Clinton County towns have closed a number of polling sites — a move enabled by modern technology and encouraged by cost savings, said Board of Elections Commissioners Susan Castine and Greg Campbell.
The many election sites recently eliminated in Clinton County were a throwback to the time of analog voting machines with levers and rolling counters.
Now that the polling machines have gone digital, the machines can count above 999. That limitation on the old voting booths was the reason for so many polling sites, said Greg Campbell, Democratic election commissioner for Clinton County. Sites had to be planned so machines wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
With 2010 and 2011 elections run on the new machines, towns are ready to reap the benefits of the more efficient electronic voter booths, said Republican Election Commisioner Susan Castine.
“Everything’s going very smoothly,” she said.
Ausable from 3 to 2
Beekmantown from 5 to 4
Black Brook from 3 to 2
Champlain from 4 to 3
Chazy from 3 to 2
Mooers from 3 to 2
Peru from 5 to 4
Town of Plattsburgh from 9 to 7
Saranac from 5 to 3
Schuyler Falls from 5 to 3
City of Plattsburgh, all wards from 3 to 2
The cuts will also save towns money, about $54,000 throughout the county. In Clinton County, the Board of Elections charges back some of the costs of the election to the towns. That number is a flat fee that applies to all towns and is charged for each polling site. The more polling sites a town closes, the more they save.
They also save money in site workers. Four are required at each polling site, so closing even one saves that day’s costs for four people. Closing two, like Saranac and Schuyler Falls did, saves twice as much.
Keeping open each election site will be a bit more expensive for the next round of elections. Because the cost of an election is equally divided among the towns, every polling site that stays open represents a larger percentage of the smaller number, so election sites become a little more expensive.
Some towns held steady. Clinton only had one, so they couldn’t cut a site. Ellenburg and Dannemora both voted to keep their polling sites because of the size of their townships. It would be too much of a hardship for older citizens to drive from one side of those rural towns to the other, was the consensus at their town board meetings.
Another issue for the board of elections is that the Village of Dannemora covers area represented by two different county legislators, so state law prohibits consolidating those sites.
The board of elections didn’t need the towns’ approval to change polling sites or election districts. They cut election districts from 70 to 53 in the county and polling sites from 41 to 32. That board is vested with the authority to alter those rolls as it sees fit.
But they know that town boards understand their citizens and geography much better than the county, so they asked first. The towns that voted against closing polling sites were allowed to keep them and continue to cover costs.
The Board of Elections is sending out postcards to affected voters to let them know about changes to primary and general election sites. Primaries will likely have fewer polling places than the maximum available.