For the first time in four years, the Dutchess County Board of Elections may not be sending out letters to those whose votes were not counted in 2020.
According to board employees, Republican Elections Commissioner Erik Haight has decided not to send the letters this year. Both the Republican and Democratic commissioners have to agree before they can be sent.
“On January 14, Commissioner Haight ordered his staff not to work on the letters and told me we weren’t doing them,” Democratic Commissioner Hannah Black told the Hudson Valley Observer.
After each election is over and all the races are certified, the board usually sends notices to voters whose mail-in absentee and affidavit ballots weren’t counted. Reasons include late or missing postmarks, signature problems or a purged or non-existent voter registration.
“Haight told me it is too much work, that January is too late, and that he doesn’t want the hassle of voters getting mad and calling up to complain,” said Black, who took office on Jan. 1. “But these voters deserve to know why their votes could not be counted.”
Each letter includes detailed instructions on how to ensure future mail-in votes are counted.
When asked about the decision not to send the notifications, Haight responded via email on Jan. 22 that he had agreed to send them and that “staff is working on assembling the data.”
But Democratic employees say nothing has happened on the project in over a week and as of end-of-business Friday there was still no sign that Haight was ready to move forward.
Black estimates that about 500 letters need to go out and that she hopes Haight will change his mind but “he works for County Executive Marc Molinaro and that’s who really calls the shots” on the Republican side.