Caroline Fenner is not pleased about tension at the Dutchess County Board of Elections that could end up making it harder for some people to vote.
"They're not following through on their main job duty," Fenner, a Dutchess County voter, said.
After she heard about a possible backlog of more than 5,000 change-of-address forms in July, she emailed both the Democratic and Republican BOE commissioners to inquire.
Both commissioners replied, offering competing reasons for why no DMV change-of-address forms had been processed since Summer 2017.
"Thank you for your email," began Republican Commissioner Erik Haight's response. "There are probably closer to 9,000 address changes that are on file while I wait for Commissioner Caviglia (the democratic commissioner) or the Democrat Deputy to approve a DMV transfer processing procedure the Republican Deputy presented to them on June 20th.
"Commissioner Haight’s version of events is grossly misshapen," began Democratic Commissioner Marco Caviglia's response. "Commencing in October 2017, the Democratic side of the Board sought the cooperation of the Republicans to proceed with processing the DMV transfers which had accumulated over the course of the summer because the Republicans refused to process the documents because these particular forms did not have signatures, despite the State Board of Elections guidelines stating that they could and should be processed without actual signatures."
Fenner did not like either of their responses.
"I'm a public school teacher. If I didn't work on report cards for a year and a half, I would be fired," she said during an interview on Wednesday afternoon in her backyard. "That's my job. Their job at the Board of Elections is to make sure that people can vote. They're not doing it."
Fenner also emailed the State Board of Elections about the backlog.
Three days later, there appeared to be movement.
"There has been progress," began a response from State BOE Director of Election Operations Thomas Connolly. "It is now my understanding that the two commissioners have come to an agreement to move forward with processing the backlog in time for the upcoming elections."
Caviglia spoke with Spectrum News about the series of emails and what led up to the sudden "agreement to move forward."
"It's very unusual for the State BOE to have to get both sides -- Republican and Democrat -- on a conference call to basically say, 'Hey, can we get this going?," Caviglia said during an interview in his office late Wednesday afternoon.
Caviglia said his staff is working extra hours and he has brought in two temporary workers to process the COA forms in time for the September 13th primary elections.
If the COA forms are not in order, some voters may find that they are not listed on the roles for the voting area in which they now live.
Caviglia said those situations can be resolved with a phone call from the polling place to the BOE and requesting the voter to use an paper affadavit ballot which would be counted separately from the standard votes which are usually done by machine.
Caviglia said he does recognize Fenner's point about voter confidence and integrity during a time when politicians are trying to address voter apathy.
"It makes them (voters) suspicious and cynical that something they have to rely on, they have to wonder about," Caviglia said.
Haight told Spectrum News that the forms are now being processed, because Caviglia "finally agreed to the policy" he mentioned in his email to Fenner.
Reached by phone late Wednesday, Haight first criticized his counterpart, saying Caviglia "would have to be in the office to know what's going on, so he lacks credibility."
Haight then promised voters there would be no confusion about polling locations come election day.
"We're working hard," he said. "No one's going to be disenfranchised, and everyone's address changes are going to be processed by September 13th."
Caviglia said that after one week of work, his democratic staff and two temporary workers have already processed backlogged COA forms from September 2017 through January 2018.
The one point the feuding commissioners agreed on was that since the BOE had already made appropriate changes to their roles, about 2% of voters would be affected if the backlogged forms were not processed.