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Board of Elections Says Outcome of Many Primary Races Will Take Weeks to Determine

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Board of Elections Commissioners are predicting it will be weeks before many primary contests are decided.

Some voters next Tuesday will not be standing behind the familiar voting machine curtain. There will be no levers or locking handles. There will be only a simple cardboard divider, a paper ballot and a pencil, and a padlocked wooden box to register the whole antiquated democratic process.

Due to budget cuts, paper ballots -- not used here for about a hundred years -- will replace voting machines in 13 municipalities. They include towns such as Evans and Orchard Park. Democratic Commissioner Dennis Ward says they tried to minimize chaos.

"The selection process was based on many factors. Our goal was to put paper ballots in as few towns as possible where there would be a heavy turnout," Ward said. "We attempted to minimize the number of paper ballots."

That still leaves about 85,000 paper ballots to be collected and tallied. Commissioners say the labor and time intensive process could well stretch into mid-October. And that means that the Democratic County Comptroller's race, as well as eight of 15 legislative districts and many town races, will be undecided on primary night.

Republican Commissioner Ralph Mohr says it won't be fast, but it will be democratic.

"It isn't going to be a perfect election, but it certainly will be one that is fair," Mohr said. "It's going to be verifiable. It will allow everyone in this county who wishes to cast a ballot to do so in the primary election."

Commissioners say they are more concerned about the domino effect on the general election. They say counting paper ballots from the primary will keep them from meeting several deadlines for the general election. And they say, if paper ballots are used again in November for what is always a much heavier voter turnout, it could be a nightmare. Candidates and voters could still be be waiting for results in January -- well after victors are supposed to take office.