Villages, schools excluded from voting act


By Linda Ober / The Citizen

Wednesday, September 7, 2005 4:20 PM EDT


AUBURN - Commissioners for the county board of elections are still grappling with a number of questions related to the Help America Vote Act.


But they won't have to answer any about villages or school districts.


At Tuesday's county Government Operations committee meeting, Republican Commissioner Cherl Heary said that according to the state board of elections, HAVA does not apply to either. That means that unlike the city of Auburn and towns, villages and school districts don't have to use new voting machines if they don't want to, Heary said.


County Legislator Ann Petrus, R-Brutus, was in disbelief.


"How can you have a federal law that says that we must give people the ability to go in and vote ... except for villages and schools?" Petrus asked.


"It just doesn't make any sense at all," added Michele Sedor, D-Sennett.


Heary said that she couldn't explain why the villages and school districts are not part of HAVA, federal legislation that was designed to update the nation's voting machines and make them disability-accessible. She said that it could be because the county board of elections doesn't have a procedural relationship with the villages or schools.


Heary believes that some villages will likely stick with their old machines, while others may continue the process they use now - paper ballots. She recognized that some people would be upset about the lack of mandated change but said that the board of elections would not get involved in the matter.


"I don't think we want to fight that battle," Heary said. "It's not ours."


But Heary and Democratic Commissioner Dennis Sedor may have to fight a battle of a different sort, this one with the city and towns that must comply with HAVA.


Heary said that the county will now incur all charges for elections and may have to bill back towns for their "appropriate part of the elections."


Legislature Chairman Herb Marshall was not optimistic about that possibility, noting that the city of Auburn had already implied that it wouldn't pay such bills.


"I've told you any number of times that this county takeover is not going to go smoothly," Marshall said.


Heary said she would see if the county could continue to allow each town to select and pay its own inspectors, instead of being billed by the county.


Heary went to an Association of Towns and Municipalities meeting last week, where she found that there was agreement about the selection of the DRE machines over the optical scan version.


The county will receive approximately $810,000 for about 100 new machines and another $40,000 for voter education, Heary said.


Staff writer Linda Ober can be reached at 253-5311 ext. 237 or


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