County proposes fewer voting machines for school elections

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OCEAN CITY — It’s a small savings, but Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti said the pennies add up.

Fulginiti and Michael Kennedy, registrar for the Cape May County Board of Elections, are proposing a plan to trim the number of voting machines utilized for school elections throughout Cape May County.

The move, they say, would save $25,701 countywide – $6,008 for Ocean City taxpayers; Upper Township taxpayers would save $5,005.

On April 17, 2012 voters would go to the same polling location, they would just find fewer machines to tally the votes.

Ocean City presently boasts 20 machines. That would be consolidated to eight, necessitating 49 poll workers rather than 80. Upper Township presently boasts 15 voting machines, that would be consolidated to five, necessitating 35 poll workers rather than 60.

Most polling locations serve multiple election districts, each with its own voting machine, Fulginiti said. As many as four voting machines, serving four election districts, have been allocated to one polling location. Savings are realized by consolidating two or more districts per voting machine.

“While keeping all the same polling locations to which voters are accustomed to using, we propose to consolidate two or more districts voting on the same machine,” she said. “Our plan is to consolidate those districts being served in the same polling location with voters of two or more districts voting on the same machine.”

The plan to reduce the number of voting machines reduces the cost of transporting the machines for the election, printing the ballots and paying the poll workers, Fulginiti said.

“All of these reductions add up to savings for school districts, which pay the costs associated with administering school elections,” Fulginiti said. “Considering you get about 12 percent voter turnout for a school election on average, it makes sense.”

The hours would be standardized countywide under the new plan. While polls must, by law, be open 5-9 p.m., she said extended the hours would be helpful.

“So, we’re suggesting 3 to 9,” she said. “Each municipality had its own hours; there was a lot of confusion. This enables more efficiency.”

“At each election, the county clerk’s office and Board of Elections receive numerous phone calls from voters confused about school election poll hours,” she said.  “We feel the consistent hours will serve all the voters best – from seniors who prefer daylight driving to working parents who need night time voting.”

Poll workers are presently paid differently, she said, so the plan would also encourage a standard $12.86 per hour, or $90 for Election Day.

“The consistent poll worker pay will make it easier to fill the positions.  “In the past, the Board of Elections has had many problems filling positions for poll workers for the school election, particularly in the communities paying the lowest poll worker rates.

“Some districts pay well, others don’t,” she said. “So the districts that pay well never have a problem finding workers, the ones that do not have trouble finding poll workers.”

The plan was presented to superintendents and business administrators in each Cape May County school district. Fulginiti said she asked officials in each district to evaluate the plan with their boards of education and notify her in writing if they approve.

Though she would like a consensus, she said each district would be free to go along or not.

“It’s a small thing, but it is the small things that are going to add up and help us get through this tough economy,” she said. “In a town like Ocean City, or in Upper Township, it’s a lot of money.

“I think it’s really going to work for us,” Fulginiti said. “By the end of the year, the districts will have to notify me. I’m hoping that everyone decides to save some money. We are trying to save money wherever we can.”

At a Nov. 15 meeting of the Ocean City Board of Education, Business Administrator Tom Grossi presented the proposed plan to the board. Using the 4th Ward district at Our Lady of Good Counsel as an example, with two districts utilizing two machines, he said it there would be savings.

“It would be renting one machine and two poll workers,” he said. The only drawback would be that vote tallies within the 4th Ward would not be broken down.

“It depends on how important that is to the people,” he said.

Grossi said he planned to meet with Ocean City Clerk Linda MacIntyre, who would be involved in the process.

Ocean City presently pays poll workers $14.77 per hour, or about $96 for Election Day.

“The majority of the savings comes from the polling machines,” said Grossi.

Grossi noted that Ocean City stood to save the most of any district in Cape May County.

If these changes are adopted throughout the county, there will be a net savings of $25,701 shared between the school districts. This will also create efficiencies for the Board of Elections and county clerk’s office in our roles to support your school elections.

Under this plan the school districts of Cape May Point, West Wildwood and Wildwood Crest will each have a small increase of under $100. This is due to the changes in the poll hours and poll worker compensation to bring them to a consistent level countywide.

Summary of the savings

Avalon: $721.06 with one proposed voting machine down from three

Cape May: $250.30 with four proposed voting machines down from five

Dennis Township: $1,253.17 with five proposed voting machines down from eight

Lower Cape May Regional: $2,913.99, changes to voting machines not applicable

Lower Township: $2,492.10 with eight proposed voting machines down from 28

Middle Township: $2,328.30 with eight proposed voting machines down from 18

North Wildwood: $1,445.94 with two voting machines down from eight

Ocean City: $6,007.98 with eight voting machines down from 20

Sea Isle City: $826.22 with two voting machines down from four

Stone Harbor: $474.95 with one voting machine down from two

Upper Township: $5,004.70 with five voting machines down from 15

West Cape May: $171.60 with one voting machine down from two

Wildwood: $1,145.36 with one voting machine down from five

Woodbine: $903.19 with one voting machine down from two

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