County Pulling Voting Machine Debate In Opposite Directions

By: Melissa deCordova

NORWICH – Chenango County appeared to be pulling in opposite directions Monday with lawmakers adopting a resolution to stay with the old-fashioned, lever-operated voting machines and the elections office agreeing to participate in a pilot test of the new, optical scanner system.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard B. Decker, R-North Norwich, who personally offered the resolution before the board, said he didn’t know the Chenango County Board of Elections had agreed to the pilot.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said yesterday. “We should have said, ‘No.’ We don’t want to be guinea pigs.”

Decker’s resolution comes on the coattails of similar moves made recently in Sullivan, Columbia, Dutchess, Essex, Greene, Rensselaer, Schuyler, Ulster, Warren and Washington counties. The Association of Towns of the State of New York has passed a similar measure rejecting the new machines.

Decker said he receives approximately three calls a week from a constituent who asks him to stay with the lever machines. The chairman’s resolution, which was adopted by the full board yesterday, states the cost to taxpayers for the new machines will be “insurmountable and severely strain and possibly break the budgets of all counties in this time of economic crises.”

Elections expenses have increased from $150,000 a year in 2004/2005 to $460,000 last year in order to meet federal Help America Vote Act statutes. HAVA aims to make voting easier for the handicapped.

The supervisors from the towns of Pharsalia and Preston said they wished Chenango County hadn’t agreed to purchase the Dominion brand machine in the first place. What’s more, New York State has yet to certify it. A state elections department official said yesterday that testing is scheduled to be completed in December.

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