Printed in the Poughkeesie Journal 2/2/2012:

Valley Views

Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote. The New York State Legislature should be commended for improvements made last year to both the absentee ballot application and the affidavit ballot envelope.

While New York state has made improvements, other states around the country have passed laws that restrict the pool of eligible voters – voter-ID laws that make it harder for Americans to cast a ballot. This is a step backward in a decades-long struggle to end voter discrimination.

A recent study reports that up to five million voters could be kept from the polls due to the proposed voter ID laws. This new restriction puts a financial barrier between voters and their ballot box. In New York, Assemblyman Steve Katz, R-Yorktown, introduced a voter-ID bill as part of a nationwide effort coordinated by conservative groups who want to increase their leverage in elections by suppressing other voting groups.

I strongly urge New Yorkers to oppose this new restriction.

On another front, budget cuts have made it more difficult to preserve the integrity of our elections. Our county Board of Elections has had drastic budgets cut – eroding election administration. Here, in Dutchess County, our 1,100 poll workers who are dedicated and hard-working citizens receive only a two-hour training course. This is not nearly adequate. With complicated affidavit ballot procedures, the new optical scan voting machines, voter verifiable audit trails, aggressive poll watchers, their job is getting harder. Not to mention the 16-hour long day. Poorly-trained poll workers can sometimes disenfranchise voters. Poll workers may misdirect voters to wrong polling places, allow unregistered citizens to vote, wrongly ask for identification where none is needed and provide inadequate instructions to voters. All these mistakes can cause votes to be lost.

Conversely, a well-staffed polling place functions smoothly, allowing the maximum number of voters to cast ballots while securing the franchise only to those registered voters. Voters who need assistance can get it, and polls open and close on time. We should expect nothing less!

Visit our website:; check your voter registration or register to vote, request an absentee application; become a poll worker but most of all, exercise your right to vote this year!

Fran Knapp

Dutchess county Commissioner of Elections