Niagara Gazette

Local News

September 2, 2008

NIAGARA COUNTY: Changing the vote

New equipment, change in some polling districts arrives

An unusually high number of telephone calls were made to the Niagara County Board of Elections this past week.

And the voters making them didn’t offer well wishes for the upcoming primary.

County elections officials acknowledged Wednesday that changes in polling places have upset some voters in the county’s 12 towns. 

They also say the new arrangement was not intended to anger people, but rather to save taxpayer dollars as the county responds to new federal voting regulations. 

“We didn’t do it to inconvenience people,” Niagara County Democratic Elections Commissioner Nancy Smith said. “We did it because we have to change the way we are doing business.”

What the Board of Elections has done is reduce the number of polling places countywide from 114 last year to 84 for 2008. The move was made in an effort to comply with the Help America Vote Act, a federal law that required all states to upgrade voting machines, voter registration processes and election inspector training. Starting next year, traditional voting machines in Niagara County will be replaced by new, handicapped-accessible, electronic machines that are capable of scanning paper ballots. With funds from the federal government, the county purchased 125 of the more sophisticated machines at a cost of $1.4 million.

The new equipment means changes in the way county residents vote and adjustments in the way the elections board operates. Starting in 2009, all New York voters will be required to cast paper ballots. They also will need enough private space to do so. Under the law, adequate space means local boards of election must provide chairs where voters can sit, tables where they can write and partitions to help ensure their privacy. 

Smith and Republican Elections Commissioner Scott Kiedrowski said the Board of Elections adjusted the number of polling places in the county in response to the new requirements. They started with the towns this year and are planning to reconfigure polling spots in the cities next year. 

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