Kingston schools, election board reach compromise on voting machines

Before last week, it seemed inevitable that the Kingston City School District would have to purchase voting machines ahead of the budget vote and School Board elections in May, with the only variable how much money they’d wind up spending. But following a compromise between the two parties, the district will be allowed to use the machines this year, with future use depending upon how things go.

According to Board of Elections Co-Commissioner Ashley Dittus, the compromise was reached after a meeting with the district’s Deputy Superintendent for Human Resources and Business Allen Olsen and school board Trustee Suzanne Jordan. The Board of Elections will still program the ballot and voting system, but the district will be required to purchase poll books from a vendor and hire inspectors directly.

“We’ve scaled back a bit, but they won’t have to buy voting systems,” said Dittus on Wednesday. “So we’ll see how that goes and if that’s a tenable situation, we’ll continue it into the future. But right now we have a one-year agreement and we’ll see how it goes. Both parties, us and the school district, we’re hopeful that it works out.”

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Dittus said that the KCSD agreed to the Board of Elections’ primary ask. “One of our big requests is that they close schools on Election Day in November and help us out with providing poll sites in those areas,” she said. “Kingston is doing that.”

Until last week, the Board of Elections was no longer planning to provide public school districts across the county with voting machines, in part due to New York State’s decision to hold its federal, state and local primaries on a single day in June, the 25th this year. But there were other factors as well.

But last week Superintendent Paul Padalino revealed that talks were once again underway.

“We’re working to compromise, back and forth, so they can get what they need, because they do have responsibilities around elections,” he said at Feb. 6’s school board meeting. “But also to collaborate and share services without … taxpayers having to pay for two machines when one works perfectly well.”

While the district may have avoided shelling out money on voting machines, they will have some election expenses under the trial compromise. Padalino said he hoped to know more before the next meeting of the Board of Education, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Dittus said the Board of Elections is willing to work with other school districts as well, noting that Onteora was already scheduled to meet with them. Other districts will have to initiate that dialogue before a compromise can be worked out.

“They have to come to us directly,” said Dittus. “We’re doing it on a district-by-district basis.”

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