Challenges fully staffing polls disrupt June primary in Fulton, Montgomery counties

PHOTOGRAPHER:

An early voting sign outside the Horace J. Inman Senior Center on Guy Park Avenue in Amsterdam on June 18.

Both Montgomery and Fulton counties are facing issues staffing polling locations for the June primary, a concern that could extend into the August primary as well. 

In Fulton County, two voting locations — Oppenheim and Bleecker — were closed because the Board of Elections could not find workers to staff the site, said G. Jeremiah Ryan, the Democratic Commissioner. 

He said they are required to have four poll workers a day — two Republicans and two Democrats. He couldn’t find any for either location. 

“That hasn’t happened before,” he said. 

The 866 voters in Oppenheim will cast ballots at Ephratah Town Hall at 3782 State Highway 10 and the 351 Bleecker voters were sent to Caroga Municipal Building at 1840 State Highway 10. 

In Montgomery County, the Board of Elections is having to shuffle workers during early voting in order to staff the three early voting sites it has open. 

“A lot of them are calling out and saying they can’t work,” said Terry Bieniek, the county Democratic Commissioner. 

Bieniek said he’s not sure what’s going on, but they do have a call list of workers to rely on should people call out. 

It’s always been hard to find poll workers, Ryan said, but this year seems to be even more difficult. 

Now, with an additional primary, the Board of Election offices are worried about how the August primary, which covers state Senate and congressional races, will pan out. 

“We’re very concerned,” Bieniek said. 

He said they will see which races are happening and then try to see if they can consolidate locations. Ryan said Fulton County is planning to consolidate voting sites. 

But whatever happens both counties could potentially spend $30,000 for the additional primary. 

Nearby Schenectady County just added an extra $108,000 to its budget for the August primary. 

Ryan said the biggest cost comes from paying poll workers, who earn $256 on primary day and $144 per day of early voting. That’s up a little from the prior year when they made closer to $200 for primary day. In Montgomery County, poll inspectors make $12 an hour and coordinators make $15 an hour. 

“I think we’re probably going to up that in the near future,” Bieniek said, to encourage people to be poll workers. 

Bieniek also said there’s been no word yet from the state on whether it will cover any of the expenses related to the additional primary. He said there were talks that Board of Election offices might be able to request reimbursement but nothing has been set in stone. In the meantime, the counties have to keep planning for August and prepare for any costs associated with an additional primary day. 

“It’s definitely putting a strain on our budget,” Bieniek said.

By Shenandoah Briere

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