NCVOA JANUARY 2014 NEWSLETTER
published by the
Nassau County Village Officials Association
P O Box 484, New Hyde Park, NY 11040
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Wishing you and yours health, happiness and
prosperity throughout the New Year
NCVOA January 2014 General Membership
Tuesday, January, 14, 2014-7:00PM
La Marmite Restaurant
Hon. Jon Kaiman
Hon. Jon Kaiman
Governor Cuomo's Special Advisor for Long Island Storm Recovery
Mr. Jamie Rubin
NY Rising Explained
FROM THE PRESIDENT’S DESK:
Potential Revenue Sources:
Village of Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy has requested we notify NCVOA villages of two potential revenue sources:
Cellular antenna lease/ contract – The Village of Freeport recently secured more than $2.5 million in revenue for the sale of its cellular antenna lease/ contract. Mayor Kennedy urges any village interesting in exploring this option to contact:
25 Long Meadow Rd.
Commack NY 11725
Attn: Sam Panchal Sal Carcaterra
NYS Historic Preservation Grants - Mayor Kennedy also notified us of information he received from the Grants for NYS Historic Preservation Office. Funds are available to all nonprofit and municipally owned historic buildings. Interested villages should contact:
Long Island Traditions
382 Main Street
Port Washington NY 11050
516-767-8805 ( fax)
NYS ASSEMBLY PRESENTATION:
On December 9, 2013, Mayor Ralph Kreitzman of Great Neck testified before a NY State Assembly Joint Committee Public Hearing to "Examine Solutions to Make Voting, in Person and Absentee, More Accessible for All Voters, and Examine Moving the State Primary to June, Beginning in 2014." The mayor represented the NCVOA but he also spoke on behalf of the NY State Conference of Mayors of which he is a member of their Executive Board. Attached is a copy of the written testimony that the Mayor Kreitzman presented to the Committee, however for those that would like to see the oral presentation of the mayors comments, which is a summary of his written testimony, please go to the NY State Assembly website and scroll down, on the left side, to “Live Coverage of Legislation”, then click on Achieved Videos. Go to video entitled "12-09-2013 Joint Public Hearing to Examine Solutions to Make Voter…" His testimony started approximately 3 hours and 48 minutes into the hearing, and you can advance to that point using the scroll bar under the video. There was a lengthy question and answer period following the person who spoke for a few minutes after the mayor’s presentation.
Public Hearing to Examine Solutions to Make Voting, In Person and Absentee, More Accessible for All Voters, and Examine Moving The State Primary to June, Beginning In 2014
Mayor Ralph J. Kreitzman, Village of Great Neck
Executive Committee Member, New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials
Immediate Past President and Executive Committee Member, Nassau County Village Officials Association.
Before the Joint Assembly Standing Committee on Election Law
Chair: Assembly Member Michael J. Cusick and Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement
Chair: Assembly Member Thomas Abinanti
December 9, 2013
New York, New York
Good morning Chairman Cusick, Chairmen Abinanti, and committee members. My name is Ralph Kreitzman. I am the Mayor of the Village of Great Neck, a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM), the immediate past president and member of the Executive Committee of the Nassau County Village Officials Association (NCVOA), immediate past president of the Tri-County Municipal Officials Association and president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association. NYCOM is a not-for-profit voluntary membership association whose members include a vast majority of New York's 611 cities and villages. The NCVOA also is a not-for-profit voluntary membership association whose members include all of the 64 Nassau County villages with a population of over 450,000 residents. I am here today, first on behalf of NYCOM to express the views of our 522 member villages regarding New York's election machines. I also will provide information on behalf of and express the views of the NCVOA's 64 villages.
New York's village governments hold a unique place in New York's election system. While general elections for cities, towns, and counties are held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November and are conducted by county boards of elections, general elections for villages are, by State law, conducted by the villages themselves, although villages can and some have turned the conducting of their elections over to the county. In addition, pursuant to Article 15 of the Election Law, village elections are, by default, held on the third Tuesday of March, although villages can and many villages have changed the date of their village election. After March, the second most popular time to hold the election is the third Tuesday in June.
