New Voters flood Orange County GOSHEN-New voter registrations have been pouring into boards of election all across the country, and Orange County is no exception. Election workers here have been toiling from early in the morning to late at night, on weekdays and weekends, to process forms in time to meet their deadlines. "It will be a miracle if we finish on time," said Democratic elections commissioner Susan Bahren on October 11. But, of course, as she later added, it's a miracle that must happen. The board must finish processing all new voter registrations by the weekend. That's when the poll books that local elections inspectors will use on election day must go to the printer." Bahren, who has worked for the board of elections for 15 years, and Republican commissioner David Green, who has worked at the board for four years, say they have never seen anything like it. New registrations always increase during presidential election years Bahren recalls that 1992 was busy but this year the numbers are especially high. She estimates that 40 percent more new voters have registered this year than usually register during the presidential election cycle. Usually, she noted, only about three or four new forms come in during the voter registration days held by individual municipalities. This year the number is much higher, with, in one example, 85 new registrations coming in from Newburgh alone over just two days. Town clerks from throughout Orange County were due to submit their registrations by the end of last Monday. Bahren said last week that the board has received 5,200 new registrations. "And there will be more," she said, as her office continued to receive registration forms in the mail."We knew it was going to be busy," she said. "But I don't think any of us thought it was going to be as busy as it is." "The sad part is," she continued, "it takes a presidential election year to bring in the new voters, when it is the local elections that have much more of an effect on people's lives." Besides being an elections commissioner, Bahren is mayor of the Village of Chester. "People are focused on every four years," said Green, who also expressed his surprise at the flood of new registrations. "But we have elections every year." Swing states, like neighboring Pennsylvania, have been especially busy registering new voters. New York, which is considered to be firmly in the Democratic column, has seen practically no campaigning by the major presidential candidates. But potential new voters are registering in record numbers. Adding to the workload of board of elections workers, many people are re-registering, apparently not realizing that they are already registered, Bahren said. Voters who have moved from one place to another within the county are moved into an inactive file if the board receives a notice of the move from the U.S. Postal Service. These people can still vote by paper ballot if they sign an affidavit. "It's great," Ellouise Raffo, Bahren's deputy commissioner, said of the influx of new registrations. "But I really wish that people would vote all the time." New York State's voting machines must, by federal law, be updated by 2006, Bahren said. The machines held up well during the primaries, she said, but most machines are not handicapped-accessible. Disabled voters in Orange County will be moved to special machines that can be lowered to meet their needs. The federal Help America Vote Act stipulates that blind people must be able to vote without assistance. But, as it stands now, they must have someone in the booth with them to help them vote, or vote by paper ballot.