Following City Council President Rodney Wiltshire's recent primary defeat for the Democratic nomination for mayor, accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression have been lodged (mostly on facebook).
Voter fraud, as we are well aware, and voter suppression are serious allegations. Former Working Families Party operative Sara Couch has said she witnessed "incredible voter suppression and voter fraud to the point I was sickened."
Couch also worked tirelessly for Wiltshire.* We understand that a certain bitterness occurs after a close election. When you're in the echo chamber, surrounded by people who all support your candidate, you cannot believe it when the candidate loses. There are still hundreds of Harvard alumni who waited for a Dukakis landslide. Remember Presidents Dole and Kerry? We have all been there. Yes, it sucks. However...
If Couch witnessed a sickening** level of fraud and suppression we need to know where and when. Did she collect the names of those suppressed? Did she take the names of those committing fraud? Did Wiltshire have legal counsel on-call to intervene and move to impound the ballots or take other measures to ensure a fair vote?
What was the nature of the fraud? It is one thing for a few clowns to forge signatures on absentee ballots to win a primary (John Brown et. al) or have all but one absentee ballot returned in your favor (North Greenbush) but what was the fraud at the polling locations? What was the voter suppression? We hate to say it but our polling place did run out of ballots and we had to wait a while to receive more. It happens. It also happened two years ago at a different polling place and we waited once again. One shouldn't jump to sinister conclusions when mere human error will suffice. Madden, Russo and Ryan supporters would have been equally effected by a lack of ballots.
Of course, Ed McDonough pointed out that when the polling place is a school, it is going to be locked down during the day. And, today, unlike decades ago, just about everyone is walking around with a camera. Did anyone...anyone at all....bother to film any suspicious irregularities? Just one photograph or video? Perhaps, people trying to get into a building that is locked, people being turned away without the chance to vote.
Furthermore, there was more than one primary on September 10. Pat Russo faced Scott Ryan in the GOP primary for Sheriff. Did Ryan's people report irregularities? In addition, there are poll watchers, Board of Election volunteers (that all seem to have been a few years ahead of Methuselah in high school) and others. Larry Bugbee is involved, as is Ed McDonough.
Then there's the ignorance factor (notice we did not say stupid). Some people are just...well... fucking ignorant. They may not be registered democrats or registered at all. They just want to vote, figure they're old enough and live in Troy so they'll meander on down and vote.
Point is, its easy to allege voter irregularities, fraud and suppression after a loss. It validates a cause: We would have won but they didn't play fair. So, get time, place and names. Get affidavits. Go to the District Attorney. He'll prosecute non-republicans, we know that.
Sara Couch is an interesting messenger for voter fraud. She was involved, as a witness, in the LoPorto case. In fact, Couch was at both infamous meetings at LoPorto's.***
At the meeting, "Michael LoPorto, a candidate for Troy City Council whom Ms. Couch knows personally, handed her a newspaper folded in half, which contained approximately 30 absentee ballots, and asked her to deliver them to the Rensselaer County Board of Elections," Ogden said. "Ms. Couch said that she thought it was odd for Mr. LoPorto to make such a request."
The second meeting:
Couch told police other attendees at the restaurant meeting included Caird, John Brown, LoPorto and McDonough. She said McDonough started the meeting by stating: "I don't want to be a (expletive) but I want to make sure that this conversation isn't being recorded. ... This is really bad and needs to go away."
When the meeting ended, Couch told police, LoPorto picked up the tab for their meals and walked her to her car. He gave her a hug and said: "I never gave you those ballots," she told police.
Forgive our naiveté but, you're handed absentee ballots in a newspaper and you think it odd? McDonough wants to know if a conversation is being recorded (according to Couch) and says things are bad and it needs to go away. Then, LoPorto says he never gave you those ballots. Did Couch go to anyone with any suspicions? If not, why not?
The cries of voter fraud and suppression feel like a convenient, easy answer to a disappointing loss. Or, is this about the Working Families Party? In the past few election cycles you can subtract the votes received by Democratic candidates on the WFP line and the Democrat still wins. Now, the WFP has an actual candidate on their line that has a track record of getting votes city wide. A candidate that has a following. Is this a last-ditch effort to be relevant? To hold the Democratic Party hostage to the WFP in the future? Or is are the WFP trying to get Rodney to drop out to avoid a Gordon-Tutunjian administration? Surely Madden would be a better candidate to advance WFP goals than Gordon.
* According to Couch Wiltshire the only man who can move Troy forward. The only person in a city of almost 50,000 people? He also turns water into wine at LoPorto's.
** Sickening is greater than nauseating but less than feverish.
*** Try the veal. It's to die for.