Recent History of Village Elections:
Villages have, pursuant to Article 15 of the Election, conducted their own elections without significant problems for many decades. However, recent changes to New York's election law have caused significant problems for villages across New York.
The current challenge facing villages began in 2005, when the State mandated that local governments turn their voting machines over to the county boards of election. Election Law § 3-226 (as added by Chapter 180 of the Laws of 2005) requires that "[a]ll voting machines, and appliances and equipment relating to or used in the conduct of elections shall be in the care, custody and control of the board of elections." Consequently, in 2005 all villages in New York relinquished control of any lever voting machines they owned or possessed to their county boards of election. Election Law § 3-224 authorizes county boards of elections to allow villages to use their voting machines, but it does not require county boards of elections to allow villages to use the county voting machines. Specifically, Election Law § 3-224 provides in relevant part that "[t]he board of elections may permit . . . villages . . . within the county to use voting machines . . . for the conduct of elections." Consequently, pursuant to Election Law § 3-224, the only way for villages to utilize the lever-style voting machines between 2005 and 2010 was to obtain them from the county. Chapter 180 of the Laws of 2005 was generally not a problem, and villages that had used lever machines prior to 2005 continued to do so with little to no impact on their election operations or the cost of conducting their elections until 2011.
The Transition to the Ballot Scanner Voting Machines:
In July 2010, Chapter 164 of the Laws of 2010 was signed in to law, completing the implementation of the Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in New York. While HAVA governs Federal elections, the New York State legislation implementing HAVA requires the use of ballot scanner machines in any election in New York State, whether or not the election is a Federal election. As a result, New York State law prohibited the use of lever voting machines even in non-Federal elections such as village non-partisan elections conducted in March and June. School elections were exempted for two years in that law.
Villages Transition to Ballot Scanner Voting Machines:
In the years leading up to the 2010 transition to the ballot scanner voting machines, NYCOM advised and provided training to its village members about the impending transition to the ballot scanner voting machines, informing villages officials that they needed to be in contact with their county board of elections to facilitate this transition for village elections. To that end, upon the adoption of Chapter 164 of the Laws of 2010, villages began preparing for their March and June 2011 village elections by contacting their county board of elections to ascertain how to obtain or lease the ballot scanner machines from the counties as they had done in prior years with the lever-style voting machines.
It quickly became evident in the Fall of 2010 that there was much confusion regarding the implementation of the ballot scanner machines in village elections and inconsistent application of state law from county to county. Some counties informed villages that the villages would be able to lease the counties' optical scanning voting machines. Other counties indicated that state law prohibited the county from releasing the optical scanners from their possession and control, and thus they would not be able to allow the villages to use the machines. One county initially indicated that it was contractually bound to keep the optical scanners in its possession and control and thus could not lease the ballot scanner voting machines to the villages, while that county ultimately modified its position and began leasing the scanners to its villages, they were subject to many conditions. Still other counties are still simply refusing to allow villages to use their ballot scanner voting machines.
In 2010 and again in 2012 laws were passed permitting village, school and other local elections to continue to use lever voting machines. That right expires in 2014.
This year a law was passed permitting New York City to use lever voting machines in a mayoral run-off election because there would not be time to reprogram the scanner machines. The frequency of elections and number of jurisdictions, and therefore different ballots, are the reasons some counties have stated that they are unable to make scanner voting machines available. I will give specific examples for Nassau County in a few moments.
Lever Voting Machines Necessary to Conduct Village Elections
Many villages that used lever machines prior to 2010 are willing and prepared to use the ballot scanner voting machines if they are made available and at reasonable cost. However, their hands are tied by the refusal of their county boards of elections to allow them to use the scanner machines. For villages whose counties are refusing to lease the ballot scanner machines, if the use of lever-style voting machines are not authorized under state law, the only legal option available to those village officials is to revert to conducting village elections by hand counting paper ballots. Because state law requires village elections to be canvassed by 9:00 a.m. of the morning following the election, in those villages that have significant voter turnout, this task may be impossible. For instance, the Village of Hempstead has a population of over 53,000 residents, and the Village of Freeport has over 42,000 residents. There are many other villages throughout New York State with considerable populations that will be adversely affected if the law remains as it currently stands.
