PARIS — Residents of Albany Township expressed dissatisfaction Tuesday with Oxford County officials’ proposal to eliminate the unorganized territory’s only polling place for security reasons, forcing voters to cast ballots in neighboring municipalities.

Commissioners hosted a public hearing Tuesday morning to discuss the plan before their monthly meeting.

Seven residents from Albany Township and three from neighboring Bethel attended the hearing, which lasted more than 90 minutes. No one spoke in favor of the proposal.

Voters in Albany Township cast their ballots at the 1848 Albany Town Hall at the intersection of state Routes 5 and 35, or Vernon Street and Hunt’s Corner Road.

The plan presented Tuesday by Oxford County Administrator Donald Durrah would close the longtime polling place and have residents register and vote at a neighboring municipality of their choice. It would align Albany Township with the other unorganized territories in the county where residents can choose their voting location.

Voters in Albany Township can see the ballot in the window of Albany Town hall

Sample ballots for the November 2022 election are taped to the window of Albany Town Hall, where residents of the unorganized territory vote. County officials are considering whether to halt voting there and have residents vote in neighboring communities instead. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen file

Durrah said the impetus for the change is security.


“Security of voting records has become a hot topic across the United States,” Durrah said. “In addition, how those voting records are being processed has caused us to take a look at how they are being processed here. The driver in this is security.”

For the past 30 years Joan Kimball has served as the registrar of voters. But with no town office, voting records as well as ballots have been stored at her home. Durrah said that is not the best-case scenario in keeping voting records secure.

Kimball is retiring, which is another reason for the proposed change, Durrah added.

Being an unorganized territory, Albany Township’s government functions are the responsibility of Oxford County. The county contracts for all capital improvements, fire, rescue, road maintenance and snow removal. As the only unorganized territory in the county that votes locally and one of the few in the state, the county is responsible for the integrity of the vote.

“Having these records in somebody’s personal home is a security issue for me,” Durrah said. “Anybody can enter the building. I have no control over the records.”

Those records would be more secure if they resided in a nearby municipal office, which has a higher level of security than someone’s home, he added.


The most likely towns for residents to register and vote are nearby Waterford, Stoneham and Bethel. State law allows residents in the unorganized territory to vote in one of those communities, county attorney James Pross said.

Residents in attendance at the public hearing were not happy with the proposed change.

“How can we fix the security” at the Albany Town Hall? asked Bob O’Brien, president of the Albany Improvement Association. “That will make things a lot simpler for everyone. We’ve been there for 175 years.”

“If the issue is the security of the records, that should be an easy fix,” he said later.

“We’re more than ready to do whatever is necessary to satisfy the security issue,” Mike Richards said.

Bill Sawyer blasted the county for not doing a better job of notifying residents of the proposed change, saying more people would have been at the public hearing if they were aware of it.


Pamela Chodosh asserted that the real reason for the change wasn’t just security, it was financial.

“I just want to put that out there,” Chodosh said.

Durrah admitted that was a contributing factor.

This year, the issue of Albany Township voting has cost the county more than $9,000 because of multiple Freedom of Information Access requests from out-of-state groups seeking information on the voting process in the county, including ballot integrity and security, Durrah said.

When one resident asked if the county could provide one of its employees to run the election and handle the ballots, Durrah said he had not considered that, but would take the suggestion under advisement.

He stressed that commissioners, who have the final say, will consider all feedback before making a final decision.

Commissioner David Duguay of Byron added that perhaps the board needed to study the issue further.

When Chodosh asked the county if it would guarantee them another public hearing on the issue, Durrah said he and the commissioners would consider it.

The county has no timetable for a final decision.

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