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Potsdam School Board discusses election hours

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POTSDAM - The Potsdam Central School district is the only district in the county with polling hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.on the day of its budget vote and election of school board members.

Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said the topic of whether to change the hours was brought up by District Clerk Davida Martin, who relayed concerns to him from the district’s election inspectors.

“When we were looking at holding another election in the district (referring to a planned capital project vote this spring), the concerns of the inspectors were brought to my attention,” he said.

During the meeting Tuesday night, Ms. Martin noted many of the district’s election inspectors are “older,” and the district has had a difficult time finding election inspectors.

Following his conversation with Ms. Martin, Mr. Brady said he polled other districts in the area to see what their voting hours were.

“I didn’t realize until we did this survey what our election hours were compared to the others,” he said.

Mr. Brady said the majority of districts in the region have voting hours from noon to 9 p.m., hours that Ms. Martin noted were the same as the county uses for its primary elections.

Noting that cutting six hours from the polls might be too drastic of a change, board of education member J. Patrick Turbett suggested possibly reducing only three hours from the polls and being open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mr. Brady said that a canvas of the district’s voter registries from the past several elections showed that 20 percent of the district voters cast their ballots between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon.

“A lot of people vote on their way to work,” said board of education member James Hubbard.

“It’s 20 percent,” Mr. Brady said, to which board of education member Frederick C. Stone Jr. replied, “That’s a significant percentage. That’s one in five.”

While a reduction in hours may impact some voters, Ms. Martin said absentee ballots always remain an option, and Mr. Brady said he didn’t think that many people would be negatively affected.

“Probably most of the people who vote in the morning could vote later,” he said.

Another suggestion made by Mr. Turbett was to explore the demographics of the district’s early morning voters, to better see who would be most impacted by any potential change.

“That sounds like a good project for a government class,” he said.

Mr. Brady also noted that while the savings would be minimal, a reduction in hours would likely result in some reduction in pay for the election inspectors.

Currently, he said the district’s four election inspectors are paid $135 per day.

Mr. Brady said at this point he was only bringing the topic to the board’s attention with further discussion expected on the matter in the future.

“It’s a big decision to make, because our community is used to those extended hours,” he said.

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