Prosecutors investigating allegation inspectors pre-stamped mayoral ballots

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Erie County District Attorney’s office acknowledged it was investigating Wednesday after an allegation was made that poll inspectors pre-stamped ballots in the Buffalo mayoral race.

The allegation was made by Democratic nominee India Walton, who unofficially received 41% of the early voting and Election Day vote. Roughly 59% of votes were written-in, the vast majority of which are expected to belong to incumbent Byron Brown.

Buffalo mayor race: Byron Brown’s write-in bid appears successful, leading India Walton

Brown declared victory Tuesday night. Walton has not conceded defeat, although she said in a statement Wednesday, “(I)t seems unlikely that we will end up with enough votes to inaugurate a Walton administration in January.”

In that same statement, Walton said she wanted every vote to be counted and any improprieties that occurred to be brought to light. She later specifically referenced “Republican poll inspectors pre-stamping ballots”.

When asked about the allegation, Erie County elections commissioners Ralph Mohr and Jeremy Zellner said in a joint statement, “As soon as we were made aware of the alleged incident, the inspectors in question were dismissed and replaced. We have referred this matter to the District Attorney’s office for a full review and investigation.”

India Walton says “it seems unlikely” she’ll have enough votes to be elected mayor

An election official later said the polling location in question was the Belle Center on Maryland Street. According to Erie County election maps, that site is in the Ellicott Ward’s 35th District. In that district, Walton received 68 votes, compared to 140 write-in votes.

In a statement of their own, the Erie County District Attorney’s office said, “Our office was contacted by the Board of Elections to investigate an allegation that poll workers may have misused a stamp at one polling location yesterday. We cannot comment further while the matter remains under investigation.”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.

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