County election officials cuts polling places for upcoming primary

PHOTOGRAPHER:

An early voting sign stands outside the former Gloversville VFW building in June. Early voting will once again be held there this month at the building that is now the Gloversville Rec Center at 24 3rd Ave.

In “anticipation of low voter turnout,” the Fulton County Board of Elections has cut the number of polling places for the Aug. 23 primary from 32 to 11.

The Aug. 23 primary is only for Democratic Party candidates seeking to run for the 21st Congressional District. Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has no primary opponent, so there will be no GOP primary.

County Democratic Election Commissioner G. Jerry Ryan said several factors played into the decision, including the relatively-low number of registered Democrats in the county, low number of requests for absentee ballots and the continued difficulty the FCBOE has had in finding people willing to be election inspectors/poll workers.

“There’s fewer Democrats in the county and [this primary election is] in late August, and we think that might be a problem for a lot of people to show up,” Ryan said. “We’ve only had little more than 300 requests for absentee ballots, and all of that led us to believe we didn’t need to staff 32 polling places. We can get by with a lot fewer.”

According to an Aug. 1 news release from the FCBOE, the most recent count of registered Democrats in Republican-dominated Fulton County is 7,858. That’s actually up by 65 voters from the most recent county report to the state Board of Elections in February, but still far less than the number of registered Republicans at 16,655, as of February.

The biannual voter registration reports from the county to the state show the number of registered Democrats has declined by 374 voters from the most recent midterm congressional election in 2018 when there were 8,232 registered Democrats. During the same time period, the number of registered Republican voters increased by 231 from 16,424.

But the current number of registered Democrats in Fulton County at 7,858 is still the highest number since Nov. 1, 2020 when there were 8,211. Since then, every county report shows the number of registered Democrats to be less than 8,000.

New York is a “closed primary state,” which means only voters registered as members of a political party are allowed by law to vote in that party’s primary election.

On Aug. 23, Democrats will choose between two candidates seeking to take on Stefanik in November: Matt Castelli, of Glens Falls, a former CIA officer and director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, and Matt Putorti, a lawyer who grew up in the village of Whitehall, who the National LGBT Bar Association has named one of the nation’s 40 best LGBT lawyers under the age of 40.

Ryan said, since the June primaries, the board of elections has “picked up seven more volunteers,” enabling the 11 polling locations set for  Aug. 23  to be fully staffed with two Republicans and two Democrats per location. He said each election inspector/poll worker is paid $256 for working on general election day as well as for working on primary election day, and $144 per early voting day.

For the Aug. 23 primary, early voting runs from Aug. 13 through Aug. 21 at the Gloversville Rec Center, which is the former VFW Hall at 24 3rd Ave.

Ryan said it remains to be seen whether the FCBOE will reduce the number of polling places for the general election. He said the board needs more Democratic volunteers to fill out the requirements per polling location.

“We haven’t made a decision on [number of polling locations for] the general election, but we’re hopeful we will be able to fully staff all 32 polling places,” he said.

The difficulty in staffing polling sites in Fulton County is occurring during a time when the number of registered voters has gone up and down over the past four years. The total number of registered voters hit a peak of 35,509 in November 2020 and since then has declined by 776 to 34,733, as of Feb. 21.

However, the total number of registered voters in the county is up by 425 voters from 34,308, just prior to the last midterm congressional election in 2018.

The FCBOE encourages anyone interested in becoming an election inspector/poll worker to call their office at (518) 736-5526.

The polling places for the primary are as follows:

• The town of Bleecker will vote at the Caroga Municipal Building, 1840 State Highway 10, Caroga Lake.

• All four town of Johnstown districts will vote at the Town of Johnstown Town Hall, 2743 Route 29, Johnstown.

• All four town of Mayfield districts will vote at the Mayfield Municipal Complex, 28 North School Street, Mayfield.

• All three town of Northampton districts will vote at the Northampton Town Hall, 412 South Main Street, Northville.

• All four town of Broadalbin districts will vote at the Broadalbin Municipal Complex, 201 Union Mills Road.

• Voters in Oppenheim and Stratford will vote at the Ephratah Town Hall, 3782 State Highway 10, St. Johnsville.

• In the city of Johnstown, voters in Wards 1 and 2 will vote at the Trackside Homes Community Center, Robin Circle.

• Voters in Wards 3 and 4 will vote at the First Baptist Church, 325 South Comrie Avenue.

• In the city of Gloversville, voters in Wards 1 and 5 will vote at the Family Counseling Center, 11-21 Broadway.

• Voters in Wards 2 and 3 will vote at the Gloversville Rec Center, 24 Third Ave.

• Voters in Wards 4 and 6 will vote at the Senior Citizen Service Center, 53 Church Street.

 

By Jason Subik

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