Niagara Gazette

December 25, 2012

Board votes to reduce number of polling places from 24 to eight

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Some Niagara Falls voters will need to learn their new polling places thanks to a measure taken by the city’s school board.

At its meeting Dec. 13, the nine-member board adopted a measure to drastically reduce the number of polling places the district will staff for all school board elections, budget votes and public referenda.

“I don’t think we can justify having more than nine sites,” Johnny Destino said, citing financial reasons. “And if there’s too many people coming out to vote, we can always add sites.”

The district previously used 24 polling places, including many of its school buildings, the John A. Duke Senior Center, Spallino Towers and both public libraries. The action will remove polling places from all nonschool buildings, reducing voting to eight locations throughout the city.

The changes only affect voting for school district elections and were brought about after Niagara County Board of Elections representatives informed the district it would be unable to provide electronic voting machines this past May due to a large number of primary political elections.

Instead, voters were forced to use the old pull-level machines, which New York state is allowing to be used through 2014. However, there’s no certainty school districts will be allowed to use them beyond then and the county is unable to guarantee more than seven electronic machines during presidential election years.

Before the vote, board members debated the merits of dropping two-thirds of its polling places, with some saying the reductions are necessary while others felt it was detrimental. Though he eventually voted in favor of the eight polling places, board member Russell Petrozzi even attempted to keep all 24 polling places, a motion which failed to receive enough support.

Board members Kevin Dobbs and Don King, both vocal opponents to the reduction, said the cuts were infringing on the availability of voting locations, which only serve to make voting as easy as possible. Dobbs said it doesn’t matter if 1,000 people or 50 people exercise the right to vote, so long as the district provides them the opportunity to do so.

“My greatest concern ... we say people don’t come out to vote,” Dobbs said. “I’m hopeful people do come out. When we look at the last election and what happened with people in Virginia standing in line for hours to vote, I hope we have that problem one day. There hasn’t been much turnout, but those who did might look at this and may not go in the future.”

After the final vote confirmed the polling place reduction, King expressed to the board it should consider having district school buses traveling around on election days to provide transportation to anyone looking to vote without means of normal transportation.

Petrozzi also commented, suggesting the board also look into promoting absentee ballots, which residents can complete without physically visiting their polling site.

For complete information about the new polling locations, residents are encouraged to visit the district’s website at www.nfschools.net or call district clerk Ruthel Dumas at 286-4211.

with Petrozzi, Russel mug Russell Petrozzi Wanted to retain all sites