By Norma Jean Howland, Correspondent
WOODSTOCK - Town officials, like many their counterparts in the region, are grappling with the added cost of implementing the federal Help America Vote Act, which has doubled Woodstock's election budget for 2006.
The town's election budget is projected at $25,275, compared to the current year's budget of $12,575.
The Help America Vote Act, adopted in 2002, is aimed at increasing voter access to elections and requires that all voters, including those with disabilities, are able to vote independently and with privacy protections. Under the legislation, local elections will be taken over by counties by Jan. 1, 2006. Voters will cast ballots electronically, rather than using mechanical machines that have been used for decades.
Ulster County Legislature Majority Leader Michael Stock, R-Woodstock, told Town Board members Tuesday that he favors an optical scanner voting machine, which he said will cost less than the other option on the table, direct record electronic, or DRE, machines.
"I'm leaning towards the optical scanner," he said.
Councilwoman Liz Simonson noted that the League of Women Voters in New York has also endorsed the optical scan system. "No one wants to go with the DRE machines," she said. "I think they are really a bad deal in getting every vote counted."
Simonson said the DRE machines caused problems in Florida that cost the state about $24 million. "I hope that the Ulster County Legislature will delve into the problems with the machines and make the right decision," she said.
Saratoga County also experienced problems with DRE machines, Simonson said. "They had so many problems with counting, they let the manufacturer do the counting for them," she said. "That's really scary."
After the Nov. 8 election, Stock said, the county plans to schedule a public forum to demonstrate both types of voting machines to the general public and town officials. "It will be a public forum, hands on," he said. "Rest assured we have good representation."
Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said he is also in favor of optical scan-type voting.
"I hope very much that the commissioners will be very careful," said Wilber. "If I had my druthers, I'd keep the machines we have."
İDaily Freeman 2005
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