|[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]
Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, December 22, 2011
RENSSELAERVILLE Six people have lost the right to vote in Albany County after casting absentee votes in the race for Rensselaerville assessor last month, and another six are being investigated after discrepancies were discovered between signatures on their voter registrations and their absentee ballots.
In addition, the individuals who authorized these ballots and delivered them to the Albany County Board of Elections may be investigated as well, to determine if they intended to steal an election, Republican Commissioner Rachel Bledi said this week.
Democrat Jeffry Pine, longtime assessor in Rensselaerville, ran for re-election this year against challenger Richard Tollner, a Republican. The unofficial results the day after the election showed Tollner edging out Pine by 43 votes, but Pine remained confident, and awaited the absentee ballot results. Tollner has since been declared the winner.
Bledi, the new Republican commissioner, became suspicious when she realized that there were six voters’ names registered to the same address on South Street in Medusa. After speaking with the home’s current owner, she discovered that some of these voters were former residents, but hadn’t lived there in years, Bledi said.
What’s more, all of the other voters registered to this South Street address now live in the same neighborhood in Green County, said Bledi. These absentee ballots had been delivered to the board of elections by Joyce Chase, wife of Rensselaerville’s former highway superintendent, G. Jon Chase, a Democrat; she is also the mother of Gary Chase, a Democrat who was defeated in his bid for re-election to the town board this year.
Bledi gave the following voters until last Friday to “provide supporting evidence” that they live in Albany County: Rudy Edwards; Robert Oakley; Linda Oakley; Robin Oakley; Steven Pfleging; and Peter Hotaling.
It was Edwards and the Oakleys who were registered to the South Street address in Medusa, and their ballots had been delivered by Chase, according to Bledi. Hotaling and Pfleging’s ballots were delivered by Pine.
But these six voters did not provide evidence that they lived in Albany County, and “those voters are being purged,” Bledi said last Friday.
Joyce Chase and Hotaling declined to comment on the matter this week. Pfleging did not return phone calls for comment. Rudy Edwards, Robert Oakley, Linda Oakley, and Robin Oakley could not be reached for comment.
Matt Clyne, the county’s Democratic election commissioner, did not return phone calls for comment over the past two weeks.
At the onset of the investigation, Bledi told The Enterprise, “What’s really interesting is, in order for you to obtain an absentee ballot, there has to be specific reasons. Joyce Chase used an absentee ballot herself, and the reason she put down is that she’s the primary caretaker of an individual who is ill or physically disabled. If that’s your argument, then how do you have the time to go around and collect absentee ballot applications for all these other individuals?”
Pine said earlier this month that Pfleging had recently relocated to Rensselaerville, and that Hotaling has always owned property in Rensselaerville, and plans to move back permanently.
“These people are registered to vote in Rensselaerville,” Pine said then, “and, if they had actually gone in to vote, it wouldn’t have been a problem.”
Of Pfleging’s absentee ballot, Bledi said this week, “Jeff Pine clearly filled it out, but he didn’t even spell his name right. His handwriting’s consistent on all of the ones he submitted, and the people I’ve spoken to did say that he filled out the top portion.”
And Hotaling, she said, voted using his address in Freehold.
Additionally, six more voters, all of whose absentee ballots were delivered by Jeffry Pine, are being investigated because of handwriting discrepancies, and there are plans to consult a handwriting expert, and possibly involve the district attorney’s office, Bledi said.
“First of all, you have to establish whether these voters say it’s their signature or not,” said Bledi, “but I spoke with one guy who seemed so uncomfortable talking about this that I’m just going to forward the results to the DA. At this point, I told him I’d provide him a certain level of anonymity,” she said, and she declined to name any of voters whose ballots are still being investigated.
Asked about what consequences there might be for Pine or Chase, who delivered these ballots, Bledi said, “That’s the question: What role did they play? Did they intentionally try to manipulate the outcome of an election, knowing these individuals were not qualified to vote in Albany County? That’s something the DA’s office is going to have to investigate.”
Of Edwards and the Oakleys’ ballots, she concluded, “It’s a separate issue, because they were brought in by Joyce Chase. She was the authorized handler on the ballot applications, and the question in that case is whether she worked with these individuals and conspired to steal an election, knowing full well they lived in Green County.”