Erie County Executive Ballot controversy hits national spotlight

Oct 31, 2011

The controversy over alleged ballot tampering in the race for Erie County Executive got some national attention Sunday.

County Executive Chris Collins made an appearance on Fox News Sunday morning.  He was questioned about the absentee ballots that were mailed to Lackawanna voters with votes for Collins already marked.

Collins blamed supporters of his opponent, Democrat Mark Poloncarz, for the tampering.

"This was clearly a supporter of my opponent with dirty tricks, throw that on to me. Its now backfired on them.  It's just a shame that desperation would lead to acts like this," said Collins.

Poloncarz declined an invitation to appear on Fox, but his campaign issued a written statement after the broadcast calling Collins's statement "shrill, finger-pointing accusation at its worst" and saying the Erie County Sheriff's Office has said neither campaign was involved in the alleged tampering. The Sheriff's office said last week an arrest was imminent, but has not yet made that arrest.

On Friday, Poloncarz appeared publicly to receive endorsements from Congressman Brian Higgins and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul.  

Poloncarz responded to concerns regarding the recent so-called "robo-calls" being made on behalf of his campaign.

"We don't know who's making these calls but we certainly want to get to the base of it because I can guarantee you it has nothing to do with my campaign, its nobody associated with us, and at the end of the day, I want to know about this because this is a fraud that is being perpetuated through the use of my campaign's name, my name, and also its against the law to do this stuff,' said Polancarz.

The calls in question have been traced back to a Williamsville area number. State Democratic Party Executive, Charlie King, has called on Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita to investigate the calls.

Collins spokesman Stefan Mychajliw released this statement Friday in response to the robo-calls:

“This is a transparent and shallow attempt by Poloncarz to avoid answering this question: what did he know about felony ballot fraud at the Board of Elections, and when did he know it?  The Democrat dirty tricks just keep coming.  First the Democrats are entangled in a voter fraud scandal by one of their henchmen.  Now, they say their own harassing phone calls by special interests are phony and blame someone else.  Voters will not be fooled by Poloncarz and his gang of Albany outsiders who will do or say anything to stop real reform in Erie County," said spokesman Stefan Mychajliw, Collins For Our Future.

Meanwhile the Buffalo News gave its endorsement to Poloncarz Sunday in an editorial that called it, quote, "a more difficult endorsement than we would have expected." The News gave a slight edge to Poloncarz for what they called his feel for the social elements that help define the community.