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Citing board of elections 'garbage,' legislator defends commissioners

The Monroe County Legislature's minority leader is defending the county's election commissioners, who have been heavily criticized for how Tuesday's primaries were handled.

Among the complaints: too few polling places, long lines, poor organization, a lack of social distancing, and some voters even receiving the wrong ballots. 

The Republican commissioner, Lisa Nicolay, and the acting Democratic commissioner, LaShana Boose, addressed those issues Thursday, acknowledging there were problems. Boose called it a learning experience and apologized for errors. 

Democratic Minority Leader Vince Felder came to their defense on Friday.

“It’s a miracle that they were able to pull this off as well as they were on Tuesday with all the garbage that was going on with the board of elections that people have intentionally foisted on them,” said Felder.

Felder is a strong supporter of making Boose a permanent commissioner, and he claimed efforts to make that happen were sabotaged. 

What happens with that position has been a point of contention inside the local Democratic Party since former Commissioner Colleen Anderson left in February. There have been disagreements on who the next commissioner will be, how the commissioner is chosen, and how many people would fill top jobs at the board of elections were all put into question. 

Felder said the infighting was all to prevent Boose from getting that job.

“All these things are designed in my opinion, in our opinion, to prevent this Black woman getting this job," Felder said. "They decided they couldn’t get her out before the election, so they’d sabotage the election to make her look bad.”

He said a handful of key Democrats who work for the board of elections went out on family medical leave weeks before the primary. He claimed it was orchestrated but would not say by who. 

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart said no matter what happened, there's no excuse for what happened on primary day.

“I understand that they faced enormous challenges,” said Barnhart. “So did boards of elections around the state, but very few boards of elections experienced what we experienced here. There was mass confusion, there were voters who were disenfranchised, and we’re seeing blame placed everywhere but where it belongs, which is on the two commissioners which put on the election.”

Barnhart is among the Democrats who say the permanent Democratic commissioner should be chosen at a convention. She also said the board of elections commissioners should not openly take sides in primaries. Felder said finding that person is unlikely.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.
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