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County Legislature Approves Extra Elections Funding

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – By a vote of eight to seven, the Erie County Legislature Wednesday narrowly approved funding to avoid paper ballots in the November elections. But the legislative battle is a sign that the budget wars have not yet ended.

The Board of Elections now has $234,000 to hire extra help to set up voting machines. Elections commissioners say that should mean no paper ballots. They also expect to get absentee and military ballots out on time.

Demone Smith was one of seven Democrats voting for the funding. He says people in his district are losing faith in the system.

"There are some people who were registered to vote and they went to the booth at primary time and their names weren't in the books. So, then they get turned off," said Smith. "We have to try to restore faith in the process."

Barry Weinstein says he was also not afraid to stand as the only Republican in support of the funding. He says that 27 days before the election, the money is necessary, not political. The money was approved only through the end of the year. And Weinstein says he also likes that it comes with calls for audits and streamlining the Board of Elections.

"These are all things that are good government ad the cost of this piece is extremely modest," said Weinstein. "Hopefully, it will guarantee us an efficient, honest election."

But fellow Republican Chuck Swanick vigorously disagreed.

"This is why this house struggles every day," said Swanick. "And it will not get better, it will get worse as we go along."

After the session, Chairman George Holt acknowledged that it will be difficult to reach consensus on a slate of issues -- including the so far doomed, four-year plan.

"If a professional firm can come in and can't find a way to solve the problem, you know it's going to be very difficult for the laymen."

The legislature has until October 26th to approve a four-year plan.