While the Essex County Board of Elections deemed the 2011 General Election a success, several supervisors were less than pleased with the speed at which they were able to get results.
County Chairman and Jay Supervisor Randall “Randy” Douglas led the conversation, saying that he felt the new system led to delays in reporting election results, which he saw as a problem.
“In this day and age, things should be faster and not slower,” Douglas said at the Nov. 14 Public Safety Committee Meeting. “How it works now is slower than what it was 20 years ago. I have been going to sites since 1976 and I can tell you that there have never been any problems with the call-ins.”
Board of Elections Republican Director Derinda Sherman said that inspectors were still getting used to reading the new voting machines, which could lead to inaccuracies on call-in results.
She also said that the state has encouraged counties and towns to stop the practice of calling in results.
“The majority of the counties throughout the county do it the way that we did it, and the state has discouraged us from making the phone calls,” Sherman said. “We had them up by 11 p.m.”
Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said that he was able to have the results for his town within half-an-hour of the polls closing Nov. 8.
“In Westport, they had the results at 9:10 p.m.,” Connell said. “By the time I got home, my wife was home and she had the results. By 9:15 p.m., we had the results. To not be able to tell people who won the races until after midnight is crazy. The public is out there saying that this is crazy.”
Sherman said they wanted to follow the recommendations from the state.
“It’s not a legal consideration,” Sherman said. “It is recommended that we do not use the phone calling system. You knew whether you had won or not locally, but you didn’t know if another colleague had won or not.”
Sherman also said that errors in a phone call could lead to suspicion.
“When people see that they have a certain number of votes and then those votes either gain or disappear, then they become suspicious,” Sherman said. “Do you prefer to have inaccurate results or accurate. The ones on the website are unofficial, but they are 100 percent accurate.”
Sherman also said the board was continuing to train inspectors to be more capable of reading the machines.
“We changed our training style this year and the inspectors like the style of training, but it is one step at a time,” Sherman said about the new voting equipment. “The more election districts that they have, the more nervous they can get. Over time they will get better and more familiar with reading the tapes, but they are just not there yet.”
Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston agreed with the assessment.
“It seems to me that it was the process that was the problem,” Preston said. “I know what I witnessed was an unfamiliarity with what was playing out.”
“The tapes that come out of those machines are not really self-defining,” Keene Supervisor William Ferebee said.
St. Armand Supervisor Joyce Morency and Schroon Supervisor Cathy Moses also said that they would like to see results faster.
David Blades offered that the board try having election call-ins in 2012 to see if the process would work.
“What you are hearing is that the supervisors would like to see the results quicker,” Blades said. “If we try it and it works, great. But if it doesn’t, then we move on.”
“I don’t understand why the inspectors from each district can’t call the town hall and give the unofficial results,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said.
Douglas said that he did not feel like he received an answer as to why the phone system was no longer being used.
“There has to be a better reason than what I am hearing today that these results cannot be out there until 11 p.m. or later,” Douglas said. “I am encouraging you to use the phone call system because it works. I honestly don’t care what every other county or town is doing. We can speed things up with a phone call over here or where ever. Obviously mistakes can happen on a phone call, and they do happen. But the unofficial results should be quicker, not slower.”