By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Today, public school districts across the North Country are expected to conduct their budget votes and school elections in accordance with state law.
“Every aspect is guided directly by the state of New York,” Plattsburgh City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short said at a recent School Board meeting.
There, he described district voting procedures in response to a series of questions posed by Plattsburgh resident Ken Baker.
Baker had inquired about the maintenance, transport and calibration of the school’s voting machines; the supervision of voting sites; the tabulation of results; and the individuals responsible for such things, as well as their relationships to the district.
He also asked how long results are kept in case of a challenge and where challenges should be directed.
Answers to these questions, Baker said at the April meeting, “beg for the light of day.”
Short noted that all school districts’ budget votes and elections are run by their school boards per the requirements of state education and elections laws.
The voting machines, he said, are maintained by certified and trained board-appointed machine custodians.
The City School Board appoints the same machine custodians each year, according to Short, “because there are very few people in Clinton County that are certified and trained to use the old-fashioned voting machines that we are using.”
Those machines, the superintendent noted, are stored in a locked position and are transported to and from City School voting sites by Buildings and Grounds personnel.
“They’re quite heavy … It takes a few strong backs and a decent trailer to move them,” Short said. “When they’re moved, they’re locked (and) folded down. Once machines are delivered to the voting site, they are unlocked, examined by the machine custodian, not us, and it’s overseen by the chairperson and the other poll workers that are at each site.”
Poll workers, he continued, are recommended to the board by the district clerk, and the workers at each voting site then select a chairperson.
“The poll workers and the chairperson that was selected by them, (along with) the district clerk, supervise the actions of that site,” Short said.
The chairperson at each location also tallies the vote results. This is witnessed by the other poll workers, the machine custodian and the district clerk, according to the superintendent.
In the City School District, Short noted, this is done three times, once at each voting site.
“At each site, the chairperson of the site also signs and is witness to the tally, so it’s not just one person doing the counting.
“The district clerk then tabulates the three voting sites’ results and declares the results on the ballot ...We typically do it that same evening, but it needs to be done within 24 hours,” he said.
Qualified voters, he continued, have the right to challenge the qualifications of any voter at the time of the elections by telling the site chairperson. They may also file a written challenge of the qualifications of any absentee voter with the district clerk and election inspector on or before the day of the vote.
Residents, Short added, have 30 days from the vote to challenge the results.
“This is one of the reasons why, when the polls are locked again, we don’t zero them out,” he said. “We hold them for that period of time.”
Baker, who ran unsuccessfully for School Board last year, also requested “a representative for any candidate who chooses to be present at all facets of the (election) process.”
Short noted that State Education Law provides that such individuals may be present at polling places from at least 15 minutes before the voting machines are unlocked and examined at the opening of the polls until after the results are proclaimed.
“So before the polls open, the person can watch and be there, and all the way through the end, they can be there,” he said.
Residents may also be present when the district clerk draws the order for board candidates to be placed on the ballot, which, Short said, is always done the day after the deadline for candidate petitions.
A written response to Baker’s school elections and voting questions is also available through the district’s website.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org
CHECK POLLING PLACE
The Plattsburgh City School District budget vote and elections is 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at Bailey Avenue and Momot elementary schools, as well as the Duken Administration Building.
Some residents may now be required to vote at new different locations due to the recent changes in city ward districting. See a map of the election districts at http://tinyurl.com/mlnnhca.