MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan County has a number of important local elections to decide in November. In addition to town elections, voters will decide who sits on the Sullivan County Legislature …
MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan County has a number of important local elections to decide in November. In addition to town elections, voters will decide who sits on the Sullivan County Legislature for the next four years.
Members of the public raised concerns following the 2022 election cycle, telling county government of long lines and understaffed polling stations during November’s general elections.
The Sullivan County Board of Elections (BOE) requested additional resources following those elections, while leaving in place a policy of on-site ballot printing. With the county’s preparation and with lower turnout for mid-cycle elections, commissioners Lori Benjamin and Deanna Senyk anticipate the electoral process going smoothly in 2023.
Public critique following the 2022 elections focused on a recent tweak to the electoral process.
For the 2022 elections, the BOE introduced printers at each election site, and printed off ballots on demand for the voters who came to the polls. Prior to that year, ballots came in pre-printed booklets, and were torn off and handed to voters.
Members of the public, including District 9 legislator Alan Sorensen, suggested that the BOE switch back to the former system for upcoming years.
The BOE will continue using the printers for 2023, and sees them as a benefit, not a detriment, to the process of smooth voting.
“The prior system of tear-off ballots required the districts to be kept separate, which can be confusing and frustrating to voters if they do not know what election district they reside in,” said the commissioners. “The electronic poll books and on-demand printers streamline the voting process, because the tablets allow the voter to check in with the next available station instead of bouncing from table to table.”
The BOE will have additional resources available to conduct the 2023 elections.
“We requested additional resources to be included in the 2023 budget last year, which we did not receive,” said the commissioners. “After numerous conversations with various county personnel and legislators, we were finally able to secure the necessary funding, albeit much later than was ideal.”
The additional support includes $10,000 from the legislature for election inspectors, authorized on March 16, allowing the BOE to pay inspectors $300 per day rather than $250.
“Staffing a sufficient number of election inspectors is essential in ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible on election day, and is a major priority for us,” said the commissioners.
To serve as an election inspector, call the BOE at 845/807-0400. Training will be held the first week of October.
The number of people who vote is generally lower in “off-cycle” elections—those that take place in years without a presidential election or a midterm—than in “on-cycle” elections.
This sets up Sullivan County for less crowded poll sites than the year before.
“Usually, the busiest election in a four-year cycle is the Presidential, followed by the midterm, which we saw last year,” said the commissioners. “When a lot of people converge in one location at the same time, lines are to be expected, whether it’s in a grocery store, concert venue or poll site.”
Research is limited on the exact drop in turnout from on-cycle to off-cycle elections.
According to a 2019 article in the Annual Review of Political Science, the number of people who vote in local elections is “abysmally low, in large part because most local elections are not held concurrently with other state and federal elections.”
Sullivan County’s figures support the national trend of lower turnouts in off-cycle years.
In 2019 and 2021, the past two off-cycle elections, Sullivan County had approximately 53,000 registered voters (53,161 in 2021, 52,922 in 2019). These voters cast approximately 16,000 ballots on Election Day (15,880 in 2021, 16,867 in 2019). To put it another way, only 30 percent of Sullivan County’s registered voters went to the polls in the past two off-cycle elections.
The midterm elections of 2022 saw more registered voters in Sullivan County (54,459) and a higher percentage of them cast ballots (45.9 percent, with 25,005 ballots cast). The presidential elections of 2020 saw an even higher turnout, with 35,131 voters coming out to the polls, 62.2 percent of the 56,470 registered voters that year.
Sullivan’s preliminary voter registration information, compiled in February, shows the county on a similar trajectory to 2021 and 2019.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here