At a time when local municipalities are tightening purse strings, dealing with unfunded state mandates and, in some cases, cutting back on services, the last thing officials want to do is shell out thousands to accommodate legislation surrounding New York’s new voting machines.
State election law requires villages to now use electronic scanners, which made their debut during general and primary elections last fall. As per the law, Garden City must have ballots on hand for 110 percent of its 16,000 registered voters. The ballots cost approximately .55 cents a piece, resulting in an $8,800 price tag for the village.
"This is of concern to all villages," Fishberg said. "The villages are distraught over that."
And to make matters worse, Nassau County will not make the scanning machines available to the village, according to counsel Gary Fishberg, forcing officials to rent the machines from an independent source, which he says comes at a hefty cost, or resort to paper ballots.
Pending legislation introduced by Sen. Jack Martins, R-Mineola, however, would allow villages, special districts, improvement districts, library districts and fire districts to use the mechanical lever voting machines for at least the next two years.
Senate colleague Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, supports the bill: “The recent enactment of amendments to New York’s election law for the purpose of implementing the new scanner voting machines has resulted in numerous unintended consequences. The confusion and expense that the 2010 amendments are causing villages, special districts, fire districts, improvement districts and library districts seeking to conduct their elections are significant.”
Hannon further notes that Chapter 165 of the laws of 2010 “radically amended the provisions of state law regarding the use of paper ballots.”
“Currently New York’s election law only addresses the format of paper ballots that are to be used by scanner voting machines,” he said. “New York’s election law does not provide for any other form of paper ballot. Consequently, villages, special districts, fire districts, improvement districts and library districts that are conducting elections by hand count must either use paper ballots that are in a format that complies with state law but that are unsuitable for the hand counting process or use paper ballots in a format that works for hand counted elections, but which do not comply with state law. This legislation will correct this oversight.”
Garden City’s total election budget for the current year 2010/2011 is $2,375, according to village clerk Brian Ridgway. It breaks down as follows:
- $725 for inspectors and a clerk (total of six people);
- $450 for various supplies;
- $450 machine rental (two machines);
- $150 legal notices; and
- $600 for machine delivery and pick-up (two machines)
Ridgway also noted that this year he is increasing to four machines and additional inspectors. "It will be orderly and controlled," he assured residents at Thursday's meeting.
Senate bill S.2339A (Assembly companion bill A.3093A) has advanced to the Senate floor and could be acted on as early as next week.
"The hope is that bill will pass in sufficient time," Fishberg said. "People are crossing their fingers and anticipating that will happen.”
Garden City’s March 15 village election will take place at village hall as usual, only this year residents will be voting in the boardroom – not the lobby, between noon and 9 p.m.