Appeal dismissed in election controversy, despite concerns

State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove this week dismissed an appeal by Frankford resident and 2012 town council candidate Gregory S. Welch in which he argued that Frankford officials had not acted property in refusing to delay the Feb. 4 council election “to allow proper voter and candidate registration.”

Manlove cited that “the state election commissioner simply does not have the authority to set aside the results of the Feb. 4, 2012, election.” She did, however, offer in her written conclusion that she had “grave concerns” about the voter registration process in the town and its role in the appeal.

“Specifically, had Mr. Welch been deemed a registered voter,” she wrote, “this entire process would not have been necessary. If Mr. Welch had been deemed a registered voter, Frankford would have timely placed him on the ballot.”

Addressing the issue of his eligibility as a voter, Manlove noted that Welch and fellow candidates Jerry Smith and Skip Ash — who were all present at the appeal — testified that Welch has lived in his house in town for about 10 years.

“He has been told that, because there is an open building permit on his home, he should not live there and therefore, should not be a registered voter in the town… While he is restoring the house, this should not be a basis for denying him the right to vote,” Manlove stated.

Welch maintains that he and his wife attempted to register to vote in 2001, 2002 and 2003, but that the Town “came up with all the reasons we couldn’t,” including not having proper permits to renovate while living at their residence.

Town Administrator Terry Truitt asserted that, in her 12 years working for the Town, Welch has never been told he could not register to vote. She said there were issues before her tenure because Welch was not a permanent resident of the town of Frankford and had a permanent address outside the town. She said he had not tried to register again, even after being asked recently to fill out another voter registration card.

Welch maintained that he has “receipts and documentation” that he is registered to vote from the early 2000s and refuses to re-register, saying “that allows them to do what they are doing. They continuously do this. They make up stuff. That’s why you can’t comply with the laws in Frankford.”

He said the issue would have been over with the election, but after his appeal of the results, the town council then introduced a charter change regarding elections that he says is more restrictive and that they introduced another ordinance that would require applicants for town approvals, permits, licenses and/or the use, receipt or provision of services to be current on all obligations to the Town of Frankford.

“Each is intended to harass me” he surmised. “They are pumping their chest to harass me because they won the election.”

Manlove offered in her conclusion that she was troubled that four people – including an alternate – had participated in three-person Board of Elections hearings, two of which happened in the weeks before the election, to hear complaints from Welch and Smith about the conduct of the election.

In a written response to Welch’s complaint of four people participating in the hearings, Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader offered that, “There is no prohibition against the alternate from participating in the proceedings and notwithstanding that participation, a majority of the Board did not agree with Mr. Welch’s application. … Mr. Welch was not prejudiced by this conduct.”

Manlove wrote in her opinion that, “While Frankford may be correct that Mr. Welch was not prejudiced by this involvement, it allows a perception of impropriety by Frankford that could have very easily been avoided.”

She concluded by saying, “I applaud Frankford’s efforts to improve this process. Transparency and openness should be the hallmarks of all elections. The rights to vote and run for public office should not be withheld frivolously.”