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There’s No Reason For Elections Board Information To Require A FOIL Request

We have no reason to doubt Paul Wolf when he says the Chautauqua County Board of Elections is among the 10 that didn’t respond to a pair of Freedom of Information Law requests last summer.

Chautauqua County isn’t alone in blowing off the New York Coalition for Open Government’s requests. Ten of the 19 county elections boards queried didn’t respond at all to the coalition’s FOIL requests for meeting minutes. Only five adhered to the state’s Freedom of Information Law by responding within five days.

There was a lot happening at the Chautauqua County Board of Elections over the summer, but someone in the office surely could have responded over the course of six months. A football season has come and nearly gone again, and the county Board of Elections still hasn’t responded to a simple request for meeting minutes.

That information, by the way, should be available on the county’s website without a FOIL request. Wolf is right when he says state law should change to require election commissioners to conduct business in public, to deliberate in public when deciding on elections matters and letting the public comment at elections board meetings. And, according to Chautauqua County’s recent policy changes on meeting minutes, elections board meetings should be live streamed and posted online with the rest of the county’s meetings.

The Chautauqua County Board of Elections has done outstanding work over the years. Its online platforms outshine neighboring counties. The office, under the direction of Norm Green and Brian Abram, handled the implementation of new voting machines and early voting with utter professionalism.

That gives us faith the Chautauqua County Board of Elections can handle the relatively uncomplicated task of increasing transparency in its office.

The issues found by the New York Coalition on Open Government can, and should, be fixed. Quickly.

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