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GOP says Konst voted twice on Election Day '98 She denies it, alleges fraud

Kathy Konst, the Democratic county legislator from Lancaster challenging incumbent Republican Dale M. Volker for the State Senate, voted on Election Day in Florida and New York in 1998, according to documents obtained by the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Federal prosecutors confirm that falsely reporting the place and period of residence for voting in a federal election violates federal law and constitutes a felony. But they also say the statute of limitations for any offense committed in 1998 expired five years ago.

Konst, however, vehemently denies the charges. She said she did not live in Florida in 1998 and claims the documents are "doctored."

"It's absolutely impossible," she said. "I moved from there in 1992. It's absurd. I swear on a stack of Bibles."

While Konst may not be prosecuted, the charge is likely to become a major issue in the hotly contested election.

Officials of the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office confirmed for The Buffalo News that Konst voted at the polls in the Nov. 3, 1998, general election at polling place 407 in West Palm Beach.

Erie County records, meanwhile, also show her voting at the polls on the same day in Lancaster.

Records also show that Konst registered to vote in Palm Beach County on July 7, 1992, and then registered in Erie County on Oct. 5, 1992. In addition, she applied to renew a Florida driver's license in 1994, two years after she said she moved to Lancaster.

The documents raise serious questions, said Joseph Conway, spokesman for the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

"This is a shocking development on every level," he said. "It certainly raises questions of integrity and why she would possibly do such a thing."

Konst, however, questions why she would travel to Florida to vote when she did not live there, and then fly to Buffalo on the same day to vote in Erie County. She insisted that her family permanently moved to Buffalo in 1992, and that the allegation is "beyond absurd."

"I tell you, they have made up bogus documents," she said. "I will call the FBI, and they're going to have to investigate."

Konst unsuccessfully made her first run for the County Legislature in 1999.

Attorney Harry N. Konst, the candidate's husband, does not dispute what the records say after he hired a Florida attorney to investigate. But he and his wife insist the documents were "fabricated" and labeled the Republican effort to discredit her as "fraud."

He pointed to Tuesday's court ruling that disqualified his wife as the Integrity Party candidate, and suggested the effort to discredit her stems from a Republican desire to preserve the Volker seat and the slim GOP majority in the Senate.

"Together with all the other things they are doing, this looks like intent," he said. "Mr. Volker will stop at nothing."

Kathy Adams, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, said Konst was listed as an "inactive" voter when she cast her ballot in 1998, but that her status was changed to "active" in 1999 as a result of her vote the previous November. Adams said the polling place where her vote was recorded corresponds to the address at which she registered in 1992. Konst insisted she had not lived there for several years.

Konst demanded the elections office in Florida produce a signature card to verify its records, but Adams said such documents are kept for only two years. She said her office's voter history confirms that all proper steps were taken in recording the vote and doubted that anyone could alter the county's official records.

"I don't know why anybody would do anything like that," Adams said. "I have not heard of that happening before."

The GOP's Conway also produced several legal documents showing tax liens and other legal cases involving the couple for years ranging from 1991 to 1996 in Florida. These documents point to the Konsts' "continuing presence" in Florida throughout the mid-1990s, he said.

"Official government records also show she voted in two states," Conway said.Joseph Conway, spokesman for the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.

Harry Konst insisted that the couple moved to Buffalo in 1992, explaining that legal actions they encountered in Florida were not settled for several years after their departure from that state.

Harry Konst said the couple owned property under contract for about a year in Jupiter, Fla., but that they never closed on it because of a flooding problem. He said he was "pretty sure" they did not apply for a homestead property tax exemption there, for which voter registration can provide a basis.

Palm Beach County property assessment officials said they had no record of the Konsts applying for a homestead exemption.

Kathy Konst acknowledged that she renewed her Florida driver's license in 1994, but she described it as a "dual license" that served as a check cashing aid for when she was visiting family there.

Conway also noted that Konst still has not filed her campaign finance disclosure report as required by New York State election law. That was due Sept. 19.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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