Voting issue needs clarity

At a Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education meeting held June 12, I talked about the pending expiration of legislation that allows schools to use lever voting machines and Johnstown’s options if an extension is not granted. An article appearing in The Leader-Herald on Monday misrepresented much of that discussion, and I wish to clarify some matters.

Current laws allowing New York state schools to use lever voting machines will expire Dec. 31, unless extended by the state legislature. There is no requirement that schools acquire optical scan machines by December.

A representative from the state School Boards Association indicated legislators have said they are not hearing schools complain about having to switch to optical machines if the lever machine exemption is allowed to expire. I repeated that claim to the board; I did not say school district voters appear to be satisfied using existing lever machines and that we’re not hearing anyone complaining.

The average number of voters using machines in Johnstown is 543 at Johnstown High School and 25 at the Ephratah Firehouse, based on totals from the last five elections. Those are not the figures from the May 20 vote.

I did not say the state will waive optical scan machines if school districts use special paper ballots. I told the board we aren’t required to buy an optical scan machine because we always have the option of reverting to paper ballots and a ballot box, although tallying paper ballots would make for a long night.

The board was not told that a paper election would require having 7,300 ballots on hand for 6,700 voters at a cost of $4,000. Those figures were in reference to the printed ballots used by optical scan machines and a requirement to have enough scan machine ballots on hand for 100 percent of the electorate, plus 10 percent. The cost of a paper election (using paper ballots and a ballot box) would be minimal.

Finally, I did not say I had been corresponding with state Sen. Hugh Farley and Assemblyman Marc Butler. I asked if board members were agreeable to sending a letter to those individuals, urging the approval of a bill allowing continued use of lever voting machines in school elections.

LARRAINA CARPENTER, District clerk and FOIL records access officer

Greater Johnstown School District