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Feb 24, 2015 2:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Push To Change Election Process On Long Island

Feb 25, 2015 10:04 AM

In an attempt to clear up confusion, Long Island officials are working to create one uniform Election Day for local municipalities.

Last week, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said he is working with a group of Long Island leaders through a program at Molloy College to study how efficiently elections are held. “The idea is to figure out ways to lower our costs of living on Long Island,” he said this week. “One initiative is the consolidation of the election process.”

Currently, Southampton Village taxpayers contend with multiple elections each year, including school elections in May, village elections in June, library board elections in August, general elections in November, and fire district elections in December. Mr. Epley also explained that it is considered normal for fewer than 5 percent of eligible voters in the area to participate in special district elections—a figure he said is unacceptable. “That is not making everyone accountable,” he said. “The average taxpayer is not well informed and does not participate.”

The first step, he said, would be to move as many of the smaller elections to one day to encourage as many votes on every issue as possible. The idea is being spearheaded by the Energeia Partnership though Molloy College, where Mr. Epley is one of a group of 35 to 50 leaders who meet to study different issues on Long Island. In the past, the group has studied racism and poverty, for instance.

Now, Mr. Epley, along with fellow Energeia participant and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, plans to approach other East End officials about consolidating elections. In the next few weeks he will meet with members of the Southampton and East Hampton town boards to discuss the proposal. “We are asking for support,” the mayor said.

By consolidating the elections into one day, Mr. Epley said, Long Island could realize two goals: having more educated voters, and curbing spending. For each election, the polling places must be staffed, election machines must be rented, and a staff member from the Suffolk County Board of Elections must be on hand to oversee the process. Sometimes there also are rental fees associated with polling places. All of these expenses are paid by taxpayers, and they would be reduced by having all elections on the same day.

Mr. Epley also stressed educating voters, saying there is typically more media coverage for elections with more than one topic on the ballot. He also said that taxpayers might be more willing to participate in a specific vote if they are already at the polling place for something they feel passionately about.

Last week, the Southampton Village Board unanimously voted in favor of supporting the proposal, which will also be presented to local legislators on Long Island after it gains more support.

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I support a proposal for voting on one date at one location.
By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Feb 27, 15 12:24 PM
I also feel that there should be term limits, approximately 6 years, for all elected officials in all town halls. Just sayin!
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Mar 1, 15 5:35 PM