Ellen Marshall, the Albany Township clerk takes the ballots. Without an automatic tabulator, they hand counted the approximately 350 ballots after the polls closed. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

ALBANY — “It’s been the voting place for the residents of Albany for 175 years,” said Bob O’Brien of Albany Town Hall, built in 1848. “How can we fix the security at the Albany Town House? … Let’s focus on how we can do it and keep the town house as our only remaining public building.”

He was posing the question to the Oxford County Board of Commissioners who are considering moving the voting location for Albany residents to another town. The board held a public meeting in the Oxford County courthouse on Tuesday morning.

The main points are, “where they [the ballots] are stored, how the process is being done and what control I have over the process,” said Donald Durrah, county administrator. He stressed that he currently has no control over voting in Albany.

The timing of Albany Registrar Joan Kimball’s retirement from the job this year, after twenty years, was also an opening for the board to make a change, even though Kimball wrote to the commissioners to say she was willing to stay on and train one of three others she had suggested as her replacement.

Mike Richard, of Albany, asked if a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request was part of the $9, 264 (over four years) that the county spent this year on Albany’s elections. Durrah said it was, but did not breakdown the cost. Attorney, James Pross explained that a man from out state was acting on behalf of “some loose third party organization that was inundating all voting places with these FOAA requests.”

Albany resident Pam Chodosh asked what procedures they [the commissioners] are worried about, concerning Kimball’s daughter [or someone else] running the election. “It seems that the county is just making sure they don’t get sued by a possible Freedom of Information Act inquiry,” said Chodosh.


While according to Kimball, there have never been any security issues or  “auditors” in Albany Town Hall, registrars and town clerks across the country have been faced with voters that are pushing for what they call “audits” and access to voter information. However in Maine, “disputes over who has access to counted ballots have been exceedingly rare,” according to a 2022 Maine public radio story.

Justifying Albany as the last Unorganized Territory in Oxford County to have voting in their own town was also an issue, said Durrah, “Albany is not unique from every other UT across this state … we are paying for the people to be there [at elections].”

Ballots are kept under lock and key at Joan Kimball’s home. Rose Lincoln

Regarding where Albany voters would go to vote if the commissioners implemented this plan, Attorney James Pross explained a process where if a specific town was not designated for all Albany voters, residents could register in a municipality that is convenient for them.  If it is a contracted arrangement the county would pay the designated town. “It’s nice to frame it as Albany residents have the freedom to choose the most convenient place to vote and then there’s no payment from the county to any of those towns, just pointing that out,” said Pam Chodosh of Albany.

So far, Waterford and Sumner’s town clerks have refused to take Albany, according to Kimball who was not able to attend the meeting. Amy Hanscom, assistant town manager in Bethel confirmed that there is no plan in place for a Bethel takeover of Albany, either.

Durrah said, “The climate has changed in regard to election processes. There are some new rules coming out … part of it, is how it gets processed.” He went on to talk about absentee Albany ballots that are purportedly being dropped off and picked up “by people ‘I don’t pay” at people’s homes. Just that security issue alone causes me pause… As I look at this globally, not just for Albany. I have to take a look at what we’re responsible for because I am responsible for that process,” he said.

Albany resident Bill Sawyer said that multiple times his wife’s absentee ballot has been sent by U.S. Mail to his house and that she then mailed the completed ballot back to Kimball.


Paul Hausman suggested they provide a fire proof safe in Joan Kimball’s house. He said a break in could happen as easily at a private house as at a town hall.

A suggestion from a few residents was to have someone from the commissioner’s office come and preside over the election.

The town clerks in the towns [versus the UT’s] have multiple trained back-ups said Durrah. “But the risk is not the county’s, the risk is the towns.” Durrah said he also looking at the issue of contracts and ‘refusals to sign a contract.’ Other state contracts, like plow drivers’ contracts, are different argued Durrah. He said he was also concerned that no one would step forward to be the registrar. “Albany is not a town, so the processes are different,” he said.

On Monday, Kimball said she had received no notice of the proposed change and only found out about the meeting from another resident. She was unclear about the commissioners’  motives. “I asked about doing a voting machine. Gilead has a voting machine and they have 69 people voting. The counting isn’t an issue for me. I do have a lot of people who will come and count… that was money [to buy a machine] we didn’t need to spend … A lot of people like it, ‘oh you still hand count.'”

Because Kimball, and her husband John, have paid for stamps and paper and because her salary was so low, Kimball said, “I kind of feel like we’ve been doing a community service.”

As soon as she heard of the meeting, Kimball wrote an e-mail to Abby Shanor, the Oxford County Commissioners’ Executive Assistant and asked that her letter be read at the public hearing. “Your office has been paying me $500.00/year for the last 20 years or so, only giving me a raise after I resigned in July, I had asked for a raise in 2017.”


Shanor, wrote back, “the county commissioners, also noted how election security has become a big concern throughout the country so fees are adding up in other places such as legal fees. As you know from working with our attorney last year, we have started to receive FOAA (Freedom of Access Act) requests which cost the county legal fees to investigate and respond and feel it would be better to have the records stored in a municipal building rather than a residential home.”

Kimball had asked for a raise in 2017 and finally last year, was surprised when, without notice, her pay was bumped up and she received $1800.

She said last year a lawyer (from the county) called and asked her to describe how she stored the ballots. She has kept the completed ballots in a lock box in her basement. The unused ballots are there, too. “I have all the ballots in my house. Everyone in the past has always done that. It’s all sealed. The keys are kept separate from where the used ballots are stored… It has stay sealed for so many months. I don’t touch it until we do another election … It’s unusual the way we do it here… I have twenty years worth of incoming voting lists in my basement.” She has a retention schedule and burns the materials that are scheduled for elimination.

Kimball said she told the board she was willing to drive the ballots to South Paris, if that was the issue.

At the start of the meeting on Tuesday, Sawyer said, “Shame on all of you for not notifying the citizens of Albany … I’m hopping mad.”  Several people at the meeting requested another public hearing, and not on a weekday morning, since there was not enough notice for this one.

Commissioner David Duguay suggested it may be time for Albany to look at organizing as a town.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: