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Election fraud alleged in RCS vote

Department of Education reviews two petitions alleging electioneering, lax polling place controls

— The state Education Department is reviewing allegations that voter fraud occurred during this year’s Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District budget vote.

Two petitions were sent to the Education Department’s commissioner containing various accounts of what residents believe to be fraud. The school district acknowledged the complaints were submitted to the state, but said no formal investigation is underway.

The Education Department said the complaints are being looked into to see if a formal investigation is needed. Until that time, the state ruled the budget and the election results can stand “pending the commissioner's ultimate ruling on the underlying appeal,” according to spokesman Jon Burman.

RCS Superintendent Elisabeth Smith could not be reached for comment despite several requests.

The vote resulted in the approval of a 6.8 percent tax levy increase. The district was facing a $3 million budget gap and presented a budget of $41.7 million. The budget was approved by a vote of 1,797 to 1,602.

The complaints were submitted by Audrey Toussaint and Donna Pasquini and were released to the media by the Education Department on Monday, June 25. The petitions contain complaints from about seven residents, with one of the accounts notarized by Dawn Vadney, the wife of School Board President John Vadney.

The complainants allege electioneering occurred within 100 feet of the polls, that efforts were not made to make sure residents were eligible to vote and that some people witnessed residents voting multiple times.

“When my husband, James, and I entered the school building, two young students stepped out from a door of the music room immediately near the public entrance,” wrote Pasquini. “They were wearing ‘Vote yes to save RCS’ tee-shirts. The first student smiled at me and said, ‘Thanks for coming out to vote for the budget.’ They then approached my husband, saying the same thing before stepping back into the music room.”

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