Local News

July 31, 2010

Essex County Board of Elections goes full time

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County's two election commissioners are going full time to keep from being swamped by the new requirements of electronic voting.

Essex County Democratic Election Commissioner Robert Pell-deChame and Republican Commissioner Derinda Sherman took over their respective posts this year.

Pell-deChame just became commissioner this month, after the resignation of David Mace.

"With Dave's departure, we need to do things for the very first time, and it takes a lot of time," Sherman said.

"We've had to create new training manuals, make it convenient for old inspectors, put together a schedule for training for (voting) machine operators."

The old mechanical lever-type voting machines were used for the last time in 2009.

This is the first year of all-electronic voting on ballot-marking devices that print out a paper ballot, which is then scanned in.

The paper ballot ensures that re-canvasses can be done accurately.

Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said he supports the full-time appointments until at least the end of the year.

"As I hear what has to be done between now and the elections, a lot has to be done. A lot of loose ends have to be tied up."

The commissioners' salaries will go from about $19,000 a year to $41,000. The total extra cost for this year, including benefits, is estimated at $27,870.

Having the commissioners work full time will ensure a minimum of snags, Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) said.

"We'll have nice smooth election, primary and (general) Election Day."

The deputy commissioners at the Board of Elections are already full time, and the office has two part-time clerk positions, although one is vacant.

Pell-deChame has appointed Patricia Maffa as deputy Democratic commissioner, replacing Sindy Brazee.

Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) said there was a lot of squabbling between commissioners last year — before Sherman and Pell-deChame took over — and he'd like to see it end.

"I think the county should be embarrassed how that office was run in the past. I certainly want to see a fresh start over there."

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said the Board of Elections has so much work right now that the existing setup wouldn't work.

"There's no way with two new (part-time) election commissioners it can be done."

E-mail Lohr McKinstry at:

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