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Sherman School District to use optical scan paper ballot technology

March 12, 2015
Westfield Republican

SHERMAN - Sherman Central School officially partnered with the Chautauqua County Board of Elections for election services for the May 19 school elections. This will be the ninth school district in the county to transition to optical scan voting for school elections and one additional unnamed district is nearly ready to convert to paper ballot voting, according to Election Commissioners Norman Green and Brian Abram.

According to a November 2014 report from the New York State School Boards Association, 81 percent of all state school districts continue to use the lever voting machine, 15 percent have transitioned to county election board partnerships using optical scan paper ballot based voting technology and 4 percent hand count paper ballots. For the school districts not using optical scan technology, 61 percent cited the cost of paper ballots or the refusal of their county election boards to share the technology.

"The Chautauqua County Board of Elections is providing low cost election services that most other counties in New York State can't, don't or won't for some reason. We print the paper ballots in house at our Mayville office for about one third of the cost of using outside commercial printers. We are one of just six counties printing ballots using county resources," said Green.

"With the agreement of the County Legislature," added Abram, "we don't charge schools or villages for costs that have already been paid for through county taxes. We program the voting machines and design ballots using our county owned election management system, would not be right to charge village or school taxpayers for something that county taxpayers have already paid for. Unfortunately, not all counties follow this philosophy and thus elections are expensive for schools and villages."

Terrance N. Pratt of the NYS Council of Schools Superintendents said in a November 2014 letter to the New York State Board of Elections, "Many county Boards of Elections (do) not allow school districts to use county's electronic voting machines when requested." He added that other counties are offering flat rates that range from $1,000 to $7,000 per machine.

In Chautauqua County the total estimated costs (including all election expenses, not just machine and ballot costs) for the 2015 elections are Bemus Point, $838; Brocton, $429; Cassadaga Valley, $430; Chautauqua Lake, $333; Clymer, $381; Dunkirk City, $1,687; Falconer, $444; Forestville, $464; Fredonia, $554; Frewsburg, $441; Jamestown City, $2,317; Panama, $488; Pine Valley, $441; Randolph, $449; Ripley, $408; Sherman, $317; Silver Creek, $371; Southwestern, $548; and Westfield, $425.

The Board of Elections currently provides election services to half of the county's eighteen school districts and more than half of the county's 80,000 registered voters. The districts partnering with the county currently are Bemus Point, Cassadaga Valley, Chautauqua Lake, Forestville, Panama, Jamestown City, Ripley, Sherman, and Silver Creek. Additionally, the county is the chief election officer for 13 of 15 villages. Only Sinclairville and Cassadaga run their own elections using hand counts of paper ballots.

"The state legislature is currently grappling with the issue of providing election services for schools, villages and fire districts. As of the end of the year, lever voting technology is no longer permitted for local elections in the state. However, the state legislature may extend the deadline," said Abram.



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