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Despite funding boost from county lawmakers, Onondaga County elections officials say it's not enough

Ellen Abbott

The Onondaga County Board of Elections will most likely run short of funds next year, despite getting a nearly half-million dollar boost from the county budget lawmakers approved last week.

Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny and Republican Commissioner Michelle Sardo sent a three-page report to lawmakers about how much it will cost to run an election during a presidential year. At the last minute, lawmakers scrambled to add $475,000 to the department in the county budget, but Czarny said that wouldn’t be enough.

“In the presidential year, we always get temporary workers because we have 76% turnout,” said Czarny. There's much more voter registration. There are a few new election laws, like vote early by mail that are coming in, that we're going to need the extra people for."

Czarny says his department was never called in person to testify to the Republican-dominated legislature about its needs during the budget process. And while the department has been beefed up the last few years with some extra full-time workers, it’s not enough.

"We are still the lowest staffed board of elections in the state and this is empirical numbers,” Czarny said. “We have one full staff person for every 16,000 voters. The state averages one for every 7,000 voters."

Czarny expects the Board of Elections to ask the county for at least $300,000 following next year’s two primaries, in order to pay temporary workers to properly staff the November election.

"We feel like we're about $600,000 short,” he said. “So that, that solves some of the issue. We may be able to get all of our inspectors paid, but we won't be able to have any temporary workers if we follow their budget guidelines for next year.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.