I am concerned about a statement made by Otsego County Democratic Chairman Richard Abbate that it has been a longstanding practice not to collect poll-watcher certificates in rural counties such as Otsego. I am not sure where he got his information, but all counties in New York state, upstate or downstate, must follow the law.
I worked at the Board of Elections as Republican deputy commissioner of election for 13 years, as the commissioner for the last five years, and I was the county chairwoman for six years. As the county chair, I would never recommend that a candidate be a poll watcher. Is it illegal? No. A candidate can be a poll watcher per the election law, but they, like all poll watchers, need a poll watcher’s certificate.
Election Law 8-500, paragraph 3, reads: “The appointment of watchers for any election shall be by a certificate in writing issued by the chairman or secretary of the political party or independent body, or the candidates. Such certificate shall be delivered to an inspector at the election district.”
Election inspectors must attend class and pass a test each year to be certified. They are trained on everything they will need to know to do their job, which includes how to handle poll watchers and to ask for their certificate. Election inspectors are at the polls from 5:30 a.m. until approximately 9:30 p.m. and they try to do their best to make the elections run as smoothly as possible. I, as a commissioner, truly appreciate the work they do for the voters of this county and I am also aware that this can be a thankless job. Remember, it is the responsibility of the watcher to deliver his watcher’s certificate to the inspectors.
Sheila M. Ross
Ross is Republican elections commissioner for Otsego County.