The Wayne County Government Operations Committee held their regular meeting on Thursday, November 9th. The item on the agenda was a meeting with the Wayne County Board of Elections Commissioners, John Zornow (Republican) and Gerry Clingerman (Democrat).
Chairman of the Gov Opts Committee, Richard Lasher began the meeting by saying that the committee was not there to throw stones at the Board of Elections, but to try to ascertain what happened. Election results were not available on election night, and not until 1 pm on Wednesday.
John Zornow repeated what he has told Supervisors already, that a snafu happened with card reading numbers not matching up with totals. He indicated that Deputy Elections Commissioner Kristen Victorious first noticed, while in the Card Room, that there was something amiss. After a 19 hour day, lots of crunching of number and investigating, and working with Dominion, the company who provides the voting machines, they were told to call it a night at about 11pm and come back the next morning.
“We later learned that the flash drives used for Early Voting machines were bad, and when we replaced them with new ones, the numbers came out and they all matched up.” The machines in question were at the Lyons and Ontario Early voting sites.
County Administrator Rick House wanted answers about the $300,000 that the County paid for the BOE to order “Pull Pads” for the election. Pull Pads help to register voters by allowing a ballot to be printed specifically for the voting individual - for their town, even when at another site.
Gerry Clingerman noted that the last of the pull pads did not arrive until November 6th, due to a vendor issue, and that, without training being done in time for the elections, they did not use them.
“This will not be an issue as there are two primaries to be run before the General Election next year,” explained Clingerman,
“Lasher reiterated that “We are here to solve a problem.”
“We all have to deal with the fallout from this (late results). It is my job when there is a problem in the County, and I have to get my broom and shovel out to fix it,” said the County Adminstrator.
Why, he wondered ,was the County not notified of the problem with delivery of the pull pads immediately, and why were they not notified of the problem with the results sooner.
“We had a back up plan, said Zornow. “That is why we were not worried about the pull pads being late. Also there was not enough time for training.”
House stated: “We (the County) dose not control the elections board, but our administrative team has to do the clean up. I am on the NYS Association of Counties and very few counties have part time commissioners. We do”
Zornow noted that he has never been against Full Time Commissioners, but when he took the job, it was listed as part time. “I did th job as presented.”
Walworth Supervisor Mike Donalty. said “We have all been touched by this. Our constituents have been calling us and we a have to have answer for them. I felt helpless. Why not keep all 15 phone numbers for the Supervisors and communicate with us.”
Zornow repeated that “The problem was found and fixed.” “We have learned a lot by fire.”
Galen Supervisor Steve Groat asked “ Do we need a full time IT person dedicated to elections”
Gerry Clingerman told the committee that he spent 10 hours and 244 miles visiting every polling site in Wayne County on Tuesday.
Republican and Democrat Chairpersons MaryAnne Nicosia-McCarthy and Scott Comegys reported that the went to the BOE headquarters at 8 am on Wednesday so see what had happened and offered help.
Nicosia-McCarthy said she will ask the NYS Board of Electiosn for an investigation, to help figure out what went wrong. “I have always tried to get all the Republican Town Chairmen to designate a Poll Watcher at their n Polling sites to read the tapes or take photos of the tapes, so we are able to have numbers early. Of course, they are unofficial, but it helps candidates to know what is happening,. Our County’s late results has been consistently an issue for years.”
She stated that both Govenor Cuomo and now Governor Hocul have made so many changess to election law due to Covid. There are changes in voting procedures, absentee ballots, and many new laws to deals with.
“I believe the BOE should have full time Commissioners, 9-5, 5 days a week, as swell as full time deputies and staff. I feel we need 8 bodies there at all times.”
She contnued: “With the old lever machines, you could just read the numbers, and now we need IT. It is time to fix this and fix it now.”
Zornow explained that it takes a long time to get all results from all towns and driving time to Lyons is 30 minutes from Ontario, for instanceand that takes time away from calculating results.
The BOE asked duties this year to do our courier service.
Scott Comegys, Wayne County Democratic Chairman noted that people in Wayne County should always have the faith and trust of voters. The time is now to fix any issues and find trust again.
Both Nicosiia-McCarthy and Comegys discussed that there are two very contentious primaries coming up and we all want them to run as smoothly as possible.
Comegys also said that he does not feel there is a problem with staff. Frustration could have been mitigated with communications. We want the “right numbers, not rushed numbers.
If we need more staff, or a dedicated IT peson, we should have them.”
House told the Commissioners: “Give us an implementation plan of what you need and we can discuss it. I can make it happen, if you need some-ting, especially with Technology”
“If we have to dedicate a person or a create a position in IT for you, I wil lmake that happen.”
Chsirman Lasher ended with, “We want to help. You have been very cooperatice today. Thanks for coming in”.
MaryAnne Nicosia-McCarthy, followin the meeting stated: “Something went hideously wrong Tuesday night into Wednesday afternoon. I am not pointing fingers, nor am I looking to hang someone, but everyone from the candidates, the voters and to the political Party infrastructure deserves answers and more importantly whatever happened cannot happen again. When the elections are certified, I am contacting the BOE in Albany requesting an investigation as to what went wrong. If it is the machines, then Dominion is getting their asses to Route 31 to fix the problem. If it is human, it is vital that we get everyone training or do whatever it takes to get it right, including staff increase. The Democratic Chairman and I spoke and he is in agreement with me that the two Parties will be working together and I will be in contact with the Conservative Chairman today -- yesterday threw us all for a loop with the passing of an old friend, our former County Judge John Nesbitt.”