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Boy, Did We Get That Wrong

Last week, in this space, we ran a piece about low voter turnout in Buffalo’s school board elections. At the center of the piece was a bit of snarky, gotcha-style journalism: We’d consulted a voter history database at the Erie County Board of Elections, which indicated that a suprisingly large number of elected officials who reside in the City of Buffalo had, like so many other eligible voters, failed to go to the polls.

We’d been assured that the database was up-to-date. We ran some names through it as test cases to gauge its accuracy. Those test cases worked, so we ran the politicians through the machine and published the names of those who had voted and those who had not.

On Thursday morning, we received a call from Mayor Byron Brown’s office, insisting that, contrary to our report, he had voted. (A pretty friendly call, given the circumstances.) North District Councilman Joe Golombek sent a note saying that he, too, had voted; the South District’s Chris Scanlon protested via Facebook. Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder’s office sent us a copy of the page in the voter book that Schroeder had signed when he went to the polls. Fillmore District Councilman Dave Franczyk and Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez let us know that they’d voted, too.

And the hits kept coming. Friday morning, as it became evident that we’d made a mistake, we pulled the story from the website.

And now we are retracting it entirely. We were dead wrong: The database is not yet up to date, according to BOE Commissioner Dennis Ward; it includes some but not all of the data from last month’s school board election, which may explain why the test cases yielded accurate results but the the survey of elected officials was so rife with errors.

So, we apologize to those elected officials whom we said had not voted, specifically to those named above, who contacted us to correct our mistake. We apologize as well to the staff at the Erie County Board of Elections, who were made to answer for our mistake as those officials called to ask why the BOE database was innacurate. We deeply regret the error.

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