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Story - Education

Jan 27, 2010 1:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor School Board again tables creating voting districts

Jan 27, 2010 1:47 PM

With time just about running out to create two voting districts in the Eastport South Manor School District in time for this year’s budget vote in May, members of the Board of Education at a board meeting last week once again put off voting on the plan.

The measure is intended to better accommodate residents of the eastern half of the district who currently must travel to the district’s high school on Moriches-Middle Island Road to cast ballots in the annual budget vote and other districtwide referendums.

Following a lengthy discussion at a board meeting last week, Wednesday, January 20, board members declined to vote on the plan and said the would consider it again at a meeting next week.

The School Board first considered the measure during a meeting on January 6, after District Clerk Sharon Murray suggested creating the two voting districts in response to complaints from district residents. It would allow residents of the eastern half of the district, some of whom live as far east as Speonk, to vote at the Eastport Elementary School.

Members of the board tabled discussion of the plan at the time in order to assess its costs and the logistics of the proposal. Some board members also questioned whether the plan would create an unwanted separation in the district, similar to the years following the merger of Eastport and South Manor school districts in 2003.

At the board meeting last week, School Board Vice President Arthur Abbate again raised concerns about the measure, stating that many of his questions about costs and logistics have not yet been answered.

“I need to understand what are the costs,” Mr. Abbate said this week. “I need to understand the logistics of how this would work. There’s been some discussion about if someone’s used to voting in one location, and they’re now told to go to Eastport, and they show up to the high school anyway, would we turn them away? None of these things have been worked out.”

Board member Karen Kesnig pushed for a vote on the proposal, but was shot down by the other board members when the resolution failed to be seconded.

“I was very disappointed,” Ms. Kesnig said on Monday. “I think they’re making a mountain out of a molehill. I think there’s much more important things to spend our time arguing over. I almost throw my hands up. I think part of what makes America great is we’re supposed to make voting as convenient as possible.”

For an additional polling location to be created in time for the school budget vote in May, board members would need to approve the plan by February 3, according to School Board President Vincent Sweeney.

The plan would split the district’s 14,000 voters into two distinct districts, divided by Chapman Boulevard in Manorville. People residing west of the road would vote at the high school, while those living east of the road would vote at Eastport Elementary School.

Mr. Sweeney said that although he has not taken a position on the plan, he is in favor of any measure that would help the district’s residents. “What I will say is that I think, in general, I am in favor of anything that would accommodate our residents and our taxpayers—obviously, as long as there isn’t some large additional cost,” he said. “Typically, I would be in favor of that.”

The board president also noted that he submitted a list of questions to Ms. Murray that he expects to be answered at the board’s next meeting on February 3. It includes specifics on costs of any additional tellers, as well as the cost of a districtwide informational mailing about the new polling location.

District officials have said any additional costs would be minimal. The district currently spends about $4,500 to operate four voting machines managed by about 12 election tellers for every referendum. According to Assistant Superintendent for Business Richard Snyder, current resources would simply be split. Two voting machines would be used in the Eastport Elementary School and two would remain at the high school, under the plan. Mr. Snyder said an election teller supervisor would be needed, but that would only cost the district an additional $15. A districtwide mailing, which Mr. Snyder noted is already required to be sent out, would cost the district between $200 and $300.

One district resident, who declined to give her name, urged board members to come to a decision on the plan at the January 20 meeting. “What is the big problem?” she asked. “Why would you talk about it for half an hour and table it for another meeting?”

Although Mr. Sweeney said he understands residents’ concerns, all sides of the issue must be examined by board members before proceeding.

“In all fairness, if there are board members who before they feel they can make that decision need some additional information, I think we owe it to the board members to make sure they have that information before we move forward with that vote,” Mr. Sweeney said.

Rohma Abbas

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Come on - make it easier for people to vote. Better yet, move all your school board elections to the November date of general elections, the voters are smart enough to handle it - you'll get better turnouts - or maybe there are people who do not want a better turnout.
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Feb 2, 10 12:38 PM
It takes me 40 minutes driving time round trip to the high school and Eastport Elementary is less than 5 min away. So honestly the district is separated and focus only on the residents of Manorville and whats convient for them. I'm sure if you look at who votes its NOT the residents from Eastport and Speonk.
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Feb 10, 10 9:21 AM