Supervisors decry poll consolidation

ELIZABETHTOWN - A plan to save money by reducing the number of polling places in Essex County is being met with staunch opposition from county officials.

The Essex County Ways and Means Committee voted April 26 to urge the county's Board of Elections to reconsider a plan that would close up to four polling sites in four separate towns, thereby saving Essex County roughly $50,000.

Commissioners at the Board of Elections notified supervisors in each of the four towns late last week of their plan to reduce the county's expenses for new electronic voting machines now required by state regulations in accordance with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

The plan involves consolidating the polling places of less populous voting districts with those of other districts such that one less voting machine is needed to accommodate voters in both districts.

As of this year, all polling places in New York are required to utilize optical scan voting machines, which tabulate votes by scanning a paper ballot marked by voters.

Essex County has budgeted the purchase of several of the new machines, which cost about $11,500 each, with much of the funds coming from a federal HAVA grant. The need for up to four machines would be eliminated under the consolidation plan.

Still, most town supervisors agreed the savings is not worth the possible cost to voter turnout.

Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava offered a resolution opposing the Board of Elections plan and asking that all current polling places be kept open.

Scozzafava said one of the polling sites up for closure would be the one used in the hamlet of Mineville for town voting district three. He said he was adamantly opposed to the change as it would keep many voters in that district away from the polls.

"The whole premise behind this [HAVA] act is to encourage people to vote," he said, "and this doesn't do that."

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