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Future early voting location weighs heavily on minds of county election commissioners

By Mike Pettinella

While having enough space at the ARC of Genesee Community Center in the City of Batavia to hold early voting certainly wasn’t a problem in June of this year, Genesee County Board of Election commissioners are convinced they will have to find a different location for November elections in 2022 and 2024.

Richard Siebert and Lorie Longhany, Republican and Democratic commissioners, respectively, told the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday that they are looking – without much success at this point – for another place in the city with the capacity to conduct early voting when residents come to the polls to elect a governor (2022) and president (2024).

“The ARC won’t be large enough for the gubernatorial and presidential elections,” Longhany said.

The commissioners said they have been inquiring about sites within the city limits – following a requirement that early voting must take place in the municipality with the largest population – but have come up empty.

Should a city location search prove unfruitful, they said they believe they could get permission to have early voting at Genesee County Building 2 on West Main Street Road, which they called “an ideal site.”

Siebert reported that just six people voted in advance during June’s off-year Republican primaries in the towns of Bethany, Byron and Stafford, with all of six of those votes being cast for the Stafford Town Clerk primary.

“And I was one of those six,” he noted.

He said it cost $6,000 over the nine days of early voting (June 12-20) at the ARC Community Center at 38 Woodrow Rd.

Early voting expenses normally are charged back to the participating towns, he said, but a portion of an $18,156.45 grant from the New York State Board of Elections Early Voting Expansion Program could be used in this case. The grant contract runs out on Jan. 28, 2022.

Siebert and Longhany said there has been talk about scaling early voting back to three or four days, but pre-election day activity is expected to pick up considerably during major election years. So, that possibility remains to be seen.

Siebert advised that the grant also can be used to pay the $7,700 maintenance fee (which is tied to information technology) that was charged to the Board of Elections.

Ways & Means Committee members approved the acceptance of the early voting grant as well as another award from the state Board of Elections Technology Innovation and Election Resource grant program for $58,999.06.

This grant runs through Jan. 27, 2023 and would assist the county with the capital purchase of software, technology upgrades, equipment and broadband service.

The commissioners said replacement of electronic voting machines, which are out of warranty, is in their budget for 2022. Each machine costs about $11,000.

In other action, the committee:

  • Approved the budget and apportionment of expenses of the Genesee County Self-Insurance Plan for 2022 following a report by Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer that the county’s switch to NCAComp Inc. of Buffalo as its third-party claims administrator has put the program on solid footing.

“We’re in much better position. Claims are being paid timely and the injured are experiencing a better result,” Ferringer said, noting that the plan is fully funded.

She said the county has paid out $760,000 in benefits and awards thus far in 2021, with $460,000 in compensation, $186,000 in medical benefits and $114,000 in expenses. That is down from $1.4 million in 2020 and $1 million in 2019.

Ferringer said that rates for all the town, village, county and other entities enrolled in the plan have decreased for 2022, except for fire departments, which increased by an average of approximately 2 to 4 percent. She attributed the fire departments' retail rating increase to 5.2 percent increase in the "loss cost" (an industry rating).

Currently, there are 39 new open claims this year, she said, while 66 have been closed.

  • Approved the appointment, effective Sept. 8, of Pamela LaGrou as county privacy officer per provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. LaGrou, who was appointed county compliance officer effective Aug. 16, served as the clerk of the legislature for the past five-plus years. Lisa Casey, former confidential secretary for the City of Batavia, is stepping into that role.

Previously: Low early voting turnout exasperates county legislators

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