New York State police on Tuesday seized the mayor of Rensselaer’s phone and questioned him as part of an investigation into absentee ballot fraud allegations after he narrowly defeated a Democratic challenger.
A State Police spokesman said his department is “conducting interviews as we do with any investigation, one being the Rensselaer mayor.”
“Items have been seized as a part of this investigation, however, we will not get into what particular items have been seized,” added the rep, Beau Duffy.
Stammel denied participating in any misdeeds in the election, in which a high number of absentee ballots were reportedly submitted.
“I myself, or nobody affiliated with me during the election process, that I am aware of, had anything to do with any wrongdoing with any absentee ballots or any voting intimidation or anything to with the election other than assisting those people who wanted to vote by absentee ballots with their approvals,” Stammel told the Times Union.
Stammel brushed aside the inquiry, insisting he isn’t “rattled” by the investigation and cell phone seizure.
“No, I’m not rattled. There’s no concerns on my part one way or another. If they are going to get to the bottom of this … I believe they’re looking at the wrong side of the coin, myself,” he said, according to the Times Union. “I believe that this was something that either was orchestrated from the other side in order to sort of provide some sort of entrapment or just a misunderstanding.”
Stammel — a former county legislator who has served as Rensselaer’s mayor since January 2020 — narrowly won reelection in November in the mayoral race over Democratic challenger Richard Mooney, who held the position for one year immediately prior to Stammel’s tenure.
Mooney asked a court to throw out a significant number of absentee ballots after the election, including some filed on behalf of voters who said they had not authorized anyone to file absentee ballots for them. In all, 120 absentee ballots in Rensselaer were challenged in court.
For example, a Rensselaer man told the Times Union last month that absentee ballots requested on his and his wife’s behalf were phony, because he never submitted an absentee ballot application nor has he ever voted. He suspects someone forged their signatures on the documents.
The man told the publication that he has never interacted with Rich Crist, a Republican operative whose name was on the ballot applications as the person permitted to pick up the ballots from the local Board of Election.
After speaking to the newspaper, the 32-year-old man’s tires were suspiciously slashed, according to the Times Union.
On Dec. 6, Stammel declared victory in the race, mired by ballot fraud, after Mooney relented in his legal battle.
“There has been no fraud allegations that have been known and those allegations have been withdrawn by my opponent,” Stammel said, according to WAMC. “So, therefore, you know how long it’s been a clean election on my side.”