Although many of New York's villages with lower voter turnout hand counted paper ballots even prior to the transition to the ballot scanner machines, hand counting paper ballots is simply not a viable method of conducting an election for many of New York's villages.
An additional issue complicating the use of the ballot scanner machines is the significant additional cost of running elections using ballot scanner machines instead of lever voting machines. The transition has seen many villages that had previously been using lever voting machines switch to hand counting paper ballots. For those villages that have switched to using ballot scanner voting machines from lever voting machines, the cost of running their elections increased substantially. In the tax cap era, where local governments are limited to increasing their tax levy to 2% over the prior year's levy, this substantial increase in conducting village elections is untenable.
Amendment to Paper Ballots Language Necessary:
While many villages will use the ballot scanner machines if they are made available from their county boards of elections at reasonable cost, many other villages previously conducted their elections by hand counting paper ballots and desire to continue doing so in the future. Furthermore, some villages that previously used the lever-style voting machines now prefer to conduct their elections by hand counting paper ballots rather than using and paying for the new ballot scanner machines. Unfortunately, the hand counting of paper ballots in elections has been made problematic for a number of reasons. The required format of the paper ballot was changed by Chapter 165 of the Laws of 2010, which amended Election Law § 7-106 to provide that the only paper ballot that is allowed under New York State law is the one to be scanned by the optical scanner. Requiring villages to use paper ballots that are formatted and designed to be counted by a ballot scanner machine when the village will not be using ballot scanner machines is impractical, very costly, and inefficient, as the new ballot format is much more difficult to canvass by hand-counting. Accordingly, it is necessary to revert to former Election Law § 7-106 to avoid election day issues with those villages that choose to utilize paper ballots in their village election.
Current Status of Village Elections:
NYCOM recently surveyed its village members regarding how they conducted their recent village election. A total of 253 villages responded to the survey. Of those villages that responded to the survey, 81% conduct their own elections with the remaining 19% relying on the county to conduct their elections. A plurality of the villages, 42%, conducted their most recent elections by hand counting paper ballots, while 36% of the respondents continued to use the lever style voting machines and 22% used the ballot scanner voting machines.
Of the villages that used lever voting machines in their most recent election, 89 percent (65 of 73) of the villages would continue to use lever machines if authority to do so is extended. Of the 73 villages that used lever machines to conduct their most recent elections, the county made the scanner voting machines available to only 25 (34%) villages, while the county did not make scanners available to 34 (47%) villages. Fourteen 14 (19%) villages did not respond to this question in our survey. The Nassau County board of elections appears to be the primary obstacle to allowing villages use the ballot scanner voting machines, although this is no small problem as Nassau County is home to 64 villages, many of which are the largest villages in New York State. As I stated previously, I will more specifically address Nassau County in a few moments.
For those villages that were offered the use of the ballot scanner voting machines by the county but used lever voting machines instead were, village officials gave the following reasons for not using the ballot scanner machines:
• 80% responded that the ballot scanner machines were too expensive;
• 56% indicated that the number of voters did not warrant using scanner machines; and
• 40% indicated that the number of ballot items did not warrant using scanner machines.
Additionally, many counties in the rural upstate communities have not even had to address the use of the ballot scanner voting machines by villages yet, and it is unclear how much it will cost villages to have the scanner machines transported to their polling places from the county board of election facilities.
Of the 85 villages that conducted their most recent election by hand counting paper ballots, the county made the scanner voting machines available to only 29 (34%) of those villages, while 49 (58%) of the villages did not have the ballot scanner voting machines made available to them.
For those 29 villages whose county board of elections offered them the use of the ballot scanner voting machines, the villages decided to use paper ballots for the following reasons:
• 86% reported that the ballot scanner voting machines were too expensive to use;
• 52% indicated that the number of voters did not warrant using scanner machines; and
• 3% responded that the number of ballot items did not warrant using scanner machines.
