Schenectady County

Polling place change irks officials

Polling sites in Rotterdam could change over the next two elections and town officials aren’t ple

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Polling sites in Rotterdam could change over the next two elections and town officials aren’t pleased.

The Schenectady County Board of Elections has proposed consolidating two polling sites at the Pinewood Elementary School on Kings Road with those now located at St. Gabriel’s School on Hamburg Street more than two miles away. Elections officials alerted the town of the changes last month, indicating that it was necessary to improve access as the county phases in its new voting machines.

“The issue [at Pinewood] is really space,” Elections Commissioner Brian Quail said. “There is not enough space there to accommodate two polling places as it’s currently configured.”

The change would affect 583 voters in District 13 and 674 voters in District 14, according to Board of Elections figures. If approved, the change would take effect before the upcoming elections during the fall.

But town officials strongly believe the change could result in limiting access for residents. Earlier this month, members of the Town Board unanimously opposed the proposal.

Supervisor Steve Tommasone said consolidating the districts would force hundreds of voters to travel longer distances. He said the lack of convenience for voters could lead to a lower turnout in the consolidated districts.

“You’re talking about literally moving hundreds of residents form one neighborhood to another to vote,” he said Friday. “That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

Overall, Rotterdam has 16 polling sites for 25 voting districts. Schenectady County has a total of 69 polling sites representing 128 districts.

Rotterdam is among three towns facing a consolidation of polling sites. Elections officials have also proposed merging Glenville’s District 9 at the First Baptist Church on Mohawk Avenue with District 8 at the First Reformed Church on Ballston Avenue; in Schenectady, District 36 at the Northeast Parent and Child Society on Hamburg Street is to merge with District 37 at the Mont Pleasant Commons on Chrisler Avenue.

Municipalities have until May to argue against the consolidation or suggest other sites. Elections Commissioner Art Brassard said the changes are still up for debate if there’s a compelling reason why they shouldn’t be made.

“We do want their input,” he said.

“The goal is always to make these poll sites as efficient as possible.”

If the changes are made, Quail said the Board of Elections will alert the public.

All voters affected by the changes will receive both a postcard and a first-class mailer; the changes will also be advertised in the newspaper and printed on a large sign posted at the former voting sites.

Rotterdam is slated for another round of consolidation in 2009. District 2 at the Rotterdam Junction Fire Department on Main Street is proposed to be consolidated with District 1 at the Pattersonville Fire Department on Rynex Corners Road; District 3 at the Schonowe Fire Department on Gordon Road would be moved to the South Schenectady Fire Department on Mariaville Road, where Districts 4 and 24 are now located; District 17 at the Mohonasen High School is proposed to merge with Districts 7 and 18 at the Curry Road Fire Station.

Brassard said the 2009 changes are very tentative.

“The further out the proposals, the less concrete they are,” he said. “Those require more study, more thought, more consideration and even more public input.”

Tommasone wasn’t impressed by the changes. He said the polling locations in place now seem adequate for the town.

“We need to be careful so that whatever decision is made does not restrict access for our residents to vote somewhere close to their homes,” he said, “It’s really as simple as that.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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