HUDSON — Ken Dow was appointed and sworn in as the new Democratic election commissioner Wednesday evening.
He succeeds former Democratic commissioner Virginia Martin, after the Columbia County Board of Supervisors opted in December not to reappoint her. Martin had held the post for nearly a decade.
Dow has lived in Chatham for the past six years and served as election commissioner from 2005-08, as well as Columbia County Democratic Committee chairman during the same time period, and was a candidate for state senate in 2008. He has served as an attorney for several local municipalities, including the Copake Planning Board and the Village of Chatham.
“We want to achieve and sustain a level of excellence in the board of elections’ essential duties to administer elections in a way that ensures the integrity of voting and elections, and gives the public confidence in the process and outcome of every election,” Dow said.
Columbia County Democratic Committee Chairman Keith Kanaga said Dow’s experience as a commissioner will serve him well.
“We are delighted to welcome Ken Dow as the Democratic election commissioner, a position he has held before,” Kanaga said. “Ken will hit the ground running to give us a smooth election experience.”
Dow and Republican commissioner Kelly Miller-Simmons, who was appointed in January, are the county’s first full-time election commissioners.
Prior to Jan. 1, 2020, the county had two part-time election commissioners — one Republican and one Democrat — but as of the beginning of this year the position was converted to full-time. Commissioners serve two-year terms.
“This will help the board of elections be a much smoother operation with full-time commissioners,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said Thursday. “It was a tough year and there was a lot of turmoil.”
In the November 2019 general election, results were delayed for days, and in some cases, weeks. The board of elections also had a problem with a flea infestation in its office and was forced to moved its headquarters down the hall in the same building, 401 State St., Hudson. Renovations are ongoing. The fleas were tested and determined to be from animals, but it is not known where they came from, Murell said.
“As far as I know, they have been eradicated,” Murell said.
Early voting, in particular, has made the move to full-time election commissioners necessary, Murell said.
“It got so big — we had some issues in the last election in November, which a lot of us felt could have been avoided, but it had more to do with the number of elections as well as early voting,” Murell said of the decision to make the positions full-time.
Each party has an election commissioner, who serves as the representative for the party, and oversees the elections office, Murell said. There are four full-time positions at the board of elections for each party, and several part-timers who work on an as-needed basis, typically during election season.
In 2020 there will be three elections — the primary in June for both state and federal positions, the presidential primary and the general election in November — and each election will have early voting. The county’s board of elections also oversees school board elections, Murell said.
Miller-Simmons, the Republican election commissioner who took office in January, is a small business owner who ran for town supervisor of Copake in 2019. She succeeds former Republican election commissioner Jason Nastke, who opted not to be considered for the position once it went from part-time to full-time.
Miller-Simmons could not be reached for comment Thursday.