The national media paid attention Sunday to the alleged ballot tampering in Erie County, and Republican County Executive Chris Collins took advantage of it during a "Fox News" appearance by harshly criticizing his Democratic opponent, Mark C. Poloncarz.
Poloncarz, in turn, blasted Collins.
The alleged tampering centers around at least 10 ballots that were mailed to absentee voters in Lackawanna who complained that the ballots already had been marked for Collins on either the Republican or Independence line.
The investigation is focused on a Democratic clerk at the Erie County Board of Elections, but county sheriff's investigators have emphasized that they do not suspect the tampering was linked in any way to the campaigns of either Collins or Poloncarz.
"What we've seen in the last week leading up to the elections is a disturbing trend of dirty tricks and outright election fraud here in Buffalo and Erie County that involves my opponent and his supporters, a Democrat operative in the Erie County Board of Elections and also the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party," Collins said in an interview during a brief "Fox News" segment known as "Voter Fraud Watch."
Poloncarz was invited but did not appear on the show.
His campaign did issue a written statement, saying that the Erie County Sheriff's Office has said neither campaign was involved in the alleged tampering and contending that Collins lied by falsely accusing Poloncarz.
"His interview on 'Fox News' was shrill, finger-pointing accusation at its worst," said Poloncarz campaign spokesman Peter Anderson. "Why won't he accept the sheriff's findings? We've said all along that the person responsible should be prosecuted for this serious offense."
Meanwhile, Charlie King, executive director of the state Democratic Party, issued a statement, as well, saying, "Collins will do anything to distract voters from his dismal record on job creation."
Asked on the Fox show if the incident might be the result of a mistake, Collins said, "They were trying to frame my campaign and it backfired on them." He later accused Poloncarz and the Democratic Party of "desperation politics."
Last week, the Sheriff's Office reported that an arrest in the case was "imminent."