Accessible Voting Machines
Regarding the issue of the accessibility of the lever style voting machines, NYCOM is committed to assisting its member villages in providing effective and affordable access to individuals with disabilities. While the lever style voting machines do have limitations regarding accessibility, there are easy, cost-effective ways for individuals with disabilities to vote in elections with lever voting machines, and some people with disabilities actually prefer them. First, voters needing assistance to vote with lever style voting machines may request that an election inspector or any other person of their choice to assist them in casting their ballot. This right to assistance, which is set forth in Election Law § 8-306, can be invoked for any method of voting, whether it be ballot scanner voting machines, lever style voting machines, or the casting of paper ballots. A second option available to individuals with disabilities is the absentee ballot and, once requested, absentee ballots are automatically sent for every election.
These methods of voting are viable, cost-effective alternatives to using the ballot marking devices. Moreover, these methods are reasonable considering how infrequently individuals are using the ballot marking devices. A recent survey of New York's county boards of elections outside of the City of New York revealed that, of the 24 county boards of elections that responded to the request for information, only 16 people had used the ballot marking devices during the November 2012 general election.
Given the tremendous financial pressure New York's local governments are under from unfunded mandates and shrinking revenues, the substantial added cost of villages having to use ballot scanner voting machines greatly outweighs the minimal benefit the ballot marking devices offer, particularly in light of reasonable alternative methods for people with disabilities getting to vote.
Nassau County has 64 villages with over 540,000 residents. That represents almost 12% of the villages in the entire state and almost 22% of the population of the state's villages. It also is home to many of the largest villages in the state, some larger than the majority of the cities in New York State.
The Nassau County Board of Elections is one of the county boards that has been unable to provide scanner voting machines to local governments.
Based upon information from the Nassau County Board of Elections:
Nassau County has more than 200 elections each year for school districts, villages and special districts. They take place over the year and there are elections every month of the year. To date all have been conducted by lever voting machines, 1,100 having been used for those 200 elections. The Nassau County Board of Elections has been able to process all of those elections with its current staff for a number of reasons, including preparation of the lever machines is a manual process that takes less time than programming scanner machines, lever machines do not require extensive pre-election testing, canvassing of the election results is done by the municipality conducting the election, there is no post-election required audit, and lever machines do not present the security issues that scanner machines pose. Also, there is minimal overlap between lever and scanner machine elections which, to date, have been used only for federal primary elections, state primary elections, county primary elections and the November general elections.
The Nassau County Board of Elections has roughly estimated that the additional cost of the 200+ elections per year for just the scanner voting machines would be over $5,300,000 plus increased costs of maintenance of machines (scanner machines cost more to maintain than lever machines); additional personnel to prepare, test, canvass and audit the machines; additional office and secure storage space; among other related costs. Importantly, those costs do not include the cost of paper ballots which range from 39 cents (for large volume orders) to 50 cents per ballot. The recommendation from the New York State Board of Elections is ballots should be printed for 110% of the active registered voters in each jurisdiction.
Even if the funds are found, substituting scanner for lever voting machines in Nassau County would be a logistical nightmare, and just one reason is that each of those 200+ elections have election districts that differ. Others including closeness of elections, possible recounts and impounded machines are just a few of the many others.
Just to get sense of the increased cost of just my village going from lever to scanner machines -- The cost of just paper ballots would be a 440% increase over the cost of lever machines, even ¬before adding the cost of the scanner machines. Assuming that scanner machines could be obtained, programmed, etc. for say, just $ 2,500 each, the cost would increase by over 1,500%, 15 times. My village is, of course, just one of the 200+ municipalities that would experience such astronomical increases.
As I mentioned earlier, NYCOM was told by 24 counties that only 16 votes were cast on ballot marking devices in the November 2012 general election. In Nassau County in the 2013 general election, 475 votes were cast on 375 machines, less than 1.3 votes per machine.
While many villages will conduct their elections by hand counting paper ballots or using ballot scanner voting machines, such voting methods are not an option for many villages either because they have too many voters, the county is not able to, or otherwise unwilling to, make scanner machines available, or the cost of using the scanner machines is prohibitive. Consequently, the legislature must make the authority for villages to use the lever-style voting machines permanent. The New York State Conference of Mayors and the Nassau County Village Officials Association, along with our village members, are eager to work with the State to address this challenge. Thank you for the opportunity to testify at this important hearing.
DECEMBER 2013 MEETING ATTENDEES:
THE LAST WORD: