County Comptroller to File Appeal After Albany High School Voting Issues

ALBANY, N.Y. -- "Gross incompetence is speaking very highly of the effort that was put out. This was an absolute sham of an election."

Those strong words Tuesday came from Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners, who said he plans to file an appeal with the New York State Education Department to overturn the approval of the $180 million Albany High School renovation project.

"We hope we don't ever have an event like this where you have ballots being made up on lined paper, on photocopies, a lack of ballot security, and a general incompetence of the conduct of the election," Conners said.

Conners said his office has received more than 260 complaints regarding last Tuesday's vote. William Malatesta was one of them.

"I did see an older couple in front of me at New Scotland Avenue Elementary School turn away because of the length of the lines," said Malatesta.

This was the second time the Albany High project was up for a vote. The scaled-down $179 million project was $16.1 million less than the one narrowly defeated by 92 votes in November.

Both times, the referendum was decided by only 1 percent -- a no vote last November, yes last Tuesday. If Conners has his way, it will go up a third time.

"I've never seen anything like this election ever before," Conners said. "There's been elections overturned as recently as a couple years ago, so there's precedent to do so and we're hopefully that the commissioner will do that."

The City School District of Albany declined an on-camera interview Tuesday, but said last week it's conducting a review of the vote, and once it's completed, the Board of Education will consider the next steps.

Meanwhile, Conners, who was an outspoken critic of the proposal, said he just wants the election process to be fair.

"We don't know how people who have voted who were not able to vote. I'm not concerned about how they would have voted," he said. "I'm concerned about whether they were able to vote or not, or if they were voting in a fair and open election, and clearly this was not."

Conners said he plans to file the appeal sometime this week. He said if the vote is overturned, he hopes voters will be able to re-vote on the Albany High project during New York's presidential primary election on April 19.

The City School District of Albany asks any voters who experienced or witnessed problems at a voting location on Tuesday to fill out the form located at http://www.albanyschools.com/district/feedback.htm.

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