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Amid Charges Comes Concern About Voter Confidence

Dutchess County Board of Elections

With the indictment of the Dutchess County Democratic elections commissioner and a former Republican elections commissioner on misconduct and other alleged violations of election law, the job of ensuring voting integrity begins.

Dutchess County Democratic Elections Commissioner Fran Knapp and former Dutchess County Republican Elections Commissioner David Gamache pleaded not guilty in Dutchess County Court Tuesday. Knapp was arraigned on 46 felony charges and 48 misdemeanor charges, while Gamache was arraigned on one felony misconduct charge and three misdemeanor charges for allegedly certifying votes cast in the November 2012 election, which reflected altered votes in two districts in the Town of Pine Plains. Knapp was similarly charged, though the bulk of the charges against her focus on allegedly allowing the names of designated agents of absentee voters to be changed on the computer without the knowledge of the absentee voters. Here’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican.

The elections commissioners are appointed by the county legislature. As to what happens next in reference to Commissioner Knapp, Molinaro says the following is the first step.

Knapp faces other charges, including ones stemming from September 2012 for allegedly fraudulently signing a poll watcher’s certificate on behalf of state Senate Republican primary candidate Neil DiCarlo.  When asked whether he would call for Knapp to step down, Molinaro said:

Barbara Bartoletti is legislative director for the League of Women Voters of New York State.

She says if the cases are not straightened out and voter confidence is not restored, voter distrust could impact the 2014 gubernatorial and state legislative elections. Democratic State Senator Terry Gipson, whose district includes most of Dutchess County, is up for reelection in 2014.

He says the allegations are disturbing.

County Executive Molinaro, a former state assemblyman who was a ranking minority member on the Election Law Committee, says election reform and transparency is needed, especially given the allegations in his county.

The League of Women Voters’ Bartoletti says the allegations bring to mind actions outside the U.S.

A message left for Knapp was not returned in time for this broadcast. Dutchess County Republican Elections Commissioner Eric Haight, in an e-mailed statement, says, quote “Commissioner Knapp deserves her day in court like anyone else however her many years of deceit and gross misconduct may have fooled the public up until now but I highly doubt she will be able to fool a Dutchess County jury of her peers." End of quote. Both Haight and Knapp have battled verbally for some time.

Both cases are due back in court August 12.

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