Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 24, 2012

GOP lawmaker demands 'inquiry' into election night reporting and board dismissal

Niagara Gazette — Republican lawmakers moved this week to table re-appointment of Niagara County's Democratic election commissioner after one demanded an inquiry into recent events involving the Board of Elections.

Legislator Paul Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, made the motion to table Nancy Smith's reappointment after complaining of the office's handling of voting results on election night. He further suggested comments by Smith regarding the recent firing of a board clerk, former North Tonawanda mayor Lawrence Soos, suggested improper behavior.

The proposal to confirm Smith's re-appointment, on the recommendation of the Niagara County Democratic Committee, was made at the end of a nearly three-hour legislature business meeting — which was made so long by an unusually lengthy GOP majority caucus.

The vote on tabling Smith's appointment was 11 yes and 2 no. Majority caucus members all voted in favor. Niagara Falls Democrats Dennis Virtuoso and Jason Zona, two-thirds of the three-member minority caucus, voted against tabling.

Virtuoso charged Wojtaszek with "playing politics."

"This hasn't happened in the 22 years I've been here,” he said. “When the (party) committee backs appointment, that's taken into consideration ..."

County legislators voted unanimously to confirm reappointment of GOP Election Commissioner Mary Ann Casamento, per the county party committee's recommendation, in early October.

Wojtaszek asserted his request for investigations of board office-related matters is "not political," it's concerned with actions of county employees, and in the case of election night results reporting, concerned with actions of employees on either side of the aisle politically.

On election night, the board office was several hours late posting vote counts in the presidential, congressional and state legislative elections. It had chosen election day as the day to go "live" with a new computerized reporting system, in which vote tallies from polling sites would be transmitted directly to the board's website and the system crashed. Smith said it was overloaded as results came in from dozens of polling sites all at once. Municipal clerks had to end up bringing memory cards from the electronic voting machines to the board office for counting.

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