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News10NBC Investigates: Voting letters mailed to 'inactive' voters registered in other counties

Berkeley Brean
Updated: September 25, 2020 06:35 PM
Created: September 25, 2020 06:28 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Because of concerns over voting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed every county to mail the household of every registered voter a letter with information on when and where to vote.

The Monroe County Board of Elections mailed more than a quarter of a million letters. But 15,000 letters mailed by the Monroe County Board of Elections got mailed to people who are considered inactive and some who are registered to vote in other counties. 

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"I'm a family man. Married. Two kids. Lived in Penfield. That's where we raised our family," Chris Bridenbaugh said.

When he lived in Penfield, Bridenbaugh and his wife were registered to vote in Monroe County. Five years ago they moved to Livingston County and registered to vote there.

But last week, they got one of 350,000 voter information letters from the Monroe County Board of Elections. It was addressed to their home in Livonia, Livingston County but it had details on where they can vote in Monroe County.

"You would think they would be looking at that and saying why are we spending money mailing a letter about your polling place to address outside the zip code you're supposed to be voting in," Bridenbaugh said. 

So I shared the letter with the commissioners of the Monroe County Board of Elections. They directed me to the executive order by Governor Cuomo making boards of elections send letters to every "active" and "inactive" registered voter.

The Bridenbaugh's are considered "inactive" in Monroe County because they haven't voted in Monroe County in the last four years but never officially removed their name from the Monroe County voter list.

Lisa Nicolay, (R) Commissioner Monroe County Board of Elections: "In those couple of cases that we shared it was more of that, it was that they moved and never told us."

Brean: "They are registered voters in another county. So they're curious as to why would they be a registered voter in another county for five years and yet still be on Monroe County's roll."

Nicolay: "Well, they would not be allowed to vote here. So we're clear. Nobody is voting in two counties."

Election Commissioner Nicolay says they have safeguards against that. 

Brean: "Did the explanation we got from the Board of Elections allay any concerns?"

Chris Bridenbaugh: "I think it did. The explanation was very precise. It was exact and I commend the democrat and republican Board of Election staff for responding quickly."

Election law says a voter cannot be removed from a voting list until two federal elections have passed where they didn't vote or the voter notifies the county in writing. Ordinarily, the boards of elections would not be sending these letters to inactive voters, but the governor's order made them do it this year. 

Here is some more information we learned about the election this year:

  • There are 25,122 newly registered voters in Monroe County. The board of elections predicts 480,000 registered voters by Election Day. 
  • It also predicts an 80% turnout. 
  • The deadline to register is Oct. 9. 
  • The deadline for change of address is Oct. 14. 

For the first time in a presidential election, everyone can vote by absentee ballot. 

Four years ago, the county got 22,523 absentee ballot applications. 

Already this year, there are 94,395.

If you want your vote counted on Election Day but you're concerned about the safety of doing that, think about early voting.

It starts Saturday, Oct. 24. There are 12 polling locations across the county. You can vote at any one of them, it doesn't matter where you live.

Lisa Nicolay, (R) Commissioner Monroe County Board of Elections: "It is a great way to in-person, cast your ballot, watch it go in the machine, know for sure you saw it happen, your vote definitely counted."

If you have an absentee ballot but don't want to mail it, you can hand-deliver it to the board of elections downtown or put it in a dropbox at your polling place on Election Day. 

You don't have to worry about the mail but it won't be counted until after election day which is standard for absentee ballots.


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