With a new state mandate retiring all lever-style voting machines by 2012, Steuben County Board of Elections officials are looking at ways to streamline village and school board elections.

With a new state mandate retiring all lever-style voting machines by 2012, Steuben County Board of Elections officials are looking at ways to streamline village and school board elections. That streamlining could mean a drastic change in the way the elections are held, with some proposing village elections be moved to November.

County Republican Commission Veronica Olin said the recent mandate means villages and schools must decide whether to use electronic scanners or use paper ballots inserted in a locked strong box and counted by hand.

Counting ballots by hand is not burdensome during low voter turnout — such as in the South Corning village race last Tuesday when 77 votes were tallied. However, in the village of Bath election workers took more than 2.5 hours to count — and recount — the 468 ballots cast.

Village Clerk Nonie Flynn said the state first told her she had to use the paper ballots, then informed her the week before the election she could use the lever machine this time. But by then, the ballots and safe box were ordered, she said.

“Do I want the scanner for next year?” Flynn said. “Definitely.”

County officials said they may consider running pilot elections next year to see how the scanners work out during a March election. However, the final switch could mean additional expenses for villages — and a possible shift of village elections to the November ballot.

Olin said village could lease the machines from the county and pay the board to set up the machines, test them, and deliver and retrieve them. It would be up to village officials to tally the votes and the village clerk would still certify the results, Olin said.

Or the villages could hold a referendum moving their elections to November in which case the county would simply count the village tallies along with the rest of the general election ballots, she said.

“It’s important to see there are really two competing ideas,” Democratic Commissioner Joseph Welch said. “One is the Board of Elections runs the election. The other is leasing is more complicated and by the time you work it out, you might as well have the elections in November.”

Running a village election in March during a presidential primary year would overtax the county board, Olin said.

Welch and Olin said they will meet with other commissioners at the end of June to learn how other counties have handled their village elections.
In the end, it will be up to the villages to decide, the Steuben commissioners said.

“They need to look at 20 voters versus 500 voters,” Welch said. “And we want to get an honest view of what they want.”