Oswego School Board Considering Changes in Polling Places, Hours and Machine Use for Annual Vote

By Bill Foley, OCT Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – Oswego City School District voters might see a substantial change in the process in May 2016.

Prior to the start of the Oswego City School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, the board heard an extensive presentation from Oswego County Board of Elections Commissioner Richard Atkins.

Atkins presentation was entitled “Transitioning to Optical Scan Voting in School District Elections for 2016” and covered the spectrum of the current voting process as well as possible modifications that could streamline and consolidate the annual budget vote and board member election.

For several years the district has been interested in reducing the 10 polling places as there is a voting site for each ward of the city of Oswego as well as the towns of Scriba, Minetto and Oswego.

Atkins recommended a possible reduction of poll sites and expanding hours of the vote.

He also asked the board, “What will you do when you can no longer use the lever machines that expire in 2015?”

Continuing he said, “I am not here to run your elections. But, I’ll be glad to assist you in running elections with electronic voting machines. You do have options including paper, buying your own electronic machines, buying your own machines and equipment to produce your own ballots and finally the Board of Elections will provide machines and produce the ballot to run your own operation.”

The commissioner explained the reasons for the use of optical scanners and he noted the importance as lever machines will no longer be allowable.

He explained that the optical machines must go through pre-election testing before the scanners can be used in the election and in regards to transportation the board of elections personnel are required to deliver the equipment to the school district sites.

With the electronic machines being used in general elections for nearly a decade the public is familiar with the process and the voting in the school district will be the same as how it is done in the general elections.

He indicated that trained inspectors would be required at the various polling stations, but that there could be a consolidation with a reduction in the number of sites.

In explaining the process further, he noted that the school district would have to pay to have the ballots printed and the Board of Elections would help determine the number of ballots that are needed.

Each ballot would cost 48 cents.

The school district would also have to cover the cost of truck rental to deliver the machines as well as labor costs for the driver and helper.

The school district would also have a one-time fee of $36 per machine for memory cards.

Atkins also assured the Board of Education that there would be an availability of technical assistance after the  Board of Elections offices close for the day.

In the event of a budget defeat and a revote is necessary the same procedures would be re-implemented.

School board member Sam Tripp asked about expenses and Atkins supplied a spread sheet with all pertinent information at a cost of approximately $7,500 the first year while it would go down to $7,000 the second year as the district would have the memory cards.

He explained that the cost could get it down to $4,700 with reductions and using just three polling places.

The three poll sites could be broken down in such a way with three machines.

One machine would be placed at the Oswego Town Hall to serve the voters of Minetto and Oswego Town while the second site could be at the Elim Grace Church for the entire west side of the City of Oswego while the third site could be at the Scriba Fire Hall for the town of Scriba and the entire east side of the city of Oswego.

He estimated the current cost for the district to conduct an election is $5,500.

Board President Kathleen Allen and Tripp questioned the possibility of four sites and Atkins said St. Paul’s would be a possibility for the east side residents in Oswego.

Atkins indicated, “It is up to board to see how it wants to handle this. I don’t want to do your elections, your elections will still be handled by the district clerk and will do everything you have in the past except with a machines.”

It was noted that the Board of Education has the right to move the voting sites from the schools.

Among the avenues for moving would include accessibility, safety, parking and any other potential scenarios that would keep the process from being efficient.

There was also discussion relating to the cost of the poll inspectors and currently the county Board of Elections p