Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kiryas Joel primaries: Light turnout, few challenges 

After a storm of recent controversy about election monitoring in Kiryas Joel, voting went smoothly in the village for Tuesday's primaries, with light turnout and a modest number of signature challenges that caused no friction.

There had been mounting fury since Friday that the county Board of Elections wouldn't allow people from outside the Hasidic community to serve as election inspectors there. The United Monroe citizens group and others had been pressing for outside inspectors to combat what they said was widespread voting fraud and intimidation of poll watchers last November.

But all was calm on Tuesday in the basement of the banquet hall on Forest Road that serves as Kiryas Joel's main voting site. Poll watchers lodged occasional challenges, inspectors filled out the paperwork, and challenged voters eventually walked away with ballots in hand, sometimes after producing identification to prove who they were.

As of 8 p.m., fewer than a dozen challenges had been made, generally because a voter's signature didn't resemble the registration-card signature reproduced in the poll book.

"From what I observed, everything was smooth," said Greg Gilligan, a United Monroe poll watcher who had been at the polling station since 9 a.m. and had filed no challenges.

His only objection was that some voters were bringing inside the polling station the voting instructions they had been handed outside. Kiryas Joel's two main voting blocs typically distribute sample ballots on Election Day to tell residents which candidates to support, although only its main voting bloc did so for Tuesday's primaries.

Sue Bahren, a county election commissioner who was observing the voting in Kiryas Joel Tuesday night, said those voting cards cannot be distributed or left on tables in the polling station, but can be brought inside by voters as a reference.

One voter whose signature was challenged at around 11 a.m. stood waiting as another election commissioner, David Green, guided the poll watcher and inspectors through the forms. The voter, who gave his name only as Joel, seemed a little annoyed, although he admitted the squiggly name he just signed looked different than the neat cursive in the book. He made the first signature when he was 18, and he was 26 now, he explained.

"It's a big difference, I know," he said. "But it's me."


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