ELIZABETHTOWN - With primary elections out of the way, officials at the Essex County Board of Elections are in high gear to prepare for the Nov. 2 general elections.
Elections commissioners Derinda Sherman and Robert Pell-DeChame met with the Essex County Board of Supervisors last week and reported relatively positive results from the Sept. 15 primary.
"We had no machine issues," said Sherman. "We had a few hiccups with inspectors and paperwork but all in all, it went off pretty smoothly."
This year's primary was the first election in Essex County to use the new opti-scan computerized voting machines, recently mandated for all elections in New York State.
The machines require voters to mark a paper ballot. The ballots are fed into the machines, which "reads" them and tabulates the votes for each candidate.
Sherman noted concerns regarding the ballots for the upcoming general election, however, which are missing finger-pointer graphics for some local elections to make up for the inclusion of all nine candidates for New York governor.
"We are concerned about voters, what they are going to do and what they are going to see," said Sherman.
Sherman said she and DeChame petitioned the State Board of Elections to modify the ballot before Nov. 2, but some absentee ballots may not be changed in time.
"Military ballots had to go out on Friday [Oct. 1] so we spent the afternoon sending a ballot that we knew was going to be wrong," said Sherman. "It's out of our control. It is a state timing problem with the legislature and the laws that they have not changed."
Once the ballots are corrected, Sherman said, sample copies will be distributed to each town hall so voters can see the ballot before they come to vote. County supervisors requested quicker reporting of election results, noting how results from the primary elections were not fully reported until shortly before midnight.
"The voters want to know the tally on election night," said Board of Supervisors chair Randy Douglas. "They can't wait to get on-line and see it in the papers' or (the County's) Web site."
"We figured out a way to get it uploaded on the Web site a little earlier," Sherman said. "When it came in we had a lag time of 10 minutes or so and I think we have figured out a way to improve that time."
Unlike in elections past, when election workers called in unofficial results from the polling sites, the ballots and memory cards from the voting machines must be returned to Elizabethtown and processed before results can be reported.
"They can call them in but the state frowns on posting those to the Web site," said Sherman, noting it was confusion among election inspectors in a few towns that caused an unnecessary delay for the primary.
"What we are doing is we are going to meet with [them] and go over the paperwork," said Sherman, "so hopefully they will be faster with that and there won't be the delays on getting their supplies packed up."
In the meantime, the Board of Elections is extending its office hours for certain days leading up to Nov. 2. in order to better accommodate absentee ballot requests
The office will be open until 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Oct. 27. On two saturdays, Oct. 23 and 30, the Board of Elections will be open 9 a.m. to noon.
Absentee ballots are available to all registered voters who will be out of Essex County for the general election. Applications for such ballots must be postmarked no later than Oct. 26.
An emergency absence can be handled by a voter making an application in person, or through a representative, at the Board of Elections office as a late as Nov. 1. All applications must be signed by the voter.
The Board of Elections is also recruiting registered voters in both parties to serve as inspectors, which are paid an hourly rate, plus mileage. Inspectors assigned to work at polls outside their voting district will be allowed to vote via absentee ballot. More information is available by calling 873-3474.