CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, N.Y. — Bipartisan elections officials in Mayville say they’re dealing with something they’ve never seen in the lead-up to an election, a group of unknown individuals going door to door asking people about their voter history.
According to Brian Abram and Luz Torres, the Republican, and Democratic Commissioners, the Chautauqua County Board of Elections has received at least two reports of a group called “Chautauqua County Voter Integrity” showing up at people's homes and questioning them.
Despite the group's name, Abram said they have no affiliation with the county. The BOE does not conduct voter outreach or go door to door verifying voter registration information. Proof of identity is your signature comparison at the poll site and an ID is not required.
“We need to have people understand this is not the Chautauqua County Board of Elections. This is not a part of the voting process in any shape or form,” Abram stated.
After receiving the first report Saturday, October 29, Abram said he immediately had the BOE's IT department post a message notifying neighbors on their website.
The notice stated that “any individuals claiming to verify voting information for the November 8, 2022, General Election are not in any way related to or employed by the Chautauqua County Board of Elections.”
Luz Torres, the Democratic Commissioner said the two reports came from the Lakewood/Busti-area and near Bemus Point/Ellery. She said it is not known if more people have been approached or whether the group is still conducting these in-person questionings. The commissioners shared similar details about what each report claimed to have occurred.
“Two gentlemen came to their door with badges on, stating they were Chautauqua County election integrity or voter integrity… after asking a bunch of questions [the homeowner] asked, do you work for the county and they said no and [the homeowner] said can you please leave,” Torres said.
Abram said the group members remain unidentified and it is unclear what their “mission” or “what they were trying to do” he said. The Board of Elections was notified that the State Attorney General had received a complaint about one of the encounters as was the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff James Quattrone told 2 On Your Side Tuesday that his office had not received any additional complaints since the BOE notified neighbors. Quattrone said he was told the individuals were “not intimidating” but asked “strange questions.”
Abram added, “the only thing I do know is the people who spoke to me on Saturday that filed the complaint said they had their voter records from where they used to live which was in New York City and they had their current records which were for Chautauqua County… and they were asking whether this was really you."
Whether what the group is accused of doing could be considered voter intimidation or is illegal, depends on how the interaction occurred said 2 On Your Side legal analyst Barry Covert.
Depending on the findings of law enforcement, he said it is possible the group could be charged with “termination of a voter” but additional fact-finding, and information would be needed.
The American Civil Liberties Union lists “aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record, or other qualifications to vote, in a manner intended to interfere with the voters’ rights” as its first example of voter intimidation.
Abram and Torres have asked if other Chautauqua County voters experience similar interactions going forward, they should call the Board of Elections at 716-753-4580. The Attorney General’s hotline can also be used to file a complaint by calling (866) 390-2992, submitting online, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With so much pressure and work still to do in preparation for election day, Abram and Torres said they want to ensure everyone’s voter experience is good, despite this complication.
“It's a distraction and it's something that's a concern but in general for everybody that's out there, that's going to vote, continue what you do. Get out and vote and we'll make sure, we'll do everything we can do to make sure it's a good voter experience,” Abram said.