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Bello vetoes bill to boost Board of Elections staffing

Jun 3, 2020

Credit Jeremy Moule/CITY

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Wednesday announced that he has vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have added six staff positions to the county Board of Elections during what is shaping up to be a hectic election year.

The bill, which passed the County Legislature on May 26 with a vote of 20 to 8, would have created two assistant deputy commissioner positions and supervisors who would oversee absentee voting, information services, and elections inspector training and recruitment. 

The six openings would have been filled by three Democrats and three Republicans, according to a memo accompanying the legislation, which set aside $220,000 for salaries.  Bello said the positions would have cost the county $500,000 a year and would have been paid for through chargebacks.

"This will raise taxes in Monroe County by a half a million dollars," Bello said during a news conference Wednesday. "This is simply unacceptable."

Legislator Vincent Felder, the Democratic minority leader and co-sponsor of the bill along, has said the positions were necessary to help with this year’s expected flood of absentee voting during the health crisis.

Bello disputed that assertion and said his administration has worked with the Board of Elections leadership to hire additional seasonal workers to aid with processing absentee ballots. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board has received an influx of 40,000 absentee ballot applications, he said.

"We have been open an transparent about our willingness to assist the board with their staffing needs for this election year as they prepare to process this record number of absentees for the upcoming June primaries, and anticipate an increased need for absentee ballots in the fall election," Bello said.

The legislation is tangential to an ongoing and divisive dispute among Democrats over the process for selecting a new elections commissioner. The position has been filled by an acting commissioner since early March.

The dispute wound up in court and a state judge on Tuesday authorized the Monroe County Democratic Committee to conduct an election among its members for the new commissioner, although the committee’s lawyer has said he will challenge the decision.

The veto would be the first of Bello’s tenure as county executive, which he assumed in January with a pledge to encourage bipartisanship in the County Legislature, which Republicans control by a single-seat majority.