MONTICELLO, NY — “Voting lies at the heart of our democracy here in America,” as Mary Allison Farley put it during the Sullivan County Legislature’s November 17 meeting. …
MONTICELLO, NY — “Voting lies at the heart of our democracy here in America,” as Mary Allison Farley put it during the Sullivan County Legislature’s November 17 meeting. “Unfortunately, I’m here in Monticello today to report that the county’s voting system was not working last Tuesday in Mamakating.”
Legislators heard concerns from the public about long lines and under-resourced polling stations during the November 8 general elections. Farley had served as a poll watcher for two and a half hours at Mamakating’s town hall; people stood in line for one and a half hours, and there had been no accommodations for elderly people or people with walkers who were waiting to vote.
Jeffersonville resident Barbara Van Benschoten, a poll inspector at the Youngsville Fire Station, said that the station had one check-in tablet for two voting districts, and issues with equipment and supplies resulted in people waiting for over an hour in line.
“I’m a survivor of the last election,” said Matthew Mortis, Ward 3 councilperson from Mamakating. There were positives to the experience, he said. The poll workers were courteous and professional, and his fellow voters were patient and determined. But the county needed to do a better job with the process in future elections.
Members of the legislature agreed.
“Although this legislature is at odds on many issues, this certainly is not one of them,” said legislator Ira Steingart.
When you create a system that requires thousands of printers statewide, you’ve created thousands of points of failure, said legislator Alan Sorensen. The current system requires ballots to be printed for each voter, rather than having a stack of pre-prepared ballots on hand; Sorensen recommended going back to pre-printed ballots.
Legislators held a discussion Wednesday, November 16 about solving the problem, said legislator Nicholas Salomone. The body had a list of recommendations from the board of elections for addressing issues with the election.
“Anyone interested in being a poll worker, an election worker, please step forward! Because one of the biggest issues was not having enough resources and personnel,” said legislator Nadia Rajsz.
Mayor Joan Stoddard of the Village of Liberty asked the legislature about a separate matter of government procedure during the November 17 public comment period. When, she asked, would the county make its villages whole?
Sullivan County currently makes its towns and school districts whole, according to Sullivan County treasurer Nancy Buck. Towns have warrants that explain how much tax they want to be raised, and they keep the proceeds of their tax collections until their budget is fully funded, after which they turn the proceeds over to the county. The school districts turn over to the county any tax bills remaining unpaid at the start of the process, and on April 1, the county pays the school districts all those taxes.
The end result: the county is responsible for collecting delinquent taxes, and the towns and the school districts have the surety of a fully funded budget—they are made whole.
Most counties treat their villages as Sullivan County does its school districts, said Buck. Sullivan County researched the possibility, and found that it would cost the county a significant amount even to get started with the policy.
Ulster County voted recently to make its villages whole, leaving Sullivan as one of the few New York counties that does not, said Stoddard. It was time Sullivan County stepped up and made its villages equal to its towns and school districts. “It makes for a better budgeting process, we know what we have to work with and it makes it easier, I think, for the county… when they need to foreclose on a property, they have all the pieces of the pie,” said Stoddard.
Had the village asked the Town of Liberty to make it whole? asked legislative chair Rob Doherty.
The town doesn’t make whole, said Stoddard.
“Well neither do we,” said Doherty.
“It doesn’t work that way,” said Stoddard. “Counties make whole; towns don’t.”
Legislator Luis Alvarez, who joined the board of the New York State Association of Counties in 2021, confirmed that most counties made their villages whole. Only five counties were left that did not do so, and two were in the process of changing that, Alvarez said.
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