped short of reaching such a conclusion.
Casale, who questioned whether Lentz did have a poll-watcher certificate, argued the fact the state now wants poll workers to receive additional training suggests the state agency found the complaint had merit.
Abbate also said in his release that it has been a “long-standing practice” not to collect poll-watcher certificates in rural counties such as Otsego.
“Now poll watchers and election workers will have to comply with this additional bureaucratic and unnecessary procedure,” he added.
Said Casale: “I actually take offense that Mr. Abbate and Mr. Lentz think that ‘rural’ counties are not sophisticated enough to understand and follow New York State Election Law.”
Lentz told The Daily Star last week that he had the proper certification as a poll watcher when he went to the Milford site on Election Day, and pointed out he identified himself to polling inspectors.
On the night of the election, a reporter for The Daily Star asked both Otsego County Republican Election Commissioner Sheila Ross and Democratic Commissioner Hank Nicols if they were aware of any problems that day at the polling sites. Ross, who visited the Milford location, said the only problem she was aware of was a possible shortage of machine ballots at some sites because of unanticipated high voter turnout.