Responding to pressure from Monroe residents for increased scrutiny of voting in Kiryas Joel, an Orange County election commissioner said this week that she will try to assign an election inspector from outside Kiryas Joel to each voting table at the village’s two polling stations, starting with the Sept. 9 primaries that include a heated Assembly race.
The push to allow non-residents as inspectors stems from an intense town election year in November that pitted candidates backed by Kiryas Joel’s leadership and voting blocs against a slate supported by the citizens group United Monroe and voters outside Kiryas Joel. United Monroe supporters who worked in Kiryas Joel that day as poll watchers — but not inspectors — have complained ever since that they were berated and intimidated whenever they tried to inspect voters’ signatures or stop what appeared to be fraudulent voting, with people claiming blank signature spaces to cast multiple votes.
The Kiryas Joel-backed candidates won by large margins in that election.
The county’s two election commissioners — a Democrat and a Republican — decide where to deploy their roster of inspectors for each election, generally picking people who live in the election district they will oversee, whenever possible. Sue Bahren, the Democratic commissioner, said this week that she’ll try to have a non-Kiryas Joel resident among the four inspectors at each of the 10 voting tables the village will have for the Sept. 9 primaries.
She also said she plans to go to the Kiryas Joel polling stations on the morning of the election to supervise.
“We’ll do what we have to do to make the election run as smoothly, as orderly and as legally as we can,” she said.
Monroe resident Andrew Buck, who helped press the inspector issue, said this week that having only poll watchers in Kiryas Joel didn’t work last year because they were restrained from inspecting and challenging signatures.
“Our view was, this year let’s have a seat at the table,” he said.
United Monroe has sent affidavits from seven of its poll watchers, recounting their experiences inside Kiryas Joel’s polling stations last November, along with a list of several hundred voter signatures they questioned after studying poll books after the election, to the FBI, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the state Board of Elections and the state’s now-defunct Moreland Commission.