Feb 05, 2013 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Onondaga County Board of Elections’ new Democratic Party commissioner, Dustin Czarny, is on a mission to move village elections to November. State law, he points out, gives villages the option of conducting elections in March, June or November.
“The villages could all save money by moving their elections from March or June to the fall,” Czarny said. “We’re already running an election every November anyway.”
In January, Czarny sent a letter to all 15 of Onondaga County’s villages requesting that they make the change.
The cost of conducting elections can run from Liverpool’s low of $570 up to $5,000 or more in larger villages, especially after costs are incurred for new Optimal Scan machines in the next or two.
The amount of savings will vary depending on the number of registered voters in each village. “Different villages,” Czarny said, “Have different needs.”
Last year, Camillus, a small village with a population of 1,213, became the first county village to conduct its election in November under the auspices of the county BOE.
“It went great in Camillus,” Czarny said. “They were very happy with it because they didn’t have to worry about hiring inspectors, printing ballots and programming the voting machines.”
While acknowledging that the villages retain the option to schedule springtime elections, Czarny hopes to convince them to shift to November. The BOE’s bipartisan staff is comprised of experienced professionals who know how to run fair and open elections, he said. “We understand all the election laws,” he added.
At the village level, many candidates form their own parties or run as independents, rather than run as Democrats or Republicans. Czarny said that poses no problem for the BOE.
“Non-partisan elections can be accommodated,” he said.
By moving their elections to November, villages will benefit in several ways, Czarny said. “They’ll experience increased voter turnout, they’ll save money and, at the same time, we’ll better serve the citizens.”
Even before the letter went out, the village of Liverpool had been considering the idea; trustees have discussed the possibility of moving village elections from June to November for the last four months.
Though village board members and residents have expressed an interest in the move, it won’t happen this year.
Village Clerk Mary Ellen Sims said it’s possible the village will move its election to November in 2014, but “definitely not this year.”
In North Syracuse, village government is also considering the possibility.
“We talked about that as a board about three years ago,” said Mayor Mark Atkinson. “At that time we decided to leave it in June and let them manage it for us.”
The village turned over operations of its elections to the Board of Elections at that time; prior to that, the village had run its own elections.
Now, after receiving Czarny’s letter, North Syracuse has again taken up the question.
“I’m going to meet with some people there and talk it over with them,” Atkinson said. “Once I meet with them, I’ll talk to the board again and see what’s going on.”
In Liverpool, Mayor Gary White will seek his third term. Incumbent trustees Bob Gaetano and Dennis Hebert will also be up for re-election on Tuesday, June 18.
“Yes, I’m interested in running again,” White told the Star-Review last weekend. “I’m interested in continuing as mayor as long as I can count on the support of the residents and my colleagues on the village board.”
White, Gaetano and Hebert are all Republicans, and the village GOP will nominate candidates at its annual caucus in April.
In North Syracuse, Atkinson’s term doesn’t expire until 2015. Atkinson took over for former Mayor Diane Browning when she stepped down in June of 2010; he was then elected to the position in 2011.
The trustee seats of Gary Butterfield and Fred Fergerson will come to a vote on June 18.
Atkinson is a Democrat. The Democrats are currently seeking candidates for office; they’re accepting resumes until March 1.
Meanwhile, Butterfield is a Republican; Fergerson is not enrolled in a party.
Czarny maintains that moving village elections to the fall would save money, but Liverpool presently spends less than $600 to conduct its June elections.
The 2012 election, in which three incumbent office-holders ran unopposed, cost the village $570, Sims said. Some 1,600 registered voters reside in the mile-square village, but less than 70 turned out to cast ballots in the 2012 village election.
In North Syracuse, meanwhile, the last election took place in 2011. A total of 445 turned out to vote; the village spent approximately $1,300 on the process. There are a total of 4,071 registered voters within village limits.
When the villages switch to Optimal Scan voting machines, the cost of each election would rise to more than $1,400 with one machine and more than $2,200 if two machines were needed, Sims said. New York state has set a deadline of December 2014 for all polling places to utilize the new voting machines.
Meanwhile, Czarny predicts that voter turnout would swell in the villages if their elections took place in November. “On average there’s a better turnout in November,” he said.
Liverpool Trustee Dennis Hebert agrees, and he urged the village board to consider the move in the future when the village could save money by avoiding the cost of new voting machines.
If the board approves scheduling the village election in November next year, it appears that trustees Nick Kochan and Jim Rosier would automatically get an extra five months tacked onto their two-year terms. Village Justice Anthony LaValle would also work an extra five months on the bench before he seeks re-election in 2014.
But White’s not sure how that issue might be handled.
“We really haven’t looked that far ahead yet,” he said.
The Liverpool village board is also considering extending the mayor’s term from two to four years, but the trustees have said their own two-year terms should remain.